IBM X-Force, the company's security unit, has published a report of a new form of "wiper" malware connected to threat groups in Iran and used in a destructive attack against companies in the Middle East.
The sample was discovered in a response to an attack on what an IBM spokesperson described as "a new environment in the [Middle East]—not in Saudi Arabia, but another regional rival of Iran." Dubbed ZeroCleare, the malware is "a likely collaboration between Iranian state-sponsored groups," according to a report by IBM X-Force researchers. The attacks were targeted against specific organizations and used brute-force password attacks to gain access to network resources. The initial phase of the attacks was launched from Amsterdam IP addresses owned by a group tied to what IBM refers to as the "ITG13 Group"—also known as "Oilrig" and APT34. Another Iranian threat group may have used the same addresses to access accounts prior to the wiper campaign. "While X-Force IRIS cannot attribute the activity observed during the destructive phase of the ZeroCleare campaign," the researchers noted, "we assess that high-level similarities with other Iranian threat actors, including the reliance on ASPX web shells and compromised VPN accounts, the link to ITG13 activity, and the attack aligning with Iranian objectives in the region, make it likely this attack was executed by one or more Iranian threat groups."
In addition to brute force attacks on network accounts, the attackers exploited a SharePoint vulnerability to drop web shells on a SharePoint server. These included China Chopper, Tunna, and another Active Server Pages-based webshell named "extensions.aspx," which "shared similarities with the ITG13 tool known as TWOFACE/SEASHARPEE," the IBM researchers reported. They also attempted to install TeamViewer remote access software and used a modified version of the Mimikatz credential-stealing tool—obfuscated to hide its intent—to steal more network credentials off the compromised servers. From there, they moved out across the network to spread the ZeroCleare malware.