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The spoof e-mail, addressed to Indian ambassador to Afghanistan
 
 
Indian ambassador in Kabul was target of sophisticated cyber attack

Malware designed  to bypass traditional Net security systems,   capture key strokes,  hard disk  contents,  video and audio files -- every 10 seconds.
Mail to ambassador spoofed a letter from Defence Minister Parikkar,  say analysts of  US-based cybersecurity company, Palo Alto Networks.
Bangalore, March 7 2016:   The Indian embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan -- specifically  the ambassador --   has been the target of   a  cyber attack,   which   was   aimed at  snooping on  sensitive documents,    mail,  audio recordings,  still  pictures  and video   footage.
The  Threat Intelligence team of the US-headquartered  cyber security solutions company, Palo Alto Networks  which  monitors   cyber  traffic and potential attacks world-wide has reported   that on Christmas eve last year,  the  Kabul embassy  was the object of a targeted attack  in the form of an e-mail addressed  personally to the ambassador ( at the time, Amar Sinha).   The mail was in fact a spoof,  cleverly crafted to  look like a communication from Defence Minister, Manohar Parikkar,  congratulating   the ambassador  for his ' commendable contribution' and lauding his 'individual dedication , knowledge and exemplary efforts'  for a ' project  of the highest national interest'. 

In a telephone  briefing for IndiaTechOnline from Singapore, Vicky Ray, Senior Researcher with  "Unit 42", the Palo Alto Networks Threat Intelligence team,   who with fellow analyst, Tokyo-based  Kaoru Hayashi, first  tracked and identified the malware, explained that the  spoof  e-mail was an instance of Spear Phishing --  malware specifically designed  to attack one victim, by posing as an email from  a known and hence trusted source. 

The  mail  to  the ambassador,  had a 6 MB Word  attachment  entitled  " Appreciation_letter.doc" .  If the recipient  opened this attachment, in a vulnerable version of Word, it would have breached the recipient computer's security and installed a downloader software in it --  what is called a 'Trojan' ,  which is what its name says -- a Trojan Horse with malicious  software hidden  inside. 

Many antivirus  programmes might just not detect the  malware, Ray says,  because  it avoided  sending out the "signature" that  net security  tools used to recognize malicious  content.   Like a terrorist disassembling a weapon and transporting it in pieces to avoid detection,  the  unknown authors,   sent the  malware in innocuous chunks. 

Once inside the  computer, the  Trojan  downloader   was  designed to download  an "exe" or executable file  with multiple plug-ins, many of them  using standard Open Source  tools. But  they were diabolically designed:   Each innocent-looking plug-in had a specific task:  one to  search for files on any attached USB device or any removable drives; another  to log key strokes, a third to  steal files on the hard disk.   This  last plug-in was designed to  search for specific types of files -- PDFs, Word documents, Powerpoint presentations, Excel spreadsheets -- and  copy them every 60 minutes.  
Another thread of the malware. executed backdoor commands   -- snapping photos using the computer's own web cam,  recording audio  from audio port, taking  screen grabs.... 

Ray  and Hayashi found that  nameless cyber baddies targeting the  Kabul embassy , used  tools like OpenCV ,  that  a lot of legitimate  organizations  harness to  capture  and process images in security systems, driver-less cars -- and the Mars Rover project -- then  misused the same code for their  spying.  In a back handed complement, the two analysts have dubbed the Kabul malware "Rover".  Though they could track it to the minutest detail, they have no knowledge or proof that   it  actually  breached the security of the embassy computer.  Nor could they  identify  the   country from where the  cyber attack was launched.

 Based on their  monitoring studies they have  created  a "Rover Tag" to help customers of  Palo Alto Networks' cyber security  solutions,  identify and neutralize this  specific threat. They have documented  the detection and analysis of this threat in a Blog earlier this week  which can be found  here   ( revised   0830 IST 7 Mar 2016)




    


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Indian ambassador in Kabul was target of sophisticated cyber attack
by Laquisha on April  18,  2016
  "Call me wind because I am ablosutely blown away."