On March 9, 2018, Kaspersky Labs published a blog post about the newly discovered Slingshot APT. APT stands for advanced persistent threat; its a computer virus that sits on a computer for a long time, has built in tools to avoid detection and is thought to have specific targets. The Stuxnet virus is a good example of an APT; if the infected computer didn’t have a specific piece of software installed that controlled a nuclear centrifuge, the Stuxnet virus would shutdown and appear harmless to virus scanners. Most of the viruses pushed by cyber-criminals are designed to infect as many computers as possible and create monetary incentives to remove the software. A good example of a non APT virus is ransomware which encrypts a hard drive, and the cybercriminal requests payment to unlock your data. Slingshot appears to be designed as a spying tool with its built in network packet sniffer, keylogger, screenshot function, and ability to steal clipboard data. Slingshot also has about 1500 other functions that virus experts are just beginning to unravel but the already discovered functions are devastating,
- Network Packet Scanner: Imagine you visit a website on a computer that isn’t infected by Slingshot but it is on the same network as an infected computer. A packet scanner copies and decodes information from the non infected computer that is being passed through the network. This includes usernames, passwords, computer name information, copies of files and other such data.
- Keylogger: A keylogger logs every key that is pushed on the target keyboard. Imagine you click your browser address bar and type in mail.yahoo.com and enter. Next you put in your username and password on the next screen. Even if a keylogger doesn’t see your screen, the three pieces of information that it just captured is enough to allow a hacker to login to your email account
- Screenshot: Many readers are familiar with screenshot technology, but imagine information not captured by the packet scanner and keylogger such as inbox email can be captured by a screenshot of the email as you read it
- Clipboard data: even if the screenshot grabber doesn’t get all the emails, there are times that an individual uses the copy feature from an email or webpage that contains sensitive information that a keylogger also won’t pickup but copying the clipboard data to a file exposes the user to additional leaks of data.
So why is this virus scarier than all other viruses that have similar functions? The fact that this virus has just been discovered publicly despite evidence of installations at least as early as 2012, means that its anti detection features are extremely sophisticated and it is possible that the virus captured data from millions of unknown computers for at least six years. In addition,