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Security researchers at Norman have uncovered a large-scale malware and cyber-espionage operation believed to be related to high-profile attacks and government system breaches.
Known as Hangover, the attack is believed to have originated in India and is said to be a highly sophisticated and professional operation. The attack is not, however, believed to be a state-sponsored operation but rather an act of a private-sector group.
“It has likely been in operation for over three years, primarily as a platform for surveillance against targets of national security interest that are mostly based in Pakistan and possibly in the United States,” the researchers said.
“It is also used for industrial espionage against the Norwegian telecom corporation Telenor and other civilian corporations.”
The Hangover operation is said to include targeted attacks on organisations in the UK, Germany, Austria, China and Thailand, amongst other countries in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Researchers believe that the attacks are primarily targeted operations in which high-profile users are infected with spear-phishing attacks that give the malware operators network access.
Most notably, the attack was found to be connected to a mysterious malware outbreak found targeting OS X systems. The attack, first uncovered by researchers at a privacy convention in Oslo, Norway, was found on the Macbook of a delegate from Africa. Norman also believes that the operation is using mobile malware that has yet to be formally discovered and classified.
Researchers noted that the Hangover attack could prove monumental in its indication that private groups, rather than state-sponsored hacking organisations, are now running highly sophisticated targeted attack and intelligence-gathering operations.
“All indications point to private syndicates of threat actors following their own motivations,” the researchers wrote. “With no direct evidence of state sponsorship by the Indian government or by any other nation.”