Security Experts:

Middle East Group Uses Flash Zero-Day to Deliver Spyware

A threat group believed to be located somewhere in the Middle East has been using a zero-day vulnerability in Adobe Flash Player to deliver a piece of spyware to targeted individuals.

The said Flash Player flaw, a remote code execution vulnerability identified as CVE-2017-11292, was patched by Adobe on Monday. Kaspersky Lab, whose researchers spotted the attacks and reported the security hole to Adobe, has published a blog post detailing the attacks.

According to the security firm, a Middle Eastern group it tracks as BlackOasis has been using CVE-2017-11292 in highly targeted attacks to deliver FinFisher, a controversial lawful interception tool also known as FinSpy and WingBird. Kaspersky believes that the country sponsoring BlackOasis is likely a customer of Gamma Group, the company behind FinFisher.

Last month, Microsoft patched a .NET zero-day that had been exploited by the same threat group via malicious Office documents to deliver FinFisher malware. That attack was first spotted by experts at FireEye, but Kaspersky made the connection to the latest attacks based on the command and control (C&C) server used by the hackers.

This is the fifth zero-day vulnerability attributed by Kaspersky Lab to the BlackOasis group since June 2015.

According to Kaspersky, attacks leveraging CVE-2017-11292 start with a malicious Office document delivered via email. The document includes an ActiveX object that contains the Flash exploit.

“The exploit is a memory corruption vulnerability that exists in the “com.adobe. tvsdk.mediacore. BufferControlParameters” class. If the exploit is successful, it will gain arbitrary read / write operations within memory, thus allowing it to execute a second stage shellcode,” Kaspersky researchers explained.

The second stage shellcode downloads and executes the latest version of the FinFisher spyware, and fetches a decoy document that is displayed to avoid raising suspicion. The latest version of the malware includes several new features designed to make it more difficult for researchers to analyze the threat.

Kaspersky reported seeing BlackOasis victims in Russia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Libya, Jordan, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, the Netherlands, Bahrain, the United Kingdom and Angola.

“BlackOasis’ interests span a wide gamut of figures involved in Middle Eastern politics and verticals disproportionately relevant to the region. This includes prominent figures in the United Nations, opposition bloggers and activists, and regional news correspondents,” Kaspersky said. “During 2016, we observed a heavy interest in Angola, exemplified by lure documents indicating targets with suspected ties to oil, money laundering, and other illicit activities. There is also an interest in international activists and think tanks.”

Microsoft, which tracks the BlackOasis group as NEODYMIUM, reported last year that the threat actor had been using a Flash Player exploit (CVE-2016-4117) to deliver FinFisher malware. More than 80 percent of the victims were identified at the time in Turkey.

Related: Iranian Cyberspies Use New Trojan in Middle East Attacks

Related: Cyberspies Target Middle East With Windows, Android Malware

Related: Middle East Governments Targeted With RanRan Ransomware

view counter
Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.