December 18, 2012

Data Wiping: A New Trend in Cyber Sabotage?

Yesterday, the Iranian CERT made an announcement about a new piece of malware that was designed to corrupt data. This malware joins the list of data corruption malware discovered in April, November and December 2012 – Wiper, Narilam and now GrooveMonitor respectively.  They wrote:

Latest investigation have been done by Maher center in cyber space identified a new targeted data wiping malware. Primitive analysis revealed that this malware wipes files on different drives in various predefined times. Despite its simplicity in design, the malware is efficient and can wipe disk partitions and user profile directories without being recognized by anti-virus software. However, it is not considered to be widely distributed. This targeted attack is simple in design and it is not any similarity to the other sophisticated targeted attacks.

GrooveMonitor does not pose a real threat to companies since it attack local files only and not the datacenter (databases or file shares) nor the datacenter backup. However, the Narilam malware discovered last month is a database sabotage malware. Its purpose is to corrupt databases of three financial applications from TarrahSystem used for banking, loans, retails and industrial applications.  But it is not a technical beauty pageant. When all of your data gets wiped and your antivirus proves to be worthless , do you take comfort in the fact the malware was simplistic?

Indeed, this new malware raises the question – are these just singular incidents or do we witness a trend of malware designed to corrupt data rather than steal it? While all three malware attacks originated in Iran, a country of great interest for several espionage agencies around the world, only Wiper is believed to be state-sponsored. The authors of the other two were probably inspired by Wiper to some extent. As Microsoft’s director of trustworthy computing Tim Rains stated nicely this week: “Unintended consequence of operating a sophisticated cyber espionage activity is that criminal groups are essentially given free research on how to infect systems and little-known vulnerabilities are brought to the forefront.”

This is just as true for method of operation. It is easier to hurt a competitor’s business by sabotaging its production systems by corrupting data rather than operating a complicated long term espionage campaign for stealing data. Roel from Kaspersky security blog sums it up: “If it wasn't clear already - the era of cyber-sabotage has arrived. Be prepared.”


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