Recently, Kaspersky Lab uncovered a cyber-espionage toolset dubbed The Mask, that it says is targeting government institutions, energy companies and other high-profile victims in South Africa.
Simon Campbell-Young, CEO of Phoenix Distribution, says Kaspersky estimates The Mask to have been around since as early as 2007. “The Mask is a highly sophisticated and complex toolset, and is made up of malware, a rootkit and a bootkit. It has also been designed across various platforms, including Mac OS X and Linux.”
He says the toolset has been designed with the theft of private information in mind. “This sensitive data includes documents, VPN configurations, SSH keys, encryption keys and RDP files.”
The attack is believed to be a nation-state sponsored campaign, due largely to its sophistication and professionalism. According to Kaspersky, this particular campaign made use of spear-phishing e-mails with links to a malicious Web site.
“Nation-states are becoming increasingly successful at gleaning all sorts of useful personal information about specific employees, through social media and suchlike. With this information in hand, they are able to trick unsuspecting employees into downloading malware onto the company networks. Once inside, attackers can stealthily move around, taking root, and slowly exfiltrating closely guarded secrets about competitive commercial technologies, military weapons’ systems, vulnerabilities and intellectual property,” Campbell-Young explains.
“In the case of The Mask, an infection can be catastrophic. The toolset intercepts each and every communication channel and collects the most crucial information from the target’s machine. Due to its stealth rootkit capabilities detection is extremely tricky.”
Over and above combating today’s all-encompassing organised cybercrime organisations, organisations must start to view their adversaries as far more sophisticated and cunning, and willing and able to carry out devastating cyber-attacks, he stresses.
Unfortunately, he says today’s businesses are not taking the threat of cyber espionage seriously enough, and do not have adequate measures and protocols in place to prevent or mitigate such an attack.
Cyber crooks are no longer only after your financial login credentials, they are after your most sensitive intellectual property. “They want hugely valuable data, such as your technology blueprints, your customer lists, or even worse embarrassing information you wouldn’t want the public to know about.”
He says all businesses have information that should it be leaked, could be seriously damaging to them. “Sadly, cyber espionage is often overlooked in the flurry to fend off cyber criminals from stealing financial data. This needs to change and businesses must be cognisant of the threat posed by losing important proprietary information, and the potential fallout.”
Campbell-Young says the key to fighting cyber espionage is a combination of good security tools, collaboration and education. “Private and public sector must join forces, and work together to share information about cyber espionage threats and breaches. They must work together to develop effective defences and educate themselves about this sort of threat and the potential consequences.”
He notes that Kaspersky Lab’s products detect and remove all known versions of The Mask malware.
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