Security Experts:

Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


Malware & Threats

Recent IE Zero-Day Tied to Notorious Elderwood Gang, Symantec Says

Researchers at Symantec say the waterholing attacks utilizing the recently-publicized Internet Explorer zero-day are tied to a gang responsible for a spate of similar kinds of attacks.

Researchers at Symantec say the waterholing attacks utilizing the recently-publicized Internet Explorer zero-day are tied to a gang responsible for a spate of similar kinds of attacks.

Known as the “Elderwood” gang, the attackers re-use components of an infrastructure Symantec calls the Elderwood platform. The name comes from a source code variable used by the attackers. In the past, the group has used a mix of spear-phishing emails and watering hole attacks to infect vulnerable systems and has a lengthy history of using zero-day bugs as part of their attacks.

According to Symantec, in May 2012, Amnesty International’s Hong Kong website was compromised and used to serve up a malicious SWF file that exploited CVE-2012-1875, a vulnerability affecting Internet Explorer. A few months later in September, the same group behind that attack was responsible for using another IE zero-day, CVE-2012-4969.

Then last month, the website for Council for Foreign Relations, a US-based think tank, was compromised to serve CVE-2012-4792, the IE bug Microsoft warned about last week. But that wasn’t the only site serving this vulnerability, according to the firm.

“Security Researcher Eric Romang wrote about another website that was found to be hosting the latest Internet Explorer zero-day,” Symantec’s Security Response team noted in a blog post. “In his post, he also ties the same website to another zero-day vulnerability, CVE-2012-4969, back in September. Our own research has come to the same conclusion and we can add that this website was compromised to serve CVE-2012-1889 back in June with a file called movie.swf. The file, movie.swf, is associated with the Elderwood Project.”

After analyzing samples of the SWF files used in the Elderwood watering hole attacks, researchers found that the Flash exploit author included symbols in some of the attacks. All the samples include a function named HeapSpary – most likely a mistyping of the term Heap Spray. In addition, there are other commonalities between the files as well. For example, Geoffrey.swf and Moh2010.swf both use variables named named URL_Addr and Flahs_Version as well as all three exploit files using the variable name OS_Version.

“We were unable to recover the symbols of movie.swf for comparison, but movie.swf is tied directly to Moh2010.swf by the packer registrant information for the SWF files,” Symantec noted. “Additionally, movie.swf and Moh2010.swf share similar structure and shellcode.”

“It has become clear that the group behind the Elderwood Project continues to produce new zero-day vulnerabilities for use in watering hole attacks and we expect them to continue to do so in the New Year,” according to Symantec. 

Related: Not Enough Proof That China Is Behind The Elderwood Gang, Says RSA

Written By

Click to comment

Expert Insights

Related Content

Malware & Threats

Microsoft plans to improve the protection of Office users by blocking XLL add-ins from the internet.


CISA, NSA, and MS-ISAC issued an alert on the malicious use of RMM software to steal money from bank accounts.


Chinese threat actor DragonSpark has been using the SparkRAT open source backdoor in attacks targeting East Asian organizations.


A recently disclosed vBulletin vulnerability, which had a zero-day status for roughly two days last week, was exploited in a hacker attack targeting the...


Russia-linked cyberespionage group APT29 has been observed using embassy-themed lures and the GraphicalNeutrino malware in recent attacks.

Application Security

Electric car maker Tesla is using the annual Pwn2Own hacker contest to incentivize security researchers to showcase complex exploit chains that can lead to...

Malware & Threats

Cybercrime in 2017 was a tumultuous year "full of twists and turns", with new (but old) infection methods, a major return to social engineering,...

Malware & Threats

Norway‎-based DNV said a ransomware attack on its ship management software impacted 1,000 vessels.