Kasbah Hacker- A large number of French critical infrastructure firms were hacked as part of an extended malware campaign that appears to have been orchestrated by at least one attacker based in Morocco, KrebsOnSecurity has learned. An individual thought to be involved has earned accolades from the likes of Apple, Dell, and Microsoft for helping to find and fix security vulnerabilities in their products.
In 2018, security intelligence firm HYAS discovered a malware network communicating with systems inside of a French national power company. The malware was identified as a version of the remote access trojan (RAT) known as njRAT, which has been used against millions of targets globally with a focus on victims in the Middle East.
Further investigation revealed the electricity provider was just one of many French critical infrastructure firms that had systems beaconing home to the malware network’s control center.
Other victims included one of France’s largest hospital systems; a French automobile manufacturer; a major French bank; companies that work with or manage networks for French postal and transportation systems; a domestic firm that operates a number of airports in France; a state-owned railway company; and multiple nuclear research facilities.
HYAS said it quickly notified the French national computer emergency team and the FBI about its findings, which pointed to a dynamic domain name system (DNS) provider on which the purveyors of this attack campaign relied for their various malware servers.
When it didn’t hear from French authorities after almost a week, HYAS asked the dynamic DNS provider to “sinkhole” the malware network’s control servers. Sinkholing is a practice by which researchers assume control over a malware network’s domains, redirecting any traffic flowing to those systems to a server the researchers control.
While sinkholing doesn’t clean up infected systems, it can prevent the attackers from continuing to harvest data from infected PCs or sending them new commands and malware updates. HYAS found that despite its notifications to the French authorities, some of the apparently infected systems were still attempting to contact the sinkholed control networks up until late 2019.