Citadel Trojan Moves from Crime to Espionage
The group behind the malicious software pulled it from public distribution last year. Now the group is using it to hunt for secrets inside companies and government.A team of attackers with a penchant for Shakespearian verse has used the popular cyber-crime program known as Citadel to infiltrate government offices in Poland and Japan as well as a number of companies in Denmark and Sweden, according to a report published by security firm McAfee. The string of espionage campaigns marks a significant departure for the group of developers behind the Citadel Trojan. It's a program well-known for the ability to compromise consumers' computers and quickly steal money from the accounts of targeted banks. Last year, however, the developers behind the Trojan ceased openly selling the tool and now appear to be using it for nonfinancial crimes, said Ryan Sherstobitoff, a threat researcher with McAfee Labs. Since October 2012, the team of attackers—dubbed the Poetry Group for its inclusion of Shakespearian verses in its code—has targeted government offices in Poland and a variety of industries in Denmark, Sweden and other countries, including health care, education and manufacturing. In its most recent campaign starting in mid-January, the group added government offices in Japan to its list of targets. "It looks like a for-hire data gathering operation," Sherstobitoff said. "Basically, a group of individuals that has been hired by some other third party to go and gather data from specific targets."
In the half-dozen campaigns conducted since October, the Poetry Group has hit 27 Japanese government offices, 43 Polish government offices and a variety of corporate victims in Denmark, Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands, Estonia, Czech Republic and Switzerland. The espionage attacks impacted more than 1,000 victims in total, McAfee stated in its report, published Jan. 31.