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Google: We're Tracking 270 State-Sponsored Hacker Groups From Over 50 Countries

Google: We're Tracking 270 State-Sponsored Hacker Groups From Over 50 Countries
October 14, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Google's Threat Analysis Group (TAG) on Thursday  said  it's tracking more than 270 government-backed threat actors from more than 50 countries, adding it has approximately sent 50,000 alerts of state-sponsored phishing or malware attempts to customers since the start of 2021. The warnings mark a 33% increase from 2020, the internet giant said, with the spike largely  stemming  from "blocking an unusually large campaign from a Russian actor known as APT28 or Fancy Bear." Additionally, Google said it disrupted a number of campaigns mounted by an Iranian state-sponsored attacker group tracked as  APT35  (aka Charming Kitten, Phosphorous, or Newscaster), including a sophisticated social engineering attack dubbed "Operation SpoofedScholars" aimed at think tanks, journalists, and professors with an aim to solicit sensitive information by masquerading as scholars with the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Details of th

Microsoft Warns of Iran-Linked Hackers Targeting US and Israeli Defense Firms

Microsoft Warns of Iran-Linked Hackers Targeting US and Israeli Defense Firms
October 11, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
An emerging threat actor likely supporting Iranian national interests has been behind a password spraying campaign targeting US, EU, and Israeli defense technology companies, with additional activity observed against regional ports of entry in the Persian Gulf as well as maritime and cargo transportation companies focused in the Middle East. Microsoft is tracking the hacking crew under the moniker DEV-0343 . The intrusions, which were first observed in late July 2021, are believed to have targeted more than 250 Office 365 tenants, fewer than 20 of which were successfully compromised following a  password spray  attack — a type of brute force attack wherein the same password is cycled against different usernames to log into an application or a network in an effort to avoid account lockouts. Indications thus far allude to the possibility that the activity is part of an intellectual property theft campaign aimed at government partners producing military-grade radars, drone technology

Ransomware Group FIN12 Aggressively Going After Healthcare Targets

Ransomware Group FIN12 Aggressively Going After Healthcare Targets
October 08, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
An "aggressive" financially motivated threat actor has been identified as linked to a string of RYUK ransomware attacks since October 2018, while maintaining close partnerships with TrickBot-affiliated threat actors and using a publicly available arsenal of tools such as Cobalt Strike Beacon payloads to interact with victim networks. Cybersecurity firm Mandiant attributed the intrusions to a Russian-speaking hacker group rechristened as FIN12, and previously tracked under the name  UNC1878 , with a disproportionate focus on healthcare organizations with more than $300 million in revenue, among others, including education, financial, manufacturing, and technology sectors, located in North America, Europe, and the Asia Pacific. The designation marks the first time a ransomware affiliate group has been promoted to the status of a distinct threat actor. "FIN12 relies on partners to obtain initial access to victim environments," Mandiant researchers  said . "Not

Researchers Warn of FontOnLake Rootkit Malware Targeting Linux Systems

Researchers Warn of FontOnLake Rootkit Malware Targeting Linux Systems
October 08, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Cybersecurity researchers have detailed a new campaign that likely targets entities in Southeast Asia with a previously unrecognized Linux malware that's engineered to enable remote access to its operators, in addition to amassing credentials and function as a proxy server. The malware family, dubbed " FontOnLake " by Slovak cybersecurity firm ESET, is said to feature "well-designed modules" that are continuously being upgraded with a broad range of abilities, indicating an active development phase. Samples uploaded to VirusTotal point to the possibility that the very first intrusions utilizing this threat have been happening as early as May 2020. Avast  and  Lacework Labs  are tracking the same malware under the moniker HCRootkit. "The sneaky nature of FontOnLake's tools in combination with advanced design and low prevalence suggest that they are used in targeted attacks," ESET researcher Vladislav Hrčka  said . "To collect data or condu

New U.S. Government Initiative Holds Contractors Accountable for Cybersecurity

New U.S. Government Initiative Holds Contractors Accountable for Cybersecurity
October 07, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
The U.S. government on Wednesday announced the formation of a new Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative that aims to hold contractors accountable for failing to meet required cybersecurity requirements in order to safeguard public sector information and infrastructure. "For too long, companies have chosen silence under the mistaken belief that it is less risky to hide a breach than to bring it forward and to report it,"  said  Deputy Attorney General Monaco in a press statement. "Well that changes today, [and] we will use our civil enforcement tools to pursue companies, those who are government contractors who receive federal funds, when they fail to follow required cybersecurity standards — because we know that puts all of us at risk." The Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative is part of the U.S. Justice Department's (DoJ) efforts to build resilience against cybersecurity intrusions and holding companies to task for deliberately providing deficient cybersecurity products or

Iranian Hackers Abuse Dropbox in Cyberattacks Against Aerospace and Telecom Firms

Iranian Hackers Abuse Dropbox in Cyberattacks Against Aerospace and Telecom Firms
October 06, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Details have emerged about a new cyber espionage campaign directed against the aerospace and telecommunications industries, primarily in the Middle East, with the goal of stealing sensitive information about critical assets, organizations' infrastructure, and technology while remaining in the dark and successfully evading security solutions. Boston-based cybersecurity company Cybereason dubbed the attacks " Operation Ghostshell ," pointing out the use of a previously undocumented and stealthy remote access trojan (RAT) called ShellClient that's deployed as the main spy tool of choice. The first sign of the attacks was observed in July 2021 against a handpicked set of victims, indicating a highly targeted approach. "The ShellClient RAT has been under ongoing development since at least 2018, with several iterations that introduced new functionalities, while it evaded antivirus tools and managed to remain undetected and publicly unknown," researchers Tom Fak

New Study Links Seemingly Disparate Malware Attacks to Chinese Hackers

New Study Links Seemingly Disparate Malware Attacks to Chinese Hackers
October 05, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Chinese cyber espionage group APT41 has been linked to seemingly disparate malware campaigns, according to fresh research that has mapped together additional parts of the group's network infrastructure to hit upon a state-sponsored campaign that takes advantage of COVID-themed phishing lures to target victims in India.  "The image we uncovered was that of a state-sponsored campaign that plays on people's hopes for a swift end to the pandemic as a lure to entrap its victims," the BlackBerry Research and Intelligence team said in a report shared with The Hacker News. "And once on a user's machine, the threat blends into the digital woodwork by using its own customized profile to hide its network traffic." APT41 (aka Barium or Winnti) is a moniker assigned to a prolific Chinese cyber threat group that carries out state-sponsored espionage activity in conjunction with financially motivated operations for personal gain as far back as 2012. Calling the gro

New Tomiris Backdoor Found Linked to Hackers Behind SolarWinds Cyberattack

New Tomiris Backdoor Found Linked to Hackers Behind SolarWinds Cyberattack
September 30, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Cybersecurity researchers on Wednesday disclosed a previously undocumented backdoor likely designed and developed by the Nobelium advanced persistent threat (APT) behind last year's  SolarWinds supply chain attack , joining the threat actor's ever-expanding arsenal of hacking tools. Moscow-headquartered firm Kaspersky codenamed the malware " Tomiris ," calling out its similarities to another second-stage malware used during the campaign, SUNSHUTTLE (aka GoldMax), targeting the IT management software provider's Orion platform. Nobelium is also known by the monikers UNC2452, SolarStorm, StellarParticle, Dark Halo, and Iron Ritual. "While supply-chain attacks were already a documented attack vector leveraged by a number of APT actors, this specific campaign stood out due to the extreme carefulness of the attackers and the high-profile nature of their victims," Kaspersky researchers  said . "Evidence gathered so far indicates that Dark Halo spent si

A New APT Hacker Group Spying On Hotels and Governments Worldwide

A New APT Hacker Group Spying On Hotels and Governments Worldwide
September 24, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
A new advanced persistent threat (APT) has been behind a string of attacks against hotels across the world, along with governments, international organizations, engineering companies, and law firms. Slovak cybersecurity firm ESET codenamed the cyber espionage group  FamousSparrow , which it said has been active since at least August 2019, with victims located across Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas, spanning several countries such as Burkina Faso, Taiwan, France, Lithuania, the U.K., Israel, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Canada, and Guatemala. Attacks mounted by the group involve exploiting known vulnerabilities in server applications such as SharePoint and Oracle Opera, in addition to the  ProxyLogon  remote code execution vulnerability in Microsoft Exchange Server that came to light in March 2021, making it the  latest threat actor  to have had access to the exploit before details of the flaw became public. According to ESET, intrusions exploiting the flaws comme

US Sanctions Cryptocurrency Exchange SUEX for Aiding Ransomware Gangs

US Sanctions Cryptocurrency Exchange SUEX for Aiding Ransomware Gangs
September 21, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
The U.S. Treasury Department on Tuesday imposed sanctions on Russian cryptocurrency exchange Suex for helping facilitate and launder transactions from at least eight ransomware variants as part of the government's efforts to crack down on a surge in ransomware incidents and make it difficult for bad actors to profit from such attacks using digital currencies. "Virtual currency exchanges such as SUEX are critical to the profitability of ransomware attacks, which help fund additional cybercriminal activity," the department  said  in a press release. "Analysis of known SUEX transactions shows that over 40% of SUEX's known transaction history is associated with illicit actors. SUEX is being designated pursuant to  Executive Order 13694 , as amended, for providing material support to the threat posed by criminal ransomware actors." According to blockchain analytics firm  Chainalysis , SUEX is legally registered in the Czech Republic and operates out of office

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
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