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Trojan Relative of Stuxnet Hits Web

A Trojan apparently being used to gather information for a future Stuxnet-style attack was found in European industrial systems, according to Symantec.

The remote-access Trojan, dubbed "Duqu" because it creates files with the prefix "~DQ," was written either by the same people who wrote Stuxnet or by people with access to Stuxnet's code, according to a posting on Symnantec's official blog.

"Parts of Duqu are nearly identical to Stuxnet, but with a completely different purpose," according to the blog, which described Duqu as a precursor to an attack. "Duqu's purpose is to gather intelligence data and assets from entities, such as industrial control system manufacturers, in order to more easily conduct a future attack against another third party," Symantec states.

Duqu, which is also being referred to around the Internet as "son of Stuxnet," doesn't self-replicate and appears to have been "highly targeted toward a limited number of organizations," Symantec said, while noting that it could have attacked other systems without being detected. The remote-access Trojan, or RAT, communicates via the Web with a command and control server, which allowed it to download an "infostealer" capable of enumerating the network, recording keystrokes and gathering system information, Symantec said.

Symantec's examination of Duqu variants showed that they may have  been around since December 2010. And one of the variants was signed with a digital certificate that was to expire Aug. 2, 2012.

The digital certificate masks Duqu as legitimate code. The certificate is registered to a company in Taipei, Taiwan, Kim Zetter reports at Wired. Although Symantec didn't name the company, F-Secure identified it as C-Media Electronics Inc., Zetter reported. Wired noted that authorities revoked the certificate after Symantec began its investigation.

Stuxnet was a self-replicating worm that spread to systems around the globe in 2010, but it was targeted specifically at Siemens programmable logic controllers used for centrifuges in Iranian uranium enrichment facilities. Its success in damaging Iran's nuclear program has led to speculation that similar attacks could be made elsewhere, including against the United States' critical infrastructure.

Stuxnet was so sophisticated, and required such extensive resources to develop, that security experts said it was likely the work of a nation-state, and a good bit of speculation fell on the United States and Israel. Despite the location of the digital certificate used by Duqu, its source, like that of Stuxnet, is still unknown.

 

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is the managing editor of Government Computer News.

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