Technical evidence links destructive malware to attack against Sony Pictures

The malware contains usernames, passwords and an image associated with Sony Pictures Entertainment, researchers said

The destructive malware program that the FBI alerted some companies about this week was likely used against Sony Pictures Entertainment, according to technical evidence found by researchers in the program's code.

Reports surfaced online Nov. 24 that the computer network of Sony Pictures Entertainment, a U.S.-based subsidiary of Sony, was infiltrated by hackers. The company's employees were reportedly no longer able to use their computers after a message from the attackers, a group called the Guardians of Peace (GOP), was displayed on their screens.

On Monday the FBI sent a confidential five-page alert to a number of private companies about a destructive malware program that can overwrite data on a computer's hard disk drive, including its master boot record that holds information about partitions.

Some security professionals speculated that the malware was used to attack Sony, but the FBI declined to confirm this hypothesis. However, security researchers from Trend Micro and AlienVault obtained samples of the malware described in the FBI warning and found strong evidence that it was used against Sony.

The malware, which Trend Micro detects as BKDR_WIPALL, has several components including diskpartmg16.exe, igfxtrayex.exe and usbdrv32.sys, the Trend Micro researchers said in a blog post Wednesday. The diskpartmg16.exe file is the initial installer and contains a set of encrypted usernames and passwords that are used to access the shared network, they said.

The credentials are intentionally blurred in a screen shot of the malware program's code that was published by Trend Micro, but visible parts show that they're arranged on lines starting with SPE, which likely stands for Sony Pictures Entertainment.

A bitmap image file called walls.bmp that is dropped by the malware on infected systems is an even stronger connection to the company. This file is a wallpaper containing the GOP message that Sony Pictures Entertainment employees reportedly saw on their computers.

Researchers from AlienVault also connected the malware to the attack against SPE.

"From the samples we obtained, we can say the attackers knew the internal network from Sony since the malware samples contain hardcoded names of servers inside Sony's network and even credentials -- usernames and passwords -- that the malware uses to connect to systems inside the network," said Jaime Blasco, director of AlienVault Labs, via email.

Read more: Buyer Beware: Five Cybersecurity Consumer Tips for the Holiday Season

The hackers who compiled the malware used the Korean language on their systems, according to Blasco. Some view this aspect as something that supports the theory that North Korean was behind the attack, but security experts say that is unlikely.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags trend microsecurityAlienVaultdata breachFederal Bureau of InvestigationAccess control and authenticationSony Pictures Entertainmentsonymalwareintrusion

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?