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HomeLand Justice: Government of Albania attacked by Iranian Cyber Threat Actors

 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have issued a joint Cybersecurity advisory on the recent cyber operations held by the Iranian state cyber actors against the Government of Albania in July and September. 

The advisory provides a detailed timeline pertaining to activities that were detected, from the initial software access to the execution of encryption and wiper attacks. The information also included the files that the actors used for the attacks. 
 
The hackers, referred to as HomeLand Justice, who are state-sponsored Iranian advanced persistent threat (ATP) actors, attempted to paralyse public services, delete and steal governmental data, and disrupted the government’s websites and services, wreaking havoc and panic on the state.  
 
As per the agencies, the threat actors had the access to the Albanian government servers for 14 months before executing the cyber attacks that included the execution of encryption and wiper attacks. 
 
A series of cyberattacks was then launched by the threat actors, on July 17th, 2022, after conducting lateral movements, network reconnaissance, and credential harvesting from the Albanian government network, leaving an anti-Mujahideen E- Khalq (MEK) messages on the desktops.  
 
After the network defenders detected and begin responding to the ransomware activities, HomeLand Justice employed a new family ransomware ROADSWEEP, along with a variant of wiper malware, ZEROCLEAR. 
 
While claiming to have carried out these cyber attacks, on July 23rd, HomeLand Justice took to social media, demonstrating a repeated pattern of advertising the Albanian Government about the leaks, and posting polls asking the viewers to select the information they want to be leaked. It was followed by the release of information in a .zip file or video of a screen recording with the documents. 
 
The cyber actors launched another thread of cyberattacks in September against the Albanian government, using similar TTPs and malware as the attacks made in July. The attacks were possibly done in retaliation for public attribution of the previous attack and severed diplomatic ties between the Albanian and Iranian governments. 
 
Although Albania lacks an efficient cyber defense, it is a member of NATO which can be confirmed by Appathurai's statement, “You can be sure of NATO’s continued political and practical support.” Thus, apparently, NATO will be supporting Albania with the incident to deal with immediate challenges and long-term requirements.

North Korea: Maui Ransomware Attacks Healthcare Services

 

North Korean state-sponsored hackers are using Maui to encrypt computers and data for vital healthcare services, including electronic health records, diagnostics, imaging, and intranet. A joint advisory from the FBI, the Treasury Department, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) describes a ransomware campaign that Pyongyang has been executing at least since May 2021. 

Traits of threat actors

It is unknown how these threat actors enter organizations through the initial access vector. The less well-known ransomware family stands out, according to cybersecurity firm Stairwell, since it lacks numerous essential characteristics typically found in ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) groups. Stairwell's findings served as the basis for the alert. 

The lack of an "embedded ransom letter to provide recovery instructions or automated means of transferring encryption keys to attackers" is one analogy of this, according to security expert Silas Cutler in a technical analysis of the ransomware.

Instead, Maui sample analysis indicates that the malware is made to be manually executed by a remote actor using a command-line interface, utilizing it to target particular files on the compromised machine for encryption, as recently seen in the case of Bronze Starlight.

Each of these keys is then encrypted with RSA using a key pair generated for the first time when Maui is launched, in addition to encrypting target files with AES 128-bit encryption with a new key. The RSA keys are encrypted using a hard-coded, particular-to-each-campaign RSA public key as a third-degree of security.

The fact that Maui is not provided as a service to other affiliates for use in exchange for a cut of the money earned is another thing that sets it apart from other conventional ransomware products. 

Why is DPRK targeting healthcare?

Ransomware is highly hazardous in the healthcare industry. Such businesses often don't provide cybersecurity much attention or funds. Hospitals and other similar organizations also own critical medical and health data prone to abuse. Furthermore, such facilities cannot afford to be shut down for an extended period, which increases the possibility that they might pay the ransom to resume services.

Although these North Korean-sponsored ransomware operations targeting healthcare companies have been occurring for a year, iboss claims that they have increased significantly and become more sophisticated since then. It's the most recent example of how North Korean enemies are changing their strategies to shadily produce an ongoing flow of income for the country's struggling economy. 

The ransomware attacks are alleged to have temporarily or permanently affected health services in several cases. It is currently uncertain what infection vector was first used to carry out the incursions. Only 2% of those who paid the ransom in 2021 received their whole data recovered, according to the Sophos' State of Ransomware in Healthcare 2022 report. This compares to the global average of 46%. 

China's Attacks on Telecom Providers Were Exposed by US

 

Since 2020, US cybersecurity and intelligence agencies have cautioned about state-sponsored cyber attackers located in China using network vulnerabilities to target public and private sector enterprises.

Chinese hacking gangs have used publicly known vulnerabilities to infiltrate everything from unpatched small office/home office (SOHO) routers to moderate and even big enterprise networks, according to a joint cybersecurity alert released on Tuesday by the NSA, CISA, and the FBI. 

Several servers are used by China-linked APTs to create new email accounts, host command and control (C&C) domains, and connect with target networks, using hop points as an obfuscation strategy to mask its true location."Once within a telecommunications organization or network service provider, PRC state-sponsored cyber actors identified essential users and infrastructure, including systems critical to ensuring the stability of authentication, authorization, and accounting," as per the report. 

These threat actors are continually altering their techniques to avoid detection, according to US authorities, including watching network defenders' actions and adjusting current attacks to remain undiscovered. 

They were also seen changing the infrastructure and tools when the campaigns were made public. After stealing credentials to access underlying SQL databases, the attackers utilized SQL commands to discard user and admin credentials from key Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service (RADIUS) servers. The three US agencies have revealed that Chinese threat actors primarily exploit vulnerabilities in: 
  • Cisco (CVE-2018-0171, CVE-2019-15271, and CVE-2019-1652)
  • Citrix (CVE-2019-19781) 
  • DrayTek (CVE-2020-8515) 
  • D-Link (CVE-2019-16920) 
  • Fortinet (CVE-2018-13382) 
  • MikroTik (CVE-2018-14847) 
  • Netgear (CVE-2017-6862) 
  • Pulse ( (CVE-2020-29583) 

Open-source tools such as RouterSploit and RouterScan (vulnerability scanning framework) are used by threat actors to scan for vulnerabilities and conduct reconnaissance, allowing them to identify brands, models, and known problems that can be attacked. 

"Once within a network service provider, PRC state-sponsored cyber actors identified essential users and infrastructure, particularly systems critical to maintaining the security of authentication, authorization, and accounting," as per the joint advisory.

Lastly, the attackers altered or deleted local log files to eliminate proof of its presence and avoid discovery. Security updates should be applied as quickly as feasible, unneeded ports and protocols should be disabled to reduce the attack surface, and end-of-life network infrastructure which no longer receives security patches should be replaced, according to federal agencies.

Segmenting networks to prevent lateral movement and enabling robust monitoring on internet-exposed services to discover attack attempts as soon as possible are also recommended.

FBI says Attackers Breached US Local Govt After Hacking a Fortinet Appliance

 

After issuing a cybersecurity advisory warning that APT hacker groups are purposefully targeting vulnerabilities in Fortinet FortiOS, the FBI now warned that after hacking a Fortinet appliance, state-sponsored attackers compromised the webpage of a US local government. 

Fortinet is a multinational security company based in Sunnyvale, California. It creates and sells cybersecurity solutions, which include hardware like firewalls as well as software and services like anti-virus protection, intrusion prevention systems, and endpoint security components.

"As of at least May 2021, an APT actor group almost certainly exploited a Fortigate appliance to access a web-server hosting the domain for a U.S. municipal government," the FBI's Cyber Division said in a TLP:WHITE flash alert published on 27th May. 

The advanced persistent threat (APT) actors moved laterally around the network after gaining access to the local government organization's server, creating new domain controller, server, and workstation user identities that looked exactly like existing ones. On compromised systems, attackers linked to this ongoing APT harmful activity have created 'WADGUtilityAccount' and 'elie' accounts, according to the FBI.

This APT organization will most likely utilize this access to capture and exfiltrate data from the victims' network, according to the FBI. "The APT actors are actively targeting a broad range of victims across multiple sectors, indicating the activity is focused on exploiting vulnerabilities rather than targeted at specific sectors," the FBI added.

Last month, the FBI and the CISA issued a warning about state-sponsored hacking groups gaining access to Fortinet equipment by exploiting FortiOS vulnerabilities CVE-2018-13379, CVE-2020-12812, and CVE-2019-5591. The threat actors are also scanning for CVE-2018-13379 vulnerable devices on ports 4443, 8443, and 10443, and enumerating servers that haven't been patched against CVE-2020-12812 and CVE-2019-5591. 

Once they've gained access to a vulnerable server, they'll use it in subsequent attacks aimed at critical infrastructure networks. "APT actors may use other CVEs or common exploitation techniques—such as spear-phishing—to gain access to critical infrastructure networks to pre-position for follow-on attacks," the two federal agencies said.

"APT actors have historically exploited critical vulnerabilities to conduct distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, ransomware attacks, structured query language (SQL) injection attacks, spear-phishing campaigns, website defacements, and disinformation campaigns." They further told. 

FBI & CISA Warns of Active Attacks on Fortinet FortiOS Servers

 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have released a Joint Cybersecurity Advisory (CSA) to warn users and administrators of active exploits targeting three susceptibilities in Fortinet FortiOS. Fortinet FortiOS is an operating system designed to improve enterprise security and it enables secure networks, endpoints, and clouds to keep the user safe from vulnerabilities and threats. 

According to the advisory, these three unpatched vulnerabilities in Fortinet FortiOS platforms belong to technology services, government agencies, and other private sector bodies. The advanced persistent threat (APT) actors are targeting the vulnerabilities CVE-2018-13379, a path traversal vulnerability (CVSS base score of 9.8); CVE-2020-12812, an improper authentication flaw (CVSS base score of 9.8) and CVE-2019-5591, a default configuration vulnerability (CVSS base score of 7.5) which were initially revealed in 2019.

The attackers have specifically exploited the vulnerability CVE-2018-13379 since its discovery in 2018. In 2019, nation-state hackers exploited the flaw and targeted the U.S. National Security Agency. Last year in October, a joint CISA/FBI advisory regarding federal, state, and local U.S. government networks being targeted mentioned the flaw.

“The APT actors may be using any or all of these CVEs to gain access to networks across multiple critical infrastructure sectors to gain access to key networks as pre-positioning for follow-on data exfiltration or data encryption attacks. APT actors may use the other CVEs or common exploiting techniques – such as spear-phishing – to gain access to critical infrastructure networks to pre-position for follow-on attacks,” the advisory read.

Carl Windsor, Fortinet field chief technology officer responded to the joint advisory by stating that Fortinet has already patched the flaws and is educating the customers regarding the vulnerabilities.

“The security of our customers is our first priority. CVE-2018-13379 is an old vulnerability resolved in May 2019. Fortinet immediately issued a PSIRT advisory and communicated directly with customers and via corporate blog posts on multiple occasions in August 2019 and July 2020 strongly recommending an upgrade. Upon resolution we have consistently communicated with customers, as recently as late as 2020,” he further stated.