MBR Wiper Attacks Strike Korean Power Plant

In recent weeks, a major Korean electric utility has been affected by destructive malware, which was designed to wipe the master boot records (MBRs) of affected systems. It is believed that this MBR wiper arrived at the target systems in part via a vulnerability in the Hangul Word Processor (HWP), a commonly used application in South Korea. A variety of social engineering lures were used to get would-be victims to open these files. Below is a quick overview of the attack with the infection chain starting from a spearphishing email sent to the employees’ inboxes.

The malware is detected as TROJ_WHAIM.A, which is a fairly straightforward MBR wiper. In addition to the MBR, it also overwrites files that are of specific types on the affected system. It installs itself as a service on affected machines to ensure that it will run whenever the system is restarted. Rather cleverly, it uses file names, service names, and descriptions of actual legitimate Windows services. This ensures that a cursory examination of a system’s services may not find anything malicious, helping this threat evade detection.

Similar to the attack on Sony Pictures we’ve noticed a particular Twitter user tweeting his demands toward the affected company, and if not met, would subsequently release various KHNP documents. Among these demands are the shutdown of nuclear power plants in Korea (nuclear provides for 29% of South Korean electricity requirements).

While there are definite similarities in the behavior of all these attacks, this is not enough to conclude that the parties behind the attacks are also related. All three attacks have been well documented, and it is possible that the parties behind each attack were “inspired” by the others without necessarily being tied. These attacks highlight Trend Micro’s findings about the destructive, MBR-wiping malware that appear to have become a part of the arsenal of several threat actors. This is a threat that system administrators will have to deal with, and not all targeted attack countermeasures will be effective. Techniques to mitigate the damage that these attacks cause should be considered as a part of defense-in-depth networks.

More information can be found attached or in Trend Micro’s blog post

For the LATEST tech updates,
FOLLOW us on our Twitter
LIKE us on our FaceBook
SUBSCRIBE to us on our YouTube Channel!
    Blogger Comment
    Facebook Comment