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Showing posts with label SolarWinds. Show all posts

Russian Hacking Group Nobelium Attacks 150 Organizations, Hacks Mails

Nobelium, a Russian hacking group that was responsible for the 2020 SolarWinds cyberattacks, is back in the game, however, now, they've used Constant Contact, a cloud marketing service in a phishing attack that resulted in a hack of 3,000 email accounts throughout 150 organizations. Microsoft disclosed the latest attack in a blog post titled "Another Nobelium Cyberattack" which alarmed that the group aims to hack into trusted technology providers and attack their customers. 

This time, Nobelium didn't use the SolarWinds network monitoring tool for the attack but gained access to the Constant Contact Account of USAID (United States Agency for International Development). Tom Burt, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of customer security and trust, “using the legitimate mass mailing service Constant Contact, Nobelium attempted to target around 3,000 individual accounts across more than 150 organizations. Due to the high-volume campaign, automated systems blocked most of the emails and marked them as spam. However, automated systems might have successfully delivered some of the earlier emails to recipients.” 

After hacking the Constant Contact Account email service via a USAID account, Nobelium distributed authentic-looking phishing emails containing a link, which upon opening, attached a malicious file "NativeZone" which is used to distribute backdoor. The backdoor could allow multiple activities like data stealing and corrupting other computer networks. Constant Contact Account said that it was aware of an account breach of one of its customers. It was an isolated incident, and the agency has deactivated all the affected accounts while working with law enforcement agencies. It says that most of the attacks targetting the customers were blocked automatically by Windows Defender, which also blocked the malware used in the attack. 

"We detected this attack and identified victims through the ongoing work of the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC). team in tracking nation-state actors. We have no reason to believe these attacks involve any exploit against or vulnerability in Microsoft’s products or services. At least a quarter of the targeted organizations were involved in international development, humanitarian, and human rights work," said Burt.

SolarWinds Hack Alarms US Spy Agencies to Inspect Software Suppliers' Ties with Russia


US intelligence agencies have started to study supply chain threats from Russia, a top official within the Justice Department confirmed on Thursday 6th of May, in the wake of the far-reaching hacker operations that used software developed by SolarWinds as well as other suppliers. 

SolarWinds Inc. is an American multinational that creates software to help companies manage their IT infrastructure, systems, and networks. It is based in Austin, Texas, and has distribution and product development branches at several US locations and other countries.

According to John Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, the examination will concentrate on any supply chain vulnerabilities arising from Russian businesses—or US businesses operating in Russia. 

“If there’s a back-end software design and coding being done in a country where we know that they’ve used sophisticated cyber means to do intrusions into U.S. companies, then maybe … U.S. companies shouldn’t be doing work with those companies from Russia or other untrusted countries,” Demers stated during a Justice Department-hosted cybersecurity conference. 

Demers stated that any information gathered from the Commerce Department would be passed on to the FBI and the other intelligence officials to determine whether more actions are required to remove suppliers from the U.S. supply chains or not. 

The White House accused the Russian SRV foreign intelligence agency of the spying operation which used the software of SolarWinds and penetrated at least nine U.S. federal agencies. Russian technology firms have also been endorsed by the management of Biden to finance the cyber operations of Russian intelligence agencies. Though the allegations were rejected by Moscow. 

However, the United States intelligence analysis reveals that the Biden administration is also looking into how potential spying operations will mimic whatever the SVR is supposed to use weak points in US tech companies' networks. 

An extensive range of US government and businesses were exposed to infiltration by allegedly Russian hacking. Initially, SolarWinds, stated that the malicious code had been downloaded by 18,000 customers. However, the original target list of spies was made up of 100 corporations and, as per the White House, at least nine federal agencies. 

Concerns of American officials regarding exposures to the supply chain have indeed increased in recent weeks as certain hacks arose. 

Whereas a 2019 executive order signed by then-President Donald Trump appears to approve the supply chain inspection, that forbids US telecommunications companies from using hardware that constitutes a national security risk. 

Although the executive order was widely seen as an effort to further limit the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei's access to US markets, it can also be applied to various other technologies from other countries. U.S. intelligence officers are tasked with constantly reviewing international supply chain threats and providing for additional "rules and regulations" to recognize innovations or nations that may pose a danger. 

In the supply chain screening, the US intelligence officials have long expressed fears that Moscow could use the Russian suppliers' technology to spy on America.

Backdoor Affects 20,000 U.S Agencies Via Microsoft Vulnerability

A backdoor breached more than 20,000 US enterprises, it was installed through Microsoft Corp's recently patched flaws in the email software, said an individual aware of the U.S government's response. The hacks have already reached beyond areas than the malicious downloaded codes of Solarwinds Corp, an organization that suffered the most from the recent cyberattack in December. The recent cyberattack has left channels open that can be remotely accessed. These are spread across small businesses, city governments, and credit unions say reports from U.S investigations. 

Besides this, the records also reveal that tens of thousands of enterprises in Europe and Asia were also affected by the hack. The hacks are still present even though Microsoft issued security patches earlier this week. Earlier, Microsoft said that the hacks had "limited and targeted attacks," but now denies to comment on the current state of the problems. However, it said the company is currently working with the government authorities and security firms to deal with the issue. Reuters says, "more attacks are expected from other hackers as the code used to take control of the mail servers spreads." 

A scan revealed that, out of the connected vulnerable devices, a mere 10% of users have installed the security patches, but the numbers are going up. As the patch is not helpful to fix the backdoors, the US government is currently trying to figure out how to assist the victims and help them with the issue. The devices compromised seem to run the web version of the email client Outlook, hosting them on their devices, not using cloud providers. Experts say this might've saved many big agencies and government authorities from the attack.  

White House press secretary Jen Psaki earlier this week informed media that the vulnerabilities revealed in Microsoft's popular exchange servers are big and can have a deep impact, there is a concern that the victims may be more. "Microsoft and the person working with the U.S. response blamed the initial wave of attacks on a Chinese government-backed actor. A Chinese government spokesman said the country was not behind the intrusions," reports Reuters. 

Microsoft made CodeQL Queries Public for SolarWinds Attack Detection


Microsoft has won acclaim from security researchers by making its CodeQL queries public so any association could utilize the open-source tools to analyze if they encountered any vulnerabilities from the SolarWinds hack or similar supply chain attacks. "There is no guarantee that the malicious actor is constrained to the same functionality or coding style in other operations, so these queries may not detect other implants that deviate significantly from the tactics seen in the Solorigate implant," Microsoft says. "These should be considered as just a part in a mosaic of techniques to audit for compromise." 

CodeQL queries code as though it were information, which allows developers to compose a query that discovers all the variations of a vulnerability, and afterward share it with others. CodeQL is an open-source semantic code analysis engine that works in two stages. First, as a feature of the compilation of source code into binaries, CodeQL fabricates a database that catches the model of the compiling code.

"For interpreted languages, it parses the source and builds its own abstract syntax tree model, as there is no compiler. Second, once constructed, this database can be queried repeatedly like any other database. The CodeQL language is purpose-built to enable the easy selection of complex code conditions from the database," Microsoft notes. 

In a blog post that details how it utilized the CodeQL technique, Microsoft alluded to the SolarWinds assault as Solorigate. For this situation, the attacker got into the remote management software servers of numerous organizations and infused a backdoor into the SolarWinds Orion software update. The attacker modified the binaries in Orion and dispersed them via previously legitimate update channels. This let the assailant remotely perform vindictive activities, such as credential theft, privilege escalation, and lateral movement to steal sensitive information. 

Microsoft said the SolarWinds incident has reminded associations to reflect not just on their readiness to respond to sophisticated attacks, but also the strength of their own codebases. In the blog, Microsoft clarifies its utilization of CodeQL queries to examine its source code at scale and preclude the presence of the code-level indicators of compromise (IoCs) and coding patterns associated with Solorigate.

SolarWinds CEO: “SolarWinds Orion Development Program was Exploited by the Hackers”


Sudhakar Ramakrishna, CEO of SolarWinds confirmed that ‘suspicious activity’ was spotted in its Office 365 environment which permitted threat actors to secure access and exploit the SolarWinds Orion development program. Threat actors secured access into the SolarWinds’s environment via flawed credentials and a third-party application that a zero-day susceptibility.

Threat actors secured access to the SolarWinds email account to programmatically access accounts of targeted SolarWinds employees in business and technical roles. 
Threat actors used the compromised credential of SolarWinds personnel as a doorway for securing access and exploit the development environment for the SolarWinds Orion network monitoring platform. Initially, Microsoft alerted SolarWinds regarding a breach into its Office 365 environment on December 13 – the same day news of the data breach went public.

Ramakrishna wrote in a blog post that “we’ve confirmed that a SolarWinds email account was compromised and used to programmatically access accounts of targeted SolarWinds personnel in business and technical roles. By compromising credentials of SolarWinds employees, the threat actors were able to gain access to and exploit our Orion development environment.”

“While it’s widely understood any one company could not protect itself against a sustained and unprecedented nation-state attack of this kind, we see an opportunity to lead an industry-wide effort that makes SolarWinds a model for secure software environments, development processes, and products”, he further added.

Investigators of SolarWinds have not spotted a specific flaw in Office 365 that would have permitted the threat actors to enter the firm’s environment via Office 365. Ramakrishna believes that the Russian foreign intelligence service has played a significant role in the SolarWinds’s hack. SolarWinds is analyzing the data from various systems and logs, including from its Office 365 and Azure tenants.

Brandon Wales, acting director of the Cybersecurity and infrastructure Security agency told The Wall Street that SolarWinds has no direct link to the 30 percent of the private sectors and government victims of the massive hacking campaign but investigators failed to identify another company whose products were widely compromised. SolarWinds’s investigation will be continued for at least one month due to the flawless campaign by the threat actors to remove evidence of their actions.