Kaspersky Lab has put out a public call for aid in its attempts to solve the mystery of the Gauss cyber espionage toolkit's encrypted payload function.
The security vendor discovered Gauss earlier in August, warning that the tool boasted advanced info-stealing capabilities, with a specific focus on browser passwords, online banking account credentials and system configurations of infected machines.
Kaspersky has since added that the malware has been active since at least late May 2012, and has infected more than 2,500 machines.
Despite being able to track Gauss, Kaspersky has called for aid cracking the malware's encrypted payload, releasing the first 32 bytes of encrypted data and hashes from known variants of the modules.
"The purpose and functions of the encrypted payload currently remain a mystery," said Aleks Gostev, chief security expert at Kaspersky Lab.
"The use of cryptography and the precautions the authors have used to hide this payload indicate its targets are high profile. The size of the payload is also a concern.
"It's big enough to contain coding that could be used for cyber-sabotage, similar to Stuxnet's SCADA code. Decrypting the payload will provide a better understanding of its overall objective and the nature of this threat."
Kaspersky warned that understanding the purpose of the key will provide invaluable insights into both Gauss and its sibling Flame, which the vendor claims shares common coding with the newly discovered cyber espionage toolkit.
Kaspersky added that, like Flame, Gauss is likely a nation-state sponsored malware and is designed to steal sensitive data from its targets. The malware's specific banking focus differentiates it from Flame and Stuxnet, which are both believed to have been designed with a more specific political aim.
The malware is the latest in a long line of cyber espionage campaigns to be discovered targeting the Middle East. Before Gauss, Kaspersky also discovered the less sophisticated Madi malware targeting the region.
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