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The Hacker News - Cybersecurity News and Analysis: cyber espionage

New USBCulprit Espionage Tool Steals Data From Air-Gapped Computers

New USBCulprit Espionage Tool Steals Data From Air-Gapped Computers

June 04, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
A Chinese threat actor has developed new capabilities to target air-gapped systems in an attempt to exfiltrate sensitive data for espionage, according to a newly published research by Kaspersky yesterday. The APT, known as Cycldek, Goblin Panda, or Conimes, employs an extensive toolset for lateral movement and information stealing in victim networks, including previously unreported custom tools, tactics, and procedures in attacks against government agencies in Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos. "One of the newly revealed tools is named USBCulprit and has been found to rely on USB media in order to exfiltrate victim data," Kaspersky said. "This may suggest Cycldek is trying to reach air-gapped networks in victim environments or relies on physical presence for the same purpose." First observed by CrowdStrike in 2013, Cycldek has a long history of singling out defense, energy, and government sectors in Southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam, using decoy documents th
New ComRAT Malware Uses Gmail to Receive Commands and Exfiltrate Data

New ComRAT Malware Uses Gmail to Receive Commands and Exfiltrate Data

May 26, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
Cybersecurity researchers today uncovered a new advanced version of ComRAT backdoor, one of the earliest known backdoors used by the Turla APT group, that leverages Gmail's web interface to covertly receive commands and exfiltrate sensitive data. "ComRAT v4 was first seen in 2017 and known still to be in use as recently as January 2020," cybersecurity firm ESET said in a report shared with The Hacker News. "We identified at least three targets: two Ministries of Foreign Affairs in Eastern Europe and a national parliament in the Caucasus region." Turla , also known as Snake, has been active for over a decade with a long history of the watering hole and spear-phishing campaigns against embassies and military organizations at least since 2004. The group's espionage platform started off as Agent.BTZ , in 2007, before it evolved to ComRAT , in addition to gaining additional capabilities to achieve persistence and to steal data from a local network. It
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
HTTP Status Codes Command This Malware How to Control Hacked Systems

HTTP Status Codes Command This Malware How to Control Hacked Systems

May 15, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
A new version of COMpfun remote access trojan (RAT) has been discovered in the wild that uses HTTP status codes to control compromised systems targeted in a recent campaign against diplomatic entities in Europe. The cyberespionage malware—traced to Turla APT with "medium-to-low level of confidence" based on the history of compromised victims—spread via an initial dropper that masks itself as a visa application, the Global Research and Analysis Team at Kaspersky discovered. The Turla APT , a Russian-based threat group, has a long history of carrying out espionage and watering hole attacks spanning various sectors, including governments, embassies, military, education, research, and pharmaceutical companies. First documented by G-Data in 2014, COMpfun received a significant upgrade last year (called "Reductor") after Kaspersky found that the malware was used to spy on a victim's browser activity by staging man-in-the-middle ( MitM ) attacks on encrypte
This Asia-Pacific Cyber Espionage Campaign Went Undetected for 5 Years

This Asia-Pacific Cyber Espionage Campaign Went Undetected for 5 Years

May 07, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
An advanced group of Chinese hackers has recently been spotted to be behind a sustained cyber espionage campaign targeting government entities in Australia, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, and Brunei—which went undetected for at least five years and is still an ongoing threat. The group, named 'Naikon APT,' once known as one of the most active APTs in Asia until 2015, carried out a string of cyberattacks in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region in search of geopolitical intelligence. According to the latest investigation report Check Point researchers shared with The Hacker News, the Naikon APT group had not gone silent for the last 5 years, as initially suspected; instead, it was using a new backdoor, called " Aria-body ," to operate stealthily. "Given the characteristics of the victims and capabilities presented by the group, it is evident that the group's purpose is to gather intelligence and spy on the countries whose governments it
U.S. Offers Rewards up to $5 Million for Information on North Korean Hackers

U.S. Offers Rewards up to $5 Million for Information on North Korean Hackers

April 15, 2020Mohit Kumar
The United States agencies today released a joint advisory warning the world about the 'significant cyber threat' posed by North Korean state-sponsored hackers to the global banking and financial institutions. Besides a summary of recent cyberattacks attributed to North Korean hackers, the advisory—issued by U.S. Departments of State, the Treasury, and Homeland Security, and the FBI—also contains a comprehensive guide intends to help the international community, industries, and other governments defend against North Korea's illicit activities. "In particular, the United States is deeply concerned about North Korea's malicious cyber activities, which the U.S. government refers to as HIDDEN COBRA. The DPRK has the capability to conduct disruptive or destructive cyber activities affecting U.S. critical infrastructure," the advisory says . "The DPRK also uses cyber capabilities to steal from financial institutions, and has demonstrated a pattern of d
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
U.S. Charges Huawei with Stealing Trade Secrets from 6 Companies

U.S. Charges Huawei with Stealing Trade Secrets from 6 Companies

February 14, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
The US Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) charged Huawei with racketeering and conspiring to steal trade secrets from six US firms, in a significant escalation of a lawsuit against the Chinese telecom giant that began last year. Accusing Huawei and its affiliates of "using fraud and deception to misappropriate sophisticated technology from US counterparts," the new charges allege the company of offering bonuses to employees who obtained "confidential information" from its competitors. The indictment adds to a list of two other charges filed by the US government last year, including violating US sanctions on Iran and stealing technology from T-Mobile — called Tappy — that's used to test smartphone durability. The development is the latest salvo fired by the Trump administration in its year-long fight against the networking equipment maker, which it deems a threat to national security. "The misappropriated
A Look Into Continuous Efforts By Chinese Hackers to Target Foreign Governments

A Look Into Continuous Efforts By Chinese Hackers to Target Foreign Governments

October 02, 2019Swati Khandelwal
Phishing is still one of the widely used strategies by cybercriminals and espionage groups to gain an initial foothold on the targeted systems. Though hacking someone with phishing attacks was easy a decade ago, the evolution of threat detection technologies and cyber awareness among people has slowed down the success of phishing and social engineering attacks over the years. Since phishing is more sort of a one-time opportunity for hackers before their victims suspect it and likely won't fall for the same trick again, sophisticated hacking groups have started putting a lot of effort, time and research to design well-crafted phishing campaigns. In one such latest campaign discovered by cybersecurity researchers at Check Point, a Chinese hacking group, known as Rancor , has been found conducting very targeted and extensive attacks against Southeast Asian government entities from December 2018 to June 2019. What's interesting about this ongoing 7-month long campaign is
Russian APT Map Reveals 22,000 Connections Between 2000 Malware Samples

Russian APT Map Reveals 22,000 Connections Between 2000 Malware Samples

September 24, 2019Wang Wei
Though Russia still has an undiversified and stagnant economy, it was one of the early countries in the world to realize the value of remotely conducted cyber intrusions. In recent years, many Russia hacking groups have emerged as one of the most sophisticated nation-state actors in cyberspace, producing highly specialized hacking techniques and toolkits for cyber espionage. Over the past three decades, many high profile hacking incidents—like hacking the US presidential elections , targeting a country with NotPetya ransomware , causing blackout in Ukrainian capital Kiev , and Pentagon breach—have been attributed to Russian hacking groups, including Fancy Bear  (Sofacy), Turla ,  Cozy Bear ,  Sandworm Team  and Berserk Bear. Besides continuously expanding its cyberwar capabilities, the ecosystem of Russian APT groups has also grown into a very complex structure, making it harder to understand who's who in Russian cyber espionage. Now to illustrate the big picture and mak
New Malware Uses Windows BITS Service to Stealthy Exfiltrate Data

New Malware Uses Windows BITS Service to Stealthy Exfiltrate Data

September 09, 2019Mohit Kumar
Cybersecurity researchers have discovered a new computer virus associated with the Stealth Falcon state-sponsored cyber espionage group that abuses a built-in component of the Microsoft Windows operating system to stealthily exfiltrate stolen data to attacker-controlled server. Active since 2012, Stealth Falcon is a sophisticated hacking group known for targeting journalists, activists, and dissidents with spyware in the Middle East, primarily in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Dubbed Win32/StealthFalcon , named after the hacking group, the malware communicates and sends collected data to its remote command-and-control (C&C) servers using Windows Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS). BITS is a communication protocol in Windows that takes unused network bandwidth to facilitate asynchronous, prioritized, and throttled transfer of files between machines in the foreground or background, without impacting the network experience. BITS is commonly used by software up
Powerful FinSpy Spyware Found Targeting iOS and Android Users in Myanmar

Powerful FinSpy Spyware Found Targeting iOS and Android Users in Myanmar

July 10, 2019Swati Khandelwal
One of the most powerful, infamous, and advanced piece of government-grade commercial surveillance spyware dubbed FinSpy —also known as FinFisher —has been discovered in the wild targeting users in Myanmar. Created by German company Gamma International, FinSpy is spying software that can target various mobile platforms including iOS and Android, we well as desktop operating systems. Gamma Group reportedly sells its controversial FinSpy espionage tool exclusively to government agencies across the world, but also gained notoriety for targeting human rights activists in many countries. The FinSpy implant is capable of stealing an extensive amount of personal information from targeted mobile devices, such as SMS/MMS messages, phone call recordings, emails, contacts, pictures, files, and GPS location data. In its latest report published today, Kaspersky researchers revealed a cyber-espionage campaign that involves targeting Myanmar users with the latest versions of FinSpy impl
'Legit Apps Turned into Spyware' Targeting Android Users in Middle East

'Legit Apps Turned into Spyware' Targeting Android Users in Middle East

June 26, 2019Mohit Kumar
Cybersecurity researchers are warning about an ongoing Android malware campaign that has been active since 2016 and was first publicly reported in August 2018. Dubbed " ViceLeaker " by researchers at Kaspersky, the campaign has recently been found targeting Israeli citizens and some other middle eastern countries with a powerful surveillance malware designed to steal almost all accessible information, including call recordings, text messages, photos, videos, and location data—all without users' knowledge. Besides these traditional spying functionalities, the malware also has backdoor capabilities including upload, download, and delete files, record surrounding audio, takeover camera, and make calls or send messages to specific numbers. The malware used in these campaigns was named " Triout " in a report published by Bitdefender in 2018, which is sort of a malware framework that attackers are using to turn legitimate applications into spyware by inject
Sophisticated 'TajMahal APT Framework' Remained Undetected for 5 Years

Sophisticated 'TajMahal APT Framework' Remained Undetected for 5 Years

April 10, 2019Swati Khandelwal
Cybersecurity researchers yesterday unveiled the existence of a highly sophisticated spyware framework that has been in operation for at least last 5 years—but remained undetected until recently. Dubbed TajMahal by researchers at Kaspersky Lab, the APT framework is a high-tech modular-based malware toolkit that not only supports a vast number of malicious plugins for distinct espionage operations, but also comprises never-before-seen and obscure tricks. Kaspersky named the framework after Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World located in India, not because it found any connection between the malware and the country, but because the stolen data was transferred to the attackers' C&C server in an XML file named TajMahal. TajMahal toolkit was first discovered by security researchers late last year when hackers used it to spy on the computers of a diplomatic organization belonging to a Central Asian country whose nationality and location have not been disclosed
Ex-NSA Contractor Pleads Guilty to 20-Year-Long Theft of Classified Data

Ex-NSA Contractor Pleads Guilty to 20-Year-Long Theft of Classified Data

March 28, 2019Mohit Kumar
A former National Security Agency contractor—who stole an enormous amount of sensitive information from the agency and then stored it at his home and car for over two decades—today changed his plea to guilty. The theft was labeled as the largest heist of classified government material in America's history. Harold Thomas Martin III, a 54-year-old Navy veteran from Glen Burnie, abused his top-secret security clearances to stole at least 50 terabytes of classified national defense data from government computers over two decades while working for a number of NSA departments between 1996 and 2016. In August 2016, the FBI arrested Martin at his Maryland home and found "six full bankers' boxes" worth of documents, many of which were marked "Secret" and "Top Secret," in his home and car. At the time of his arrest in August 2016, Martin also worked for Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp, the same company that previously employed  Edward Snowden  
Elfin Hacking Group Targets Multiple U.S. and Saudi Arabian Firms

Elfin Hacking Group Targets Multiple U.S. and Saudi Arabian Firms

March 28, 2019Swati Khandelwal
An Iran-linked cyber-espionage group that has been found targeting critical infrastructure , energy and military sectors in Saudi Arabia and the United States two years ago continues targeting organizations in the two nations, Symantec reported on Wednesday. Widely known as APT33 , which Symantec calls Elfin , the cyber-espionage group has been active since as early as late 2015 and targeted a wide range of organizations, including government, research, chemical, engineering, manufacturing, consulting, finance, and telecommunications in the Middle East and other parts of the world. Symantec started monitoring Elfin's attacks since the beginning of 2016 and found that the group has launched a heavily targeted campaign against multiple organizations with 42% most recent attacks observed against Saudi Arabia and 34% against the United States. Elfin targeted a total of 18 American organizations in the engineering, chemical, research, energy consultancy, finance, IT and healthcar
Researchers Link 'Sharpshooter' Cyber Attacks to North Korean Hackers

Researchers Link 'Sharpshooter' Cyber Attacks to North Korean Hackers

March 04, 2019Mohit Kumar
Security researchers have finally, with "high confidence," linked a previously discovered global cyber espionage campaign targeting critical infrastructure around the world to a North Korean APT hacking group. Thanks to the new evidence collected by researchers after analyzing a command-and-control (C2) server involved in the espionage campaign and seized by law enforcement. Dubbed Operation Sharpshooter , the cyber espionage campaign targeting government, defense, nuclear, energy, and financial organizations around the world was initially uncovered in December 2018 by security researchers at McAfee. At that time, even after finding numerous technical links to the North Korean Lazarus hacking group , researchers were not able to immediately attribute the campaign due to a potential for false flags. Researchers Analysed Sharpshooter's Command Server Now, according to a press release shared with The Hacker News, a recent analysis of the seized code and command
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