'Athena' CIA malware plants Gremlins’ on Microsoft machines – WikiLeaks

The latest in WikiLeaks’ series of #Vault7 leaks was released Friday detailing malware that provides remote beacon and loader capabilities on target computers using several Microsoft Windows operating systems.

‘Athena’ is the latest codename for the release which consists of five documents.

In the user guide, the operating systems which can be targeted are: Windows XP Pro SP3 32-bit, Windows 7 32-bit/64-bit, Windows 8.1 32-bit/64-bit, Windows 2008 Enterprise Server, Windows 2012 Server, and Windows 10.

Once installed on a target computer, Athena will use a listening post to receive beacons from the operator, allowing it to signal and trigger additional malware payloads undetected on the target computer.

Athena “hijacks” the DNSCACHE, a temporary database maintained by the operating system to record internet traffic on the computer, to hide its presence, according to a document contained in the leak.

The command module for Athena will only load during a signal, before being destroyed when completed.

The CIA cooperated with the private cybersecurity firm Siege Technologies to develop the Athena malware.

"I feel more comfortable working on electronic warfare… It’s a little different than bombs and nuclear weapons -- that’s a morally complex field to be in. Now instead of bombing things and having collateral damage, you can really reduce civilian casualties, which is a win for everybody," Jason Syversen, the founder of Siege Technologies, wrote in an email.

The release is the latest in WikiLeaks series of leaks, allegedly from the CIA, known as #Vault7. Previous releases showed hacking techniques used to weaponize mobile phones, conduct surveillance via Smart TVs and load and execute malware on a target machine.

A screenshot contained in the leak shows evidence of a Dell machine being used by a user named 'Justin.'

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Is Blue Whale ‘Suicide Game’ A Hoax?

The truth behind the headline-grabbing app?

An app that’s making news headlines around the world for allegedly targeting children and young people has left quite a few parents shaking in fear, while authorities are still trying to connect even the slightest of dots. Blue Whale, created by Russian programmer Philipp Budeikin, supposedly lures young victims into self-harm and suicide, with a variety of humiliating, painful, and even violent steps along the way.

Fact or fiction? :
It reads like something straight out of a Hollywood cyberthriller, and it’s easy to see why some might dismiss it as nothing more than urban legend. At the same time, it’s exactly the kind of generational rumor that can strike fear in the public: much like the long-told stories of Halloween candy filled with razor blades, although there has never been a single reported instance of the event.

Parents warned :
Schools across the US are warning parents about the app nonetheless, and Russian authorities are taking it very seriously – they’ve arrested Budeikin for his supposed role in multiple suicides, although the exact number is still being investigated – and different websites tell different stories on the numbers of young people who’ve already been Blue Whale’s victim. Some numbers have been speculated to be in the hundreds, while other sites insist there hasn’t been a single suicide linked to the game.

Tasks become dark :
Blue Whale reportedly assigns the “players” different tasks depending on the level they reach in the game. Some of the early tasks have included nothing more than filming themselves singing a silly song, while later on as the “game” becomes darker and darker, tasks have included committing and filming acts of violence against animals, cutting themselves, and ultimately, committing suicide.

Key takeaways :
There are a number of key takeaways for parents where this app and others like it are concerned. First, whether or not all of the rumors surrounding Blue Whale are accurate, there is no question that the creator has been charged. Also, there are valid concerns of copycat behaviors based on the headlines about this app. Finally, one of the functions of the app was reportedly to root around in the player’s phone and steal incriminating photos or messages, then extort the desired behaviors out of the victim. There have been a number of widely reported and verified incidents in which young people have been victimized by this type of tactic, and the definition of “sextortion” usually involves this kind of approach. Blue Whale may be more rumor than truth, but there are genuinely hundreds of methods a predator can use to contact a young victim and lead to sextortion.
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Things you need to know about Wannacry/ WannaCrypt Ransomware

It has been reported that a new ransomware named as "Wannacry" is spreading widely. Wannacry encrypts the files on infected Windows systems. This ransomware spreads by using a vulnerability in implementations of Server Message Block (SMB) in Windows systems. This exploit is named as ETERNALBLUE.

The ransomware called WannaCrypt or WannaCry encrypts the computer's hard disk drive and then spreads laterally between computers on the same LAN. The ransomware also spreads through malicious attachments to emails.

In order to prevent infection, users and organizations are advised to apply patches to Windows systems as mentioned in Microsoft Security Bulletin MS17-010.


After infecting, this Wannacry ransomware displays following screen on infected system:
Source: Symantec

It also drops a file named !Please Read Me!.txt which contains the text explaining what has happened and how to pay the ransom.

Source: Symantec

WannaCry encrypts files with the following extensions, appending .WCRY to the end of the file name:

The file extensions that the malware is targeting contain certain clusters of formats including:

Commonly used office file extensions (.ppt, .doc, .docx, .xlsx, .sxi).Less common and nation-specific office formats (.sxw, .odt, .hwp).Archives, media files (.zip, .rar, .tar, .bz2, .mp4, .mkv)Emails and email databases (.eml, .msg, .ost, .pst, .edb).Database files (.sql, .accdb, .mdb, .dbf, .odb, .myd).Developers' sourcecode and project files (.php, .java, .cpp, .pas, .asm).Encryption keys and certificates (.key, .pfx, .pem, .p12, .csr, .gpg, .aes).Graphic designers, artists and photographers files (.vsd, .odg, .raw, .nef, .svg, .psd).Virtual machine files (.vmx, .vmdk, .vdi).

Indicators of compromise:
Ransomware is writing itself into a random character folder in the 'ProgramData' folder with the file name of "tasksche.exe" or in 'C:\Windows\' folder with the file-name "mssecsvc.exe" and "tasksche.exe".

Ransomware is granting full access to all files by using the command:
Icacls . /grant Everyone:F /T /C /Q

Using a batch script for operations:

hashes for WANNACRY ransomware:
use endpoint protection/antivirus solutions to detect these files and remove the same

Network Connections
The malware use TOR hidden services for command and control. The list of .onion domains inside is as following:


Note: For update on latest Indicators of Compromises, please see references to security vendors given in references section

Specific Countermeasures to prevent Wannacry/WannaCrypt Ransomware:
Users and administrators are advised to take the following preventive measures to protect their computer networks from ransomware infection/ attacks:
In order to prevent infection users and organizations are advised to apply patches to Windows systems as mentioned in Microsoft Security Bulletin MS17-010

Microsoft Patch for Unsupported Versions such as Windows XP,Vista,Server 2003, Server 2008 etc. http://www.catalog.update.microsoft.com/Search.aspx?q=KB4012598

To prevent data loss Users & Organisations are advised to take backup of Critical Data

Block SMB ports on Enterprise Edge/perimeter network devices [UDP 137, 138 and TCP 139, 445] or Disable SMBv1. https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/2696547

Apply following signatures/rules at IDS/IPS

alert tcp $HOME_NET 445 -> any any (msg:"ET EXPLOIT Possible ETERNALBLUE MS17-010 Echo Response"; flow:from_server,established; content:"|00 00 00 31 ff|SMB|2b 00 00 00 00 98 07 c0|"; depth:16; fast_pattern; content:"|4a 6c 4a 6d 49 68 43 6c 42 73 72 00|"; distance:0; flowbits:isset,ETPRO.ETERNALBLUE; classtype:trojan-activity; sid:2024218; rev:2;)


alert smb any any -> $HOME_NET any (msg:"ET EXPLOIT Possible ETERNALBLUE MS17-010 Echo Request (set)"; flow:to_server,established; content:"|00 00 00 31 ff|SMB|2b 00 00 00 00 18 07 c0|"; depth:16; fast_pattern; content:"|4a 6c 4a 6d 49 68 43 6c 42 73 72 00|"; distance:0; flowbits:set,ETPRO.ETERNALBLUE; flowbits:noalert; classtype:trojan-activity; sid:2024220; rev:1;)

alert smb $HOME_NET any -> any any (msg:"ET EXPLOIT Possible ETERNALBLUE MS17-010 Echo Response"; flow:from_server,established; content:"|00 00 00 31 ff|SMB|2b 00 00 00 00 98 07 c0|"; depth:16; fast_pattern; content:"|4a 6c 4a 6d 49 68 43 6c 42 73 72 00|"; distance:0; flowbits:isset,ETPRO.ETERNALBLUE; classtype:trojan-activity; sid:2024218; rev:1;)

rule wannacry_1 : ransom
author = "Joshua Cannell"
description = "WannaCry Ransomware strings"
weight = 100
date = "2017-05-12"

$s1 = "Ooops, your files have been encrypted!" wide ascii nocase
$s2 = "Wanna Decryptor" wide ascii nocase
$s3 = ".wcry" wide ascii nocase
$s4 = "WANNACRY" wide ascii nocase
$s5 = "WANACRY!" wide ascii nocase
$s7 = "icacls . /grant Everyone:F /T /C /Q" wide ascii nocase

any of them
rule wannacry_2{
author = "Harold Ogden"
description = "WannaCry Ransomware Strings"
date = "2017-05-12"
weight = 100
$string1 = "msg/m_bulgarian.wnry"
$string2 = "msg/m_chinese (simplified).wnry"
$string3 = "msg/m_chinese (traditional).wnry"
$string4 = "msg/m_croatian.wnry"
$string5 = "msg/m_czech.wnry"
$string6 = "msg/m_danish.wnry"
$string7 = "msg/m_dutch.wnry"
$string8 = "msg/m_english.wnry"
$string9 = "msg/m_filipino.wnry"
$string10 = "msg/m_finnish.wnry"
$string11 = "msg/m_french.wnry"
$string12 = "msg/m_german.wnry"
$string13 = "msg/m_greek.wnry"
$string14 = "msg/m_indonesian.wnry"
$string15 = "msg/m_italian.wnry"
$string16 = "msg/m_japanese.wnry"
$string17 = "msg/m_korean.wnry"
$string18 = "msg/m_latvian.wnry"
$string19 = "msg/m_norwegian.wnry"
$string20 = "msg/m_polish.wnry"
$string21 = "msg/m_portuguese.wnry"
$string22 = "msg/m_romanian.wnry"
$string23 = "msg/m_russian.wnry"
$string24 = "msg/m_slovak.wnry"
$string25 = "msg/m_spanish.wnry"
$string26 = "msg/m_swedish.wnry"
$string27 = "msg/m_turkish.wnry"
$string28 = "msg/m_vietnamese.wnry"
any of ($string*)

Best practices to prevent ransomware attacks:
Perform regular backups of all critical information to limit the impact of data or system loss and to help expedite the recovery process. Ideally, this data should be kept on a separate device, and backups should be stored offline.Establish a Sender Policy Framework (SPF),Domain Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance (DMARC), and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) for your domain, which is an email validation system designed to prevent spam by detecting email spoofing by which most of the ransomware samples successfully reaches the corporate email boxes.Don't open attachments in unsolicited e-mails, even if they come from people in your contact list, and never click on a URL contained in an unsolicited e-mail, even if the link seems benign. In cases of genuine URLs close out the e-mail and go to the organization's website directly through browserRestrict execution of powershell /WSCRIPT in enterprise environment Ensure installation and use of the latest version (currently v5.0) of PowerShell, with enhanced logging enabled. script block logging, and transcription enabled. Send the associated logs to a centralized log repository for monitoring and analysis.Application whitelisting/Strict implementation of Software Restriction Policies (SRP) to block binaries running from %APPDATA%, %PROGRAMDATA% and %TEMP% paths. Ransomware sample drops and executes generally from these locations. Enforce application whitelisting on all endpoint workstations.Deploy web and email filters on the network. Configure these devices to scan for known bad domains, sources, and addresses; block these before receiving and downloading messages. Scan all emails, attachments, and downloads both on the host and at the mail gateway with a reputable antivirus solution.Disable macros in Microsoft Office products. Some Office products allow for the disabling of macros that originate from outside of an organization and can provide a hybrid approach when the organization depends on the legitimate use of macros. For Windows, specific settings can block macros originating from the Internet from running.Configure access controls including file, directory, and network share permissions with least privilege in mind. If a user only needs to read specific files, they should not have write access to those files, directories, or shares.Maintain updated Antivirus software on all systemsConsider installing Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit, or similar host-level anti-exploitation tools.Block the attachments of file types, exe|pif|tmp|url|vb|vbe|scr|reg|cer|pst|cmd|com|bat|dll|dat|hlp|hta|js|wsfRegularly check the contents of backup files of databases for any unauthorized encrypted contents of data records or external elements, (backdoors /malicious scripts.)Keep the operating system third party applications (MS office, browsers, browser Plugins) up-to-date with the latest patches.Follow safe practices when browsing the web. Ensure the web browsers are secured enough with appropriate content controls.Network segmentation and segregation into security zones - help protect sensitive information and critical services. Separate administrative network from business processes with physical controls and Virtual Local Area Networks.Disable remote Desktop Connections, employ least-privileged accounts.Ensure integrity of the codes /scripts being used in database, authentication and sensitive systems, Check regularly for the integrity of the information stored in the databases.Restrict users' abilities (permissions) to install and run unwanted software applications.Enable personal firewalls on workstations.Implement strict External Device (USB drive) usage policy.Employ data-at-rest and data-in-transit encryption.Carry out vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing (VAPT) and information security audit of critical networks/systems, especially database servers from CERT-IN empaneled auditors. Repeat audits at regular intervals.Individuals or organizations are not encouraged to pay the ransom, as this does not guarantee files will be released. Report such instances of fraud to CERT-In and Law Enforcement agencies

Generic Prevention Tools:

Tool (NoMoreCry) to prevent Wannacry Ransomware by CCN-CERT:

Tool Sophos: Hitman.Pro : https://www.hitmanpro.com/en-us/surfright/alert.aspx
Bitdefender Anti-Crypto Vaccine and Anti-Ransomware (discontinued) : https://labs.bitdefender.com/2016/03/combination-crypto-ransomware-vaccine-released/

Malwarebytes Anti-Ransomware(formally Crypto Monitor) : https://blog.malwarebytes.com/malwarebytes-news/2016/01/introducing-the-malwarebytes-anti-ransomware-beta/

Trendmicro Ransomware Screen Unlocker tool: https://esupport.trendmicro.com/en-us/home/pages/technical-support/1105975.aspx

 Microsoft  Enhanced mitigation and experience toolkit(EMET) : https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=50766

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