Malicious new attack infects hundreds, including oil industries, scientific research centres, governments and military contractors.
A new attack from NetTraveler, also known as Travnet, Netfile or Red Star AP, has infected hundreds of high profile victims across more than 40 countries.
Kaspersky Lab researchers has revealed targets of NetTraveler to include Tibetan/Uyghur activists, oil industry companies, scientific research centres and institutes, universities, private companies, governments and governmental institutions, embassies and military contractors.
Immediately after the public exposure of the NetTraveler operations in June 2013, the attackers shut down all known command and control systems and moved them to new servers in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan and continued the attacks unhindered.
Over the last few days, several spear-phishing emails were sent to multiple Uyghur activists. The Java exploit used to distribute this new variant of the Red Star APT was only recently patched in June 2013 and has a much higher success rate.
The earlier attacks have used Office exploits (CVE-2012-0158) that were patched by Microsoft last April.
APT operators have also adopted the watering hole technique (web redirections and drive-by downloads on rigged domains) to infect victims surfing the web.
Over the last month, Kaspersky Lab intercepted and blocked a number of infection attempts from the "wetstock[dot]org" domain, which is a known site linked to previous NetTraveler attacks. These redirections appear to come from other Uyghur-related websites that were compromised and infected by the NetTraveler attackers.
Kaspersky Lab’s Global Research and Analysis Team (GReAT) experts predict that other recent exploits could be integrated and used against the group’s targets and offer recommendations on how to stay safe from such attacks:
– Update Java to the most recent version or, if you don’t use Java, uninstall it.
– Update Microsoft Windows and Office to the latest versions.
– Update all other third party software, such as Adobe Reader.
– Use a secure browser such as Google Chrome, which has a faster development and patching cycle than Windows’ default Internet Explorer.
– Be wary of clicking on links and opening attachments from unknown persons.
"So far, we haven’t observed the use of zero-day vulnerabilities with the NetTraveler group. To defend against those, although patches don’t help, technologies such as DefaultDeny and Automatic Exploit Prevention can be quite effective at fighting advanced persistent threats," said Costin Raiu, director of global research and analysis team at Kaspersky Lab.