October 18, 2011, 4:10 PM — Security vendor Symantec is warning of a new malware threat that it says could be a precursor to the next Stuxnet.
The new threat, dubbed W32.Duqu, is a remote access Trojan (RAT) that appears to have been written by the authors of Stuxnet, or at least by someone who has access to Stuxnet source code, Symantec said in a report released today.
"We have confirmed Duqu is a threat nearly identical to Stuxnet, but with a completely different purpose," Symantec said.
Duqu's purpose is to steal data from manufactures of industrial control systems that can then be used to craft attacks against entities using such systems, Symantec warned.
Symantec's analysis shows that the Trojan is "highly targeted" at a limited number of organizations, said Kevin Haley, director of product management.
Though Duqu uses a lot of the same code as Stuxnet, its payload is completely different, Haley added.
While Stuxnet is designed to sabotage industrial control systems, Duqu is simply a Trojan with remote access capabilities that appears to have been created specifically to gather information about industrial control systems.
News of the new Trojan is sure to reinforce concerns about targeted cyberattacks against the industrial control systems used in critical infrastructures, such as power plants, water treatment facilities and chemical plants.
The Stuxnet worm , which some security researchers call the most sophisticated malware program ever written, has affected industrial control systems in many countries, including and especially Iran.
The worm is noteworthy as the first piece of malware known to have morphed into physical destruction of a resource,
Attackers have used Duqu to install keystroke loggers and network enumerators for stealing information that can be used in future attacks, Haley said. The attackers are looking for information such as design documents that could help them mount a future attack on an industrial control system.
Haley said that Duqu has been used to carry out attacks against a handful of European companies that manufacture industrial control systems.
In at least one case, the attackers were unsuccessful in their attempts to steal such data. But information is not yet available on all cases where Duqu has been used to launch an attack, Symantec said.
Symantec said it received a sample of the new malware on October 14 from what it described as "research lab with strong international connections." Symantec has so far analyzed two variants of Duqu and recovered additional variants from an organization in Europe that it didn't identify.
Attacks using Duqu and its variants may have been going on since last December based on a review of file-compilation times, Symantec said.