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Chrome, Defender, Firefox 0-day Links to Spanish Commercial IT Company


On Wednesday, Google researchers said they had linked the Barcelona, ​​Spain-based IT company to the sale of an advanced software framework that exploits vulnerabilities in Chrome, Firefox and Windows Defender.

Variston IT is an embedded SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) technology and Internet of Things integrator, developing custom security patches for proprietary systems, data detection tools, security training, and secure protocols for embedded devices. According to a report by Google’s Threat Analysis Group, Variston sells another product not listed on his website. It’s a software framework that provides everything customers need to covertly install malware on devices they want to spy on.

Researchers Clement Lecigne and Benoit Sevens said the exploit framework was used to exploit the n-day vulnerability. These vulnerabilities were patched recently, so some targets haven’t installed them yet. He added that evidence suggests the framework was used even when the vulnerability was a zero-day. Researchers are disclosing their findings in an effort to disrupt the spyware market, which they said was booming and posed a threat to various groups.

TAG’s research highlights that the commercial surveillance industry is thriving, has expanded significantly in recent years, and poses a risk to Internet users around the world. Commercial spyware brings sophisticated surveillance capabilities into the hands of governments that they use to spy on journalists, human rights activists, opposition parties, and dissidents.

Researchers cataloged frameworks received from anonymous sources through Google’s Chrome bug reporting program. Each came with an archive containing instructions and source code. The frameworks were named Heliconia Noise, Heliconia Soft, and Files. The framework contained mature source code that could deploy exploits for Chrome, Windows Defender, and Firefox respectively.

The Heliconia Noise framework includes code to clean up the binary files before they are generated by the framework to make sure they do not contain strings that could offend the developer. I was. As the image of the cleaning script shows, the list of bad strings included Variston.



Variston officials did not respond to emails seeking comment on this post.

The framework exploited vulnerabilities patched by Google, Microsoft, and Firefox in 2021 and 2022. Heliconia Noise contained both an exploit of the Chrome renderer and an exploit to bypass the Chrome security sandbox designed to keep untrusted code in a protected environment. Environments where critical parts of the operating system are inaccessible. No CVE designation as the vulnerability was discovered internally.

Customers can configure Heliconia Noise to set things like the maximum number of times an exploit is delivered, expiration dates, and rules that specify when a visitor should be considered a valid target.

Heliconia Soft contained a booby-trapped PDF file that exploited CVE-2021-42298, a bug in Microsoft Defender Malware Protection’s JavaScript engine that was fixed in November 2021. Sending someone a document was enough to get the coveted Windows system privileges. Windows Defender automatically scanned incoming files.

The Files framework contained a fully documented exploit chain for Firefox running on Windows and Linux. It exploits CVE-2022-26485, a use-after-free vulnerability that Firefox fixed last March. According to researchers, Files has likely been exploiting a code execution vulnerability since at least 2019. Worked for Firefox versions 64 to 68. The sandbox escaping that the file relies on was fixed in 2019.

Researchers have painted a picture of an exploit market that is getting more and more out of control. they wrote:

TAG’s research shows the proliferation of commercial surveillance and the extent to which commercial spyware vendors have developed capabilities that were previously available only to governments with deep funding and technical expertise. The growth of the spyware industry puts users at risk and makes the Internet less secure. Surveillance techniques may be legal under national or international law, but they are often used in detrimental ways to conduct digital espionage against various groups. , represents a serious risk to your online safety. As such, Google and TAG will continue to take action against the commercial spyware industry and publish our findings.

Variston joins the ranks of other exploit sellers such as NSO Group, Hacking Team, Accuvant and Candiru.




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