Russian researchers expose embedded spying software in computer hard drives

Kaspersky claims that the attackers used other methods to infect targets when hard drives were not affected.

Kaspersky claims that the attackers used other methods to infect targets when hard drives were not affected.

A new report from Kaspersky Lab has found a suite of surveillance platforms that can hide spying software embedded deep within hard drives made by leading manufacturers. The attackers, dubbed Equation Group are the most advanced that the researchers have encountered to date.

Kaspersky said it found personal computers in at least 30 different countries holding this spy software within it. What’s more concerning is that these systems and hard drives were out in the public and didn’t have any direct ties to government officials.

Countries hit the most by Equation include Iran, followed by Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, China, Mali, Syria, Yemen and Algeria. Targets in those countries included the military and government institutions, embassies, research institutions, telecommunication companies, banks, energy companies, nuclear researchers, media, and Islamic scholars, Kaspersky said.

Though researchers didn’t publicly name the country behind the spying campaign, there’s a good bit of circumstantial evidence that points to the NSA. It was closely linked to Stuxnet, the NSA-led cyberweapon that was used to attack Iran’s uranium enrichment facility which means that the spyware is being placed by the Government of the United States of America.

“There are solid links indicating that the Equation group has interacted with other powerful groups, such as the Stuxnet and Flame operators–generally from a position of superiority. The Equation group had access to zero-days before they were used by Stuxnet and Flame, and at some point they shared exploits with others,” the Kaspersky report says.

Kaspersky’s most striking finding is Equation’s ability to infect the firmware of a hard drive providing a level of persistence that helps to survive disk formatting and OS reinstallation. The spyware reprograms the hard drive’s firmware thereby creating hidden sectors on the drive that can only be accessed via a secret API (application programming interface). Kaspersky notes that the malware is impossible to remove once it is installed.

In most hard drives there are functions to write into the hardware firmware area, but there are no features to read it back which makes it difficult to detect hard drives that have been infected by this malware, director of the Global Research and Analysis Team at Kaspersky Costin Raiu said.

Kaspersky claims that the attackers used other methods to infect targets when hard drives were not affected. It is claimed that the group intercepted physical goods and replaced them with Trojanized versions. In another instance participants of a scientific conference were delivered conference materials on a CD-ROM which was later used to install the group’s DoubleFantasy implant into the target’s machine.

Carrie Ann
Carrie Ann is Editor-in-Chief at Industry Leaders Magazine, based in Las Vegas. Carrie covers technology, trends, marketing, brands, productivity, and leadership. When she isn’t writing she prefers reading. She loves reading books and articles on business, economics, corporate law, luxury products, artificial intelligence, and latest technology. She’s keen on political discussions and shares an undying passion for gadgets. Follow Carrie Ann on Twitter, Facebook

Recent Posts

Should You Buy Into An Eventual Rivian IPO?

Should You Buy Into An Eventual Rivian IPO?

The upcoming Rivian IPO shows how it’s Tesla’s biggest EV competitor in the making. We spoke to automotive industry experts to find out if Rivian Automotive’s initial public
1 hour ago
What makes Netflix the first streaming success story?

What makes Netflix the first streaming success story?

Netflix has become synonymous with streaming movies and television. Not only that, Netflix reigns supreme in the world of streaming with mind-boggling 209 million subscribers. Here
1 day ago
Tesla’s Q3 results deliver high growth and revenue

Tesla’s Q3 results deliver high growth and revenue

Tesla’s total revenue grew 57% YoY at $13.76 billion, as it delivered more cars and witnessed a steady growth in other parts of the business.
2 days ago
Should you sit out on the Rivian IPO?

Should you sit out on the Rivian IPO?

Amazon-backed EV maker Rivian has filed for its initial public offering. We find out if the Rivian IPO is worth the price or simply the next internet bubble.
3 days ago
Bitcoin vs Gold: Here’s what experts have to say

Bitcoin vs Gold: Here’s what experts have to say

Many say that Bitcoin is the digital version of gold. While gold, like the dollar, is an outdated investment vehicle. We turned to experts to settle the bitcoin vs gold debate.
4 days ago
Best Pharma Stocks to Buy Right Now

Best Pharma Stocks to Buy Right Now

Industry Leaders has curated a brief list of the best pharmaceutical stocks you can buy right now, along with a list of pharma penny stocks that have the best potential to grow in
5 days ago