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LightOut is Latest Cyber Threat to Target Energy Sector

17/03/2014 by


What happens when the energy grid goes down? Well the lights, of course, go out. A fresh advanced persistent threat (APT) targeting the energy sector is thus aptly named LightsOut, and like previous attacks, it used a watering hole method to start its system compromise.

Last autumn, the story broke that threat actors were targeting the energy sector with remote access tools and Intelligence gathering malware. The primary tactic was the watering hole attack: websites that are likely to be of interest to employees of the target company are compromised in order to deliver malware to visitors. The intention is that this infection should then allow traversal from the employees into the real target.

LightsOut struck late February, between the 24th and 26th of the month. “The attack began as a compromise of a third party law firm which includes an energy law practice known as Thirty Nine Essex Street LLP,” said Zscaler researcher Chris Mannon, in a blog. “The victim site is no longer compromised, but viewers should show restraint and better browsing practices when visiting.”

The compromise leads victims to another that provides the attacker with a specific user-agent in the URL field. The purpose of this is to pass along diagnostics to the attacker so that the proper malicious package is sent to the victim.

LightsOut performs several diagnostic checks on the victim’s machine to make sure that it can be exploited. This includes checking the browser and plugin versions. And ultimately, a payload is delivered from the LightsOut Exploit kit, which attempts to drop a malicious JAR file.

LightsOut is only the latest watering hole-oriented attack on the sector. Earlier this year it was discovered that “Energetic Bear” was making the rounds, an adversary group with a nexus to the Russian Federation that conducts intelligence collection operations against a variety of global victims, with a primary focus on the energy sector.

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