Sunday, 23 July, 2017

Symantec says Central Intelligence Agency tools found across 16 countries

The CIA's Langley headquarters during the 1970s The CIA's Langley headquarters during the 1970s Getty Images Keystone France Contributor
Debra Rodriguez | 19 April, 2017, 02:33

Numerous tools revealed in the WikiLeaks Vault7 cache have been spotted in the wild attacking targets in 16 countries and linked to a group operating since at least 2011, Symantec claimed.

Since March 7, WikiLeaks has released four batches of files from the agency, as part of a leak it calls Vault 7.

Now, following an analysis of the WikiLeaks Vault 7 documents, USA cyber-security firm Symantec is sure the documents describe the modus operandi and some of the tools of the Longhorn cyber-espionage group, which they first discovered in 2014, and tracked its activity back to 2007. "Given the close similarities between the tools and techniques, there can be little doubt that Longhorn's activities and the Vault 7 documents are the work of the same group". In particular, Symantec highlights a number of documents from the Vault 7 files that it ties to the group, which is said to have targeted the financial, telecoms, energy, aerospace, information technology, education, and natural resources industries. "All of the organizations targeted would be of interest to a nation-state attacker", the company says. The group has compromised 40 targets in at least 16 countries across the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Africa, and on one occasion, in the U.S., although that was probably a mistake.

Symantec claims that one computer in the United States was found to be "compromised" by the hacking toolkit, after which it was uninstalled within hours, thus indicating an accidental infection.

Symantec was analyzing the Vault 7 documents for a piece of malware the archive called Fluxwire; the company realized that timestamps in the Fluxwire development logs matched the timeline for the addition of new features to malware Symantec had been tracking and calling Corentry.

"This assessment was based on its global range of targets and access to a range of comprehensively developed malware and zero-day exploits". The researchers have found a striking resemblance between the tools and work practices described in Vault 7 and used by Longhorn. Through identifying different strains of Longhorn malware, connecting them to a single actor, and learning more about the group's tactics and procedures, Symantec has been able to better defend customer organizations against this and similar threats.

To date, Symantec has found evidence of Longhorn activities against 40 targets spread across 16 different countries.

Cybersecurity researchers at Symantec had been monitoring Longhorn for some time prior to the Wikileaks breach.

In one of Symantec's blog post, it was stated that the tools released on WikiLeaks' website have been found to be linked to activities related to electronic infiltration of worldwide, financial, energy and aerospace organizations across the world.

It is to be noted that the word "CIA" hasn't been used anywhere in Symantec's blog post.

Exhibit A in Symantec's case are Vault7 documents describing malware called Fluxwire.

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