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Invasion, Deletion, Suicide: Shamoon Attack Has Military Precision

Invasion, Deletion, Suicide: Shamoon Attack Has Military Precision
By Adam Dickter

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Shamoon "could be a competitor trying to disadvantage someone or maybe just an angry customer or some hacker trying to have some fun," Symantec's Kevin Haley told us regarding the newly discovered Trojan. "It reports back the files that were deleted, apparently not for any espionage value. Maybe someone is getting his jollies this way."
 



It sneaks into your computer, infiltrates your files, deletes data and renders your computer unusable. Then it kills itself.

The frightening new Trojan Horse -- unique from other malware because of its destructive tendency -- is called Disttrack, and it has been detected in one targeted threat against "an organization in the energy sector," says cybersecurity software maker Symantec.

Dropper, Wiper and Reporter

Symantec said the company is in the Middle East but has not released other details. According to a Symantec blog post the malware has three components, which are reminiscent of military-style attack: The Dropper, which invades and drops in other modules; the Wiper, which destroys the computer files by overwriting the master boot record, and the Reporter, which sends information back to the attacker that the infection was successful.

The series of targeted attacks has been dubbed Shamoon, because of a folder with that name created by the hacker and found in the program. "We can see it was developed in a directory called Shamoon and the people behind this left it in the code," Kevin Haley, director of Symantec's Security and Technology Response Team told us in an interview Friday.

He said there was no indication the attack was tied to the notorious hacker group Anonymous or its offshoot, LulzSec, which have targeted private and government servers here and abroad in a series of brazen attacks over the last few years, boasting of their exploits through Twitter.

"Those folks generally aren't shy about saying what they've done," said Haley. There have been no claims of credit for the attack, which seemed intent on causing damage rather than retrieving information, as LulzSec has done, ostensibly to point out security flaws.

Keeping Score And Getting Jollies

"This could be a competitor trying to disadvantage someone or maybe just an angry customer or some hacker trying to have some fun, or their idea of fun," Haley said. He said there are no reports of a Shamoon attack at any other company. "It reports back the files that were deleted, apparently not for any espionage or spy value but to kind of keep score. Maybe someone is getting his jollies this way."

He said the Disttrack code has been detected before in a virus called Flamer.

Another security analyst, Richard Wang, manager of Sophos Labs US, said the incident appears to be isolated and won't likley show up on people's laptops anytime soon.

"It appears to be a targeted attack, with data exfiltration limited to only the target organization," said Wang. "Some of the damage done can be repaired, putting the PC back into a usable state but the user's files may have to be restored from backups.

"Given the targeted nature of the code I think it's unlikely that this particular threat will become widespread."
 

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