Russian-Speaking APT Engaged in G20 Themed Attack

Russian-Speaking APT Engaged in G20 Themed Attack

A newly discovered dropper for the KopiLuwak backdoor suggests that the Turla group is back at it again, Proofpoint says.

Turla, a long operating advanced persistent threat group (APT) with presumed ties to the Russian government, appears to be actively targeting G20 participants and those interested in its activities including policymakers, member nations and journalists.

That analysis is based on the discovery of a new JavaScript dropper for a backdoor called KopiLuwak that Turla has been known to use.

Security vendor Proofpoint, which recently discovered the dropper on a public malware repository, described it as being delivered with a benign decoy document inviting people to a G20 Digital Economy Taskforce meeting in Hamburg this October. The dropper first surfaced in mid-July suggesting that the campaign is a new and potentially ongoing one, Proofpoint said in a blog.

Kevin Epstein, vice president of Proofpoint’s threat operations center, says the dropper is most likely being delivered to targets via spear phishing emails. Targets receive an email containing a decoy “Save The Date” invitation to the October G20 taskforce meeting.

The invitation appears to be a PDF but is actually an executable Program Information File (PIG) with a set of instructions for dropping KupiLuwak on the computer. When a recipient double-clicks on the PDF icon, the PIF basically causes the decoy document to open normally while in the background it quietly installs the backdoor. In addition to installing KopiLuwak, the JavaScript dropper is also designed to profile the victim system and to establish persistence on it.

The decoy document itself appears to be a genuine invitation to the G20 task force meeting and was likely stolen. The invitation is not publicly available so the fact that the Turla group is using it as a decoy suggests that an entity with legitimate access to the invitation has already been compromised. Another possibility is that the invitation was legitimately obtained from a recipient, Proofpoint said.

Once installed on a system, KupiLuwak enables attackers to take complete control of it and carry out a variety of malicious actions, Epstein says.  “It can be commanded to download and execute arbitrary files. They can run a keylogger or activate the camera or microphone, read documents or put in a browser extension that copies your passwords. They own you.”

The subject matter of the decoy document and Turla’s background suggests that the latest campaign is designed to gather key information related to G20 from participants and others associated with it, Epstein says.

That, however, does not mean that others shouldn’t be paying attention to such APT campaigns as well, he says. Increasingly, cybercriminals have begun copying and adopting the tactics used by APT groups in carrying out financially motivated attacks.

“Just because you think you are not an APT target is not a reason to underspend on security,” Epstein says. “The tactics used be every day cybercriminals are absolutely comparable to the more sophisticated actors out there.”

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Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year … View Full Bio

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