Information Warfare: NetTraveler Joins Red October

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June 16, 2013: Russian Internet security firm (Kaspersky Labs) recently announced the discovery of a stealthy espionage program (NetTraveler) that had been secretly planted in PCs used by diplomats and government officials in over 40 countries. Also hit were oil companies and political activists opposed to China. No samples of the NetTraveler from Israel were available for this analysis, but the program apparently did appear in Israel (but may have been prevented from stealing anything). Dissection of NetTraveler indicated it was created by about fifty different people, most of them Chinese speakers who knew how to program in English.

Earlier this year a Kaspersky revealed the discovery of a similar bit of espionage malware they called Red October, because it appeared to have been created by Russian speaking programmers. Red October was a very elaborate and versatile malware system. Hundreds of different modules have been discovered and Red October had been customized for a larger number of specific targets. Red October was found to be in the PCs and smart phones of key military personnel in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and dozens of other nations (U.S., Australia, Ireland, Switzerland, Belgium, Brazil, Spain, South Africa, Japan, and the UAE). The Red October Internet campaign has been going on for at least five years and has been seeking military and diplomatic secrets. As a result of this discovery Internet operators worldwide shut down the addresses Red October depended on.

Red October does not appear to be the product of some government intelligence agency and may be from one of several shadowy private hacker groups that specialize in seeking out military secrets and then selling them to the highest bidder. The buyers of this stuff prefer to remain quiet about obtaining secrets this way. In response to this publicity, the operators of Red October have apparently shut down the network. The Russian government ordered the security services to find out if Russians were involved with Red October and, if so, to arrest and prosecute them. Russia has long been a sanctuary for Internet criminals, largely because of poor policing and corruption. It may well turn out that the Red October crew is in Russia and has paid off a lot of Russian cops in order to avoid detection and prosecution. To date, the operators of Red October have not been found.

 

 


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