A new “state-sponsored” cyber surveillance virus dubbed “Gauss” has stolen passwords and key data from thousands of bank users in the Middle East, the top IT security firm Kaspersky Lab said on Thursday.
According to Kaspersky, Gauss was a complete and “complex, nation-state sponsored cyber-espionage toolkit,” which aims to steal sensitive data, with a specific focus on browser passwords and online banking account details.
It has similarities to Stuxnet and Flame, the Russian company said in a statement, noting that although the new malware program was discovered in June 2012 it appears to have been in use since September 2011.
Gauss has the same source code as Flame, which was apparently designed to steal information from Iran’s suspected nuclear programme, with the United States and Israel suspected of being behind its origination.
Stuxnet was used to attack Iran’s nuclear centrifuges.
Kaspersky said Gauss had a specific focus on banking and financial data and its Trojan capability was used to steal detailed information about infected PCs including browser history, cookies, passwords, and system configurations.
“It is also capable of stealing access credentials for various online banking systems and payment methods,” said Kaspersky, whose virus detection experts discovered and named Gauss.
In July 2012, command and control servers used by Gauss’s unknown originators stopped functioning, according to the statement.
“Analysis of Gauss shows it was designed to steal data from several Lebanese banks including the Bank of Beirut, EBLF, BlomBank, ByblosBank, FransaBank and Credit Libanais,” and also “targets users of Citibank and PayPal,” it added.
Gauss’s main module was named by its creators after the German mathematician Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss, according to Kaspersky.