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Steps Up Attacks with New

Unit 42’s ongoing research into the OilRig campaign shows that the threat actors involved in the original attack campaign continue to add new Trojans to their toolset and continue their persistent attacks in the Middle East. When we first discovered the OilRig attack campaign in May 2016, we believed at the time it was a unique attack campaign likely operated by a known, existing threat group. As we have progressed in our research and uncovered additional attack phases, tooling, and infrastructure as discussed in our recent posting “Striking Oil: A Closer Look at Adversary Infrastructure”, it has become apparent that the threat group responsible for the OilRig attack campaign is likely to be a unique, previously unknown adversary. Additionally, others have been referring to the group responsible for the OilRig campaign itself as the OilRig group as well. To that end, we are elevating the OilRig attack campaign to be known as the OilRig group.

In July 2017, we observed the OilRig group using a tool they developed called ISMAgent in a new set of targeted attacks. The OilRig group developed ISMAgent as a variant of the ISMDoor Trojan. In August 2017, we found this threat group has developed yet another Trojan that  they call ‘Agent Injector’ with the specific purpose of installing the ISMAgent backdoor. We are tracking this tool as ISMInjector. It has a sophisticated architecture and contains anti-analysis techniques that we have not seen in previous tools developed by this threat group. The complex structure and inclusion of new anti-analysis techniques may suggest that this group is increasing their development efforts in order to evade detection and gain higher efficacy in their attacks.

The Attack

On August 23, 2017, we observed OilRig targeting an organization within the United Arab Emirates government. The attack involved a spear-phishing email that had a subject of “Importan Issue” and two Zip archives attached, as seen in Figure 1. Note that “Important” is misspelled in the sample as shown below.

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