Researchers find direct link between Flame, Stuxnet malware
Shared source code, says Kaspersky Lab
Computerworld - Security researchers today said that they have found a direct link between the notorious Stuxnet worm and the more-recently-discovered Flame espionage malware, indicating that the two teams cooperated and collaborated.
The news ties Flame to the U.S. and Israeli governments, which reportedly designed and launched Stuxnet in an attempt to sabotage Iran's nuclear program.
"We're very confident that the Flame team shared some of their source code with the Stuxnet group," Roel Schouwenberg, a senior researcher with Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab, said in an online presentation early Monday about the company's findings. "It's conclusive proof that the two worked together, at least once."
Stuxnet, a powerful cyberweapon that crippled parts of Iran's nuclear fuel enrichment effort, was first discovered in mid-2010, but researchers later traced its first variant, and first attack, to June 2009.
Flame's timeline is more murky, but most researchers agree that it goes back at least to 2010.
Today, Kaspersky said that its analysis shows that Flame harks back to no later than the summer of 2008, perhaps earlier.
The two pieces of malware -- Flame for reconnaissance, Stuxnet for attack -- each included a module that appears to originate from the same source code, likely written by a single programmer. That module was used to infect Windows PCs through USB flash drives, and exploited a vulnerability that was patched in June 2009.
When the attack code module was written, however, the vulnerability Microsoft fixed in MS09-025 was still unpatched, and thus a "zero-day" bug. At the time it quashed the flaw, Microsoft said it had not been used in the wild.
Not true, said Kaspersky: The elevation-of-privilege exploit of a Windows kernel vulnerability had been used by both the first version of Stuxnet and early editions of Flame. "The [attack] module had a creation date of February 2009," said Schouwenberg. "It exploited a zero-day at the time of creation, and most likely at the time of Stuxnet's deployment."
That variant, dubbed "Stuxnet.a," was relatively unsuccessful or ultra-quiet, or both, according to researchers. It wasn't until 2010's Stuxnet.b that researchers stumbled upon the worm.
Kaspersky dug into its detection logs last week to look for possible evidence of a link between Flame and Stuxnet, and found one.
"Flame was a kick-starter," Schouwenberg said, explaining the use of the code similar to both Stuxnet and Flame. "In 2010, the Stuxnet group removed that [module], and each team went their separate ways."
Schouwenberg said he wasn't sure why the Stuxnet group pulled the attack module, but speculated that it was because Microsoft patched it several months after its creation. Later versions of Stuxnet relied on a different -- and at the time also unpatched -- vulnerability to do the work of the yanked module. "It was no longer needed, and maybe [the Stuxnet team] did not want to jeopardize the Flame operation."
- 15 Non-Certified IT Skills Growing in Demand
- How 19 Tech Titans Target Healthcare
- Twitter Suffering From Growing Pains (and Facebook Comparisons)
- Agile Comes to Data Integration
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- The Threat Landscape Hardly a day goes by without the discovery of a new cyberthreat somewhere in the world! But how do you keep up with...
- Security for Virtualization In the rush to implement virtualization, security has become second. So while the business benefits are clear, the risks are less well documented...
- HP HAVEn: See the big picture in Big Data HP HAVEn is the industry's first comprehensive, scalable, open, and secure platform for Big Data. Enterprises are drowning in a sea of data...
- What Datapipe customers need to know about the new PCI DSS 3.0 compliance standard This handy quick reference outlines what PCI DSS 3.0 is, who needs to be compliant and how Alert Logic solutions address the new...
- Meg Whitman presents Unlocking IT with Big Data During this Web Event you will hear Meg Whitman, President and CEO, HP discuss HAVEn - the #1 Big Data platform, as well...
- The New Way to Work Knowledge Vault This Knowledge Vault focuses on how, in today's increasingly virtual world, it's more important than ever to engage deeply with employees, suppliers, partners,... All Malware and Vulnerabilities White Papers | Webcasts