Kaspersky discovers miniFlame cyberespionage malware directly linked to Flame and Gauss

MiniFlame serves as a backdoor that gives attackers direct access to infected computers

By Lucian Constantin, IDG News Service |  Security

"The Flame self-destruction plug-in does not delete any SPE files," Schouwenberg said. "It has to be removed separately. We need to view miniFlame as a separate operation to the others, so it makes sense. We can assume the authors hoped SPE would go unnoticed after Flame's (and Gauss') discovery."MiniFlame is capable of downloading files from a command and control (C&C) server, uploading a file from the machine to the server, loading a specified DLL file, creating a process with given parameters or taking screen shots of the active window if it belongs to a program from a list.The list of programs targeted by the screen shot functionality includes instant messaging applications, browsers, document editors, development tools and others.A special version of miniFlame, which is installed on a case-by-case basis, is capable of infecting USB drives with a component that collects information from computers in which the drive is subsequently inserted.An analysis of the Flame C&C servers that was performed by Kaspersky Lab in partnership with Symantec, ITU-IMPACT and CERT-Bund/BSI, revealed that the servers supported four communication protocols dubbed OldProtocol, OldProtocolE, SignupProtocol and RedProtocol.The analysis also showed that these communication protocols were used by four separate threats called SP, SPE, FL and IP. FL, which is believed to be Flame, and SP -- possibly an older version of SPE/miniFlame -- use OldProtocol. SPE uses OldProtocolE, while IP, which hasn't been found yet, uses SignupProtocol. RedProtocol is mentioned in the server software, but has not been implemented yet.MiniFlame was discovered at the beginning of July, but has been used since at least 2010. The Kaspersky researchers have found six samples of the malware dating from 2010 and 2011 and have reason to believe that the communication protocol used by the malware was created in 2007 or earlier."We believe that the developers of miniFlame created dozens of different modifications of the program," the Kaspersky researchers said.Kaspersky estimates the total number of miniFlame infections at between 50 and 60, far fewer than the number of Flame infections -- 5,000 to 6,000 -- or Gauss infections -- approximately 10,000."The modification known as '4.50' is mostly found in Lebanon and Palestine," the researchers said. "The other variants were found in other countries, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar."Some IP (Internet Protocol) addresses associated with miniFlame-infected computers that contacted the C&C servers between May and September were from the U.S., France and Lithuania. Some of them correspond to proxy or VPN servers that might have been used by the malware's victims, but others do not."With Flame, Gauss and miniFlame, we have probably only scratched surface of the massive cyber-spy operations ongoing in the Middle East," the Kaspersky researchers said.

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