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The Hacker News - Cybersecurity News and Analysis: Iranian Hackers

Iranian Hackers Exploit Log4j Vulnerability to Deploy PowerShell Backdoor

Iranian Hackers Exploit Log4j Vulnerability to Deploy PowerShell Backdoor
January 13, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
An Iranian state-sponsored actor has been observed scanning and attempting to abuse the Log4Shell flaw in publicly-exposed Java applications to deploy a hitherto undocumented PowerShell-based modular backdoor dubbed " CharmPower " for follow-on post-exploitation. "The actor's attack setup was obviously rushed, as they used the basic open-source tool for the exploitation and based their operations on previous infrastructure, which made the attack easier to detect and attribute," researchers from Check Point  said  in a report published this week. The Israeli cybersecurity company linked the attack to a group known as  APT35 , which is also tracked using the codenames Charming Kitten, Phosphorus, and TA453, citing overlaps with toolsets previously identified as infrastructure used by the threat actor. Log4Shell  aka CVE-2021-44228 (CVSS score: 10.0) concerns a critical security vulnerability in the popular Log4j logging library that, if successfully exploite

US Cyber Command Links 'MuddyWater' Hacking Group to Iranian Intelligence

US Cyber Command Links 'MuddyWater' Hacking Group to Iranian Intelligence
January 12, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
The U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) on Wednesday officially confirmed MuddyWater's ties to the Iranian intelligence apparatus, while simultaneously detailing the various tools and tactics adopted by the espionage actor to burrow into victim networks. "MuddyWater has been seen using a variety of techniques to maintain access to victim networks," USCYBERCOM's Cyber National Mission Force (CNMF)  said  in a statement. "These include side-loading  DLLs  in order to trick legitimate programs into running malware and obfuscating PowerShell scripts to hide command and control functions." The agency characterized the hacking efforts as a subordinate element within the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), corroborating earlier reports about the nation-state actor's provenance. Also tracked under the monikers Static Kitten, Seedworm, Mercury and TEMP.Zagros,  MuddyWater  is known for its  attacks  primarily directed against a wide gamut of en

Hackers Using Microsoft MSHTML Flaw to Spy on Targeted PCs with Malware

Hackers Using Microsoft MSHTML Flaw to Spy on Targeted PCs with Malware
November 25, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
A new Iranian threat actor has been discovered exploiting a now-addressed critical flaw in the Microsoft Windows MSHTML platform to target Farsi-speaking victims with a previously undocumented PowerShell-based information stealer designed to harvest extensive details from infected machines. "[T]he stealer is a PowerShell script, short with powerful collection capabilities — in only ~150 lines, it provides the adversary a lot of critical information including screen captures, Telegram files, document collection, and extensive data about the victim's environment," SafeBreach Labs researcher Tomer Bar  said  in a report published Wednesday. Nearly half of the targets are from the U.S., with the cybersecurity firm noting that the attacks are likely aimed at "Iranians who live abroad and might be seen as a threat to Iran's Islamic regime." The phishing campaign, which began in July 2021, involved the exploitation of CVE-2021-40444, a remote code execution fl

Microsoft Warns about 6 Iranian Hacking Groups Turning to Ransomware

Microsoft Warns about 6 Iranian Hacking Groups Turning to Ransomware
November 17, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Nation-state operators with nexus to Iran are increasingly turning to ransomware as a means of generating revenue and intentionally sabotaging their targets, while also engaging in patient and persistent social engineering campaigns and aggressive brute force attacks. No less than six threat actors affiliated with the West Asian country have been discovered deploying ransomware to achieve their strategic objectives, researchers from Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC)  revealed , adding "these ransomware deployments were launched in waves every six to eight weeks on average." Of note is a threat actor tracked as  Phosphorus  (aka Charming Kitten or APT35), which has been found scanning IP addresses on the internet for unpatched Fortinet FortiOS SSL VPN and on-premises Exchange Servers to gain initial access and persistence on vulnerable networks, before moving to deploy additional payloads that enable the actors to pivot to other machines and deploy ransomware.

Iran's Lyceum Hackers Target Telecoms, ISPs in Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Africa

Iran's Lyceum Hackers Target Telecoms, ISPs in Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Africa
November 11, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
A state-sponsored threat actor allegedly affiliated with Iran has been linked to a series of targeted attacks aimed at internet service providers (ISPs) and telecommunication operators in Israel, Morocco, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia, as well as a ministry of foreign affairs (MFA) in Africa, new findings reveal. The intrusions, staged by a group tracked as Lyceum, are believed to have occurred between July and October 2021, researchers from Accenture Cyber Threat Intelligence (ACTI) group and Prevailion's Adversarial Counterintelligence Team (PACT) said in a technical report. The names of the victims were not disclosed. The latest revelations throw light on the web-based infrastructure used by Lyceum, over 20 of them, enabling the identification of "additional victims and provide further visibility into Lyceum's targeting methodology," the researchers  noted , adding "at least two of the identified compromises are assessed to be ongoing despite prior public discl

Iranian Hackers Target Several Israeli Organizations With Supply-Chain Attacks

Iranian Hackers Target Several Israeli Organizations With Supply-Chain Attacks
August 18, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
IT and communication companies in Israel were at the center of a supply chain attack campaign spearheaded by an Iranian threat actor that involved impersonating the firms and their HR personnel to target victims with fake job offers in an attempt to penetrate their computers and gain access to the company's clients. The attacks, which occurred in two waves in May and July 2021, have been linked to a hacker group called Siamesekitten (aka Lyceum or Hexane) that has primarily singled out oil, gas, and telecom providers in the Middle East and in Africa at least since 2018, researchers from ClearSky  said  in a report published Tuesday. Infections undertaken by the adversary commenced with identifying potential victims, who were then enticed with "alluring" job offers in well-known companies like ChipPc and Software AG by posing as human resources department employees from the impersonated firms, only to lead the victims to a phishing website containing weaponized files t

Researchers uncover a new Iranian malware used in recent cyberattacks

Researchers uncover a new Iranian malware used in recent cyberattacks
April 08, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
An Iranian threat actor has unleashed a new cyberespionage campaign against a possible Lebanese target with a backdoor capable of exfiltrating sensitive information from compromised systems. Cybersecurity firm Check Point attributed the operation to APT34, citing similarities with previous techniques used by the threat actor as well as based on its pattern of victimology. APT34  (aka OilRig) is known for its reconnaissance campaigns aligned with the strategic interests of Iran, primarily hitting financial, government, energy, chemical, and telecommunications industries in the Middle East. The group typically resorts to targeting individuals through the use of booby-trapped job offer documents, delivered directly to the victims via LinkedIn messages. Although the latest campaign bears some of the same hallmarks, the exact mode of delivery remains unclear as yet. The Word document analyzed by Check Point — which was  uploaded  to VirusTotal from Lebanon on January 10 — claims to of

Detailed: Here's How Iran Spies on Dissidents with the Help of Hackers

Detailed: Here's How Iran Spies on Dissidents with the Help of Hackers
February 08, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Twin cyber operations conducted by state-sponsored Iranian threat actors demonstrate their continued focus on compiling detailed dossiers on Iranian citizens that could threaten the stability of the Islamic Republic, including dissidents, opposition forces, and ISIS supporters, and Kurdish natives. Tracing the extensive espionage operations to two advanced Iranian cyber-groups  Domestic Kitten  (or APT-C-50) and  Infy , cybersecurity firm Check Point revealed new and recent evidence of their ongoing activities that involve the use of a revamped malware toolset as well as tricking unwitting users into downloading malicious software under the guise of popular apps. "Both groups have conducted long-running cyberattacks and intrusive surveillance campaigns which target both individuals' mobile devices and personal computers," Check Point researchers said in a new analysis. "The operators of these campaigns are clearly active, responsive and constantly seeking new att

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
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