Security Encyclopedia

Nitro Zeus

A NitroZeus cyberattack is one where the attacker leverages built-in software capabilities of systems and devices that are already in the target user’s possession. The attacker activates the malicious software baked into the target system to surveille, disrupt, or destroy it.

An important distinction between a Nitro Zeus attack and conventional deployment of malware against a target is that in a Nitro Zeus attack, the compromised system components are already with the user, lying dormant. The attack can be thought of as a more active, piloted logic bomb that provides its cretors with a backdoor. Nitro Zeus could take the form of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, ransomware, spyware, or involuntary crypto mining. 

Nitro Zeus attacks first came to light in the 2016 documentary Zero Days. Research and testimony in the film unveiled that the US Government was exploring the use of a Nitro Zeus attack against the Iranian government as an alternative conventional warfare. Such an attack would have far less human casualties and be less resource-intensive. Nitro Zeus attacks are also the basis for the US Government’s ban on the importation and use of Huawei 5G products and services. The reasoning behind this is suspicion that China’s communist government, which has intimate ties to the #2 global smartphone maker, is playing a long game against its strategic competitor, the US. 

Example:

“The Tik Tok and Huawei bans in the US are a means to interrupt what is thought to be a Nitro Zeus attack against the US. China is suspected of embedding spyware into hardware and software of companies like these during their products’ design phase.”