Espionage malware may be state-sponsored: researchers

Updated 11 March 2014

Espionage malware may be state-sponsored: researchers

WASHINGTON: Security researchers said Monday they discovered cyber-espionage malware which has hit governments and companies in 31 countries and is likely state-sponsored.
Kaspersky Lab researchers said the Spanish-language malware known as “The Mask” or “Careto” has been used since at least 2007 and is unusually complex, with versions that may infect mobile phones and tablets, including those running Apple or Google operating systems.
The researchers said the authors who appear to be Spanish speakers may use the virus to steal sensitive documents as well as encryption keys.
The main targets appear to be government and diplomatic offices, energy companies, research organizations, private equity firms and political activists, according to a white paper from Kaspersky.
“For the victims, an infection with Careto can be disastrous,” the security firm said in a statement.
“Careto intercepts all communication channels and collects the most vital information from the victim’s machine. Detection is extremely difficult because of stealth rootkit capabilities, built-in functionalities and additional cyber-espionage modules.”
Once a device is infected, the malware authors can intercept network traffic, keystrokes, Skype conversations and steal information from devices connected to the networks.
The researchers said in their report they detected “traces of Linux versions, and possibly versions for iPad/iPhone and Android, however we have not been able to retrieve the samples.”
The malware was active from 2007 until last month, when the command servers were shut down during Kaspersky’s investigation, the researchers said.
“Several reasons make us believe this could be a nation-state sponsored campaign,” Kaspersky researcher Costin Raiu said.
Raiu said the authors showed a high degree of technical sophistication and have been able to hide their activities so far.
“This level of operational security is not normal for cyber-criminal groups,” he said.
“The fact that the Careto attackers appear to be speaking the Spanish language is perhaps the most unusual feature,” the research paper said.
“While most of the known attacks nowadays are filled with Chinese comments, languages such as German, French or Spanish appear very rarely in APT (advanced persistent threat) attacks.”
The investigation found 380 victims in 31 countries, the most infected of which were Morocco, Brazil, Britain, Spain, France, Switzerland, Libya, the United States, Iran and Venezuela.
rl/bfm


Doctors look for help from sleek new robots

One of the six robots of the Circolo di Varese hospital checks a patient. (AP)
Updated 05 April 2020

Doctors look for help from sleek new robots

  • The doctors say the robots bring smiles from younger patients

VARESE: The shiny new robots gently check the pulses of highly infectious patients on life support in the Italian epicenter of COVID-19.
The doctors and nurses love them because they also help save their own lives.
Italians have seen the world around them turn unrecognizable from the various lockdowns and social distancing measures used to fight the new coronavirus outbreak.
But little appears to have pained them as much as seeing dozens of doctors and nurses die while trying to save the tens of thousands of patients who have suddenly ended up in hospitals across Italy’s pandemic-hit north.
The country’s medical association said Friday that at least 70 medics have died from various causes since Italy recorded the first official COVID-19 death on February 21.
The fear is that an overwhelming majority of the 70 would still be alive today had they been better protected against the coronavirus.
This helps explain why the doctors are nurses in a hospital near Italy’s mountainous border with Switzerland are laughing behind their face masks while posing for photos with their new robot friends.
The Varese hospital has received six of the sleek and slightly human-looking machines on wheels.
Some are white and have screens and various sensors in place of a human head.
Others are simpler and look a little like a black broomstick on wheels.
The doctors say the robots bring smiles from younger patients.
But their real purpose is to help save doctors from both catching and spreading the disease.
“Robots are tireless assistants that can’t get infected, that can’t get sick,” said the Circolo Hospital’s intensive care unit director Francesco Dentali.
“Doctors and nurses have been hit hard by this virus. The fact that the robots can’t get infected is a great achievement.”
The readings from the machines allow medics to stay out of the intensive care units and monitor patients’ vital signs on computer screens in separate rooms.
Italy’s death toll, the worst globally, has reached 14,681 and is on course to top 15,000 this weekend.
Doctors doubt the official figures and think the real number of dead may be twice as high in Varese’s Lombardy region.
Italy is expected to remain under a general lockdown at least through the end month.