Duqu 2.0 the most sophisticated threat ever seen targeted also Kaspersky

Pierluigi Paganini June 10, 2015

Threat actors used a Duqu 2.0 worm in a series of attacks worldwide that also breached the systems at Kaspersky Lab. It is most complex malware ever seen.

A new powerful strain of Duqu malware, dubbed Duqu 2.0, appeared in the wild after going dark in 2012. Duqu 2.0 is a very sophisticated agent that exploited a number of zero-days vulnerabilities and malware researchers noticed that among its targets there were entities linked to the negotiations about Iran’s nuclear deal and IT security firms. Duqu 2.0 also targeted other entities in Western countries, in Asia and in the Middle East. Experts at Symantec also detected the new strain of malware and observed infection almost in every continent.

Researchers at Kaspersky Lab speculate that Duqu 2.0 may have leveraged the following zero-days:

“Most notably, some of the new 2014-2015 infections are linked to the P5+1 events and venues related to the negotiations with Iran about a nuclear deal. The threat actor behind Duqu appears to have launched attacks at the venues for some of these high level talks. In addition to the P5+1 events, the Duqu 2.0 group has launched a similar attack in relation to the 3 70th anniversary event of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.” states a report published by Kaspersky Lab.

The experts at Kaspersky Lab confirmed that threat actors behind Duqu 2.0 was detected in an attempt of intrusion against its internal network. The discovery of the intrusion was casual, Kaspersky discovered Duqu 2.0 while testing a new technology designed to detect advanced persistent threats.

The attack against Kaspersky likely began with a spear phishing attack against an employee in a smaller offices in the Asia-Pacific region.

“In the case of Kaspersky Lab, the attack took advantage of a zero-day (CVE-2015-2360) in the WindowsKernel, patched by Microsoft on June 9 2015 and possibly up to two other, currently patched vulnerabilities, which were zero-day at that time” states Kaspersky confirming the intrusion.

Once detected the intrusion the researchers started an internal audit that is still ongoing, anyway the company confirmed the high level of sophistication of the malware which is the most advanced ever seen. The experts confirmed that the sophistication of the attack is greater than the one observed for the Equation Group.

Duqu 2.0 resides in memory making hard its detection and use a complex system to communicate with the control infrastructure.

“It also doesn’t directly connect to a command-and-control server to receive instructions,” explained Kurt Baumgartner, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab. “Instead, the attackers infect network gateways and firewalls by installing malicious drivers that proxy all traffic from internal network to the attackers’ [command and control servers]. Combined, this made discovery very difficult.”

The new strain of Duqu has many similarities with the original variant spotted in 2011, bad actors behind Duqu 2.0  didn’t appear to work at all on Saturdays and compilation timestamps provided useful information to profile the attackers.

duqu 2.0

“During our analysis in 2011, we noticed that the logs collected from some of the proxies indicated the attackers appear to work less on Fridays and didn’t appear to work at all on Saturdays, with their regular work week starting on Sunday,” explained Baumgartner. “They also compiled binaries on January 1st, indicating it was probably a normal workday for them. The compilation timestamps in the binaries seemed to suggest a time zone of GMT+2 or GMT+3. Finally, their attacks would normally occur on Wednesdays, which was the reason we originally referred to them as the “Wednesday Gang”.”

Eugene Kaspersky, CEO of Kaspersky Lab is worried by the boldness of the authors of Duqu 2.0

“Spying on cybersecurity companies is a very dangerous tendency,” said Kaspersky. “Security software is the last frontier of protection for businesses and customers in the modern world”

Why attack the Kaspersky firm?

There are a number of good reasons to hit the popular company, first of all, to steal the secrets about its technologies, information that could be used to arrange new cyber espionage campaigns avoiding detection. Another good reasons could be the interest in investigations conducted by the company.  Kaspersky provided Indicators of Compromise (IOCs) including MD5s and IPs from the command and control servers, which can be found

Kaspersky published the following reports that also include Indicators of compromise

  • Duqu 2.0 Technical Paper (PDF) can be found here
  • Indicators of Compromise (IOC) can be found here
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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – Duqu 2.0, state-sponsored hackers)

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