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The Hacker News - Cybersecurity News and Analysis: cyber espionage

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.
Ecuador to Withdraw Asylum for Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange

Ecuador to Withdraw Asylum for Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange

July 21, 2018Mohit Kumar
After protecting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for almost six years, Ecuador is now planning to withdraw its political asylum, probably next week, and eject him from its London embassy—eventually would turn him over to the British authorities. Lenín Moreno, the newly-elected President of Ecuador, has arrived in London this Friday to give a speech at Global Disability Summit on 24 July 2018. However, media reports suggest the actual purpose of the President's visit is to finalize a deal with UK government to withdraw its asylum protection of Assange. According to RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan and the Intercept 's Glenn Greenwald, multiple sources close to the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry and the President's office have confirmed that Julian Assange will be handed over to Britain in the coming weeks or even days. Julian Assange, 47, has been living in Ecuador's London embassy since June 2012, when he was granted asylum by the Ecuador government after a B
Gaza Cybergang Returns With New Attacks On Palestinian Authority

Gaza Cybergang Returns With New Attacks On Palestinian Authority

July 10, 2018Wang Wei
Security researchers from Check Point Threat Intelligence Team have discovered the comeback of an APT (advanced persistent threat) surveillance group targeting institutions across the Middle East, specifically the Palestinian Authority. The attack, dubbed "Big Bang," begins with a phishing email sent to targeted victims that includes an attachment of a self-extracting archive containing two files—a Word document and a malicious executable. Posing to be from the Palestinian Political and National Guidance Commission, the Word document serves as a decoy to distract victims while the malware is installed in the background. The malicious executable, which runs in the background, act as the first stage info-stealer malware designed for intelligence gathering to identify potential victims (on the basis of what is unclear as of now), and then it accordingly downloads the second stage malware designed for espionage. "While the analysis...discloses the capabilities of
Stolen D-Link Certificate Used to Digitally Sign Spying Malware

Stolen D-Link Certificate Used to Digitally Sign Spying Malware

July 09, 2018Swati Khandelwal
Digitally signed malware has become much more common in recent years to mask malicious intentions. Security researchers have discovered a new malware campaign misusing stolen valid digital certificates from Taiwanese tech-companies, including D-Link, to sign their malware and making them look like legitimate applications. As you may know, digital certificates issued by a trusted certificate authority (CA) are used to cryptographically sign computer applications and software and are trusted by your computer for execution of those programs without any warning messages. However, malware author and hackers who are always in search of advanced techniques to bypass security solutions have seen been abusing trusted digital certificates in recent years. Hackers use compromised code signing certificates associated with trusted software vendors in order to sign their malicious code, reducing the possibility of their malware being detected on targeted enterprise networks and consumer
New Malware Family Uses Custom UDP Protocol for C&C Communications

New Malware Family Uses Custom UDP Protocol for C&C Communications

June 26, 2018Wang Wei
Security researchers have uncovered a new highly-targeted cyber espionage campaign, which is believed to be associated with a hacking group behind KHRAT backdoor Trojan and has been targeting organizations in South East Asia. According to researchers from Palo Alto , the hacking group, which they dubbed RANCOR, has been found using two new malware families—PLAINTEE and DDKONG—to target political entities primarily in Singapore and Cambodia. However, in previous years, threat actors behind KHRAT Trojan were allegedly linked to a Chinese cyber espionage group, known as DragonOK. While monitoring the C&C infrastructure associated with KHRAT trojan, researchers identified multiple variants of these two malware families, where PLAINTEE appears to be the latest weapon in the group's arsenal that uses a custom UDP protocol to communicate with its remote command-and-control server. To deliver both PLAINTEE and DDKONG, attackers use spear phishing messages with different inf
Chinese Hackers Carried Out Country-Level Watering Hole Attack

Chinese Hackers Carried Out Country-Level Watering Hole Attack

June 14, 2018Swati Khandelwal
Cybersecurity researchers have uncovered an espionage campaign that has targeted a national data center of an unnamed central Asian country in order to conduct watering hole attacks. The campaign is believed to be active covertly since fall 2017 but was spotted in March by security researchers from Kaspersky Labs, who have attributed these attacks to a Chinese-speaking threat actor group called LuckyMouse . LuckyMouse, also known as Iron Tiger, EmissaryPanda, APT 27 and Threat Group-3390, is the same group of Chinese hackers who was found targeting Asian countries with Bitcoin mining malware early this year. The group has been active since at least 2010 and was behind many previous attack campaigns resulting in the theft of massive amounts of data from the directors and managers of US-based defense contractors. This time the group chose a national data center as its target from an unnamed country in Central Asia in an attempt to gain "access to a wide range of government
APT Hackers Infect Routers to Covertly Implant Slingshot Spying Malware

APT Hackers Infect Routers to Covertly Implant Slingshot Spying Malware

March 09, 2018Swati Khandelwal
Security researchers at Kaspersky have identified a sophisticated APT hacking group that has been operating since at least 2012 without being noticed due to their complex and clever hacking techniques. The hacking group used a piece of advanced malware—dubbed Slingshot —to infect hundreds of thousands of victims in the Middle East and Africa by hacking into their routers. According to a 25-page report published [ PDF ] by Kaspersky Labs, the group exploited unknown vulnerabilities in routers from a Latvian network hardware provider Mikrotik as its first-stage infection vector in order to covertly plant its spyware into victims' computers. Although it is unclear how the group managed to compromise the routers at the first place, Kaspersky pointed towards WikiLeaks Vault 7 CIA Leaks , which revealed the ChimayRed exploit , now available on GitHub , to compromise Mikrotik routers. Once the router is compromised, the attackers replace one of its DDL (dynamic link libraries)
Cyber Espionage Group Targets Asian Countries With Bitcoin Mining Malware

Cyber Espionage Group Targets Asian Countries With Bitcoin Mining Malware

February 07, 2018Swati Khandelwal
Security researchers have discovered a custom-built piece of malware that's wreaking havoc in Asia for past several months and is capable of performing nasty tasks, like password stealing, bitcoin mining, and providing hackers complete remote access to compromised systems. Dubbed Operation PZChao , the attack campaign discovered by the security researchers at Bitdefender have been targeting organizations in the government, technology, education, and telecommunications sectors in Asia and the United States. Researchers believe nature, infrastructure, and payloads, including variants of the Gh0stRAT trojan, used in the PZChao attacks are reminiscent of the notorious Chinese hacker group— Iron Tiger . However, this campaign has evolved its payloads to drop trojan, conduct cyber espionage and mine Bitcoin cryptocurrency. The PZChao campaign is attacking targets across Asia and the U.S. by using similar attack tactics as of Iron Tiger, which, according to the researchers, si
Kaspersky Lab Sues U.S. Government Over Software Ban

Kaspersky Lab Sues U.S. Government Over Software Ban

December 19, 2017Swati Khandelwal
Moscow-based cyber security firm Kaspersky Lab has taken the United States government to a U.S. federal court for its decision to ban the use of Kaspersky products in federal agencies and departments. In September 2017, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a Binding Operational Directive (BOD) ordering civilian government agencies to remove Kaspersky Lab software from their computers and networks within 90 days. The order came amid mounting concern among United States officials that the Kaspersky antivirus software could be helping Russian government spy on their activities, which may threaten the U.S. national security. U.S. President Donald Trump also signed into law last week legislation that bans the use of Kaspersky products within the U.S. government, capping a months-long effort to purge Kaspersky from federal agencies amid concerns it's vulnerable to Kremlin influence. The Kaspersky's appeal is part of an ongoing campaign by the c
22-Year-Old Hacker Pleads Guilty to 2014 Yahoo Hack, Admits Helping Russian Intelligence

22-Year-Old Hacker Pleads Guilty to 2014 Yahoo Hack, Admits Helping Russian Intelligence

November 29, 2017Wang Wei
Karim Baratov , a 22-year-old Kazakhstan-born Canadian citizen, has pleaded guilty to hacking charges over his involvement in massive 2014 Yahoo data breach that affected all three billion yahoo accounts . In March, the US Justice Department announced charges against two Russian intelligence officers (Dmitry Dokuchaev and Igor Sushchin) from Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) and two hackers (Alexsey Belan and Karim Baratov) for breaking into yahoo servers in 2014. While Karim Baratov (Kay, a.k.a Karim Taloverov, a.k.a Karim Akehmet Tokbergenov) was arrested in Toronto at his Ancaster home by the Toronto Police Department in March this year, Alexsey Belan and both FSB officers currently reside in Russia, unlikely to be extradited. In the federal district court in San Francisco on Tuesday, Baratov admitted to helping the Russian spies and pleaded guilty to a total of nine counts which includes: One count of conspiring to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by
U.S. Charges Three Chinese Hackers for Hacking Siemens, Trimble & Moody

U.S. Charges Three Chinese Hackers for Hacking Siemens, Trimble & Moody

November 28, 2017Wang Wei
The United States Justice Department has charged three Chinese nationals for allegedly hacking Moody's Analytics economist, German electronics manufacturer Siemens, and GPS maker Trimble, and stealing gigabytes of sensitive data and trade secrets. According to an indictment unsealed Monday in federal court in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the three men worked for a Chinese cybersecurity company, Guangzhou Bo Yu Information Technology Company Limited ( Boyusec ), previously linked to China's Ministry of State Security. Earlier this year, security researchers also linked Boyusec to one of the active Chinese government-sponsored espionage groups, called Advanced Persistent Threat 3 (or APT3 ), which is also known as Gothic Panda, UPS Team, Buckeye, and TG-0110. In 2013, APT3 allegedly stole the blueprints for ASIO's new Canberra building using a piece of malware that was uploaded to an ASIO employee's laptop. According to the indictment, the three Chinese nationals
Newly Uncovered 'SowBug' Cyber-Espionage Group Stealing Diplomatic Secrets Since 2015

Newly Uncovered 'SowBug' Cyber-Espionage Group Stealing Diplomatic Secrets Since 2015

November 07, 2017Mohit Kumar
A previously unknown hacking and cyber-espionage group that has been in operation since at least 2015 have conducted a series of highly targeted attacks against a host of government organizations in South America and Southeast Asia to steal their sensitive data. Codenamed Sowbug , the hacking group has been exposed by Symantec security researchers, who spotted the group conducting clandestine attacks against foreign policy institutions, government bodies and diplomatic targets in countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Malaysia. Symantec analysis found that the Sowbug hacking group uses a piece of malware dubbed "Felismus" to launch its attacks and infiltrate their targets. First identified in late March of this year, Felismus is a sophisticated, well-written piece of remote access Trojan (RAT) with a modular construction that allows the backdoor trojan to hide and or extend its capabilities. The malware allows malicious actors to take complete
Microsoft Kept Secret That Its Bug-Tracking Database Was Hacked In 2013

Microsoft Kept Secret That Its Bug-Tracking Database Was Hacked In 2013

October 17, 2017Mohit Kumar
It was not just Yahoo among "Fortune 500" companies who tried to keep a major data breach incident secret. Reportedly, Microsoft had also suffered a data breach four and a half years ago (in 2013), when a " highly sophisticated hacking group " breached its bug-reporting and patch-tracking database, but the hack was never made public until today. According to five former employees of the company, interviewed separately by Reuters , revealed that the breached database had been " poorly protected with access possible via little more than a password. " This incident is believed to be the second known breach of such a corporate database after a critical zero-day vulnerability was discovered in Mozilla's Bugzilla bug-tracking software in 2014. As its name suggests, the bug-reporting and patch-tracking database for Windows contained information on critical and unpatched vulnerabilities in some of the most widely used software in the world, includ
U.S. Believes Russian Spies Used Kaspersky Antivirus to Steal NSA Secrets

U.S. Believes Russian Spies Used Kaspersky Antivirus to Steal NSA Secrets

October 06, 2017Unknown
Do you know—United States Government has banned federal agencies from using Kaspersky antivirus software over spying fear? Though there's no solid evidence yet available, an article published by WSJ claims  that the Russian state-sponsored hackers stole highly classified NSA documents from a contractor in 2015 with the help of a security program made by Russia-based security firm Kaspersky Lab. Currently, there is no way to independently confirm if the claims on the popular security vendor published by the Wall Street Journal is accurate—and the story does not even prove the involvement of Kaspersky. "As a private company, Kaspersky Lab does not have inappropriate ties to any government, including Russia, and the only conclusion seems to be that Kaspersky Lab is caught in the middle of a geopolitical fight," Kaspersky said in a statement. The NSA contractor working with the American intelligence agency, whose identity has not yet been disclosed, reportedly do
FormBook—Cheap Password Stealing Malware Used In Targeted Attacks

FormBook—Cheap Password Stealing Malware Used In Targeted Attacks

October 05, 2017Unknown
It seems sophisticated hackers have changed the way they conduct targeted cyber operations—instead of investing in zero-days and developing their malware; some hacking groups have now started using ready-made malware just like script kiddies. Possibly, this could be a smart move for state-sponsored hackers to avoid being attributed easily. Security researchers from multiple security firms, including Arbor Networks and FireEye , independently discovered a series of malware campaigns primarily targeting aerospace, defence contractors and manufacturing sectors in various countries, including the United States, Thailand, South Korea and India. What's common? All these attack campaigns, conducted by various hacking groups, eventually install same information and password stealer malware—dubbed FormBook —on the targeted systems. FormBook is nothing but a " malware-as-as-service ," which is an affordable piece of data-stealing and form-grabbing malware that has been
SEC Discloses Hackers Broke Into Edgar Corporate Filing System Last Year

SEC Discloses Hackers Broke Into Edgar Corporate Filing System Last Year

September 21, 2017Unknown
This month has been full of breaches. Now, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the top U.S. markets regulator, has disclosed that hackers managed to hack into its financial document filing system and may have illegally profited from the stolen information. On Wednesday, the SEC announced that its officials learnt last month that a previously detected 2016 cyber attack, which exploited a "software vulnerability" in the online EDGAR public-company filing system, may have "provided the basis for illicit gain through trading." EDGAR , short for Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval, is an online filing system where companies submit their financial filings, which processes around 1.7 million electronic filings a year. The database lists millions of filings on corporate disclosures—ranging from quarterly earnings to sensitive and confidential information on mergers and acquisitions, which could be used for insider-trading or manipulating
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
Dragonfly 2.0: Hacking Group Infiltrated European and US Power Facilities

Dragonfly 2.0: Hacking Group Infiltrated European and US Power Facilities

September 07, 2017Unknown
The notorious hacking group that has been in operation since at least 2011 has re-emerged and is still interested in targeting the United States and European companies in the energy sector. Yes, I am talking about the ' Dragonfly ,' a well-resourced, Eastern European hacking group responsible for sophisticated cyber-espionage campaigns against the critical infrastructure of energy companies in different countries in past years. In 2014, we reported about the Dragonfly groups ability to mount sabotage operations against their targets—mainly petroleum pipeline operators, electricity generation firms and other Industrial Control Systems (ICS) equipment providers for the energy sector. Researchers from cyber security firm Symantec who discovered the previous campaign is now warning of a new campaign, which they dubbed Dragonfly 2.0 , saying "the group now potentially has the ability to sabotage or gain control of these systems should it decide to do so" and has
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
How Microsoft Cleverly Cracks Down On "Fancy Bear" Hacking Group

How Microsoft Cleverly Cracks Down On "Fancy Bear" Hacking Group

July 21, 2017Swati Khandelwal
What could be the best way to take over and disrupt cyber espionage campaigns? Hacking them back? Probably not. At least not when it's Microsoft, who is continuously trying to protect its users from hackers, cyber criminals and state-sponsored groups. It has now been revealed that Microsoft has taken a different approach to disrupt a large number of cyber espionage campaigns conducted by " Fancy Bear " hacking group by using the lawsuit as a tool — the tech company cleverly hijacked some of its servers with the help of law. Microsoft used its legal team last year to sue Fancy Bear in a federal court outside Washington DC, accusing the hacking group of computer intrusion, cybersquatting, and reserving several domain names that violate Microsoft's trademarks, according to a detailed report published  by the Daily Beast. Fancy Bear — also known as APT28, Sofacy, Sednit, and Pawn Storm — is a sophisticated hacking group that has been in operation since at least
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