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WikiLeaks just dropped the CIA’s secret how-to for infecting Windows

Published: April 8, 2017
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Source: Ars Technica

WikiLeaks has published what it says is another batch of secret hacking manuals belonging to the US Central Intelligence Agency as part of its Vault7 series of leaks. The site is billing Vault7 as the largest publication of intelligence documents ever.

Friday's installment includes 27 documents related to "Grasshopper," the codename for a set of software tools used to build customized malware for Windows-based computers. The Grasshopper framework provides building blocks that can be combined in unique ways to suit the requirements of a given surveillance or intelligence operation. The documents are likely to be of interest to potential CIA targets looking for signatures and other signs indicating their Windows systems were hacked. The leak will also prove useful to competing malware developers who want to learn new techniques and best practices.

"Grasshopper is a software tool used to build custom installers for target computers running Microsoft Windows operating system," one user guide explained. "An operator uses the Grasshopper builder to construct a custom installation executable." The guide continued:

The operator configures an installation executable to install one or more payloads using a variety of techniques. Each payload installer is built from individually configured components that implement part of the installation procedure.

The operator may designate that installation is contingent on the evaluation of the target environment. Target conditions are described using a custom rule language. The operator may configure the tool to output a log file during execution for later exfiltration.

The technical manuals provide a behind-the-scenes look that, for the first time, reveals how the CIA goes about spying on targets that use computers running Microsoft's Windows operating system. Topics that are covered include ways to evade antivirus protection provided by Microsoft's Windows Defender, Symantec, and Kaspersky Lab. Also of interest is the CIA's borrowing of the Carberp, a powerful piece of bank-fraud malware that once fetched as much as $40,000 in underground forums. Once the Carberp source code was leaked in 2013, security experts warned it was akin to "handing a bazooka to a child."

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