Threat Intelligence

11/10/2016
03:55 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
100%
0%

Russian Hackers Behind DNC Breach Wage Post-US Election Attacks

Less than six hours after Donald Trump was named President-Elect of the US, Cozy Bear/APT29/CozyDuke nation-state hackers kicked off waves of spearphishing attacks.

Russia's cyber-spying machine was in full force within six hours of the final US Presidential election results with at least five different waves of spear-phishing campaigns targeting users associated with US think-tanks and non-governmental organizations.

Researchers with Volexity posted their findings surrounding a jump in spearphishing activity by the so-called Russian hacking group known as Cozy Bear, APT29, and CozyDuke, best known for its recent breach of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). There were five different spearphishing campaigns spotted by Volexity, including attacks posing as emails forwarded from the Clinton Foundation, and two others posing as eFax URLs or documents.

"These e-mails came from a mix of attacker-created Google Gmail accounts and what appears to be compromised e-mail accounts at Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS). These e-mails were sent in large quantities to different individuals across many organizations and individuals focusing in national security, defense, international affairs, public policy, and European and Asian studies," said Steven Adair, founder at Volexity, in a post yesterday.

Think-tanks and NGOs have been common targets of the group, also known as The Dukes, since July of 2015.

"The Dukes continue to launch well-crafted and clever attack campaigns. They have had tremendous success evading anti-virus and anti-malware solutions at both the desktop and mail gateway levels," Adair wrote.

The group employs anti-VM macros and PowerShell scripts that help them bypass sandboxes that could detect them, for instance. "This combined with their use of steganography to hide their backdoor within PNG files that are downloaded remotely and loaded in memory only or via alternate data streams (ADS) is quite novel in its approach," he said. "Volexity believes that the Dukes are likely working to gain long-term access into think tanks and NGOs and will continue to launch new attacks for the foreseeable future."

The first spear-phishing attack wave uses a lure of the "The Shocking Truth About Election-Rigging in the United States." The email is purportedly an electronic fax from Secure Fax Corp., and contains a link to a ZIP file. That file has a Microsoft .LNK file that houses PowerShell commands, which execute anti-virtual machine checks and install a backdoor onto the victim's machine.

"The PowerDuke backdoor boasts a pretty extensive list of features that allow the Dukes to examine and control a system. Volexity suspects the feature set that has been built into PowerDuke is an extension of their anti-VM capabilities in the initial dropper files," Adair wrote. "Several commands supported by PowerDuke facilitate getting information about the system." 

Dark Reading's all-day virtual event Nov. 15 offers an in-depth look at myths surrounding data defense and how to put business on a more effective security path. 

 

In the second attack wave, the hackers uses a Word document with a malicious macro that checks for anti-VM features, and appears to come from [email protected] The subject line is "Incoming eFax: Elections Outcome Could Be revised [Facts of Elections Fraud]."

The most widespread attack was the third one, which uses an email purportedly from Harvard's "PDF Mobile Service," which doesn’t actually exist. (There appears to be a typo in the message as well, calling it "PFD Mobile Service" as well). The subject line: "Why American Elections Are Flawed." This one uses a ZIP file to mask the malicious executable.

The Clinton Foundation is the lure for the fourth and fifth waves of spearphishing campaigns by the hacking group. The first one uses "Clinton Foundation FYI #1" in its subject line, and deploys a Word document with a malicious embedded macro. The macro checks for anti-VM features. The email purportedly comes from the fictitious Harvard PDF Mobile Service.

Then there's the "Clinton Foundation FYI #2" email wave from the same "Harvard" email address, which contains a link to a ZIP file with an LNK file embedded. It contains the signature PowerShell commands that look for anti-VM, and installs a backdoor on the victim's machine.

"Like Attack Wave #3, this e-mail message also purported to be forwarded from Laura Graham at the Clinton Foundation. The message body contained dozens of e-mail addresses to which the message originally claims to have been sent, with organizations similar to Attack Wave #3," Adair wrote.

Volexity's post includes screenshots of the emails and code snippets.

Related Content:

Save

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Benefiter
50%
50%
Benefiter,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/12/2016 | 10:12:09 AM
Re:
I really like your page and the of the author's style . I always loking for your new posts. Thank you, I really like it, it is useful
Lily652
50%
50%
Lily652,
User Rank: Moderator
11/12/2016 | 4:58:47 AM
prayer times

I've been surfing online more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It's pretty worth enough for me. In my opinion, if all webmasters and bloggers made good content as you did, the web will be a lot more useful than ever before. 

lucysecurity
50%
50%
lucysecurity,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/11/2016 | 4:03:19 PM
The Phishing Message looks like a LUCY Attack Simulation Template
Thank you for your article! The interesting fact is that the real Phishing e-mails look the same as our own best practice DIY phishing simulation templates which we provide together with LUCY Server! Obviously the cyber criminals are using best practices too: Our customers and partners say that the eFax Attack is a scenario with a high penetration rate! See our article on lucysecurity.com

 

Best Regards Palo
Kelly Jackson Higgins
50%
50%
Kelly Jackson Higgins,
User Rank: Strategist
11/11/2016 | 11:04:20 AM
Re: Typo
Thank you for the catch. There definitely was a typo in the Volexity blog... now it's been corrected in our article. =)

 
Kelly Jackson Higgins
50%
50%
Kelly Jackson Higgins,
User Rank: Strategist
11/11/2016 | 11:01:13 AM
Re: Typo
Thank you for the catch. There definitely was a typo in the Volexity blog... now it's been corrected in our article. =)

 
CJETT624
50%
50%
CJETT624,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/11/2016 | 10:36:35 AM
Possible Russian Hackers maybe Kapersky Institute security software sold in USA and around the world
check Kapersky institute out for hackers

 
JoeM066
50%
50%
JoeM066,
User Rank: Strategist
11/11/2016 | 10:14:27 AM
Typo
"stenography" should be "steganography".
Government Shutdown Brings Certificate Lapse Woes
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  1/11/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
The Year in Security 2018
This Dark Reading Tech Digest explores the biggest news stories of 2018 that shaped the cybersecurity landscape.
Flash Poll
How Enterprises Are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How Enterprises Are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
Data breach fears and the need to comply with regulations such as GDPR are two major drivers increased spending on security products and technologies. But other factors are contributing to the trend as well. Find out more about how enterprises are attacking the cybersecurity problem by reading our report today.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-6487
PUBLISHED: 2019-01-18
TP-Link WDR Series devices through firmware v3 (such as TL-WDR5620 V3.0) are affected by command injection (after login) leading to remote code execution, because shell metacharacters can be included in the weather get_weather_observe citycode field.
CVE-2018-20735
PUBLISHED: 2019-01-17
** DISPUTED ** An issue was discovered in BMC PATROL Agent through 11.3.01. It was found that the PatrolCli application can allow for lateral movement and escalation of privilege inside a Windows Active Directory environment. It was found that by default the PatrolCli / PATROL Agent application only...
CVE-2019-0624
PUBLISHED: 2019-01-17
A spoofing vulnerability exists when a Skype for Business 2015 server does not properly sanitize a specially crafted request, aka "Skype for Business 2015 Spoofing Vulnerability." This affects Skype.
CVE-2019-0646
PUBLISHED: 2019-01-17
A Cross-site Scripting (XSS) vulnerability exists when Team Foundation Server does not properly sanitize user provided input, aka "Team Foundation Server Cross-site Scripting Vulnerability." This affects Team.
CVE-2019-0647
PUBLISHED: 2019-01-17
An information disclosure vulnerability exists when Team Foundation Server does not properly handle variables marked as secret, aka "Team Foundation Server Information Disclosure Vulnerability." This affects Team.