Hackers exploit crisis in Burma to spread Trojan horse

September 28, 2007 Sophos Press Release

Taking advantage of international concern regarding the daily demonstrations in Burma, IT security and control firm Sophos has cautioned computer users to be wary of a malicious email which claims to be a message of support for monks and other protesters in Burma from the Dalai Lama. In reality, however, it carries a malicious attack designed to infect the recipient's PC.

The email reads as follows:

Dear Friends & Colleagues, Please find enclosed a massage from His Holiness the Dalai Lama in support of the recent pro-democracy demonstrations taking place in Burma. This is for your information and can be distributed as you see fit.

Best wishes.

Tenzin Taklha
Joint Secretary
Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

When users open the attached document (filename: hhdl burma_001.doc), it attempts to exploit a Word vulnerability which in turn tries to drop a Trojan horse onto the victim's PC. Sophos proactively detects the malicious document as Exp/1Table-B and the Trojan it tries to install as Agent-CGU.

Sophos experts note that to add even more credibility to the message and to encourage a greater number of victims to open the attachment, a link to official website of the Dalai Lama was included.

The email links to the genuine Dalai Lama website in an attempt to look more credible.

"The Burmese regime is said to have tried to stop news from coming out of the country by shutting down internet cafes and controlling computer users' access to the net. People around the world are hungry to hear about the latest situation in the country and support the pro-democracy movement, and may be tempted to read this so-called letter from the Dalai Lama," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "Using topical news stories to trick unwary computer users into opening and downloading malicious code is one of the oldest tricks in the book, but it's obviously still working or the hackers wouldn't waste their time on it. We should all use our common sense and question the legitimacy of emails sent out of the blue."

Sophos recommends companies protect themselves with a consolidated solution which can control network access and defend against the threats of spam, hackers, spyware and viruses.

The latest in a long line of political malware

Sophos experts note that this is not the first time that viruses and Trojan horses have been connected with political events:

W32/Deadcode-A
Displayed a nationalistic message associated with a Serbian politican.

W32/Mirsa-A
Spread a message in support of the "Fathers 4 Justice" campaign.

W32/Maslan-C
Disguised as pictures of a nude glamour model, this virus launched a series of denial-of-service attacks on websites run by Chechen rebel separatists.

W32/Zafi-C
Attacked the website of the newly appointed Hungarian Prime Minister.

W32/Zafi-B
Calls for the introduction of the death penalty in Hungary.

W32/Cycle-A
Complained about the quality of life in Iran.

W32/Zafi-A
Displays a message calling for Hungarian patriotism, timed to coincide with the country joining the European Union.

W32/Quaters-A
Launches a scathing attack on British Prime Minister Tony Blair and attempts to knock the Downing Street website off the internet.

W32/Colevo-A
Redirects the web browsers of infected computers to a variety of pictures of Evo Morales, leader of the Bolivian coca leaf growers' union and runner-up in 2002's presidential elections.

W32/Vote-A
Calls for a vote on whether America should go to war against the followers of Islam.

W32/Yaha-Q
Apparently written in response to attacks on Indian websites, this worm not only attempts to launch a denial of service attack against five Pakistani websites, but also contains a number of inflammatory messages directed at Pakistani hackers.

W32/Yaha-E
Launches a denial-of-service attack against a Pakistani government website.

Mawanella worm (also known as VBS/VBSWG-Z)
Displays a message describing the burning down of two mosques and one hundred Muslim-owned shops in Mawanella, Sri Lanka.

Injustice worm (also known as VBS/Staple-A)
Opens a number of pro-Palestinian websites and describes the alleged murder of a 12-year-old Palestinian child at the hands of Israeli soldiers. In addition, the worm spams itself to members of the Israeli government.

W32/Caric-A
Poses as a cartoon screensaver of former US President Bill Clinton playing the saxophone. An item of female underwear emerges from the bottom of the instrument.