Home Government Tech Policy CIA created code to impersonate Kaspersky Lab: WikiLeaks

CIA created code to impersonate Kaspersky Lab: WikiLeaks

The CIA created code that could be used to impersonate exfiltration attempts from computers infected with its malware implants as being staged by others, according to WikiLeaks. Three examples of impersonating Kaspersky Lab were released by the whistle-blower website on Thursday.

In a release dubbed Vault 8, which includes source code for documents released under the name Vault 7, WikiLeaks said that the code released was for Hive, infrastructure that the CIA used to control its malware.

It said digital certificates for authenticating implants that the CIA used were created by the agency in order to deceive those who were being infiltrated.

Three examples included in the source code release built a fake certificate for Kaspersky Lab, a company whose products have been banned from use by US public sector bodies over the claim that it aids spying by Russia.

The fake certificates appeared to be signed by Thawte premium Server CA, Cape Town.

"In this way, if the target organisation looks at the network traffic coming out of its network, it is likely to misattribute the CIA exfiltration of data to uninvolved entities whose identities have been impersonated," WikiLeaks said.

Reacting to the WikiLeaks publication, Kaspersky Lab founder Eugene Kaspersky tweeted that the company could confirm that certificates issued in its name were fake.

Asked for his take on the Vault 8 release, former NSA hacker Jake Williams said: "I think it's probably hurtful to the CIA, since security professionals now have the source code in addition to the documentation. It certainly helps those developing new offensive cyber programs.

Williams, who now runs his own security firm named Rendition Infosec, added: "As for immediate danger to the general public, I don't think that exists. There don't appear to be any exploits, just the code for a backdoor framework. The framework appears to be for Linux and UNIX only (not Windows)."

iTWire has sought comment from Kaspersky Lab.

Kaspersky Lab has been under intense pressure since the US presidential election over what is claimed to be involvement in helping the Russian government. It has had to wind up its Washington office after the ban on use of its products in the public sector was issued.

Reports in major US newspapers have claimed that Kaspersky software was used to exfiltrate data about NSA malware to Russian government hackers. Last month, the company issued its version of how this could have happened without its involvement.

The WikiLeaks release said Hive was used to mask the communications that any implant made with its command and control server.

"Using Hive, even if an implant is discovered on a target computer, attributing it to the CIA is difficult by just looking at the communication of the malware with other servers on the Internet," it said.

"Hive provides a covert communications platform for a whole range of CIA malware to send exfiltrated information to CIA servers and to receive new instructions from operators at the CIA."

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.