That loud sound you just heard in the cybersecurity world? That's the sound of the other foot falling. After WikiLeaks released information on CIA hacking software that was released into the world, it was only a matter of time before that software started showing up in security scans. And that time, it appears, is now up.
According to a Symantec blog post on April 10, a group called "Longhorn" has used the CIA tools against at least 40 different targets in 16 countries since the release. While Longhorn has been active since at least 2011, the latest attacks follow the plans and attack blueprints laid out in the Vault 7 information release on WikiLeaks, down to the methods used by the malware to avoid detection. (See WikiLeaks Strikes Again.)
Longhorn is Symantec's name for a group of hackers that the company's researchers have been following for some time. Describing the group as well funded, highly expert, and English-speaking, Symantec Corp. (Nasdaq: SYMC) has pulled up short of saying that Longhorn is a client of, or represents, the CIA, but the group's espionage-oriented software and attacks seem to point in that direction.
Among the reasons Symantec researchers give for looking at an English-speaking, North American nexus for Longhorn's activity is a telling behavior in its infection patterns. According to the blog post, "On one occasion a computer in the United States was compromised but, following infection, an uninstaller was launched within hours, which may indicate this victim was infected unintentionally." All other targets of Longhorn have been in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
When it comes to practical advice about what businesses and individuals should do to protect themselves from the attacks detailed in the Vault 7 release, whether launched by Longhorn or others, Symantec offers advice that falls into basic computer hygiene and security: Make sure your systems are fully patched and updated; train employees to not do silly things on their computers; and deploy a standard array of enterprise security hardware, software, and policies.
— Curtis Franklin, Security Editor, Light Reading