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Discussions on Targeted Attacks

Even though targeted attacks performed by groups such as LulzSec and Anonymous has gotten less headlines recently, in general the number of targeted attacks in the past few months have increased. The motivation behinds such attacks vary; for instance, the Syrian government has used a backdoor trojan to infect an activist client machine in order to track other activists and have them arrested.

While local authorities targeting their own citizens are a popular form of attack in several countries which attempt to control the citizens' online activity, in many other cases the motivation is financial. In our Global Security Report we've explained that the majority of the financial related targeted attacks are after customer databases and Point of Sale (POS) software. Such databases often store credit card information or email address which can be used for further phishing attacks.
For instance, it has been reported that a wide range of industries has been attacked using one of the most popular exploited software in the past few months: Adobe Flash Player.

While we've seen exploits targeting other products, such as Microsoft Office with the CVE-2012-0158 vulnerability, it appears that the most prevalent methods was to embed a malicious Flash object within a PDF or Office document. Both CVE-2012-0779 as well as CVE-2012-0754 has been popular in this regard. CVE-2012-0754 has been quite versatile, as it requires a mal-formed MP4 file for the exploitation to occur, and we've spotted both cases in which this file was downloaded when the embedded Flash object is loaded, as well cases in which the MP4 was bundled within the same PDF container.

Lately it is impossible to discuss targeted attacks without mentioning Flame. The notorious espionage software is considered very impressive given the assumed date it was released, and is still quite impressive. While still uncertain, many link Flame to Stuxnet and Duqu, claiming that it was all part of a joint operation against Iran's nuclear industry. More about Duqu and other targeted attacks can be read in our previous threat report.

If you want to hear some best practices in defending against targeted attacks, Wendy Nather from the 451 Research and our colleagues at Trustwave are hosting a webinar on this topic on Thursday the 7th of June.