Picky spyware ranks sensitive military documents

The spyware has been used against South Korean military systems, according to McAfee

A noisy malware campaign against South Korea is revealing deeper secrets.

A new report from security vendor McAfee into the March 20 "Dark Seoul" attacks, which wiped data from bank computers, shut down ATMs and crippled government websites, describes a much less conspicuous parallel operation designed to steal classified military data.

McAfee's report asserts that "the attacks on South Korean targets were actually the conclusion of a covert espionage campaign."

Two groups, the Whois Hacking Team and the NewRomanic Cyber Army Team, were thought to be behind the March 20 attacks. But McAfee now suspects both teams are part of the same group due to similarities in the attack code used.

An analysis of malware used by the group suggests it has been running a spying operation against South Korean targets since 2009, according to McAfee's report. The prominent attacks against websites and banks earlier this year may have been intended as a distraction.

McAfee named the military component of the group's activity "Operation Troy" due to the use of the word "Troy" in compiled versions of malware.

The hackers sought to compromise military computers by luring victims to a military-focused social networking website where their computers would be attacked or by sending potential targets spear-phishing emails.

When the malware successfully infected a computer, the program scans the hard drive, hunting around for interesting files. Since large-scale data theft can often raise alarms, this malware was more picky.

"The malware does not extract every document that is found as a match through drive scanning; rather it assigns a unique signature to the infected system according to what it contains," McAfee wrote. "Less interesting systems are less likely to have documents extracted from them."

The malware looks for military unit names, programs and other military keywords. It searched for those keywords, which includes "operation," "secret" and "OPLAN," in English and Korean. If an interesting file is downloaded, the attackers' program sends it over an encrypted http channel.

The malware used in the military attacks could also be used to wreck the systems, the report said.

"The espionage malware has the capability to destroy systems in the same way that the March 20, 2013, attacks disabled thousands of systems in South Korea," McAfee wrote. "This capability could be devastating if military networks were to be suddenly wiped after an adversary had gathered intelligence."

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com. Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags mcafeesecuritydata breachencryptionExploits / vulnerabilitiesmalware

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.

Jeremy Kirk

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?