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SS-ICT4D Week 2018

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Africa & Middle East: Slingshot malware on spy rampage

The Kaspersky Lab researchers have uncovered a sophisticated threat across 11 countries, used for cyber-espionage in the Middle East and Africa from at least 2012 until February 2018, reports ITRealms.

The malware, ITRealms gathered is called ‘Slingshot’, which attacks and infects victims through compromised routers and can run in kernel mode, giving it complete control over victim devices.
These countries, ITRealms also gathered  included Kenya, Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya, Congo, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia and Tanzania have been listed among the 100 victims worldwide.

According to researchers, many of the techniques used by this threat actor are unique and it is extremely effective at stealthy information gathering, hiding its traffic in marked data packets that it can intercept without trace from everyday communications.

The Slingshot operation was discovered after researchers found a suspicious keylogger program and created a behavioural detection signature to see if that code appeared anywhere else. This triggered a detection that turned out to be an infected computer with a suspicious file inside the system folder named scesrv.dll.

In addition, the researchers decided to investigate this further, just as analysts are of the view that the file showed that despite appearing legitimate, the scesrv.dll module had malicious code embedded into it. Since this library is loaded by ‘services.exe’, a process that has system privileges, the poisoned library gained the same rights. The researchers realised that a highly advanced intruder had found its way into the very core of the computer.

The most remarkable thing about Slingshot is probably its unusual attack vector. As researchers uncovered more victims, they found that many seemed to have been initially infected through hacked routers. During these attacks, the group behind Slingshot appears to compromise the routers and place a malicious dynamic link library inside it that is in fact a downloader for other malicious components.


When an administrator logs in to configure the router, the router’s management software downloads and runs the malicious module on the administrator’s computer. The method used to hack the routers in the first place remains unknown.

Chuks Egbune/GEE

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