Internet threat news
Researchers for BlackBerry’s Research and Intelligence Team have shed light on a staggeringly sophisticated hack-for-hire group. The group, named Bahamut, the Arabic equivalent of the Judeo-Christian Behemoth, uses several tactics to primarily target governments and businesses in the Middle East and South Asia. Tactics include using custom malware and zero-day exploits; however, it is the phishing and social engineering tactics employed that deserve special mention for the care targeted campaigns are crafted to snare their victims.
The report, titled BAHAMUT: Hack-for-Hire Masters of Phishing, Fake News, and Fake Apps, shows that Bahamut’s operations seem to date back to at least 2016. The group's operations have been neatly summarised by Eric Milam, VP of research operations at BlackBerry, who noted,
On October 6, 2020, Microsoft's Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) tweeted that it had observed an Iranian state-sponsored group, codenamed as MERCURY by MSTIC, were seen actively trying to exploit the recently patched ZeroLogon vulnerability. Successful exploitation of the vulnerability would allow the attacker to hijack an enterprise’s domain controller (DC) servers. These servers often serve as the backbone of a network’s enterprise with any compromise potentially resulting in a complete takeover of the network. MSTIC noted that they have seen the group targeting this flaw for the last two weeks.
While Microsoft tracks the activity of the group under the codename MERCURY, they are better known by the InfoSec community as MuddyWater. It is believed that the group functions as a contractor under the orders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. In Microsoft’s Digital Defence Report the group has primarily targeted NGOs, intergovernmental organizations, government humanitarian aid, and human rights organizations.
Phishing, the process of acquiring personal information and important credentials via deceptive emails, websites, or a combination of both, is still an effective tactic employed by hackers. Malware like Emotet is almost solely distributed spam emails which are socially engineered to get victims to click and approve all the wrong things so that its infection routine can begin, however often passwords and usernames are needed to deeper penetrate corporate networks. Other malware operators need your credentials to complete their tasks here emails will often redirect to what appears to be a legitimate website, the victim will enter their credentials and the site will subsequently harvest those credentials possibly leading to account compromise and a whole host of other problems.
This week, security researchers revealed two new tactics that have been added to phishing’s arsenal which further cement the threat level posed by the attack method. The first was discovered by security researcher and bug bounty hunter Craig Hays, who has subsequently published an article detailing the discovery which he described as the “greatest password theft” that he had ever seen. The event started when his security team received an alert from a user, which the team believed to be a run of the mill alert. Going through the relevant procedures the team locked the account and began their investigation. However, more alerts began to be received by the team from other users and it was discovered that the emails received by users made it past the same filtering rules as the initial alert.
Another Fortune 500 company is added to ransomware’s victim list. For many researchers, the scourge of ransomware is becoming the number one problem faced by large organizations, and when major organizations like Canon and Konica Minolta it is hard to argue with this sentiment. Now Universal Health Services (UHS), currently ranked 293 on the Fortune 500 listing of companies, can be added to the victim’s list.
According to both Bleeping Computer and Digital Guardian facilities across the US had to shut down services on Sunday, September 27, 2020, in response to a cyberattack. The company has over 400 healthcare facilities in the US and the UK has more than 90,000 employees and provides healthcare services to approximately 3.5 million patients each year. The company generated over 11 billion USD in income for 2019 making it a tasty target for well-organized ransomware gangs.
A new Android malware going by the name Alien has been discovered and analyzed by security researchers. Discovered by ThreatFabric, who have subsequently released a report detailing their discovery, one of the standout features of the trojan is its ability to steal the credentials from 226 different apps. According to the report, the malware has been active since the start of this year and has been offered as a Malware-as-a-Service (MaaS) on underground hacking forums. This has led to comparisons to Cerberus and Alien been the former’s replacement for the king of the Android hill. There is more to mere comparisons with Cerberus, however, more on that later.
This year alone ThreatFabric has discovered several new Android trojans, all seemingly created with financial motives in mind. Fortunately, not all those discovered turned out to be successful and some have dropped off the map entirely. Whether Alien will join the unsuccessful pile is unknown but given the malware’s rich feature set it would not be wise to bet against it. When it was initially discovered by an analyst it was initially mistaken for another version Cerberus, however, a discovery of a post on an underground hacker forum announcing the development of a new Android malware was an indication of a new malware. Analyzing the samples received, Alien appeared to form part of a new breed of trojans targeting Android devices.
In a campaign that started at the beginning of September, those operating the Emotet botnet have hampered the campaign's effectiveness through blunders they made. Emotet is typically in the news for when its creators decide to bring it back to life for yet another campaign, then it is placed in the cyber equivalent of hibernation. In 2019, Emotet activity dropped off sharply in May of that year only to surge in September for yet another campaign. Then again in 2020, the malware was placed into hibernation for roughly five months only to be brought back from near death in July. Rather than the successful awakening the malware is in the news once more but for more embarrassing reasons.
The latest campaign makes use of a change in tactics involving the malware’s operators distributing password-protected archives via spam emails in an attempt to bypass anti-spam filters and other security measures placed on email gateways. The latest campaign began on Friday it appears with security researcher Cryptolaemus noting a massive spike in Emotet activity. Once the spam emails are used to distribute Emotet bypass security measures is when the mistake made by the operators is made apparent. Like with previous campaigns the spam emails contain malicious Microsoft Office documents that attempt to trick the user into enabling macros. Once this is done a script can be run that fetches the main malware payload and the infection of the machine can begin in earnest. A lot rides on this ability to trick the recipient into enabling macros. This is where the massive mistake occurs.
The Maze gang was last in the news when they managed to pull off a successful attack on Canon. This is but one of the gang’s many exploits and once more the group is in the news, not for a high profile victim but for tactics adopted that will likely add to the growing list of Maze’s victims. The gang is no stranger to adopting new tactics successfully. The gang was in all likelihood the first to start releasing data stolen from victims who do not pay promptly. Now the group has adopted a tactic seen used by Ragnar Locker to remain undetected until it is too late.
According to Sophos Labs, the Maze gang has now been seen using Ragnar Locker’s virtual machine technique to remain undetected by endpoint security applications. Sophos Labs’ published an article detailing the discovery and how it is carried out recently, however, the discovery was made when tracking a Maze campaign dating back to July 2020. Simply put the attack is carried out by placing the various components of the ransomware within a virtual machine once access to a file server has been achieved. Based on the evidence provided by researchers it would appear that this deployment of components to a virtual machine occurs late in the attack chain as the ransomware’s operators had already compromised the victim’s defenses and lurked on the network for some time.
While ransomware continues to dominate international headlines the recent hack involving nearly 2,000 Magento stores reminds all involved that magecart styled attacks are indeed still a thing. In a magecart style attack, the attacker compromises an online shopping cart, generally, with only a few lines of code, that is able to swipe the card details entered by a customer. These are then sent to a command-and-control server owned by the attacker and then sold on the Dark Web or used to purchase items fraudulently by mules working for criminal organizations. Further, as is the case in this instance, payments can also be sent to accounts under the control of the hacker.
According to Sansec, a security firm specializing in magecart attacks, the 2,000 stores were hacked over the weekend by an automated attack. In a report detailing the incident, it was found that the attack targeted stores still using the no longer supported Magento version 1, which was announced by Adobe, the owners and distributors of the platform, last year June. Sansec discovered that 1,904 stores were infected with a unique keylogger which was stealing card data via the checkout pages used by the online stores. The security firm discovered 10 infected stores on Friday, this number skyrocketed to 1,058 on Saturday. Sunday and Monday saw a decline in infections, with 603 and 233 respectively.
It seems like it would be easier to win a massive lottery payout than to go a week without ransomware dominating InfoSec headlines. Less than two weeks ago this platform posted about how ransom demands had increased 60% from the first quarter of 2020 to the second quarter. Several other ransomware incidents arose between them that vied for equal attention. Now three events compete for similar attention. Those being the discovery of a new ransomware family, another high profile victim, and a massive spike in ransomware related activity detected by cybersecurity researchers.
First, the new ransomware. Called ProLock it first emerged in late August 2020. While reports were emerging of the ransomware then, it seems that the group responsible for its development and distribution were using the ransomware from the beginning of this year. Further, it seems that ProLock is an evolution of PwndLocker and is likely operated by the same group. Since then both Group-IB and Sophos. Both reports have shone a light on the group’s activities and should help those defending networks to better prevent falling victim to the ransomware.
For those looking to prosecute cybercriminals and the organizations they belong to, it is not just the malware used that can help officials arrest and try alleged criminals. Being able to determine how illicit funds were laundered and used is an important part of proving those charged with crimes actually guilty of said crimes. We have covered a number of occasions where research is shined a light into how cybercriminals profit from the funds, stolen, extorted, or mined, whether funds, typically cryptocurrency, earned from sextortion or ransomware. In a white paper published by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) in collaboration with BAE Systems has shone new light into this facet of the criminal underworld. Their findings may come as a surprise to those who see cryptocurrencies as the currency of cybercrime.
Much of the research conducted by SWIFT and BAE was focussed on money stolen during hacking campaigns that targeted banks and other financial institutions. Given how often cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are mentioned in regards to cybercrime it would be assumed that proceeds from bank hacks would be turned into cryptocurrency as soon as possible and then laundered from there. However, the research paints a different picture with SWIFT noting, “Identified cases of laundering through cryptocurrencies remain relatively small compared to the volumes of cash laundered through traditional methods,”, with traditional methods including money mules, front companies, cash businesses, and investments back into other forms of crime, such as drug trade or human trafficking. That being said, while the use of cryptocurrencies to further launder money stolen from banks is still a minor percentage when compared to the more traditional methods used to launder money they do expect this small percentage to rise in the future.
Typically, a RAT can be seen as trojans that create a backdoor onto a target machine with heightened privileges. The attacker can then access the machine remotely to perform a variety of functions like steal data or drop secondary payloads. In the case of PyVil, the malware is capable of allowing attackers to secretly steal corporate information through the use of keylogging and taking screenshots, as well as the ability to collect information about the infected system, including which version of Windows is running, what anti-virus products are installed and whether USB devices are connected. In the past, the group relied on spear-phishing campaigns to distribute the malware which was contained within a .zip archive.
Upon the release of macOS Mojave, Apple implemented another layer of security intended to protect its users. The tech giant introduced the concept of Notarization, which involves developers adhering to a number of steps to make sure their apps are malware-free. Upon the release of macOS Catalina, this process became mandatory for developers looking to release apps on the new release. In theory, the idea seems solid enough and will protect macOS users. In reality, things appear to be far more complicated. The malware developers behind the Shlayer malware seem to have subverted this process in order to authenticate the one thing the concept is meant to prevent, malware.
According to reports by both Bleeping Computer and MalwareBytes the malware’s developers successfully managed to get their malicious payloads through Apple's automated notarizing process. Before the details of how the malware developers managed to do, it is wise to look at how Apple set up the process to work in the first place. According to Apple the process became obligatory from the start of February 2020. The process itself goes hand in hand with the concept of code-signing which is a cryptographic process that enables a developer to provide authentication to their software. It both verifies who created the software and verifies the integrity of the software. By code signing an app, developers can prevent it from being modified maliciously, at least in theory that is. In practice, it makes such modifications easily detectable.
One of the last times business email compromise (BEC) scams were covered in this publication was when the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) revealed that businesses and individuals had lost an estimated 12 billion USD over just under five years. Since then ransomware, and in particular the work of human-operated ransomware gangs, has dominated cybersecurity news feeds. While massive global organizations were becoming victims of these ransomware gangs, BEC scams never disappeared but their approach and demands became more brazen. Scammers are now looking to steal 80,000 USD on average from targeted companies per attack a new report reveals. The previous report noted that demands were on average 54,000 USD, signaling a significant jump from the first quarter of 2020 to the second. Before we take a look at the contents of the report it is wise to see exactly what amounts to a BEC scam.
A BEC scam is a type of phishing attack where a cybercriminal impersonates an executive, often a CEO, and attempts to get an employee, customer, or vendor to transfer funds or sensitive information to the phisher. Unlike traditional phishing attacks, which target a large number of individuals across a company, BEC attacks are highly targeted and focussed. Cybercriminals will scrape compromised email inboxes, study recent company news, and research employees on social media sites to make these email attacks look as convincing as possible. This high level of targeting helps these email scams to slip through spam filters and evade email whitelisting campaigns. This makes it far harder for employees to decide whether the email is legitimate or not.
The previous article published on this platform dealt with how the US elections are at threat of being disrupted via the use of ransomware. A core element of Recorded Future’s research into the matter centered on the increased use of Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) and Citrix tools used by staff forced to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has resulted in an increased attack vector for ransomware gangs to exploit. Recent research published by Coveware paints another picture. Rather than the potential threat, Coveware’s research is based firmly in reality and deals with the current ransomware marketplace. The research was conducted over the second quarter of 2020 and revealed several worrying states for enterprises no matter their size, primary of which is that demands have increased 60% over the previous quarter.
Coveware releases these reports quarterly and they provide helpful insight into the realities dealt with those tasked to defend networks. One of the interesting insights provided concerns the market share across various ransomware operators. In the first quarter, this metric was dominated by the big game ransomware operators like Sodinokibi and Ryuk. In Q1 nearly 60% of confirmed attacks were carried out by the three biggest names in ransomware at the time. In Q2 this number dropped to 30% due to smaller and often less skilled operators increasing activity. The second quarter showed a greater market share was carved out by smaller, more opportunistic, ransomware operators.
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