Grabit Espionage Campaign Steals Thousands of Files From SMBs

The Trojan steals about 10,000 files from smaller companies in Thailand, India and the U.S., showing that cyber-spying is no longer "just a 'big fish' game," Kaspersky says.

Grabit malware

From late February to mid-March, a group of attackers used a versatile piece of malware, dubbed Grabit by its authors, to infect computers and steal about 10,000 files from small and midsize businesses in Thailand, India and the United States.

The malware, analyzed by security firm Kaspersky Lab, stole usernames and passwords from nearly 5,000 hosts, including for accounts on popular online mail systems such as Gmail and Yahoo as well as banking sites. The attackers have shown signs of erratic behavior, suggesting a group of mixed technical backgrounds, as some aspects of the attack show deep technical prowess while other parts demonstrate beginners' mistakes, Ido Naor, senior security researcher, Global Research & Analysis Team, Kaspersky Lab, stated in an analysis of the attack.

Despite their learning curve, the attackers have had success: A keylogger associated with the attack stole more than 2,800 passwords, 1,000 emails and 3,000 usernames, according to data stored on a single command-and-control server and collected by Kaspersky Lab.

"We see a lot of spying campaigns focused on enterprises, government organizations and other high-profile entities, with small and medium-sized businesses rarely seen in the lists of targets," Naor said in a statement sent to eWEEK. "But Grabit shows that it's not just a 'big fish' game—in the cyber world every single organization, whether it possesses money, information or political influence, could be of potential interest to one or other malicious actor."

Like attacks against larger companies, Grabit appears to be hitting high-value industries, such as agriculture, chemicals, construction, education, media and nanotechology. More than two-thirds of the files were taken from Thailand and India, with another 10 percent stolen from U.S. companies.

The program code appears to use a mix of custom code and commercial malware, Naor said. Some of the strings inside the malware point to the use of a keylogger and remote-access Trojan known as HawkEye.

In addition, the campaign shows signs of a project in development, Naor wrote.

"The smallest sample and the largest were both created on the same day, which could indicate experiments made by the group to test features, packers and 'dead code' implementations," he said. "It is interesting to see the modus operandi as the threat actor consistently strives to achieve a variety of samples, different code sizes and supposedly more complicated obfuscation."

Kaspersky Lab recommends that businesses keep their security software updated, check computers for signs of the malware and make sure that the firewall alerts the user about any connection to the Internet addresses associated with Grabit. Employees should be trained not to open links from people they do not know.

The saga of Grabit is not over, Naor said in an email interview with eWEEK.

"The cybercriminals have a lot of information gathered, but it seems like it is still in stealth mode," he said. "We don't want to harness the horses before the wagon, but it looks as if they are waiting for specific data to arrive."

Robert Lemos

Robert Lemos

Robert Lemos is an award-winning freelance journalist who has covered information security, cybercrime and technology's impact on society for almost two decades. A former research engineer, he's...