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Friday, 30 April 2021 09:47

More than 70 firms received CIA malware samples in 2019: Kaspersky sec chief Featured

More than 70 firms received CIA malware samples in 2019: Kaspersky sec chief Pixabay

The head of security firm Kaspersky's Global Research and Analysis Team, Costin Raiu, says in 2019 more than 70 security companies were given samples of malware that was created by the CIA.

He did not say anything about who had handed out this malware. His statement came in response to a taunt from the former owner of security firm Immunity, Dave Aitel, who asked him in a tweet "Hey @craiu who are the other anti-virus companies that the FSB/SVR dumped the Lambert's code onto?"

Lambert is a name that Kaspersky has used in the past to refer to malware that has originated at the CIA. The FSB and SVR are Russian security agencies and Aitel was implying that the same two agencies had given the code to Kaspersky.

Kaspersky has always denied that it has any truck with Russian security agencies. In 2017, the firm lost all its US public service business following reports that Russia had exploited its software to spy on customers and obtain malware created by the NSA.

Kaspersky made reference to the incident in its APT [advanced persistent threat] trends report for the first quarter of 2021, saying right at the end, "In February 2019, multiple anti-virus companies received a collection of malware samples, most of them associated with various known APT groups.

"Some of the samples cannot be associated with any known activity. Some, in particular, attracted our attention due to their sophistication. The samples were compiled in 2014 and, accordingly, were likely deployed in 2014 and possibly as late as 2015.

"Although we have not found any shared code with any other known malware, the samples have intersections of coding patterns, style and techniques that have been seen in various Lambert families."

Kaspersky promised more details about these CIA tools in the reports that it sends to paying customers.

Of the sample, it said: "We therefore named this malware Purple Lambert. Purple Lambert is composed of several modules, with its network module passively listening for a magic packet. It is capable of providing an attacker with basic information about the infected system and executing a received payload. Its functionality reminds us of Gray Lambert, another user-mode passive listener.

"Gray Lambert turned out to be a replacement of the kernel-mode passive-listener White Lambert implant in multiple incidents. In addition, Purple Lambert implements functionality similar to, but in different ways, both Gray Lambert and White Lambert.

"Our report, available to subscribers of our APT threat reports, includes discussion of both the passive-listener payload and the loader functionality included in the main module."

Aitel also Raiu asked whether the malware referred to was left over from the Vault 7 leaks. These were leaks from WikiLeaks which revealed a fairly large amount of malware created by the CIA. But the Kaspersky researcher would not be drawn on this.

After Kaspersky lost its US public service contracts, Aitel seemed to be convinced that the Russian firm was hand-in-glove with Moscow, telling [listen from 34:00 onwards] the Australian security podcast Risky Business: "Kaspersky is an intelligence asset of the Russian Government and I'm amazed that we haven't seen action yet from the Australians, and the Germans and the Brits to do exactly what the US did – which is basically ban it."

But in another later post, Aitel had this to say: "We resolutely torture people and companies accused of hacking based on essentially tea-leaf reading from law enforcement (on one hand) or our intelligence organisations (in the case of nation state attribution). Kaspersky, of course, is one of those."

iTWire asked Kaspersky for more details about the malware mentioned in the latest APT trends report. The company responded: "Kaspersky, as a company, does not do attribution. Based on similarities in code and tactics, techniques, and procedures, we may connect certain activity with known threat groups.

"However, given the nature of cyberspace, we do not attribute any campaigns to specific nation states or organisations. With regards to this particular activity, all we can say is that the samples have intersections of coding patterns, style and techniques that have been seen in various Lambert families.

"In addition, the official report is available specifically to customers of our APT Threat Intelligence Portal."

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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