WASHINGTON - First there was the Stuxnet computer virus that wreaked havoc on Iran's nuclear program. Now comes "Duqu," which researchers on Tuesday said appears to be quite similar.
Security software firm Symantec said in a report it was alerted by a research lab with international connections on Friday to a malicious code that "appeared to be very similar to Stuxnet." It was named Duqu because it creates files with "DQ" in the prefix.
The US Department of Homeland Security said it was aware of the reports and was taking action.
"DHS' Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team has
issued a public alert and will continue working with the cybersecurity
research community to gather and analyze data and disseminate further
information to our critical infrastructure partners as it becomes
available," a DHS official said.
Symantec said samples recovered from computer systems in Europe and a
detailed report from the unnamed research lab confirmed the new threat
was similar to Stuxnet.
"Parts of Duqu are nearly identical to Stuxnet, but with a completely
different purpose," Symantec said. "Duqu is essentially the precursor to
a future Stuxnet-like attack."
Stuxnet is a malicious software that targets widely used industrial
control systems built by German firm Siemens. It is believed to have
crippled centrifuges Iran uses to enrich uranium for what the United
States and some European nations have charged is a covert nuclear
Cyber experts say its sophistication indicates that Stuxnet was produced possibly by the United States or Israel.
The new Duqu computer virus is designed to gather data from industrial
control system manufacturers to make it easier to launch an attack in
the future by capturing information including keystrokes.
"The attackers are looking for information such as design documents that
could help them mount a future attack on an industrial control
facility," Symantec said.
"Duqu does not contain any code related to industrial control systems
and is primarily a remote access Trojan (RAT)," Symantec said. "The
threat does not self-replicate."
Duqu shares "a great deal of code with Stuxnet" but instead of being
designed to sabotage an industrial control system, the new virus is
designed to gain remote access capabilities.
"The creators of Duqu had access to the source code of Stuxnet," Symantec said.