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Researchers find many more modules of Regin spying tool

Lucian Constantin | Aug. 31, 2015
Researchers from Symantec found 49 new modules for the malware program

Security researchers from Symantec have identified 49 more modules of the sophisticated Regin cyberespionage platform that many believe is used by the U.S. National Security Agency and its close allies.

This brings the total number of modules known so far to 75, each of them responsible for implementing specific functionality and giving attackers a lot of flexibility in how they exploit individual targets.

Regin came to light in November last year, but it has been in use since at least 2008 and antivirus companies have known about it since 2013.

It is one of the most sophisticated malware threats discovered to date and has been used to target Internet service providers, telecommunications backbone operators, energy firms, airlines, government entities, research institutes and private individuals.

Most of the infections detected by Symantec were in Russia and Saudi Arabia, but compromised targets have also been found in Mexico, Ireland, India, Afghanistan, Iran, Belgium, Austria and Pakistan.

Regin has a modular architecture, which allows its creators to add or remove specific features to the malware program depending on their target and goal.

Some of the modules implement basic malware functions like command-and-control communications, taking screen shots, controlling the mouse, stealing passwords, capturing network traffic, gathering information about programs running on the infected computers, recovering deleted files and more.

Other modules are much more specialized and built with specific targets in mind. "One module was designed to monitor network traffic to Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS) web servers, another was observed collecting administration traffic for mobile telephony base station controllers, while another was created specifically for parsing mail from Exchange databases," the Symantec researchers said in an updated version of their white paper published Thursday.

The malware also has a complex command-and-control infrastructure that uses peer-to-peer communications between infected computers, virtual private networking and six different transport protocols that are implemented as separate modules: ICMP, UDP, TCP, HTTP Cookies, SSL, and SMB.

Even though 75 Regin modules have been found so far, there are likely many more that have yet to be discovered.

"A number of other Regin payloads are known to exist since some modules analyzed contain references to them," the Symantec researchers said Thursday in a blog post.

There are strong indications that Regin is a unified computer network exploitation (CNE) platform codenamed WARRIORPRIDE that is used by the intelligence agencies of the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand — known as the Five Eyes intelligence partnership.

WARRIORPRIDE, also known as DAREDEVIL at the U.K. Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), was described in a secret document authored by the Communications Security Establishment Canada that was leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

 

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