New IE exploit variant used to distribute PlugX malware, researchers say

A variant of the recently discovered Internet Explorer exploit was identified by researchers from AlienVault

Researchers from security vendor AlienVault have identified a variant of a recently discovered Internet Explorer exploit that is used to infect targeted computers with the PlugX remote access Trojan (RAT) program.

The newly discovered exploit variant targets the same unpatched vulnerability in IE 6, 7, 8 and 9 as the original exploit, but uses slightly different code and has a different payload, AlienVault Labs manager Jaime Blasco said Tuesday in a blog post.

The first exploit was found over the weekend on a known malicious server by security researcher Eric Romang and distributed the Poison Ivy RAT. The second exploit version discovered by AlienVault researchers was found on a different server and installs a much newer RAT program called PlugX.

However, file modification dates seen on both servers suggest that both versions of the exploit have been in use since at least Sep. 14.

"We know that the group actively using the PlugX malware also called Flowershow had access to the Internet Explorer ZeroDay [exploit targeting an unpatched vulnerability] days before it was uncovered," Blasco said. "Due to the similarities of the new discovered exploit code and the one discovered some days ago it is very likely that the same group is behind both instances."

AlienVault researchers have been tracking attacks that use the PlugX RAT since earlier this year. Based on file debug paths found inside the malware, they believe that the relatively new RAT was developed by a Chinese hacker known as WHG, who had previous ties with the Network Crack Program Hacker (NCPH), a well known Chinese hacker group.

AlienVault researchers have also identified two additional websites that served the new IE exploit in the past, but no payload could be obtained from them, Blasco said. One was a defense news site from India and the other was probably a fake version of the 2nd International LED professional Symposium website, he said.

"It seems the guys behind this 0day were targeting specific industries," Blasco said.

The server where the original IE exploit was found also stored an exploit for an unpatched Java vulnerability last month. That Java exploit was used in attacks attributed by security researchers to a Chinese hacker group dubbed "Nitro."

Microsoft already released a security advisory about the new IE vulnerability and recommended temporary mitigation solutions while it works on a patch.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
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

Brand Post

Bitdefender 2018

With determination and drive, you achieve outstanding performance! Get Bitdefender Total Security 2018 Now!

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?