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Kaspersky and F-Secure claim prior knowledge of Regin trojan

Regin was spotted twice before yesterday’s revelations, claim researchers.

Following yesterday’s announcement about the detection of the sophisticated surveillance backdoor Trojan ‘Regin’ by Symantec, researchers at both Kaspersky Lab and F-Secure have claimed that they were both aware of the threat.

Kaspersky said in its research that it was contacted in spring 2012 by a researcher who mentioned Regin when analysis was being done of the Duqu malware. Kaspersky said that it has been tracking the threat for the past two years across the world and, from time to time, samples would appear on various multi-scanner services, but they were all unrelated to each other, cryptic in functionality and lacking context.

The primary initiative of the Trojan is to gather intelligence and facilitate other types of attacks. Kaspersky said that in most cases, attackers were focused on extracting sensitive information, such as emails and documents, while it has observed cases where attackers compromised telecom operators to enable the launch of additional sophisticated attacks.

Meanwhile, research from F-Secure (opens in new tab) said that it first encountered Regin nearly six years ago in early 2009, when it was found hiding on a Windows server in a customer environment in Northern Europe.

“The server had shown symptoms of trouble, as it had been occasionally crashing with the infamous Blue Screen of Death,” it said. “A driver with an innocuous name of ‘pciclass.sys’ seemed to be causing the crashes. Upon closer analysis it was obvious that the driver was in fact a rootkit, more precisely one of the early variants of Regin.”

F-Secure also said that during its analysis in 2013 and 2014, the complexity and the level of sophistication in the attacks became very evident and it placed Regin in the same category of highly sophisticated espionage campaigns with the likes of Stuxnet, Flame and Turla/Snake.

According to the research from Symantec (opens in new tab), Regin is a back door-type Trojan with a high degree of technical competence, including a powerful framework for mass surveillance and it is likely that its development took months, if not years, to complete and its authors have gone to great lengths to cover its tracks, Symantec said.

“Its capabilities and the level of resources behind Regin indicate that it is one of the main cyber espionage tools used by a nation state.”

TK Keanini, CTO of Lancope said that looking at the craftsmanship of Regin, it was difficult not to applaud a beautifully designed system no matter what team you’re on.

He said: “If you asked me what Regin’s main objective was, I would not answer surveillance. I would answer evasive and stealth operations because, without it, surveillance and any other objective could not be performed.”

Mark James, security specialist at ESET, said: “Unlike many other forms of malware that are designed for one job, this particular piece can adapt to many different jobs that include intelligence gathering, granting remote access or even taking screenshots.

"It has been designed to be very stealthy on a level we do not see very often – one of its primary objectives is to stay hidden and send information back to (or receive information from) its source (C&C) servers for as long as possible.

“The malware itself is very capable at customising itself to take on any number of roles and this I believe is what has kept it in the wild for so long and reasonably undetected. The code itself is quite complex and uses encryption to protect itself along with storing its data within a non-traditional file storage area such as the registry, extended attributes, or raw sectors at the end of disk.

"This all makes it harder to detect as most traditional malware does not use these places.

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