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Tuesday, 12 January 2021 11:20

Kaspersky: old malware and SolarWinds attack code similar, but don't leap to conclusions Featured

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Kaspersky: old malware and SolarWinds attack code similar, but don't leap to conclusions Pixabay

Russian security firm Kaspersky says it has found some similarities in the methods used by the SUNBURST malware, that was used in a supply chain attack on a number of US firms disclosed in December, and long-time attacker, the Turla Group.

But in a blog post, the company also cautioned that these findings needed to be taken with a grain of salt and not to indicate that the two groups were related, as there could be many reasons why these similarities existed.

The supply chain attack came to light when FireEye announced on 9 December AEDT that it had been compromised and had its Red Team tools stolen.

Five days later, the firm issued details about attacks using malware which it called SUNBURST; it said this malware had been used to hit both private and public entities, by corrupting the Orion network management software, a product of SolarWinds.

The post, authored by Georgy Kucherin, Igor Kuznetsov and Costin Raiu, said the victim UID generation algorithm, the sleeping algorithm — which governed the time between the malware gaining access and its activation — and the extensive usage of the FNV-1a hash were the similarities they had observed between a previously identified backdoor known as Kazuar, and SUNBURST.

"We believe it’s important that other researchers around the world investigate these similarities and attempt to discover more facts about Kazuar and the origin of Sunburst, the malware used in the SolarWinds breach," the Kaspersky trio wrote.

"If we consider past experience, looking back to the WannaCry attack, in the early days, there were very few facts linking them to the Lazarus group. In time, more evidence appeared and allowed us, and others, to link them together with high confidence. Further research on this topic can be crucial in connecting the dots."

Kucherin, Kuznetsov and Raiu said the following reasons could account for the similarities between SUNBURST and Kazuar:

  • Sunburst was developed by the same group as Kazuar;
  • The Sunburst developers adopted some ideas or code from Kazuar, without having a direct connection (they used Kazuar as an inspiration point);
  • Both groups, DarkHalo/UNC2452 and the group using Kazuar, obtained their malware from the same source;
  • Some of the Kazuar developers moved to another team, taking knowledge and tools with them; or
  • The Sunburst developers introduced these subtle links as a form of false flag, in order to shift blame to another group.
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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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