Espionage in the digital age has taken on a new dimension altogether. Countries are using advanced spying tools to snoop on their adversaries. The snooping is not only on government-controlled entities but on other industries as well. These include services, education, and other areas. The idea is to gather critical information and use it against adversaries. In this age of cyberwarfare, the use of malware such as Snake has become commonplace. The Snake malware is renowned as an exceptionally advanced cyber espionage tool developed and utilised by Centre 16 of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). It is used to gather long-term intelligence on sensitive objectives.
To carry out operations with this tool, the FSB has established a concealed peer-to-peer (P2P) network comprising numerous computers worldwide that have been infected with Snake. Within this P2P network, many systems function as relay nodes, discreetly directing operational traffic to and from Snake implants situated on the FSB’s primary targets. To ensure confidentiality and impede detection and data collection efforts, Snake utilises custom communications protocols that incorporate encryption and fragmentation techniques.
Shockingly, the Snake infrastructure has been detected in more than 50 countries spanning North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. While Snake utilises infrastructure across various industries, its targeting is strategically driven. On a global scale, the FSB has employed Snake to gather sensitive intelligence from high-value targets, such as government networks, research facilities, and journalists. For instance, FSB actors utilised Snake to infiltrate a victim in a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) country, allowing them to access and extract confidential international relations documents and diplomatic communications.
Within the United States, the FSB has targeted sectors such as education, small businesses, and media organisations, as well as critical infrastructure sectors including government facilities, financial services, manufacturing, and communications. According to Manish Chaudhari, CISO of Cybernetic Global Intelligence, a globally accredited cybersecurity company, cyber espionage tools like Snake are increasingly being used by countries across the world.
What is “Snake”?
Snake is regarded as the most advanced cyber espionage malware tool within the FSB’s (Russia’s Intelligence Agency) arsenal. Its sophistication can be attributed to three key areas. First, Snake utilises techniques that enable an exceptional level of stealth in its host components and network communications. Second, its internal technical architecture allows for easy integration of new components and replacements, promoting the development and compatibility of Snake instances across different operating systems such as Windows, MacOS, and Linux. Last but not the least, Snake exhibits meticulous software engineering design and implementation, and displayes a remarkably low number of bugs considering its complexity.
After cybersecurity and threat intelligence companies publicly disclosed information about Snake’s tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), the FSB implemented new evasion techniques to counter detection. These modifications to the implant significantly increased the difficulty of identifying and collecting Snake and its associated artefacts. This directly impedes any detection by host and network-based defensive tools.
The effectiveness of this type of cyberespionage malware implant hinges on its ability to maintain long-term stealth. The goal of an extended espionage operation is to remain undetected in the target system for months or even years, ensuring continuous access to critical intelligence.
How to prevent the intrusion of Snake and similar cyberespionage tools
Businesses or entities ought to follow the below-mentioned measures to mitigate Snake’s persistence and concealment techniques.
#1. Change Credentials and Implement Updates:
If you suspect your system has been compromised by Snake, it is crucial to change your credentials immediately, using a non-compromised system. Avoid using passwords similar to those previously used, as Snake incorporates keylogger functionality that regularly sends logs to FSB operators. It is advisable to select new passwords and usernames that are resistant to brute-force attacks or guessing based on previous passwords.
Further, it is highly recommended to apply updates to your operating system. Modern versions of Windows, Linux, and MacOS offer enhanced security measures in the kernel space. By keeping your operating system up to date, you can prevent FSB actors from loading Snake’s kernel driver onto your system. This acts as a formidable obstacle to their operations.
#2. Implement Incident Response Plan:
When system owners detect signatures of Snake implant activity or possess other indicators of compromise linked to FSB actors utilising Snake, it is essential to promptly execute their established incident response plan.
Manish Chaudhuru, CISO of Cybernetic Global Intelligence, states that notwithstanding the above measures, business enterprises need to implement various cybersecurity measures to mitigate risks and prevent cybercrime. They need to hire competent cybersecurity companies, such as Cybernetic Global Intelligence, to ensure all vulnerabilities in the IT network and systems are identified and plugged.
The report on cyberespionage malware Snake should be an eye-opener for everyone. It shows how such tools can sneak into the IT infrastructure of an organisation to steal sensitive and confidential information. To avoid such a situation, enterprises should implement strong cybersecurity measures. For details, dial 1300 292 376 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.