Researchers dismantle decade-long Iranian cyberespionage operation

The group infected more than 300 computers in 35 countries with information-stealing malware

The infrastructure used by an Iranian cyberespionage group to control infected computers around the world has been hijacked by security researchers.

Researchers from Palo Alto Networks came across the group's activities earlier this year, but found evidence that it has been operating since at least 2007. Its main tool is a custom malware program dubbed Infy, which was repeatedly improved over the years.

The researchers have worked with domain registrars to seize the domains used by the attackers to control Infy-infected computers and to direct victims' traffic to a sinkhole server -- a server the researchers controlled.

Control of the server was then transferred to the Shadowserver Foundation, an industry group that tracks botnets and works with ISPs and other parties to notify victims.

Sinkholing the command-and-control (C2) infrastructure took away the hackers' ability to steal data from victims, something they unsuccessfully tried to correct when they realized something is amiss.

The Palo Alto researchers observed 326 Infy-infected computers in 35 countries, with almost half of them being located in Iran. This suggests that the hacker group was focused on Iranian citizens, possibly for surveillance purposes.

The total number of victims is relatively low compared to cybercrimine campaigns, but not unusual for cyberespionage operations, which are by definition targeted in nature.

About 50 percent of victims were infected with both Infy and Infy M, a more recent and capable variant of the malware, suggesting that those victims might have been high-value targets worthy of more attention.

It's likely that the Infy group will return with new attack campaigns in the future, but it won't be easy to rebuild their infrastructure. Compromising the same targets again will also likely prove difficult, especially since Shadowserver has worked to notify victims.

Palo Alto Networks has shared indicators of compromise and Infly sample hashes so the attackers will have to revamp their whole operation if they want to remain undetected in the future.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?