A fresh watering hole attack which specifically targeted the oil and gas sector appeared days after the company announced a sizable funding grant.
According to research by Bromium, it suspected that the attackers were expecting more traffic to the website and hoped to increase their chances of a successful infection.
While both have confirmed that no sensitive information was leaked, the attack did leverage a then-unpatched vulnerability and the script on the compromised web server looked for the presence of anti-virus software from Kaspersky and Trend Micro drivers on the victim machine by leveraging the XMLDOM vulnerability.
The final and resulting payload was described as a malware installation Trojan that persists on the infected system, and installs other malware sent from the command and control server.
“What interesting about this Trojan is that it stores the malicious executable code in HKLMSoftwareMicrosoft registry key,” it said. “This is not the first time we have heard about this trick though. The user named EP_X0FF first reported similar specimen on kernelmode.info forum in the Malware section.
“Malware installation tools like this are widely used to install bank Trojans and more recently crypto-ransomware. This explains the peculiar choice of where to store the executable code. Perhaps according to their tests most AVs do not scan the registry thoroughly enough. Clearly it is an attempt to improve user level persistence and overall stealthiness. It’s difficult to say how effective this method is, but surely it makes a good marketing point for advertising this malware on underground message boards.”
Bromium acknowledged that watering hole attacks are not new, but this demonstrates that attackers are continuing to use this tried and true attack vector while staying ahead of the defenders detection techniques.
“This attack is yet another example of the ongoing game between the defenders efforts to detect attacks and the attackers’ efforts to evade detection and collect the buried treasure,” it said. “The authors of this attack paid a lot of attention to stealthiness, starting from the cookie-based redirect and driver fingerprinting to monitoring tools detection.”