A fast-spreading e-mail worm that crashed systems Thursday may be linked to a cyber jihad organization called Tariq ibn Ziyad, according to security vendor SecureWorks Inc.
The “Here you have” worm spread like wildfire through some computer networks, bringing e-mail servers down and reportedly disrupting large U.S. organizations including The Walt Disney Co., Proctor and Gamble Co., Wells Fargo & Co., and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). It’s known as “Here you have” because that is sometimes the subject line of the messages used to spread the malware.
Much of the worm’s code is identical to an earlier piece of malware that was released last month, and both worms refer to a Libyan hacker who uses the name Iraq Resistance, who has been trying to form a hacking group called Brigades of Tariq ibn Ziyad, said Joe Stewart, director of malware research with SecureWorks.
“Either this person is involved with this virus, or somebody wants to make it seem like this person’s group is involved in this virus,” Stewart said. “There are a lot of pointers to that group.”
The goal of Tariq ibn Ziyad is “to penetrate U.S. agencies belonging to the U.S. Army,” Iraq Resistance said, according to a Google translation of his post announcing the group.
Iraq Resistance did not respond to an e-mail sent to his Yahoo address seeking comment.
It’s not clear why the first version of worm did not spread widely last month — Symantec Corp. rated it a “low” risk — but Stewart said that the people behind it may have spammed more initial victims this time around. “Here you have” may also include new components that caused it to spread more effectively.
The August worm used the words Iraq Resistance appear in the binary code of the latest version of the software. Also, a back-door component of the worm — which could be used by creators to remotely log into an infected system — tries to connect to a computer that uses the Tariq ibn Ziyad name. Other components of the worm — a password stealer and the e-mail sending software – were written by Arabic speaking programmers, another clue that Iraq Resistance may be behind the worm.
Security researchers initially thought that the worm did little more than copy itself, crippling some Microsoft Corp. Outlook-based networks. But further research shows that in addition to the password stealer and back door component, “Here you have” also uses sophisticated techniques to evade antivirus detection, and includes a PsExec tool that allows it copy itself onto other computers over the network, should a network administrator happen to log into an infected computer.
Overall, the worm is not considered to be dangerous. In large part this is because it is dependent on servers, now taken offline, to install its malicious code and open up the backdoor access.
“It’s kind of in a crippled mode,” Stewart said. The worm can spread via USB sticks or via the PsExec tool, but it no longer spreads via e-mail, he said.