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Palo Alto Network: Domain Shadowing is a Prevalent Threat

 

As per Unit 42 of Palo Alto Network’s threat analysis, a fraudulent phishing technique known as domain shadowing is wreaking havoc. The company found that around 12,197 fake domains were shadowed between 25th April to 27th June of 2022, to provide malicious content. 
 
Cyber attackers are using domain shadowing for secretive attacks. Once a threat actor gets access to/hijacks your Domain Name System, they create their sub-domains containing malicious codes under your legitimate and reputed domains to perform malicious activities. The hijacked domains tend to be used in several ways, such as escaping security checks, distributing malicious software, committing fraud, etc. 
 
It is imperative to note that the attackers prepare these shadow domains without altering the functioning of the original domains, which also serves as a safeguard, since the victims are not aware that a threat exists, and the owners of the original domains rarely check on their domains to ensure their security. 
 
However, unit 42 employs a method to detect hacked domains or illegal sub-domains. It entails going through a checklist consisting of steps such as verifying whether the IP address of the domain and the sub-domain is the same or different, verifying whether the domain and sub-domains have been active for a certain period, and verifying the patterns of the domains and sub-domains. 
 
Domain shadowing can be called a new evolution in online threats or fast flux. It has been considered the most effective and hard-to-detect technique used by any malicious attacker to date. The fraudulent actor can access and add tens of thousands of sub-domains into hijacked domains, and as they are available randomly, the next victim’s domain cannot be tracked.  
 
According to Palo Alto Network’s threat researchers, when they became aware of the deceptive phishing technique and the increasing cases associated with it, only 200 of them were potentially harmful. VirusTotal also disclosed that some of these were organized into single phishing campaigns by registering 649 fake or deceptive domains on 16 trusted websites. 
 
The shadowed domains work to steal the user’s login credentials known as the phishing technique. To protect your website or data from domain shadowing, you should adopt new-generation security measures, including connected threat intel platforms and checking on the webpage before entering the credentials.

Void Balaur Targets Russian Entities

A hacker-for-hire company that was originally revealed in 2019 has extended its scope to target victims with links to Russia in the political and corporate sector. 

Reported to attack a variety of known target groups worldwide, Void Balaur is a very active hacker-for-hire cyber mercenary gang. Since at least 2016, people have seen their services available for purchase online. Private data collection and access to particular online email and social media sites, including Gmail, Outlook, Telegram, Yandex, Facebook, Instagram, and corporate emails, are among the services offered. 

Google claims Since 2012, TAG has been keeping tabs on a diverse group of Indian hackers-for-hire, many of whom have worked briefly for Indian security companies Appin and Belltrox.

The gang often conducts attacks that are both general and opportunistic with the goal of getting illegal access to popular email services, social networks, communications, and corporate accounts.

According to reports, the hack-for-hire service provided by the gang is offered using a variety of guises, including Hacknet and RocketHack. The operators have offered additional services over the years, including real-time location tracking, SMS logs, and remote device access.

Furthermore, the assault infrastructure run by Void Balaur includes more than 5,000 distinct domains that present themselves as portals for public services, authentication services, and email websites.

A wide range of industries, frequently with specific political or business ties to Russia, are among the new targets. Additionally, Void Balaur hunts out targets useful for positioning or assisting upcoming assaults. They have the United States, Russia, Ukraine, and a number of other nations as their targets.

However, in early 2022, one of the group's managed domains resolved to an IP address that belongs to and is run by the Russian Federal Guard Service (FSO), indicating what appears to be an operating oversight and raising the possibility of a connection.

Despite the fact that Void Balaur targets persons and organizations all over the world, ads launched in 2022 have targeted individuals who are active in political and business circumstances that are important to Russia.

The use of highly repeatable phishing emails that look like they are from banks or local governments is common in order to deceive recipients into clicking a malicious link and divulging their account information.

In September 2021, one of the group's most infamous efforts featured attacks that targeted the personal email accounts of lawmakers and government leaders of an Eastern European nation.

In accordance with its reputation as a cyber mercenary, Void Balaur does not confine itself to the geopolitical sphere. Nonetheless,  employing and adopting the proper security measures will help in repelling cyber mercenary attacks.

'RedAlpha': This Chinese Cyberspy Group is Targeting Governments & Humanitarian Entities

 

RedAlpha, a Chinese state-sponsored cyberespionage group, has been observed targeting numerous government organisations, humanitarian organisations, and think tanks over the last three years. 

The advanced persistent threat (APT) actor, also known as Deepcliff and Red Dev 3, has been active since at least 2015, focusing on intelligence collection and surveillance of ethnic and religious minorities such as the Tibetan and Uyghur communities. 

According to cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, RedAlpha has registered hundreds of domains impersonating global government, think tank, and humanitarian organisations such as Amnesty International, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS), and Radio Free Asia (RFA).

According to Recorded Future, the attacks are consistent with previous RedAlpha targeting of entities of interest to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Taiwanese organisations were also targeted, most likely for intelligence gathering. The campaign's goal has been to collect credentials from targeted individuals and organisations in order to gain access to their email and other communication accounts.

“RedAlpha’s humanitarian and human rights-linked targeting and spoofing of organizations such as Amnesty International and FIDH is particularly concerning given the CCP’s reported human rights abuses in relation to Uyghurs, Tibetans, and other ethnic and religious minority groups in China,” Recorded Future notes.

The cyberespionage group is known for using weaponized websites - which mimics well-known email service providers or specific organisations - as part of its credential-theft campaigns, but the APT registered more than 350 domains last year.

This activity was distinguished by the use of resellerclub[.]com nameservers, as well as the use of virtual private server (VPS) hosting provider Virtual Machine Solutions LLC (VirMach), overlapping WHOIS registrant information (including names, email addresses, and phone numbers), consistent domain naming conventions, and the use of specific server-side components.

About RedAlpha:

The group has recorded hundreds of domains typosquatting major email and storage service providers, including Yahoo (135 domains), Google (91 domains), and Microsoft (70), as well as domains typosquatting multiple countries' ministries of foreign affairs (MOFAs), Purdue University, Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party, and the aforementioned and other global government, think tank, and humanitarian organisations.

The cyberespionage group registered at least 16 domains impersonating the Berlin-based non-profit organisation MERICS during the first half of 2021, which coincided with the Chinese MOFA sanctioning the think tank.

“In many cases, observed phishing pages mirrored legitimate email login portals for the specific organizations named above. We suspect that this means they were intended to target individuals directly affiliated with these organizations rather than simply imitating these organizations to target other third parties,” Recorded Future says.

RedAlpha has also shown a consistent focus on targeting Taiwanese entities over the last three years, including through multiple domains mimicking the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the de facto embassy of the United States of America. The hacking group was also noticed spreading its campaigns to target Brazilian, Portuguese, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese ministries of foreign affairs, as well as India's National Informatics Centre (NIC).

“We identified multiple overlaps with previous publicly reported RedAlpha campaigns that allowed us to assess this is very likely a continuation of the group’s activity. Of note, in at least 5 instances the group appeared to re-register previously owned domains after expiry,” Recorded Future notes.

The cybersecurity firm has discovered a connection between RedAlpha and a Chinese information security firm - email addresses used to register spoofing domains appear in job listings and other web pages associated with the organisation - and believes the threat actor is based in China.

“The group’s targeting closely aligns with the strategic interests of the Chinese government, such as the observed emphasis on China-focused think tanks, civil society organizations, and Taiwanese government and political entities. This targeting, coupled with the identification of likely China-based operators, indicates a likely Chinese state-nexus to RedAlpha activity,” Recorded Future concludes.

Phishing Scam Exploit's American Express, Snapchat Open-Redirect Threats

Phishing emails aimed at users of Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 have been sent as a result of open-redirect vulnerabilities affecting the American Express and Snapchat domains.

The term "open redirects" refers to a software vulnerability that makes it simpler for hackers to point users toward harmful resources they control.

Vulnerabilities :

Open redirect occurs when a website doesn't validate user input, allowing hackers to modify the URLs of domains with stellar reviews to route consumers to malicious sites. Because the initial domain name in the altered link is a well-known one, like American Express or Snapchat, victims will believe it.

The link may seem secure to an untrained eye because the first domain name in the modified link is actually the domain name of the original site. According to email security firm INKY, the trusted domain, such as American Express or Snapchat, serves as a temporary landing page before redirecting the user to a malicious website.

DocuSign, FedEx, and Microsoft were used as baits in phishing emails distributed to the Snapchat group, which led to sites that harvest user credentials. Researchers from Inky claim that 6,812 phishing emails sent from Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 hacked over the course of two and a half months used the Snapchat open redirect.

On August 4, 2021, professionals informed Snapchat of a vulnerability through the Open Bug Bounty site, but nothing has been done to fix it.

The matter was made worse by the discovery of the American Express open-redirect vulnerability in more than 2,000 phishing emails in only two days in July. The vulnerability has since been patched, as per the report, and any user who opens the link now is led to an error page on the company's legitimate website.

Prevention cautions

Roger Kay of INKY provided easy measures for preventing open redirect attacks:
  • Domain owners can undertake a few easy actions if they want to further reduce open redirect attacks. First, don't use redirection at all in your site architecture. Domain owners can, however, build an allowlist of permitted safe links to reduce open-redirect misuse if it's required for business reasons.
  • Additionally, domain owners have the option to display caution about external links before forwarding viewers to external websites.
  • Users should be on the lookout for URLs that include things like "url=," "redirect=," "external-link," or "proxy" as they explore websites online. These strings can suggest that a reputable domain might reroute traffic to another website.
  • Additionally, recipients of emails with links should look for repeated instances of "http" in the URL, another possible sign of redirection.

Malicious Actor Claims Targeting IBM & Stanford University

 

Jenkins was mentioned as one of the TTPs employed by spyware in a report on a British cybercrime forum found by CloudSEK's contextual AI digital risk platform XVigil. To boost ad clickthroughs, this module features stealth desktop takeover capabilities. Based on unofficial talks, CloudSEK experts anticipate that this harmful effort will increase attempts to infect bots. 

Evaluation of threats 

A malicious actor detailed how they hacked into a major organization by taking advantage of a flaw in the Jenkins dashboard in a post on a cybercrime site on May 7, 2022. 

Previously, the same threat actor was observed giving access to IBM. In addition, the actor provided evidence of a sample screenshot showing their alleged connection to a Jenkins dashboard. 

The malicious actors came upon a Jenkins dashboard bypass that had internal hosts, scripts, database logins, and credentials. They exploited the company's public asset port 9443 by using search engines like Shodan as per researchers. 

After receiving data, the actor employed a custom debugging script to find vulnerable targets for bypassing rproxy misconfiguration. 

Origin of the threat actor

The hacker claimed they previously targeted IBM Tech Company as well, in particular internal administrators' scripts and firewall configurations for internal networks, in other posts by the same person on the cybercrime site.

The actor also stated the following exploit narrative as to how to get into Stanford University in their future posts: 
  • The actor counted all the subdomains connected to the University using the Sudomy tool. 
  • The actor then applied a path, such as -path /wp-content/plugins/, to the domains using httpx. 
  • An attacker can execute RCE on the plugin by returning data from all of the subdomains that have a valid path with the susceptible zero-day vulnerability. 

According to CloudSEK, which reported the threats, other entities could execute similar exploits using the threat actor's TTP. "Modules like these can facilitate complex ransomware assaults and persistence," the security experts said while adding that threat actors "could migrate laterally, infecting the network, to retain persistence and steal credentials." 

Actors may utilize revealed credentials to access the user's other accounts because password reuse is standard practice. For reference, the malicious actors also took credit for hacking Stanford University and Jozef Safarik University in Slovakia. 

According to reports from XVigil, official access to the domains was reportedly found in several nations, including Ukraine, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, and Nepal. 

Google Blocks Malicious Domains Used by Hack-for-hire Groups

About hack-for-hire

Threat Analyst Group (TAG) of Google last week revealed that it blocked around 36 malicious domains used by Hacking groups in Russia, UAE, and India. 

In a technique similar to surveillance ecosystems, hack-for-hire groups give their clients the leverage to launch targeted cyberattacks on corporate organizations, politicians, activists, journalists, and other users that are at high-risk. 


What is Google saying?

Google in its Blog says "as part of our efforts to combat serious threat actors, we use results of our research to improve the safety and security of our products. Upon discovery, all identified websites and domains were added to Safe Browsing to protect users from further harm."  

The only difference in the manners of the two is that while users buy the spyware from commercial vendors and later use it themselves, the actors behind hack-for-hire cyberattacks deploy the hacking attempts on the clients' behalf so that the buyers remain anonymous. 


How does hack-for-hire operate?

The hack-for-hire ecosystem is flexible in two ways, first in how the actors deploy the attacks themselves, and second, in the large range of targets, they seek in a single campaign on their clients' behalf. 

Some hacking groups publicly market their products and services to any user that is willing to pay, however, few operate in a hidden manner and sell their services to a limited public. 

"We encourage any high risk user to enable Advanced Protection and Google Account Level Enhanced Safe Browsing and ensure that all devices are updated. Additionally, our CyberCrime Investigation Group is sharing relevant details and indicators with law enforcement," says Google. 


Other Details


A recent campaign launched by an Indian hacking group attacked an IT company in Cyprus, a fintech organization in the Balkans, an educational institute in Nigeria, and a shopping company in Israel, hinting the wide range of victims. 

According to Google Since 2012, TAG has been tracking an interwoven set of Indian hack-for-hire actors, with many having previously worked for Indian offensive security providers Appin and Belltrox. 

One cluster of this activity frequently targets government, healthcare, and telecom sectors in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain with credential phishing campaigns, Google adds. 

Experts Estimated the Probability of Disconnecting Russia From the Internet

 

On 5th March, a telegram signed by Deputy Head of the Ministry of Digital Andrei Chernenko was sent to federal executive authorities and subjects of the Russian Federation with a number of recommendations for the protection of information infrastructure of the country. It does not contain direct instructions on disconnecting Russian users from the global network, but a number of experts saw in it indirect preconditions for the isolation of Runet. 

According to the document, by March 11, state websites and services must switch to using DNS servers located in the Russian Federation; remove from HTML page templates all JavaScript code downloaded from foreign resources (banners, counters, and so on); in case of using foreign hosting, switch to Russian; move to the domain zone.ru; complicate the "password policy". 

The Ministry of Finance stated that the sending of telegrams is connected with cyberattacks on Russian websites from abroad. The proposed "set of the simplest recommendations on cyber hygiene" is designed to ensure the availability of web resources of the Russian Federation. "There are no plans to turn off the Internet from the inside," the ministry assured. 
 
Mikhail Klimarev, executive director of the Internet Protection Society, said that the items listed in the telegram are absolutely banal rules of information security, but they may also indicate the preparation of state agencies for any force majeure. He found it difficult to say why the document appeared only now but suggested that this was due to the ongoing cyberwar between Russia and other states. 

"Anonymous hackers, DDoS attacks, attacks on DNS servers - it's really serious, and the Russian authorities really need to worry about how it should work," Klimarev explained. "There's really nothing to worry about, but it's all terrifying. From the outside, it looks like preparation for a sovereign Runet," he added.  

The norm on DNS servers may also indicate preparation for possible shutdowns of the Runet. However, the main logic of the document works to reduce cyberattacks and switch to local root servers to provide access to sites in the Russian domain zone. 

According to experts, disconnecting Russia from the Internet is extremely dangerous for the state, as it carries unpredictable social and financial consequences. 


Endpoint Antivirus Detection Has Reached its Apex

 

Endpoint security is a term used to describe cybersecurity services provided to network endpoints, it included providing  Antivirus, email filtering, online filtering, and firewall services. Businesses rely on endpoint security to protect vital systems, intellectual property, customer details, employees, and visitors from ransomware, phishing, malware, and other threats. 

"While the total volume of cyberattacks decreased slightly, malware per device increased for the first period since the pandemic began," said Corey Nachreiner, CSO at WatchGuard. "Zero-day malware increased by only 3% to 67.2 percent in Q3 2021, and malware delivered via Transport Layer Security (TLS) increased from 31.6 percent to 47 percent." 

As consumers update to newer versions of Microsoft Windows and Office, cybercriminals are focused on fresh vulnerabilities — versions of Microsoft's widely used programs. CVE-2018-0802, which exploits a weakness in Microsoft Office's Equation Editor, cracked WatchGuard's top 10 entryway antivirus malware list in Q3, reaching number 6 after appearing on the widespread malware list.

In addition, two Windows software injectors (Win32/Heim.D and Win32/Heri) ranked first and sixth, on the most detected list. In Q3, the Americans were the focus of 64.5 percent of network attacks, compared to 15.5 percent for Europe and 15.5 percent for APAC (20 percent ). 

Following three-quarters of more than 20% increase, a reduction of 21% brought volumes back to Q1 levels. The top ten network attack signatures are responsible for the majority of attacks – The top 10 signatures were responsible for 81 percent of the 4,095,320 hits discovered by IPS in Q3. In fact, 'WEB Remote File Inclusion /etc/passwd' (1054837), which targets older, commonly used Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS) web servers, was the only new signature in the top ten in Q3. One signature (1059160), a SQL injection, has remained at the top of the list since the second quarter of 2019. 

From application flaws to script-based living-off-the-land attacks, even those with modest skills may use scripting tools like PowerSploit and PowerWare, there were also 10% additional attack scripts than there were in all of 2020, a 666 percent raise over the previous year. 

In total, 5.6 million harmful domains were blocked in the third quarter, including many new malware domains attempting to install crypto mining software, key loggers, and wireless access trojans (RATs), as well as SharePoint sites harvesting Office365 login information. The number of blacklisted domains is down 23% from the past quarter, it is still several times greater than the level seen in Q4 2020.

Ransomware attacks reached 105 percent of 2020 output by the end of September, as expected after the previous quarter, and are on track to exceed 150 percent after the entire year of 2021 data is analyzed. 

According to WatchGuard's investigation, attackers operating with the REvil ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) operation exploited three zero-day vulnerabilities in Kaseya VSA Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) applications to deliver ransomware to more than 1,500 organizations and potentially millions of endpoints.

More than 60,000 Parked Domains Were Vulnerable to AWS Hijacking

 

MarkMonitor, a domain registrar, had left over 60,000 parked domains susceptible to domain hijacking.

MarkMonitor, now part of Clarivate, is a domain management firm that assists in establishing and protecting the online presence of the world's biggest brands - and the billions who use them. 

The parked domains were found referring to non-existent Amazon S3 bucket addresses, indicating a domain takeover vulnerability. 

Ian Carroll, a security engineer, and bug bounty hunter, saw his automation script flag hundreds of domains belonging to various businesses as exposed to domain hijacking earlier this week. After that, Carroll was joined by Nagli and d0xing, who assisted the engineer in tracing the origin of the security flaw. MarkMonitor was the registrar for all of the domains. 

A (sub)domain takeover arises when an unauthorized actor is permitted to deliver the content of their preference on a domain that they do not own or control. This can happen, for instance, if the domain name contains a canonical name (CNAME) DNS entry pointing to a host that doesn't provide any content for it. This generally occurs when the website hasn't been launched yet, or when the virtual host has been withdrawn from a hosting provider, but the domain's DNS records still link to the host. 

Carroll explained, "If testing.example.com is pointed towards Amazon S3, what will S3 do if that bucket hasn't been created yet? It will just throw a 404 error—and wait for someone to claim it. If we claim this domain inside S3 before example.com's owners do, then we can claim the right to use it with S3 and upload anything we want." 

The issue affected over 60,000 domains, lasted less than an hour

After Carroll emailed MarkMonitor's security contact, the researcher did not hear back. But, he noticed that the domains previously throwing S3 "bucket not found" errors gradually started showing the proper MarkMonitor landing page. 

"After I sent an email to security@markmonitor.com that went unacknowledged, domains stopped pointing to S3 over an hour after it began. I claimed over 800 root domains in this timeframe, and other researchers had similar amounts of claimed domains," added Carroll. 

Carroll's primary concern was that up to 62,000 domains parked at MarkMonitor could be compromised and exploited for phishing. 

BleepingComputer contacted both Amazon and MarkMonitor for further information, and received the following response from MarkMonitor's parent firm, Clarivate: 

"During a planned move of our parking page to the cloud, our DDoS protection vendor temporarily routed traffic in an unexpected manner for some domains using MarkMonitor's parking page service." 

"Neither live domains nor DNS were impacted. We take the protection of the domains entrusted to us – including parked domains – extremely seriously, and we work every day to make sure we are following the best security practices and guidelines." 

"This includes having active and static scanning, ongoing DNS monitoring, annual 3rd party penetration testing, and other security audits," added Clarivate spokesperson. 

As per MarkMonitor, the firm quickly reversed its DDoS vendor settings to send traffic to an internally-hosted web server's parked page as soon as the unexpected behavior was discovered. The whole detection, investigation, and remediation process took less than an hour. 

The registrar discovered no instances of harmful content being hosted for any parked page. Carroll responded to a question about what organizations may do to effectively protect themselves against domain takeover vulnerabilities: 

"Until cloud providers like Amazon move to prevent domain takeovers like this, companies need to be careful when pointing traffic to them, either via DNS records or otherwise," Carroll told BleepingComputer. 

The engineer stated in his blog post, "This issue is not entirely the fault of MarkMonitor. While they need to be careful with handling parked domains, AWS is at fault for not being more stringent with claiming S3 buckets. Google Cloud, for example, has required domain verification for years, rendering this [attack] useless." 

MarkMonitor spokesperson concluded, "We are also evaluating mechanisms to be alerted more quickly of any HTTP error responses from domains that are parked with our parking service, which may allow us to identify and react to unexpected behavior even more quickly in the future."

Atlassian Patched Vulnerabilities in its Domains

 

On Wednesday 23rd of June, cyber-security experts uncovered key vulnerabilities in the Atlassian project and software development platform that might have been exploited to take over the account and control certain apps connected via its single sign-on (SSO) capabilities. 

The vulnerabilities are due to Atlassian using SSO to ensure the uninterrupted navigation of the above-mentioned domains, thereby attempting to create a possible attack scenario involving the use of XSS and CSRF to inject malicious code into the portal and leveraging a session fixation error in the event of a valid user session. Though these vulnerabilities have been patched. 

On January 08, 2021, the Australian company delivered a patch for its upgrades, after Atlassian was notified of the problem. The issues in the sub-domains include – 
jira.atlassian.com 
confluence.atlassian.com 
getsupport.atlassian.com 
partners.atlassian.com 
developer.atlassian.com 
support.atlassian.com 
training.atlassian.com 

"With just one click, an attacker could have used the flaws to get access to Atlassian's to publish Jira system and get sensitive information, such as security issues on Atlassian cloud, Bitbucket, and on-premise products," Check Point Research stated. 

The appropriate exploitation of such vulnerabilities could escalate to an attack through a supply chain where the attacker can take over an account, take illegal measures on behalf of the victim, modify pages of Confluence, access Jira tickets, and even inject malicious implants to perpetrate further attacks. 

In other words, an attacker can deceive a user by clicking an Atlassian link that has been created to carry out a malicious payload, which can be utilized by the wrong player to log into the victim's account and gain confidential information. 

Moreover, the attacker can regulate a Bitbucket account with a Jira account by opening a Jira ticket that is incorporated with a malicious link to a rogue site which, when clicking on a message autogenerated by an e-mail, can be used to remove the credentials, essentially give them the authorization to access or modify the source code, make the repository publicly accessible or even insert the backdoors. 

"Supply chain attacks have piqued our interest all year, ever since the SolarWinds incident. The platforms from Atlassian are central to an organization's workflow," said Oded Vanunu, head of products vulnerabilities research at Check Point. "An incredible amount of supply chain information flows through these applications, as well as engineering and project management."