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Researchers Uncover 6-Year Cyber Espionage Campaign Targeting Iranian Dissidents

Researchers Uncover 6-Year Cyber Espionage Campaign Targeting Iranian Dissidents

September 19, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
Capping off a busy week of charges and sanctions  against Iranian hackers, a new research offers insight into what's a six-year-long ongoing surveillance campaign targeting Iranian expats and dissidents with an intention to pilfer sensitive information. The threat actor, suspected to be of Iranian origin, is said to have orchestrated the campaign with at least two different moving parts — one for Windows and the other for Android — using a wide arsenal of intrusion tools in the form of info stealers and backdoors designed to steal personal documents, passwords, Telegram messages, and two-factor authentication codes from SMS messages. Calling the operation " Rampant Kitten ," cybersecurity firm Check Point Research said the suite of malware tools had been mainly used against Iranian minorities, anti-regime organizations, and resistance movements such as the Association of Families of Camp Ashraf and Liberty Residents (AFALR), Azerbaijan National Resistance Organization
U.S. Treasury Sanctions Hacking Group Backed by Iranian Intelligence

U.S. Treasury Sanctions Hacking Group Backed by Iranian Intelligence

September 18, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
The U.S. government on Thursday imposed  sweeping sanctions  against an Iranian threat actor backed by the country's Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) for carrying out malware campaigns targeting Iranian dissidents, journalists, and international companies in the telecom and travel sectors. According to the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the sanctions target Rana Intelligence Computing Company (or Rana), which the agencies said operated as a front for the threat group  APT39  (aka Chafer or Remix Kitten), Iranian cyber espionage hacking collective active since 2014 known for its attacks on companies in the U.S. and the Middle East with an aim to pilfer personal information and advance Iran's national security objectives. To that effect, 45 individuals who served in various capacities while employed at the front company, including as managers, programmers, and hacking experts, have been implicated in the sanctions, which also prohibit U
U.S. Announces Charges Against 2 Russian and 2 Iranian Hackers

U.S. Announces Charges Against 2 Russian and 2 Iranian Hackers

September 17, 2020Wang Wei
Immediately after revealing criminal charges against 5 Chinese and 2 Malaysian hackers , the United States government yesterday also made two separate announcements charging two Iranian and two Russian hackers and added them to the FBI's most-wanted list. The two Russian nationals—Danil Potekhin and Dmitrii Karasavidi—are accused of stealing $16.8 million worth of cryptocurrencies in a series of phishing attacks throughout 2017 and 2018. "This tactic used a combination of phishing and spoofing to exploit Internet users' trust in known companies and organizations to fraudulently obtain their login credentials, including email addresses, password information, and other personal information," the DoJ said . In addition to the criminal charges, the U.S. Department of the Treasury has also sanctioned both Russian hackers , freezing all their assets under U.S. jurisdiction and banning them from doing business with Americans. "Karasavidi laundered the proceeds
2 Hackers Charged for Defacing Sites after U.S. Airstrike Killed Iranian General

2 Hackers Charged for Defacing Sites after U.S. Airstrike Killed Iranian General

September 16, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
The US Department of Justice (DoJ) on Tuesday indicted two hackers for their alleged involvement in defacing several websites in the country following the assassination of Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani earlier this January. Behzad Mohammadzadeh (aka Mrb3hz4d), 19, and Marwan Abusrour (aka Mrwn007), 25, have been charged with conspiracy to commit intentional damage to a protected computer for a widespread "cyber-assault" that affected over 1,400 websites with pro-Iranian and pro-Palestinian messages. "The hackers victimized innocent third parties in a campaign to retaliate for the military action that killed Soleimani, a man behind countless acts of terror against Americans and others that the Iranian regime opposed," said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers in a statement. The defendants, from Iran and Palestine, respectively, are now wanted by the US authorities and are no longer free to travel outside their countries wi
Iranian Hackers Pose as Journalists to Trick Victims Into Installing Malware

Iranian Hackers Pose as Journalists to Trick Victims Into Installing Malware

August 28, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
An Iranian cyberespionage group known for targeting government, defense technology, military, and diplomacy sectors is now impersonating journalists to approach targets via LinkedIn and WhatsApp and infect their devices with malware. Detailing the new tactics of the "Charming Kitten" APT group, Israeli firm Clearsky said, "starting July 2020, we have identified a new TTP of the group, impersonating 'Deutsche Welle' and the 'Jewish Journal' using emails alongside WhatsApp messages as their main platform to approach the target and convince them to open a malicious link." This development is the first time the threat actor is said to have carried out a watering hole attack through WhatsApp and LinkedIn, which also includes making phone calls to victims, Clearsky noted in a Thursday analysis. After the company alerted Deutsche Welle about the impersonation and the watering hole in their website, the German broadcaster confirmed, "the repor
Iranian Hackers Accidentally Exposed Their Training Videos (40 GB) Online

Iranian Hackers Accidentally Exposed Their Training Videos (40 GB) Online

July 17, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
An OPSEC error by an Iranian threat actor has laid bare the inner workings of the hacking group by providing a rare insight into the "behind-the-scenes look into their methods." IBM's X-Force Incident Response Intelligence Services (IRIS) got hold of nearly five hours worth of video recordings of the state-sponsored group it calls ITG18 (also called Charming Kitten , Phosphorous , or APT35 ) that it uses to train its operators. Some of the victims in the videos included personal accounts of U.S. and Greek Navy personnel, in addition to unsuccessful phishing attempts directed against U.S. state department officials and an unnamed Iranian-American philanthropist. "Some of the videos showed the operator managing adversary-created accounts while others showed the operator testing access and exfiltrating data from previously compromised accounts," the researchers said. The IBM researchers said they found the videos on a virtual private cloud server that wa
Iranian APT Group Targets Governments in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia

Iranian APT Group Targets Governments in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia

May 21, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
Today, cybersecurity researchers shed light on an Iranian cyber espionage campaign directed against critical infrastructures in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Bitdefender said the intelligence-gathering operations were conducted by Chafer APT (also known as APT39 or Remix Kitten), a threat actor known for its attacks on telecommunication and travel industries in the Middle East to collect personal information that serves the country's geopolitical interests. "Victims of the analyzed campaigns fit into the pattern preferred by this actor, such as air transport and government sectors in the Middle East," the researchers said in a report (PDF) shared with The Hacker News, adding at least one of the attacks went undiscovered for more than a year and a half since 2018. "The campaigns were based on several tools, including 'living off the land' tools, which makes attribution difficult, as well as different hacking tools and a custom-built backdoor." Kn
Iranian Hackers Exploiting VPN Flaws to Backdoor Organizations Worldwide

Iranian Hackers Exploiting VPN Flaws to Backdoor Organizations Worldwide

February 18, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
A new report published by cybersecurity researchers has unveiled evidence of Iranian state-sponsored hackers targeting dozens of companies and organizations in Israel and around the world over the past three years. Dubbed " Fox Kitten ," the cyber-espionage campaign is said to have been directed at companies from the IT, telecommunication, oil and gas, aviation, government, and security sectors. "We estimate the campaign revealed in this report to be among Iran's most continuous and comprehensive campaigns revealed until now," ClearSky researchers said . "The revealed campaign was used as a reconnaissance infrastructure; however, it can also be used as a platform for spreading and activating destructive malware such as ZeroCleare and Dustman." Tying the activities to threat groups APT33, APT34, and APT39, the offensive — conducted using a mix of open source and self-developed tools — also facilitated the groups to steal sensitive information
Ex-US Intelligence Agent Charged With Spying and Helping Iranian Hackers

Ex-US Intelligence Agent Charged With Spying and Helping Iranian Hackers

February 14, 2019Swati Khandelwal
The United States Department of Justice has announced espionage charges against a former US Air Force intelligence officer with the highest level of top-secret clearance for providing the Iranian government classified defense information after she defected to Iran in 2013. Monica Elfriede Witt , 39, was a former U.S. Air Force Intelligence Specialist and Special Agent of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, who served the Air Force between 1997 and 2008 and Department of Defense (DOD) as a contractor until 2010. The indictment states that Witt once held the highest level of Top Secret security clearance and had access to details of highly classified counterintelligence operations, real names of sources, and the identities of U.S. intelligence officers. In February 2012, Witt allegedly traveled to Iran to attend an all-expenses-paid "Hollywoodism" conference held by the Iranian New Horizon Organization, which DoJ describes as focused on promoting anti-U.S.
New Shamoon Malware Variant Targets Italian Oil and Gas Company

New Shamoon Malware Variant Targets Italian Oil and Gas Company

December 14, 2018Swati Khandelwal
Shamoon is back… one of the most destructive malware families that caused damage to Saudi Arabia's largest oil producer in 2012 and this time it has targeted energy sector organizations primarily operating in the Middle East. Earlier this week, Italian oil drilling company Saipem was attacked and sensitive files on about 10 percent of its servers were destroyed, mainly in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, but also in India and Scotland. Saipem admitted Wednesday that the computer virus used in the latest cyber attack against its servers is a variant Shamoon—a disk wiping malware that was used in the most damaging cyber attacks in history against Saudi Aramco and RasGas Co Ltd and destroyed data on more than 30,000 systems. The cyber attack against Saudi Aramco, who is the biggest customer of Saipem, was attributed to Iran, but it is unclear who is behind the latest cyber attacks against Saipem. Meanwhile, Chronicle, Google'
U.S Charges Two Iranian Hackers for SamSam Ransomware Attacks

U.S Charges Two Iranian Hackers for SamSam Ransomware Attacks

November 28, 2018Mohit Kumar
The Department of Justice announced Wednesday charges against two Iranian nationals for their involvement in creating and deploying the notorious SamSam ransomware. The alleged hackers, Faramarz Shahi Savandi, 34, and Mohammad Mehdi Shah, 27, have been charged on several counts of computer hacking and fraud charges, the indictment unsealed today at New Jersey court revealed. The duo used SamSam ransomware to extort over $6 million in ransom payments since 2015, and also caused more than $30 million in damages to over 200 victims, including hospitals , municipalities, and public institutions. According to the indictment, Savandi and Mansouri have been charged with a total of six counts, including one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and related activity in connection with computers, two counts of intentional damage to a protected computer, and two counts of transmitting a demand in relation to damaging a protected computer. Si
U.S. Charges 9 Iranians With Hacking Universities to Steal Research Data

U.S. Charges 9 Iranians With Hacking Universities to Steal Research Data

March 25, 2018Swati Khandelwal
The United States Department of Justice has announced criminal charges and sanctions against 9 Iranians involved in hacking universities, tech companies, and government organisations worldwide to steal scientific research resources and academic papers. According to the FBI officials, the individuals are connected to the Mabna Institute , an Iran-based company created in 2013 whose members were allegedly hired by the Iranian government for gathering intelligence. Though the content of the papers is not yet known, investigators believe it might have helped Iranian scientists to develop nuclear weapons. In past four years, the state-sponsored hacking group has allegedly infiltrated more than 320 universities in 22 countries—144 of which were in the United States—and stolen over 30 terabytes of academic data and intellectual property. The group used spear-phishing attacks to target more than 100,000 e-mail accounts and computer systems of the professors around the world, and suc
APT33: Researchers Expose Iranian Hacking Group Linked to Destructive Malware

APT33: Researchers Expose Iranian Hacking Group Linked to Destructive Malware

September 20, 2017Swati Khandelwal
Security researchers have recently uncovered a cyber espionage group targeting aerospace, defence and energy organisations in the United States, Saudi Arabia and South Korea. According to the latest research published Wednesday by US security firm FireEye, an Iranian hacking group that it calls Advanced Persistent Threat 33 (or APT33) has been targeting critical infrastructure, energy and military sectors since at least 2013 as part of a massive cyber-espionage operation to gather intelligence and steal trade secrets. The security firm also says it has evidence that APT33 works on behalf of Iran's government. FireEye researchers have spotted cyber attacks aimed by APT33 since at least May 2016 and found that the group has successfully targeted aviation sector—both military and commercial—as well as organisations in the energy sector with a link to petrochemical. The APT33 victims include a U.S. firm in the aerospace sector, a Saudi Arabian business conglomerate with avi
Experts Unveil Cyber Espionage Attacks by CopyKittens Hackers

Experts Unveil Cyber Espionage Attacks by CopyKittens Hackers

July 25, 2017Mohit Kumar
Security researchers have discovered a new, massive cyber espionage campaign that mainly targets people working in government, defence and academic organisations in various countries. The campaign is being conducted by an Iran-linked threat group, whose activities, attack methods, and targets have been released in a joint, detailed report published by researchers at Trend Micro and Israeli firm ClearSky. Dubbed by researchers CopyKittens (aka Rocket Kittens) , the cyber espionage group has been active since at least 2013 and has targeted organisations and individuals, including diplomats and researchers, in Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United States, Jordan and Germany. The targeted organisations include government institutions like Ministry of Foreign Affairs, defence companies, large IT companies, academic institutions, subcontractors of the Ministry of Defense, and municipal authorities, along with employees of the United Nations. The latest report [ PDF ], dubbed &q
StoneDrill Disk Wiping Malware Found Targeting European Industries

StoneDrill Disk Wiping Malware Found Targeting European Industries

March 07, 2017Mohit Kumar
A new disk wiping malware has been uncovered targeting a petroleum company in Europe, which is quite similar to the mysterious disk wiper malware Shamoon that wiped data from 35,000 computers at Saudi Arabia's national oil company in 2012. Disk wiping malware has the ability to cripple any organization by permanently wiping out data from all hard drive and external storage on a targeted machine, causing great financial and reputational damage. Security researchers from Moscow-based antivirus provider Kaspersky Lab discovered the new wiper StoneDrill while researching last November's re-emergence of Shamoon malware (Shamoon 2.0) attacks – two attacks occurred in November and one in late January. Shamoon 2.0 is the more advanced version of Shamoon malware that reportedly hit 15 government agencies and organizations across the world, wipes data and takes control of the computer's boot record, preventing the computers from being turned back on. Meanwhile, Kaspersky resea
The 7 Most Wanted Iranian Hackers By the FBI

The 7 Most Wanted Iranian Hackers By the FBI

March 25, 2016Wang Wei
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has lengthened its Most Wanted List by adding seven Iranian hackers who are accused of attacking a range of US banks and a New York dam. On Thursday, the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) charged seven Iranian hackers with a slew of computer hacking offences for breaking into computer systems of dozens of US banks, causing Millions of dollars in damages, and tried to shut down a New York dam. The individual hackers, who allegedly worked for computer security companies linked to the Iranian government, were indicted for an " extensive campaign " of cyber attacks against the US financial sector. All the seven hackers have been added to the FBI's Most Wanted list, and their names are: Ahmad Fathi , 37 Hamid Firoozi , 34 Amin Shokohi , 25 Sadegh Ahmadzadegan (aka Nitr0jen26), 23 Omid Ghaffarinia (aka PLuS), 25 Sina Keissar , 25 Nader Saedi (aka Turk Server), 26 All the hackers have been charg
US releases Iranian Hacker as part of Prisoner Exchange Program

US releases Iranian Hacker as part of Prisoner Exchange Program

January 20, 2016Wang Wei
The United States has freed 4 Iranian nationals ( including one Hacker ) and reduced the sentences of 3 others in exchange for the release of 5 Americans formerly held by Iran as part of a prisoner swap or Prisoner Exchange Program. The Iranian citizens released from the United States custody through a side deal to the Iran nuclear agreement. Iran released five Americans, including: Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian Former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati Student Matthew Trevithick Christian pastor Saeed Abedini Pastor Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari The United States pardoned seven Iranian nationals, including: Nader Modanlou Bahram Mechanic Khosrow Afqahi Arash Ghahreman Touraj Faridi Nima Golestaneh (Hacker) Ali Sabounchi "These individuals weren't charged with terrorism or any violent offenses. They are civilians, and their release is a one-time gesture to Iran given the unique opportunity offered by this moment and the larger circumstance
Here's How Iranian Hackers Can Hack Your Gmail Accounts

Here's How Iranian Hackers Can Hack Your Gmail Accounts

August 31, 2015Swati Khandelwal
Hackers are getting smarter in fooling us all , and now they are using sophisticated hacking schemes to get into your Gmail. Yes, Iranian hackers have now discovered a new way to fool Gmail's tight security system by bypassing its two-step verification – a security process that requires a security code (generally sent via SMS) along with the password in order to log into Gmail account. Researchers at Citizen Lab released a report on Thursday which shows how the hackers are using text messages and phone-based phishing attacks to circumvent Gmail's security and take over the Gmail accounts of their targets, specifically political dissidents. The report detailed and elaborated three types of phishing attacks aimed at Iranian activists. Researchers also found one such attack targeting Jillian York , the Director for International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation . Here's How the Attack Works Via Text Messages: In some case
Operation Cleaver — Iranian Hackers Targeting Critical Infrastructure Worldwide

Operation Cleaver — Iranian Hackers Targeting Critical Infrastructure Worldwide

December 05, 2014Swati Khandelwal
For over past two years, Iranian hackers have infiltrated computer networks of some of the world's top organizations including airlines, defense contractors, universities, military installations, hospitals, airports, telecommunications firms, government agencies, and energy and gas companies, security researchers said. An 87-page report published by the U.S. cyber security firm Cylance says Iranian state-sponsored hackers have hacked critical infrastructure of more than 50 organizations in 16 countries worldwide in a cyber-espionage campaign that could allow them to eventually cause physical damage. Among the targeted organizations, ten are reportedly based in the United States. The threat-detection firm dubbed the campaign as " Operation Cleaver ," which aimed at gathering data from various agencies. The group reportedly stole highly sensitive information and took control of networks in Canada, China, England, France, Germany, India, Israel, Kuwait, Mexic
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