Security pros have spotted a Mac Trojan and Windows malware being used separately in targeted attacks against political activists in Central Asia.
Researchers at Kaspersky Lab say Mac
malware is being used in an advanced persistent attack targeting people
supporting human rights for the Uyghur people in China.
According to Kaspersky, victims are
being hit with an email laced with a new, mostly undetected version of the
MaControl backdoor Trojan, which supports both i386 and PowerPC Macs. The
malware is hidden within a zip file that contains a JPG image and a Mac
application. When the malware is executed, it installs itself in the system and
connects to its command-and-control (C&C) server for
Activists have long been engaged in
a political rights struggle for the Uyghurs, a Turkic ethnic
group who live mainly in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of
northwest China. Researchers traced the C&C server address to China, though
Kaspersky senior researcher Roel Schouwenberg did not lay the blame on the
"We haven't been able to
determine exactly how many people have been targeted," he said.
"However, given the style of the campaign and the target, we assume it has
a very limited scope. We're dealing with RATs (remote access Trojans) here. It
has all the signs of your typical cyber-espionage or cyber-intelligence operation."
So far, researchers have only seen a
small number of Mac-oriented advanced persistent threat (APT) campaigns,
Schouwenberg said, though he added that he expects that to change.
"What's interesting here is
that this campaign also has a Windows component to it," he said. "So
that implies the attackers know which target is running OS X and which target
is running Windows. We've seen just a few OS X APT campaigns, of which just a
subset utilized exploits. "
The Windows component was uncovered
by researchers at AlienVault Labs, which discovered similar emails to the ones
seen by Kaspersky that contain a RAT that connects to the same IP address as
the malware reported by Kaspersky. This second attack uses a zip file
that contains a Winrar file. The file extracts a binary file, which copies
itself into the system. The Winrar file is then deleted and a DLL file is
dropped onto the system.
Once the DLL is loaded, the Gh0st
RAT tool begins communicating with the C&C.
"This RAT [Remote Access Tool] has been found in previous
, and it is commonly used on APT incidents regarding
Tibetans, Uyghurs and other groups on the ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian
Nations] zone," blogged Jaime Blasco, Labs manager with AlienVault.
"With Macs growing in
popularity and their increased adoption by high-profile targets, we expect the
number of Mac OS X APT attacks will also grow," blogged Costin
, director of Kapersky's global research and analysis team.
used MS Office exploits
(Exploit.MSWord.CVE-2009-0563.a.); the one described here (using MaControl)
relies on social engineering to get the user to run the backdoor. Just like
with PC malware, [a] combination of exploits and social engineering tricks are
generally the most effective; it wont be surprising to see a spike in such