Researchers at Kaspersky Lab released a detailed analysis of an advanced attack campaign that has struck about 2,800 victims across multiple industries worldwide.
Dubbed ‘Energetic Bear’ by CrowdStrike and renamed ‘Crouching Yeti’ by Kaspersky Lab, the attack campaign has gone on to infect companies worldwide. While CrowdStrike stated the operation was likely the work of a Russian threat actor, researchers at Kaspersky Lab were more hesitant to name names.
“Based in some artifacts, we believe the campaign originated at the end of 2010,” according to a blog post by Kaspersky Lab’s Global Research and Analysis Team. “The campaign is still alive and getting new daily victims.”
“We believe this is an information stealing campaign,” the researchers added. “Given the heterogeneous profile of the victims it seems than the attackers were interested in different topics and decided to target some of the most prominent institutions and companies in the world to get latest information.”
The attackers used three tactics to distribute malware: spear-phishing using PDF documents armed with an exploit for CVE-2011-0611, an Adobe Flash Player vulnerability; waterhole attacks using a variety of exploits; and Trojanized software installers.
The most prevalent attack tool is the Havex Trojan, 27 versions of which have been identified by Kaspersky Lab. However, the attackers used other pieces of malware as well. For example, the attackers used the Sysmain remote access tool (RAT), as well as the Ddex loader, the Karagany backdoor and the ClientX backdoor.
“There is nothing especially sophisticated in their exploits, or in the malware they used to infect victims,” the researchers noted in a report. “Their RATs are flexible enough to perform surveillance and data exfiltration efficiently. They used dozens of compromised servers as Command and Control domains with a simple, but effective, PHP backend. However there is an interesting connection with this group and the LightsOut Exploit Kit for the distribution of its malware in some waterholing attacks. We believe they are likely its only operators as of June 2014.”
The command and control servers are compromised websites from various countries. In total, Kaspersky Lab found 219 unique domain names for those servers hosted in 21 different countries. Eighty-one are hosted in the U.S., by far the most of any individual country. Thirty-three are located in Germany.
Targeted industry sectors include: mining, manufacturing, construction, information technology and the energy industry, among others. The most targeted countries are: Spain, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Ireland, Poland, China and the United States.
“We believe they might be collateral victims, but it might also be fair to redefine the Crouching Yeti actor not only as a highly targeted one in a very specific area of interest, but a broad surveillance campaign with interests in different sectors,” the report adds.