Defenses of any sort, virtual or physical, are a means of forcing your attacker to attack you on your terms, not theirs. As we build more elaborate defenses within information security, we force our attacker’s hand. For instance, in many cases, implementing multi-factor authentication systems just forces the attacker to go after that system directly to achieve their goals. Take the breach at RSA, for example. It has been attributed to attackers who needed the SecurID information to go after their real targets in the defense industry.
Recently, our lab has been talking about Sykipot:
As we discussed, this malware has been used to launch targeted attacks via “spear phishing” campaigns against targets mainly in the US, since around 2007. According to our research, these attacks originate from servers in China with what appears to be the purpose of obtaining information from the defense sector: the same sector that makes extensive use of PC/SC x509 Smartcards for authentication.
Smartcards have a long history of usage in the Defense Sector, for both physical and information access management, and historically have merely forced attackers to route around the smartcard authentication system through other, more vulnerable attack vectors.
It should come as no surprise, then, that we recently discovered a variant of Sykipot with some new, interesting features that allow it to effectively hijack DOD and Windows smart cards. This variant, which appears to have been compiled in March 2011, has been seen in dozens of attack samples from the past year.
Like we have shown with previous Sykipot attacks, the attackers use a spear phishing campaign to get their targets to open a PDF attachment which then deposits the Sykipot malware onto their machine (the attackers here took advantage of a zero-day exploit in Adobe). Then, unlike previous strains, the malware uses a keylogger to steal PINs for the cards. When a card is inserted into the reader, the malware then acts as the authenticated user and can access sensitive information. The malware is controlled by the attackers from the command & control center.
Click Here to get a whole lot more details on the attack