Security Experts:

Website of Industrial Software Firm Abused for Reconnaissance Mission

Cybercriminals have compromised the website of an industrial company to conduct a watering hole attack with the goal to collect information on the site's visitors, according to a report.

Researchers at AlienVault say they spotted an interesting framework used by the attackers for reconnaissance. The information collected through the framework, which has been dubbed by the attackers "Scanbox," can be highly useful for future attacks, they said.

The industrial company involved in the attack has not been named, but the security firm revealed that the affected website is related to software used for simulation and system engineering in various industries, including manufacturing, aerospace and automotive.

Once it's placed on a website, Scanbox, which is a JavaScript file, configures its command and control (C&C) server and starts collecting information on the site's visitors. The data harvested in the first phase includes referer, user-agent, location, cookies, domain, screen dimensions, operating system and language. The data is encoded, encrypted and sent back to the C&C server. 

Scanbox Cyber ReconIn addition to collecting this basic information, the reconnaissance framework extracts other details by using various plugins. For example, one of these plugins enumerates software installed on the victim's device, and checks for the presence of Microsoft's Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET). Other plugins enumerate versions of Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, Java and Microsoft Office. Some of the software enumeration techniques used by the framework were analyzed by AlienVault in July.

Another interesting plugin enables the attackers to log keystrokes and capture all the information entered by the victim on the hacked website.

"While the user is browsing the compromised website, all keystrokes are being recorded and sent to the C&C periodically. It will also send keystrokes when the user submits web forms that can potentially include passwords and other sensitive data," Jaime Blasco, the director of AlienVault Labs said in a blog post.

Blasco believes this is a powerful framework that provides attackers with useful information that could be used in future attacks.

While the Scanbox framework is designed for reconnaissance, the malicious actors also seem to have other tools in their arsenal. AlienVault researchers have spotted several Metasploit-produced Java exploits on the same server that hosts Scanbox.

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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.