Security Market Segment LS
Friday, 13 November 2020 09:51

Blackberry team finds cyber campaign operated by mercenaries

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Blackberry team finds cyber campaign operated by mercenaries Pixabay

A cyber-espionage campaign that is targeting entities around the globe has been discovered by the Blackberry Research and Intelligence Team, which says it appears to operated by attackers for hire.

In a post, the team said they had called the operation CostaRicto and that its targets has been observed in India, Bangladesh, Singapore, China, the US, Bahamas, Australia, Mozambique, France, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal and the Czech Republic.

The most attacks by this operation had been in India, Singapore and Bangladesh.

The team found that the command and control servers used in attacks were managed either through Tor or a layer of proxies, with a network of SSH tunnels also set up in the victim's environment.

The malware used was custom built and, based on its version numbers, now appeared to be in the stage where testing for debugging was taking place.

While the timestamps of payload stagers went back to 2017, it did not necessarily suggest that CostaRicto had been going for that many years with a different payload; it could be that stagers were being re-used with being recompiled by changing the C2 URLs through binary editing.

The team said the backdoor project used by CostaRicto was named Sombra - the name of an Overwatch game persona. Some domain names which were hard-coded in the backdoor binaries appeared to spoof legitimate domains.

But the victims affected by these backdoors were not related, indicating that existing infrastructure was being re-used for another purpose.

One IP address used by the backdoor domains had been used earlier in a phishing campaign by a state actor, but the team said this more likely to be a coincidence than to indicate any connection between the two.

"With the undeniable success of ransomware-as-a-service, it's not surprising that the cyber criminal market has expanded its portfolio to add dedicated phishing and espionage campaigns to the list of services on offer," the team said.

"Outsourcing attacks or certain parts of the attack chain to unaffiliated mercenary groups has several advantages for the adversary – it saves their time and resources and simplifies the procedures, but most importantly it provides an additional layer of indirection, which helps to protect the real identity of the threat actor."

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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