WildPressure, a new APT group targets the Middle East’s industrial sector

Pierluigi Paganini March 24, 2020

Security experts from Kaspersky Lab have uncovered the activity of a new threat actor, tracked as WildPressure, targeting the industrial sector in the Middle East.

The WildPressure was spotted for the first time in August 2019 when researchers detected a never-before-seen malware that has no similarities with other samples analyzed by the experts.

“In August 2019, Kaspersky discovered a malicious campaign distributing a fully fledged C++ Trojan that we call Milum. All the victims we registered were organizations from the Middle East. At least some of them are related to industrial sector.” reads the report published by Kaspersky. “Our Kaspersky Threat Attribution Engine (KTAE) doesn’t show any code similarities with known campaigns. Nor have we seen any target intersections. In fact, we found just three almost unique samples, all in one country. So we consider the attacks to be targeted and have currently named this operation WildPressure.”

WildPressure is an APT group, in August it was spotted while delivering a new piece of C++ backdoor named Milum. The name Milum comes from the word ‘milum’ used in the C++ class names inside the malware.

The backdoor implements a broad range of features for remote device management of a compromised host.

Further investigation led to the discovery of other samples of the same malware that infected systems as back as far as May 31, 2019.

Milum was compiled two months before, in March 2019, threat actors employed rented OVH and Netzbetrieb virtual private servers (VPS) and used domain registered with the Domains by Proxy anonymization service.

The analysis of the Milum code revealed that it doesn’t have similarities to malware involved in other operations attributed to known APT groups.

In September 2019, Kaspersky researchers were able to sinkhole one of the C2 domains used by the APT group (upiserversys1212[.]com). The vast majority of visitor IPs were also from the Middle East, specifically from Iran, while the rest were network scanners, TOR exit nodes or VPN connections.

WildPressure 2

To date, it is still unclear the way the Milum trojan was spread by the threat actor and it is still impossible to attribute the attack a specific state.

“Any similarities should be considered weak in terms of attribution, and may simply be techniques copied from previous well-known cases. Indeed, this “learning from more experienced attackers” cycle has been adopted by some interesting new actors in recent years.” concludes the report.

“We should also be cautious regarding the true targeting of this new set of activities, as it is probably too soon to jump to conclusions. The targeted nature seems to be clear, but the targeting itself might be limited by our own visibility. The malware is not exclusively designed against any kind of victim in particular and might be reused in other operations.”

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – Wildpressure, APT)

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