Malware used in White House and State Department hacks possibly linked to Russia

The malware is related to the MiniDuke, CosmicDuke and OnionDuke cyberespionage tools, researchers from Kaspersky Lab found

The group of attackers behind cyberintrusions at the White House and the Department of State last year used malware that bears strong similarities to cyberespionage tools suspected to be of Russian origin.

Security researchers from Kaspersky Lab have dubbed the cyberespionage group CozyDuke and said that it has blatantly targeted high-profile victims since the second half of last year. Its toolset includes malware droppers, information-stealing programs and backdoors that have antivirus evasion capabilities and make use of cryptography, the researchers said Tuesday a blog post.

More importantly, technical evidence suggests that some of the CozyDuke malware has strong "functional and structural similarities" to known components of the MiniDuke, CosmicDuke and OnionDuke cyberespionage tools, the Kaspersky researchers said.

Those three threats have been used to attack NATO members and European governments over the past two years and are believed to be related.

While the Kaspersky researchers did not discuss CozyDuke's possible origins in their blog post, researchers from other companies who analyzed MiniDuke, CosmicDuke and OnionDuke in the past believe they are the work of the Russian government.

In a January blog post, researchers from F-Secure noted that none of the high-profile CosmicDuke or OnionDuke targets were from Russia. The only victims detected in Russia had links to illegal substances, suggesting that those spyware tools might be used in support of law enforcement investigations in the country.

"Considering the victims of the law enforcement use case seem to be from Russia, and none of the high-profile victims are exactly pro-Russian, we believe that a Russian government agency is behind these operations," the F-Secure researchers concluded.

The possible link between the State Department security breach last year and Russian hackers has been noted before. In February, the Wall Street Journal reported that five unnamed people familiar with the intrusion had seen or had been told of links between the malware used in the attack and the Russian government.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags intrusionsecuritydata breachf-securespywaremalwarekaspersky lab

More about F-SecureKasperskyNATOWall Street

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Lucian Constantin

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts