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Windows MSHTML 0-Day Exploited to Deploy Cobalt Strike Beacon in Targeted Attacks

Windows MSHTML 0-Day Exploited to Deploy Cobalt Strike Beacon in Targeted Attacks

September 16, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Microsoft on Wednesday disclosed details of a targeted phishing campaign that leveraged a now-patched zero-day flaw in its MSHTML platform using specially-crafted Office documents to deploy Cobalt Strike Beacon on compromised Windows systems. "These attacks used the vulnerability, tracked as  CVE-2021-40444 , as part of an initial access campaign that distributed custom Cobalt Strike Beacon loaders," Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center  said  in a technical write-up. "These loaders communicated with an infrastructure that Microsoft associates with multiple cybercriminal campaigns, including human-operated ransomware." Details about CVE-2021-40444 (CVSS score: 8.8) first  emerged  on September 7 after researchers from EXPMON alerted the Windows maker about a "highly sophisticated zero-day attack" aimed at Microsoft Office users by taking advantage of a remote code execution vulnerability in MSHTML (aka Trident), a proprietary browser engine for the now
Linux Implementation of Cobalt Strike Beacon Targeting Organizations Worldwide

Linux Implementation of Cobalt Strike Beacon Targeting Organizations Worldwide

September 13, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Researchers on Monday took the wraps off a newly discovered Linux and Windows re-implementation of  Cobalt Strike Beacon  that's actively set its sights on government, telecommunications, information technology, and financial institutions in the wild. The as-yet undetected version of the penetration testing tool — codenamed "Vermilion Strike" — marks one of the  rare Linux ports , which has been traditionally a Windows-based red team tool heavily repurposed by adversaries to mount an array of targeted attacks. Cobalt Strike bills itself as a " threat emulation software ," with Beacon being the payload engineered to model an advanced actor and duplicate their post-exploitation actions. "The stealthy sample uses Cobalt Strike's command-and-control (C2) protocol when communicating to the C2 server and has remote access capabilities such as uploading files, running shell commands and writing to files," Intezer researchers said in a report publishe
Experts Link Sidewalk Malware Attacks to Grayfly Chinese Hacker Group

Experts Link Sidewalk Malware Attacks to Grayfly Chinese Hacker Group

September 10, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
A previously undocumented backdoor that was recently found targeting an unnamed computer retail company based in the U.S. has been linked to a longstanding Chinese espionage operation dubbed Grayfly. In late August, Slovakian cybersecurity firm ESET  disclosed  details of an implant called SideWalk, which is designed to load arbitrary plugins sent from an attacker-controlled server, gather information about running processes in the compromised systems, and transmit the results back to the remote server. The cybersecurity firm attributed the intrusion to a group it tracks as SparklingGoblin, an adversary believed to be connected to the Winnti (aka APT41) malware family. But latest research published by researchers from Broadcom's Symantec has pinned the SideWalk backdoor on the China-linked espionage group, pointing out the malware's overlaps with the older Crosswalk malware, with the latest Grayfly hacking activities singling out a number of organizations in Mexico, Taiwan
New 0-Day Attack Targeting Windows Users With Microsoft Office Documents

New 0-Day Attack Targeting Windows Users With Microsoft Office Documents

September 07, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Microsoft on Tuesday warned of an actively exploited zero-day flaw impacting Internet Explorer that's being used to hijack vulnerable Windows systems by leveraging weaponized Office documents. Tracked as CVE-2021-40444 (CVSS score: 8.8), the remote code execution flaw is rooted in MSHTML (aka Trident), a proprietary browser engine for the now-discontinued Internet Explorer and which is used in Office to render web content inside Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. "Microsoft is investigating reports of a remote code execution vulnerability in MSHTML that affects Microsoft Windows. Microsoft is aware of targeted attacks that attempt to exploit this vulnerability by using specially-crafted Microsoft Office documents," the company  said . "An attacker could craft a malicious ActiveX control to be used by a Microsoft Office document that hosts the browser rendering engine. The attacker would then have to convince the user to open the malicious document. Users who
FIN7 Hackers Using Windows 11 Themed Documents to Drop Javascript Backdoor

FIN7 Hackers Using Windows 11 Themed Documents to Drop Javascript Backdoor

September 03, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
A recent wave of spear-phishing campaigns leveraged weaponized Windows 11 Alpha-themed Word documents with Visual Basic macros to drop malicious payloads, including a JavaScript implant, against a point-of-sale (PoS) service provider located in the U.S. The attacks, which are believed to have taken place between late June to late July 2021, have been attributed with "moderate confidence" to a financially motivated threat actor dubbed FIN7, according to researchers from cybersecurity firm Anomali. "The specified targeting of the Clearmind domain fits well with FIN7's preferred modus operandi," Anomali Threat Research  said  in a technical analysis published on September 2. "The group's goal appears to have been to deliver a variation of a JavaScript backdoor used by FIN7 since at least 2018." An Eastern European group active since at least mid-2015, FIN7 has a checkered history of targeting restaurant, gambling, and hospitality industries in th
Microsoft Warns of Widespread Phishing Attacks Using Open Redirects

Microsoft Warns of Widespread Phishing Attacks Using Open Redirects

August 28, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Microsoft is warning of a widespread credential phishing campaign that leverages  open redirector links  in email communications as a vector to trick users into visiting malicious websites while effectively bypassing security software. "Attackers combine these links with social engineering baits that impersonate well-known productivity tools and services to lure users into clicking," Microsoft 365 Defender Threat Intelligence Team  said  in a report published this week. "Doing so leads to a series of redirections — including a CAPTCHA verification page that adds a sense of legitimacy and attempts to evade some automated analysis systems — before taking the user to a fake sign-in page. This ultimately leads to credential compromise, which opens the user and their organization to other attacks." Although redirect links in email messages serve a vital tool to take recipients to third-party websites or track click rates and measure the success of sales and marketin
New SideWalk Backdoor Targets U.S.-based Computer Retail Business

New SideWalk Backdoor Targets U.S.-based Computer Retail Business

August 25, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
A computer retail company based in the U.S. was the target of a previously undiscovered implant called SideWalk as part of a recent campaign undertaken by a Chinese advanced persistent threat group primarily known for singling out entities in East and Southeast Asia. Slovak cybersecurity firm ESET attributed the malware to an advanced persistent threat it tracks under the moniker SparklingGoblin, an adversary believed to be connected to the Winnti umbrella group, noting its similarities to another backdoor dubbed  Crosswalk  that was put to use by the same threat actor in 2019. "SideWalk is a modular backdoor that can dynamically load additional modules sent from its C&C [command-and-control] server, makes use of Google Docs as a  dead drop resolver , and  Cloudflare workers  as a C&C server," ESET researchers Thibaut Passilly and Mathieu Tartare  said  in a report published Tuesday. "It can also properly handle communication behind a proxy." Since fir
Cloudflare mitigated one of the largest DDoS attack involving 17.2 million rps

Cloudflare mitigated one of the largest DDoS attack involving 17.2 million rps

August 20, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Web infrastructure and website security company Cloudflare on Thursday disclosed that it mitigated the largest ever volumetric distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack recorded to date. The attack, launched via a Mirai botnet, is said to have targeted an unnamed customer in the financial industry last month. "Within seconds, the botnet bombarded the Cloudflare edge with over 330 million attack requests," the company  noted , at one point reaching a record high of 17.2 million requests-per-second (rps), making it three times bigger than previously reported HTTP DDoS attacks. Volumetric DDoS attacks are designed to target a specific network with an intention to overwhelm its bandwidth capacity and often utilize  reflective amplification techniques  to scale their attack and cause as much operational disruption as possible. They also typically originate from a network of malware-infected systems — consisting of computers, servers, and IoT devices — enabling threat actors
ShadowPad Malware is Becoming a Favorite Choice of Chinese Espionage Groups

ShadowPad Malware is Becoming a Favorite Choice of Chinese Espionage Groups

August 20, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
ShadowPad, an infamous Windows backdoor that allows attackers to download further malicious modules or steal data, has been put to use by five different Chinese threat clusters since 2017. "The adoption of ShadowPad significantly reduces the costs of development and maintenance for threat actors," SentinelOne researchers Yi-Jhen Hsieh and Joey Chen  said  in a detailed overview of the malware, adding "some threat groups stopped developing their own backdoors after they gained access to ShadowPad." The American cybersecurity firm dubbed ShadowPad a "masterpiece of privately sold malware in Chinese espionage." A successor to PlugX and a modular malware platform since 2015,  ShadowPad  catapulted to widespread attention in the wake of supply chain incidents targeting  NetSarang ,  CCleaner , and  ASUS , leading the operators to shift tactics and update their defensive measures with advanced anti-detection and persistence techniques. More recently, atta
Attackers Can Weaponize Firewalls and Middleboxes for Amplified DDoS Attacks

Attackers Can Weaponize Firewalls and Middleboxes for Amplified DDoS Attacks

August 16, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Weaknesses in the implementation of TCP protocol in  middleboxes  and censorship infrastructure could be weaponized as a vector to stage reflected denial of service (DoS) amplification attacks against any target, surpassing many of the existing UDP-based amplification factors to date. Detailed by a group of academics from the University of Maryland and the University of Colorado Boulder at the USENIX Security Symposium, the volumetric attacks take advantage of TCP-non-compliance in-network middleboxes — such as firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, and deep packet inspection (DPI) boxes — to amplify network traffic, with hundreds of thousands of IP addresses offering  amplification factors  exceeding those from DNS, NTP, and Memcached. The research, which received a Distinguished Paper Award at the conference, is the first of its kind to describe a technique to carry out DDoS reflected amplification attacks over the TCP protocol by abusing middlebox misconfigurations in the wild
Hackers Spotted Using Morse Code in Phishing Attacks to Evade Detection

Hackers Spotted Using Morse Code in Phishing Attacks to Evade Detection

August 13, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Microsoft has disclosed details of an evasive year-long social engineering campaign wherein the operators kept changing their obfuscation and encryption mechanisms every 37 days on average, including relying on Morse code, in an attempt to cover their tracks and surreptitiously harvest user credentials. The phishing attacks take the form of invoice-themed lures mimicking financial-related business transactions, with the emails containing an HTML file ("XLS.HTML"). The ultimate objective is to harvest usernames and passwords, which are subsequently used as an initial entry point for later infiltration attempts. Microsoft likened the attachment to a "jigsaw puzzle," noting that individual parts of the HTML file are designed to appear innocuous and slip past endpoint security software, only to reveal its true colors when these segments are decoded and assembled together. The company did not identify the hackers behind the operation. "This phishing campaign ex
IT Giant Accenture Hit by LockBit Ransomware; Hackers Threaten to Leak Data

IT Giant Accenture Hit by LockBit Ransomware; Hackers Threaten to Leak Data

August 12, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Global IT consultancy giant Accenture has become the latest company to be hit by the LockBit ransomware gang, according to a post made by the operators on their dark web portal, likely filling a void left in the wake of DarkSide and REvil shutdown. "These people are beyond privacy and security. I really hope that their services are better than what I saw as an insider," read a message posted on the data leak website. Accenture  said  it has since restored the affected systems from backups. LockBit, like its now-defunct DarkSide and REvil counterparts, operates using a ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) model, roping in other cybercriminals (aka affiliates) to carry out the intrusion using its platform, with the payments often divided between the criminal entity directing the attack and the core developers of the malware. The ransomware group emerged on the threat landscape in September 2019, and in June 2021 launched LockBit 2.0 along with an advertising campaign to recruit
Hackers Steal Over $600 Million Worth of Cryptocurrencies from Poly Network

Hackers Steal Over $600 Million Worth of Cryptocurrencies from Poly Network

August 11, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Hackers have siphoned $611 million worth of cryptocurrencies from a blockchain-based financial network in what's believed to be one of the largest heists targeting the digital asset industry, putting it ahead of breaches targeting exchanges Coincheck and Mt. Gox in recent years. Poly Network, a China-based cross-chain decentralized finance (DeFi) platform for swapping tokens across multiple blockchains such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, on Tuesday  disclosed  unidentified actors had exploited a vulnerability in its system to plunder thousands of digital tokens such as Ether. "The hacker exploited a vulnerability between contract calls," Poly Network said.  The stolen Binance Chain, Ethereum, and Polygon assets are said to have been transferred to three different wallets, with the company urging miners of affected blockchain and centralized crypto exchanges to blocklist tokens coming from the addresses. The three wallet addresses are as follows -  Ethereum: 0xC8a65Fadf
Experts Believe Chinese Hackers Are Behind Several Attacks Targeting Israel

Experts Believe Chinese Hackers Are Behind Several Attacks Targeting Israel

August 10, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
A Chinese cyber espionage group has been linked to a string of intrusion activities targeting Israeli government institutions, IT providers, and telecommunications companies at least since 2019, with the hackers masquerading themselves as Iranian actors to mislead forensic analysis. FireEye's Mandiant threat intelligence arm attributed the campaign to an operator it tracks as "UNC215", a Chinese espionage operation that's believed to have singled out organizations around the world dating back as far as 2014, linking the group with "low confidence" to an advanced persistent threat (APT) widely known as  APT27 , Emissary Panda, or Iron Tiger. "UNC215 has compromised organizations in the government, technology, telecommunications, defense, finance, entertainment, and health care sectors," FireEye's Israel and U.S. threat intel teams  said  in a report published today. "The group targets data and organizations which are of great interest
A New Wiper Malware Was Behind Recent Cyberattack On Iranian Train System

A New Wiper Malware Was Behind Recent Cyberattack On Iranian Train System

July 30, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
A cyber attack that derailed websites of Iran's transport ministry and its national railway system earlier this month, causing widespread disruptions in train services, was the result of a never-before-seen reusable wiper malware called "Meteor." The campaign — dubbed " MeteorExpress " — has not been linked to any previously identified threat group or to additional attacks, making it the first incident involving the deployment of this malware, according to researchers from Iranian antivirus firm  Amn Pardaz  and SentinelOne. Meteor is believed to have been in the works over the past three years. "Despite a lack of specific indicators of compromise, we were able to recover most of the attack components," SentinelOne's Principal Threat Researcher, Juan Andres Guerrero-Saade, noted. "Behind this outlandish tale of stopped trains and glib trolls, we found the fingerprints of an unfamiliar attacker," adding the offensive is "designed t
Top 30 Critical Security Vulnerabilities Most Exploited by Hackers

Top 30 Critical Security Vulnerabilities Most Exploited by Hackers

July 29, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Intelligence agencies in Australia, the U.K., and the U.S. issued a joint advisory on Wednesday detailing the most exploited vulnerabilities in 2020 and 2021, once again demonstrating how threat actors are able to swiftly weaponize publicly disclosed flaws to their advantage. "Cyber actors continue to exploit publicly known—and often dated—software vulnerabilities against broad target sets, including public and private sector organizations worldwide," the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), the United Kingdom's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)  noted . "However, entities worldwide can mitigate the vulnerabilities listed in this report by applying the available patches to their systems and implementing a centralized patch management system." The top 30 vulnerabilities span a wide range of software, including remote work, virtual pri
Chinese Hackers Implant PlugX Variant on Compromised MS Exchange Servers

Chinese Hackers Implant PlugX Variant on Compromised MS Exchange Servers

July 28, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
A Chinese cyberespionage group known for targeting Southeast Asia leveraged flaws in the Microsoft Exchange Server that came to light earlier this March to deploy a previously undocumented variant of a remote access trojan (RAT) on compromised systems. Attributing the intrusions to a threat actor named  PKPLUG  (aka  Mustang Panda  and HoneyMyte), Palo Alto Networks' Unit 42 threat intelligence team said it identified a new version of the modular PlugX malware, called Thor, that was delivered as a post-exploitation tool to one of the breached servers. Dating back to as early as 2008,  PlugX  is a fully-featured second-stage implant with capabilities such as file upload, download, and modification, keystroke logging, webcam control, and access to a remote command shell. "The variant observed [...] is unique in that it contains a change to its core source code: the replacement of its trademark word 'PLUG' to 'THOR,'" Unit 42 researchers Mike Harbison an
Hackers Posed as Aerobics Instructors for Years to Target Aerospace Employees

Hackers Posed as Aerobics Instructors for Years to Target Aerospace Employees

July 28, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
An Iranian cyberespionage group masqueraded as an aerobics instructor on Facebook in an attempt to infect the machine of an employee of an aerospace defense contractor with malware as part of a years-long social engineering and targeted malware campaign. Enterprise security firm Proofpoint attributed the covert operation to a state-aligned threat actor it tracks as TA456, and by the wider cybersecurity community under the monikers Tortoiseshell and Imperial Kitten. "Using the social media persona 'Marcella Flores,' TA456 built a relationship across corporate and personal communication platforms with an employee of a small subsidiary of an aerospace defense contractor," Proofpoint  said  in a report shared with The Hacker News. "In early June 2021, the threat actor attempted to capitalize on this relationship by sending the target malware via an ongoing email communication chain." Earlier this month, Facebook  revealed  it took steps to dismantle a &quo
APT Hackers Distributed Android Trojan via Syrian e-Government Portal

APT Hackers Distributed Android Trojan via Syrian e-Government Portal

July 22, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
An advanced persistent threat (APT) actor has been tracked in a new campaign deploying Android malware via the Syrian e-Government Web Portal, indicating an upgraded arsenal designed to compromise victims. "To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that the group has been publicly observed using malicious Android applications as part of its attacks," Trend Micro researchers Zhengyu Dong, Fyodor Yarochkin, and Steven Du  said  in a technical write-up published Wednesday. StrongPity , also codenamed  Promethium  by Microsoft, is believed to have been active since 2012 and has typically focused on targets across Turkey and Syria. In June 2020, the espionage threat actor was  connected  to a wave of activities that banked on watering hole attacks and tampered installers, which abuse the popularity of legitimate applications, to infect targets with malware. "Promethium has been resilient over the years," Cisco Talos  disclosed  last year. "Its campai
US and Global Allies Accuse China of Massive Microsoft Exchange Attack

US and Global Allies Accuse China of Massive Microsoft Exchange Attack

July 19, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
The U.S. government and its key allies, including the European Union, the U.K., and NATO, formally attributed the massive cyberattack against Microsoft Exchange email servers to state-sponsored hacking crews working affiliated with the People's Republic of China's Ministry of State Security (MSS). In a  statement  issued by the White House on Monday, the administration said, "with a high degree of confidence that malicious cyber actors affiliated with PRC's MSS conducted cyber-espionage operations utilizing the zero-day vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange Server disclosed in early March 2021. The U.K. government  accused  Beijing of a "pervasive pattern of hacking" and "systemic cyber sabotage." The  sweeping espionage campaign  exploited four previously undiscovered vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange software and is believed to have hit at least 30,000 organizations in the U.S. and hundreds of thousands more worldwide. Microsoft identified
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