Flame Command & Control Server Password Cracked

Flame was arguably the next big thing in the state sponsored malware section after Stuxnet. If you are not aware, Flame is a malware that was used to infect computers in the Middle East for espionage purposes.

Flame was investigated by a joint effort of Kaspersky, Symantec, ITU-IMPACT and CERT-Bund/BSI. Symantec had earlier failed to crack the password of Flame’s Control Centre and had put out a blog post asking for help in cracking the hash, 27934e96d90d06818674b98bec7230fa. Dmitry Bestuzhev of Kaspersky cracked the hash to find the clear text password as [email protected]#. We are not yet aware of the method he used to crack the hash.

The decoding of the hash led to the researchers being able to see the Command-and-Control servers for the Flame malware. Kaspersky has posted a detailed blog post analyzing the C&C. All of the servers were running a 64-bit version of Linux called Debian. The programming languages used where PHP, Python and bash and virtualization was run under OpenVZ.

An initial look at the C&C revealed that the attackers had used a minimal interface with no terms such as bot or botnet, possibly to avoid suspicion of hosting company. There was no way to send commands to the C&C as well.

To send a command or set of commands to a victim, the attacker uploaded a specially crafted tar.gz archive, which was processed on the server. A special server script extracted the archive contents and looked for *.news and *.ad files. These files were put into corresponding directories “news” and “ads”. The C&C allows an attacker to push an update to a specific victim, or all victims at a time. It is possible to prioritize a command which allows to organize an order of commands (i.e. collect all data and only after self-removal). The priority and target client ID was transferred in an unconventional way. They were stored in the filename that the attacker uploaded to a C&C.

The researchers also discovered three protocols – SP, SPE, FL and IP which were used to communicate with different clients of which, Flame was identified as FL. This suggests that there are three more Flame like malware in the wild which have not been discovered yet.

The analysis of the C&C shows that servers were first setup on 03 December, 2006 which suggests that Flame was operational for much longer than what we had first thought. The scripts used by the operators also contained other valuable information, the nick name of the developers. Kaspersky hasn’t published their names and has only identified them as D, H, O and R in the blog post.

You can read more about the Kaspersky’s analysis of Flame’s C&C here and a whitepaper by Symantec on Flame here [PDF].

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Nithin Ramesh

Nithin is a blogger and a Windows security enthusiast. He is currently pursuing Bachelors in Electronics and Communication. Apart from technology his other interests include reading and rock music. His Twitter handle is @nithinr6