Gauss: Nation-state cyber-surveillance meets banking Trojan
Gauss is the most recent cyber-surveillance operation in the Stuxnet, Duqu and Flame saga.
It was probably created in mid-2011 and deployed for the first time in August-September 2011.
Gauss was discovered during the course of the ongoing effort initiated by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), following the discovery of Flame. The effort is aimed at mitigating the risks posed by cyber-weapons, which is a key component in achieving the overall objective of global cyber-peace.
In 140 chars or less, “Gauss is a nation state sponsored banking Trojan which carries a warhead of unknown designation”. Besides stealing various kinds of data from infected Windows machines, it also includes an unknown, encrypted payload which is activated on certain specific system configurations.
Just like Duqu was based on the “Tilded” platform on which Stuxnet was developed, Gauss is based on the “Flame” platform. It shares some functionalities with Flame, such as the USB infection subroutines.
In this FAQ, we answer some of the main questions about this operation. In addition to this, we are also releasing a full technical paper (HTML version and <a PDF version) about the malware’s functionalities.
What is Gauss? Where does the name come from?
Gauss is a complex cyber-espionage toolkit created by the same actors behind the Flame malware platform. It is highly modular and supports new functions which can be deployed remotely by the operators in the form of plugins. The currently known plugins perform the following functions:
- Intercept browser cookies and passwords.
- Harvest and send system configuration data to attackers.
- Infect USB sticks with a data stealing module.
- List the content of the system drives and folders
- Steal credentials for various banking systems in the Middle East.
- Hijack account information for social network, email and IM accounts.
The modules have internal names which appear to pay tribute to famous mathematicians and philosophers, such as Kurt Godel, Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss and Joseph-Louis Lagrange.
The module named “Gauss” is the most important in the malware as it implements the data stealing capabilities and we have therefore named the malware toolkit by this most important component.
In addition, the authors forgot to remove debugging information from some of the Gauss samples, which contain the paths where the project resides. The paths are:
|Variant||Path to project files|
|Dec 2011-Jan 2012||c:\documents and settings\flamer\desktop\gauss_white_1|
One immediately notices “projects\gauss”.
In regards to the “white” part – we believe this is a reference to Lebanon, the country with the most Gauss infections. According to Wikipedia, “The name Lebanon comes from the Semitic root LBN, meaning “white”, likely a reference to the snow-capped Mount Lebanon.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lebanon#Etymology