Xtreme RAT cyberespionage campaign targeted U.S., U.K., other governments

The recent malware attack against the Israeli police also targeted government institutions in other countries, researchers say

By Lucian Constantin, IDG News Service |  Security

The list of targets also included 'fco.gov.uk' (British Foreign & Commonwealth Office) and 'mfa.gov.tr' (Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs) email addresses, as well as addresses from government institutions in Slovenia, Macedonia, New Zealand, and Latvia, the researcher said. Some non-governmental organizations like the BBC and the Office of the Quartet Representative, were also targeted.

The Trend Micro researchers used metadata from the decoy documents to track down some of their authors to an online forum. One of them used the alias "aert" to talk about various malware applications including DarkComet and Xtreme RAT or to exchange goods and services with other forum members, Villeneuve said.

However, the motivations of the attackers remain unclear. If, after the Norman report, one might have speculated that the attackers have a political agenda tied to Israel and the Palestinian territories, after Trend Micro's latest findings. it's harder to guess what drives them.

"Their motivations are quite unclear at this point after discovering this latest development of targeting other state organizations," said Ivan Macalintal, senior threat researcher and security evangelist at Trend Micro, Friday via email.

Trend Micro has not taken control of any command and control (C&C) servers used by the attackers in order to determine what data is being stolen from the infected computers, the researcher said, adding that there are no plans to do so at this time.

Security companies sometimes work with domain providers to point C&C domain names used by attackers to IP addresses under their control. This process is known as "sinkholing" and is used to determine how many computers were infected with a particular threat and what kind of information those computers are sending back to the control servers.

"We've contacted and are working with the CERTs [computer emergency response teams] for the particular states affected and we'll see if there was indeed any damage done," Macalintal said. "We are still actively monitoring the campaign as of now and will post updates accordingly."

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