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Tuesday, 10 November 2020 19:12

Kaspersky and Linux are slowly becoming a combustible mix

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Kaspersky and Linux are slowly becoming a combustible mix Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Russian security firm Kaspersky is on its Linux propaganda blitz again, this time with a claim that there is a Linux port of a trojan known as RansomEXX. However the company has conspicuously left out one much-needed fact from its post about this malware: the infection vector.

You can create the fanciest Linux malware in the world but if you have no means of getting it onto a Linux system — and with admin rights too — you might as well spend your time baking a cake. Or maybe walking the dog.

I asked Kaspersky if the researchers who made this post — Fedor Sinitsyn and Vladimir Kuskov — could provide this information. The response I got was: "Our malware analyst does not have additional information about the infection vector of this malware." That's like writing a murder mystery and not mentioning the name of the man/woman who was the killer.

Now if this had been clearly stated in the blog post which was put up — the company regularly posts about its findings, and while the primary purpose is marketing, some of the posts are of very high quality — then I would have no beef with the post.

Incidentally, this is the second time in two months that Kaspersky has come up with "research" of this kind. The first was back in September.

No doubt, Kaspersky counts on the lack of Linux literacy among tech journalists, for whom the words "Linux" and "malware" in the same sentence serve as a heady cocktail, to gain publicity for stuff like this. And the company is not far off the mark on this; here are two prime examples.

Some of the wording in the Kaspersky post is very careful. For example, this one: "Several companies have fallen victim to this malware in recent months, including the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and Konica Minolta." So was that the Windows version or the Linux version? It isn't clear at all.

Then there was a reference to an attack in Brazil. Again, was this an attack by the Windows version of RansomEXX or the Linux version? Again, there is no clarity.

The Kaspersky researchers described the Linux version of RansomEXX as a 64-bit ELF executable. But how was it executed after being sent to a potential victim (maybe) as an email attachment?

As StormReaver, a poster on the American tech news aggregation site Slashdotpointed out, with not a small degree of sarcasm:

  • "Not a problem under Linux:
  • "Click on the email file. Oops, Linux doesn't have stupid email programs that allow you to run a program attached to an email. No problem! Click on the attachment, then Save As to the hard drive.
  • "Open up a file manager, navigate to where the file is saved, then click on it. Oops, one of two things just happened:
  • "It's a shell script, so it won't run with a mouse click. No problem! Just drop to a shell, then type, "bash [malware file]" to run it. Done. Easy peasy. Any idiot would know what to do!
  • "It's an executable, and won't run since Linux doesn't have brain dead email programs that allow email attachments to run. No problem! Click on Properties, Permissions, Executable. Then click on the file to run it.
  • "Let the infection begin. Of course, at this point, it's really hard to call it an 'infection'. Given all the manual steps involved, it's really more along the lines of a user determined to run the program. It's no more an 'infection' than starting up any other program. The term 'infection' really implies some form of automation (see below).
  • "Contrast this to Windows: download the email and let the infection begin."

I couldn't better that. One wonders what comeback Sinitsyn and Kuskov would have.

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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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