Criminal hackers continue to exploit a feature in Autodesk’s widely used AutoCAD program in an attempt to steal valuable computer-assisted designs for bridges, factory buildings, and other projects, researchers said Tuesday.
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The attacks arrive in spear-phishing emails and in some cases postal packages that contain design documents and plans. Included in the same directory are camouflaged files formatted in AutoLISP, an AutoCAD-specific dialect of the LISP programming language. When targets open the design document, they may inadvertently cause the AutoLISP file to be executed. While modern versions of AutoCAD by default display a warning that a potentially unsafe script will run, the warnings can be disregarded or suppressed altogether. To make the files less conspicuous, the attackers have set their properties to be hidden in Windows and their contents to be encrypted.
The attacks aren’t new. Similar ones occurred as long ago as 2005, before AutoCAD provided the same set of robust defenses against targeted malware it does now. The attacks continued to go strong in 2009. A specific campaign recently spotted by security firm Forcepoint was active as recently as this year and has been active since at least 2014, an indication that malware targeting blueprints isn’t going away any time soon.