Michael Kan at PCMag reported on this new strain of Windows malware. It can constantly adapt to avoid detection and was first found targeting the biotech industry, including the infrastructure behind vaccine manufacturing, according to security researchers.
The warning comes from a non-profit called BIO-ISAC, which focuses on information sharing to protect the biotech industry from cybersecurity threats.
The threat is setting off alarm bells because it goes beyond typical polymorphic malware, which will only rewrite part of its computer code to evade detection. Instead, the uncovered malware goes even further by completely recompiling its code during each infection when it first connects to the internet.
This “metamorphic” ability prevents the malware from leaving a consistent signature behind, making it harder for antivirus programs to spot. According to Wired, one security researcher tested the malware almost 100 times and “every time it built itself in a different way and communicated differently.”
As a result, BIO-ISAC has dubbed the malware Tardigrade, the microorganism that can survive extremely hot and cold conditions, including the vacuum of outer space. But unlike a real Tardigrade, the malware can secretly hijack a computer system to steal and modify files.
Contains the sneaky ability to spread both via phishing emails and USB devices
The nonprofit first uncovered the malware this past spring when one of its member companies, Biobright, investigated a ransomware attack on a large, unnamed biomanufacturing facility. The security researchers obtained the ransomware along with the program that loaded the malicious coding, which turned out to be unusually complex.
BIO-ISAC has since uncovered the Tardigrade malware attacking a second facility. This prompted the group to issue Monday’s warning to the biotech industry, saying it believes Tardigrade is “actively spreading in the bioeconomy.”
In addition, it contains the sneaky ability to spread both via phishing emails and USB devices. Definitely a reason to step your users through new-school security awareness training and send them frequent social engineering tests.