GCHQ/NSA Data-Grabbing Malware Disguised Itself As Microsoft Drivers, Was Served Via Fake LinkedIn Pages

from the im-in-ur-internet-stealing-ur-files dept

Some nasty malware with a decade of history behind it has been uncovered and it has the fingerprints of two governments all over it.

Complex malware known as Regin is the suspected technology behind sophisticated cyberattacks conducted by U.S. and British intelligence agencies on the European Union and a Belgian telecommunications company, according to security industry sources and technical analysis conducted by The Intercept.
Behind the malware -- which disguised itself as Microsoft drivers and was served via malicious, fake LinkedIn pages -- lies a cooperative effort between the NSA and GCHQ. Belgacom has long since ousted the intruding software and is now working with a federal prosecutor to pursue a criminal investigation. Belgacom's subversion by this malware -- comparable in sophistication to the infamous Stuxnet, according to Symantec (which published its findings last Sunday) -- led to the breach of EU offices.

Spying on foreign governments is what intelligence agencies are expected to do. But dumping malware into the operating systems of a communications provider generally isn't. Belgacom's infection is the only verified incident so far, but there are likely many, many more considering the Regin malware traces back nearly ten years.
Based on an analysis of the malware samples, Regin appears to have been developed over the course of more than a decade; The Intercept has identified traces of its components dating back as far as 2003. Regin was mentioned at a recent Hack.lu conference in Luxembourg, and Symantec’s report on Sunday said the firm had identified Regin on infected systems operated by private companies, government entities, and research institutes in countries such as Russia, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Ireland, Belgium, and Iran.
GCHQ has issued boilerplate in response to The Intercept's request for a comment. The NSA, on the other hand, apparently isn't going to dignify this story with a non-denial denial, opting instead for something much more brusque:
“We are not going to comment on The Intercept’s speculation.”
What's currently out there in the wild may not be as effective anymore. Belgacom discovered its infection around June 21, 2013, about a week before Der Spiegel published Snowden documents pointing to the digital infiltration of EU offices. The Intercept has made the malware available for download and states the following in its article.
Given that that it has been over a year since the Belgacom operation was publicly outed, The Intercept considers it likely that the GCHQ/NSA has replaced their toolkit and no current operations will be affected by the publication of these samples.
If so, then the two agencies involved have likely moved on to something better and less detectable. Being outed is no reason to stop spying, especially in other nations where legal protections range from "thin" to "nonexistent."

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: gchq, malware, nsa, surveillance
Companies: belgacom, linkedin, microsoft


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Nov 2014 @ 12:17am

    >"Spying on foreign governments is what intelligence agencies are expected to do"
    And foreign governments are expected to be very upset when their supposed allies constantly backstab them.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Sponsored Promotion
Public Money, Public Code - Sign The Open Letter at publiccode.eu
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.