PC Advisor

CIA used Trojan code

The CIA’s hacking operations allegedly borrowed elements from the Carberp financial malware when the code was leaked in 2013, writes Michael Kan


When the source code to a suspected Russian-made malware leaked online in 2013, guess who used it? A recent release from WikiLeaks claims the US CIA borrowed some of the code to bolster its own hacking operations.

In April, WikiLeaks released 27 documents that allegedly detail how the CIA customised its malware for Windows systems.

The CIA borrowed a few elements from the Carberp financial malware when developing its own hacking tool known as Grasshoppe­r, according to those documents.

Carberp gained infamy as a Trojan program that can steal online banking credential­s and other financial informatio­n from its victims’ computers. The malware, which likely came from the criminal undergroun­d, was particular­ly problemati­c in Russia and other former Soviet states. In 2013, the source code was leaked, sparking worries in the security community that more cybercrimi­nals might use the malware.

The WikiLeaks release includes supposed CIA user manuals that show the agency took an interest in the malware, especially with the way it can survive and linger on a Windows PC.

“The persistenc­e method, and parts of the installer, were taken and modified to fit our needs,” the US spy agency allegedly wrote in one manual, dated January 2014.

It’s unclear why the agency chose Carberp. However, the borrowed elements were only used in one ‘persistenc­e module’ meant for the CIA’s Grasshoppe­r hacking tool. That tool is designed to build custom malware configured with different payloads, according to a separate document.

The WikiLeaks’ release describes several other modules that work with Grasshoppe­r to let malware persist on a PC, such as by leveraging Windows Task Scheduler or a Windows registry run key. However, no actual source code was included in the release. Neverthele­ss, the documents will probably help people detect the CIA’s hacking tools, which is WikiLeaks’ intention in releasing the classified informatio­n.

In March, WikiLeaks began releasing a trove of secret files allegedly obtained from the CIA. Those first leaks described how the agency has a library of hacking techniques borrowed from malware out in the wild.

The US spy agency has so far declined to comment on the authentici­ty of WikiLeaks’ document dump.

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