Internet threat news
While the world collectively experiences football fever and only wants to read stories about Kane, Messi, and Ronaldo all else seems to take a back seat. However, despite our attention been elsewhere the world still turns. An example of this can be seen in recent accusations leveled at security firm, FireEye. The Firm has been accused of illegally "hacking back" a Chinese nation-state cyber-espionage group. The accusations and inevitable social media discussions began after the release of “The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage, and Fear in the Cyber Age,” a book written by David Sanger, a renowned New York Times national security journalist.
In 2013, FireEye published a report called “APT1, Exposing One of China’s Cyber Espionage Units.” The report was seen as a revelation in the InfoSec community and is mentioned with the same reverence English academic have for the collected works of Shakespeare. The fabled report exposed the activities of Chinese hackers in a depth of details like never before, even going as far as pinning the hacking on Unit 61398 of China's People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Unit 61398 would earn the name APT1, earning the designation of 1 amongst an estimated 20 other advanced persistent threat groups (APT) believed to be operating out China.
In a recent report published by cybersecurity firm Symantec, detail of a new advanced persistent threat (APT) group targeting satellite and defense companies have been revealed to the public. An APT can be seen as a set of stealthy and continuous computer hacking processes. In general APT processes require a high degree of covertness over a long period of time. The “advanced” process signifies the sophisticated techniques using malware to exploit vulnerabilities in systems. The “persistent” process suggests that an external command and control system is continuously monitoring and extracting data from a specific target. The “threat” process indicates human involvement in orchestrating the attack. Symantec having tracking and investigating the group since 2013 and have decided to call the group in question “Thrip”.
In the murky world of cyber espionage researchers have noticed groups adopting “living off the land” tactics. Such tactics involve the use of operating system features or legitimate network administration tools to compromise victims’ networks. It would appear that these tactics are adopted for two reasons. Firstly, by using such features and tools, attackers are hoping to blend in on the victim’s network and hide their activity in a sea of legitimate processes allowing for the stealthy and continuous stealing of information. Secondly, even if malicious activity involving these tools is detected, it can make it harder to attribute attacks. While many such groups are adopting these so-called “living off the land” tactics, Thrip is no different.
Europol along with French, UK, and Thai police arrested eight people suspected either to have been involved or to have been part of a now infamous hacker group known as Rex Mundi. Meaning king of the world in Latin, the group has been active since 2012. The group became particularly known for hacking into companies' networks, stealing private information, and later contacting the victims to request the payment of a ransom fee. The group was also known for demanding fees for not disclosing the hacks and sometimes also asked for higher sums of money for revealing the security flaw they used to enter the victim's network. This probably seemed like a nice thing to do by the group in light of making the life of a poor CIO hell for a period.
Europol released a statement detailing the international operation supported by Europol and the Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce (J-CAT) that started almost exactly one year ago. J-CAT whose responsibilities include combating cybercrime via a coordinated, international approach was launched in September 2014 and targets cybercrime, which includes other high tech crime and sexual exploitation of children, in the European Union and outside its borders.
Scammers, hacker, and cybercriminals have some tried and tested methods for targeting victims. An old classic that seems to never go out of style is the phishing email. News of a new scam seems to come around like clockwork. It would appear that no user no matter the platform or operating system is safe from scammers. While not necessarily a new scam, one scam, in particular, is plaguing Apple users. So much so that Apple released a statement to help users identify suspicious emails. At the most basic level, a phishing scam involves sending fraudulent emails that appear to be from a reputable company, with the goal of deceiving users into either clicking on a malicious link or downloading an infected attachment. This is often done to steal financial or confidential information.
The film industry loves to portray bank robbers as street smart criminals who plan audacious schemes to physically break into bank vaults. The reality as always it not so glamorous with more and more bank robberies been confined to the digital realm. News broke towards the end of May of an attempt to steal money during a hack of a Chilean bank. It was initially reported on May 24, by Banco De Chile that the bank had suffered an all-around systems failures that affected the computers at several of its branches. Various local news sources began reporting that the bank while maintaining online banking channels could not carry out in banking operations. Initially, the bank in question refused to call it a security incident, but in a subsequent announcement on May 28, Banco de Chile admitted to having been hit by "a virus."
Towards the end of May, we covered an article concerning APT28 and their potential involvement in the creation of VPNFilter. The group has earned notoriety stemming from multiple attacks and campaigns. The group also seems to be trying to break records for the most names; the group also goes by Sednit, Sofacy, Fancy Bear, Pawn Storm, and Tsar Team. The group who is widely believed to operate under orders from the Kremlin has typically operated by targeting a small number of users inside an organization, usually with the same exploit chain and the same malware. Researchers at Palo Alto believe the group is changing tactics to what they call “parallel attacks”.
In a report recently published by security firm, Palo Alto details how they believe the group is in the process of changing and adapting new tactics to carry out cyber espionage operations. Researchers at Palo Alto have conducting intense analysis on the group dating back to February and March of this year. Part of the analysis has dealt specifically with analyzing a lesser known tool widely attributed to the APT28 group called Zebrocy. Zebrocy is delivered primarily via phishing attacks that contain malicious Microsoft Office documents with macros as well as simple executable file attachments. Researcher’s track this now as the third campaign using the Zebrocy malware.
In recent months Tech Support Scams (for example: Microsoft Warning Alert, Do Not Ignore This Windows Alert, YOUR COMPUTER HAS BEEN BLOCKED) have seen a drastic rise in popularity. According to researchers at Microsoft the rise in such scams amounts to a 24% increase. The problem has even resulted in Microsoft teaming up with other industry giants to combat this scourge. While tech support scams, or put differently technical support scams, take on many guises the do have certain common traits that can be defined. Thus, any such scam involves the scammer claiming to offer a legitimate technical support service, often via cold calls to unsuspecting users. Such cold calls are mostly targeted at Microsoft Windows users, with the caller often claiming to represent a Microsoft technical support department but is not always the case.
On Monday, May 28, two Canadian banks revealed they had suffered cyber-attacks over the weekend. The two institutions, Simplii Financial and Bank of Montreal, both released statements confirming that they had been hacked. Later it was revealed that the hackers responsible are attempting to hold the data stolen from the banks for ransom. The hackers claim that they will release the personal information of 100,000 clients of the banks unless they receive 1 million USD worth of cryptocurrency.
Simplii Financial, which is a subsidiary of CIBC, one of Canada’s biggest financial institutions, released a statement on Monday confirming the incident which was discovered on the previous Sunday, In the statement it was confirmed that the hackers had managed to access and steal certain personal and account information for approximately 40,000 of Simplii's clients. Upon the discovery, Simplii moved to implement enhanced online fraud monitoring and online banking security measures. It also stated that it would be directly contacting all those affected. Michael Martin, the Senior Vice-President, wished to assure clients that, “We're taking this claim seriously and have taken action to further enhance our monitoring and security procedures,” and, “We feel that it is important to inform clients so that they can also take additional steps to safeguard their information.”
Last week it was reported that it appeared that a Russian state-sponsored hacker group was potentially gearing up for an attack on Ukraine. Due to the work of numerous security researchers and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) the attackers' plans were foiled somewhat. Such events will inevitably raise questions on how to sufficiently deal with such threats. These discussions, as with discussions surrounding conventional warfare, can tread some morally murky water. A UK official has sought to clarify that country’s position with regard to responding to cyber warfare. In a speech issued by Air Marshall Phil Osbourne look to present a possible solution for his countries defense. The position that could be adopted according to Air Marshall Osbourne should be, “…to understand first, to decide first, and then if necessary to act first, across the physical and virtual, to secure decision advantage and then operational advantage, seeking swift yet controlled exploitation of vulnerabilities and the proactive denial of opportunities.”
On May 23, 2018, researchers at Cisco Talos published a report detailing their discovery of a giant botnet of hacked routers that appears to be preparing for a cyber-attack on Ukraine. Researchers say that the botnet has been created by infecting home routers with a new malware strain named VPNFilter. It is widely believed within the InfoSec community and other nation states that Russia, in particular, the nation-state group APT28, are behind the botnet and malware creation. This has been done to target Ukraine according to experts.
According to Cisco, this new malware variant is incredibly complex, especially when compared with other IoT botnets. VPNFilter comes with support for boot persistence, only the second IoT malware to do so seen in the wild to do so, scanning for SCADA components, and a firmware wiper function to incapacitate affected devices. SCADA, or otherwise known as supervisory control and data acquisition, are commonly seen as control system architecture that uses computers, networked data communications and graphical user interfaces for high-level process supervisory management. All this is combined to assist in the management of industrial machinery and factory processes. Searching for and targeting such components has become a favorite of nation-state groups.
On May 18, various cyber news sources began reporting that a data set containing 200 million rows of personally identifiable information (PII) has been made available on an underground Chinese marketplace. Articles surfaced on Security Week, and Dark Reading, amongst others. All reported that the source of the information of the exposed data came directly from cybersecurity firm FireEye’s iSight Intelligence division. What is considered PII can vary widely from country to country and is dependent on the regions privacy and information security laws; in general PII can be seen as information that can be used on its own or with other information to identify, contact, or locate a single person, or to identify an individual in context. FireEye has stated that the leaked data, in this case, does not contain incredibly sensitive information but it can be used to facilitate identity theft, spam, malware propagation, and fraud.
There is very little that can be considered more frustrating than realizing all your hard work has been made useless because of a silly mistake. This is probably what a group of hackers must be feeling at the moment. In this instance, the hackers appeared to have accidentally exposed two fully-working zero-days when they uploaded a weaponized PDF file to a public malware scanning engine. Unfortunately for the hackers, but fortunately for almost everyone else, security researchers at ESET discovered the potentially damaging zero-days and reported them. The first vulnerability affected Adobe’s PDF viewer and has been assigned the following Common Vulnerability and Exposure (CVE) number CVE-2018-4990 and has been patched. The second vulnerability, CVE-2018-8120, which if exploited targeted the Win32k component of Windows and was also recently patched.
The Grand Rapids Police Department of Michigan, USA, has issued a warning via Facebook warning Netflix users of an email scam currently underway. Netflix also issued a statement intended to help users determine what is a scam or not and hopefully prevent users from handing over important information such as information pertaining to credit and debit cards.
Netflix, the incredibly popular subscription-based streaming service, currently boasts nearly 118 million users globally. This popularity, while what the business strives for, unfortunately, comes with a downside. That being it makes it a target for scams which cybercriminals will try to exploit this popularity to the best of their ability. The latest scam takes the form of a phishing email campaign. Simply put a phishing campaign relies on the criminal sending out emails to a massive amount of recipients with the hope of getting the recipient to do what the email instructs. These campaigns rely on social engineering to get the user who received the email to do something. This may involve the user from mistakenly handing over bank details or other such important information. Social engineering can be defined as an attack that relies heavily on human interaction in order to steal confidential information. Due to this reliance on human interaction phishing is one of the easiest forms of cyber attack for a criminal to carry out. Through merely sending out an email which links to a fake website a victim can provide these crooks with everything they need to infiltrate every aspect of their targets' personal and working lives. Such attacks are commonly used in identity theft cases which can severely impact the life of the victim.
Much of the world, particularly those living in the Middle East, are collectively holding their breaths hoping a storm may pass. One May 8 US President Donald Trump announced his country would be withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear deal. The president claimed that there is Israeli intelligence proving Iran is not in compliance with the agreement thus providing the reason to withdraw without alliance partner’s support. The move by President Trump sparked fears that the region would further be destabilized. As if to prove the point news broke early on May 10 about Iran using missiles to strike Israeli positions in the Golan Heights and with Israel responding in kind. While there appear to be legitimate fears of a further destabilized geopolitical landscape, there are also many fears regarding a cyber retaliation from Iran.
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