Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Attacks/Breaches

1/10/2019
05:20 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail
100%
0%

DNS Hijacking Campaign Targets Organizations Globally

A group believed to be operating out of Iran has manipulated DNS records belonging to dozens of firms in an apparent cyber espionage campaign, FireEye says.

Attackers believed to be working out of Iran have manipulated the DNS records of dozens of organizations around the globe to intercept and record their network traffic in what appears to be a large and growing espionage campaign.

Among those affected are commercial entities, government organizations, Internet infrastructure providers, and telecommunications firms in North America, North Africa, and the Middle East.

FireEye, which has been tracking the threat for the last several months, this week described the DNS hijacking campaign as notable for its almost unprecedented scale.

In a report yesterday, the security vendor said that it has so far not been able to attribute the attacks to any particular threat group. However, available evidence — including IP addresses and the machines used to intercept, record, and forward network traffic — suggest the attacker is based in Iran. Some of the organizations that the group has targeted so far, including governments in the Middle East, are also entities that would be of interest to the Iranian government, according to FireEye.

"The implications are tricky," says Ben Read, senior manager for cyber espionage analysis at FireEye. "Malicious actors could have access to sensitive data, they can intercept email, without having anything on your internal network," he says.

Last November, Cisco's Talos group had reported on a campaign it called DNSpionage, which is aimed at organizations in Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. In a report, Talos described the activity as involving the use of fake job websites to drop malware on systems within target organizations. Attackers were also attempting to redirect DNS traffic belonging to several government and private domains in the country in an apparent information-gathering effort, Talos noted.

The campaign that FireEye reported on appears to be a continuation and expansion of the same one that Talos described last November.

Read says FireEye has so far not been able to determine how exactly the attackers are gaining access to the DNS records. But it is possible they are using multiple techniques to get initial access to them.

The attackers have manipulated DNS records in at least three different ways. In some cases, the attackers have altered the "DNS A" records that are used for mapping domain names to IP addresses, so traffic bound for one domain gets redirected through one controlled by the attackers.

The second method the attackers have used is to alter DNS NS records and point a victim organization's nameserver record to an attacker-controlled domain. In addition, the attackers have also employed a DNS Redirector "operations box" that is designed to respond with an attacker-controlled IP address to DNS requests for victim domains, FireEye said in its report this week.

If the domain name is not part of the targeted zone, the requested IP is returned to the user, FireEye said.

After the attackers alter the DNS records, they have used fraudulent Let's Encrypt certificates to ensure that any traffic that is being rerouted remains encrypted in order not to arouse suspicion, Read notes.

Kris Beevers, CEO of NS1, says the hijacking attacks of the sort that FireEye reported are easy to pull off. Often, all that a bad actor has to do in order to manipulate a DNS record is to take over the login credentials to the DNS provider and registrars.

"They can also use BGP hijacking or [take] over the DNS resolver that a specific target user is using and [by] man-in-the-middling," Beevers says.

Attacks like these highlight the need for organizations to use strong authentication to protect access to the domain's administration panel, Read says.

Organizations should also make it a practice to monitor authorized DNS activity logs for unexpected changes and enable DNSSEC to verify the authenticity of information received from authoritative DNS servers, Beevers says.

Related Content:

 

Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Exploits Released for As-Yet Unpatched Critical Citrix Flaw
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  1/13/2020
Microsoft to Officially End Support for Windows 7, Server 2008
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/13/2020
Active Directory Needs an Update: Here's Why
Raz Rafaeli, CEO and Co-Founder at Secret Double Octopus,  1/16/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
The Year in Security: 2019
This Tech Digest provides a wrap up and overview of the year's top cybersecurity news stories. It was a year of new twists on old threats, with fears of another WannaCry-type worm and of a possible botnet army of Wi-Fi routers. But 2019 also underscored the risk of firmware and trusted security tools harboring dangerous holes that cybercriminals and nation-state hackers could readily abuse. Read more.
Flash Poll
[Just Released] How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
[Just Released] How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
Organizations have invested in a sweeping array of security technologies to address challenges associated with the growing number of cybersecurity attacks. However, the complexity involved in managing these technologies is emerging as a major problem. Read this report to find out what your peers biggest security challenges are and the technologies they are using to address them.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-15625
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
A memory usage vulnerability exists in Trend Micro Password Manager 3.8 that could allow an attacker with access and permissions to the victim's memory processes to extract sensitive information.
CVE-2019-19696
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
A RootCA vulnerability found in Trend Micro Password Manager for Windows and macOS exists where the localhost.key of RootCA.crt might be improperly accessed by an unauthorized party and could be used to create malicious self-signed SSL certificates, allowing an attacker to misdirect a user to phishi...
CVE-2019-19697
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
An arbitrary code execution vulnerability exists in the Trend Micro Security 2019 (v15) consumer family of products which could allow an attacker to gain elevated privileges and tamper with protected services by disabling or otherwise preventing them to start. An attacker must already have administr...
CVE-2019-20357
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
A Persistent Arbitrary Code Execution vulnerability exists in the Trend Micro Security 2020 (v160 and 2019 (v15) consumer familiy of products which could potentially allow an attacker the ability to create a malicious program to escalate privileges and attain persistence on a vulnerable system.
CVE-2020-7222
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
An issue was discovered in Amcrest Web Server 2.520.AC00.18.R 2017-06-29 WEB 3.2.1.453504. The login page responds with JavaScript when one tries to authenticate. An attacker who changes the result parameter (to true) in this JavaScript code can bypass authentication and achieve limited privileges (...