A new variant of Shamoon was uploaded to Virus Total while Saipem was under attack

Pierluigi Paganini December 12, 2018

A new variant of the Shamoon malware, aka DistTrack, was uploaded to VirusTotal from Italy this week, but experts haven’t linked it to a specific attack yet.

Shamoon was first observed in 2012 when it infected and wiped more than 30,000 systems at Saudi Aramco and other oil companies in the Middle East.

Four years later, a new version (Shamoon 2) appeared in the threat landscape, it was involved in a string of cyber attacks aimed at various organizations in the Persian Gulf, including Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA). 

A second variant of the same threat was discovered by researchers at Palo Alto Networks in January 2017 and it was able to target virtualization products.

DistTrack is able to wipe data from hard drives of the infected systems and render systems unusable. Like other malware, Shamoon leverages Windows Server Message Block (SMB) to spread among systems of the target network.

The code of the original Shamoon includes a list of hard-coded domain credentials used to the target a specific organization and steal credentials, but a variant uploaded to VirusTotal this week doesn’t contain these credentials.

Google security firm Chronicle discovered a file containing Shamoon uploaded to its VirusTotal database.

“The new Shamoon was set to detonate on Dec. 7, 2017, at 11:51 pm, but only uploaded yesterday.reported  Axios website.

“Chronicle notes that attackers may have set the attack date to the past — perhaps by changing 2018 to 2017 — in order to start an attack immediately. Another possibility, said Brandon Levene, head of applied intelligence at Chronicle, is that the malware was compiled in the past as part of preparations for a later attack.”

Unlike the Shamoon2, the new version contains a much longer filename list used for selecting a dropped executable name. The new list does not overlap with previously observed versions of Shamoon.

The new variant presents other anomalies, for example, the list of the command and control server was blank. Experts at Chronicle believe that attackers may have a different connection to the host network and manually install Shamoon.

Another difference is that Shamoon in the past has replaced all files with images that had political significance. The latest variant irreversibly encrypts the files.

The file was uploaded on VirusTotal from Italy and malicious files were discovered at around the time Italian oil services company Saipem announced to have suffered a cyber attack.

“While Chronicle cannot directly link the new Shamoon variant to an active attack, the timing of the malware files comes close to news of an attack on an Italian energy corporation with assets in the Middle East.” 
Chronicle noted in a statement.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – Wiper, malware)

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