Jun 12 2024

20,000 FortiGate appliances compromised by Chinese hackers

Category: Hacking,Security Breachdisc7 @ 7:43 am

How Coathanger persists on FortiGate devices

In February 2024, the Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) and the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) made it known that Chinese state-sponsored hackers breached the Dutch Ministry of Defense in 2023 by exploiting a known FortiOS pre-auth RCE vulnerability (CVE-2022-42475), and used novel remote access trojan malware to create a persistent backdoor.

The RAT was dubbed Coathanger and found to be capable of surviving reboots and firmware upgrades. It’s also difficult to detect its presence by using FortiGate CLI commands, and to remove it from compromised devices.

The security services shared indicators of compromise and a variety of detection methods in an advisory, and explained that “the only currently identified way of removing [it] from an infected FortiGate device involves formatting the device and reinstalling and reconfiguring the device.”

They also attributed the intrusion and the malware to a Chinese cyber-espionage group.

A widespread campaign

On Monday, the Dutch National Cyber Security Center said that the MIVD continued to investigate the campaign, and found that:

  • The threat actor gained access to at least 20,000 FortiGate systems worldwide within a few months in both 2022 and 2023
  • They exploited the FortiOS vulnerability (CVE-2022-42475) as a zero-day, at least two months before Fortinet announced it

“During this so-called ‘zero-day’ period, the actor alone infected 14,000 devices. Targets include dozens of (Western) governments, international organizations and a large number of companies within the defense industry,” the NCSC said.

The threat actor installed the Coathanger malware at a later time, on devices of relevant targets.

“It is not known how many victims actually have malware installed. The Dutch intelligence services and the NCSC consider it likely that the state actor could potentially expand its access to hundreds of victims worldwide and carry out additional actions such as stealing data,” they said, and added that given the difficult discovery and clean-up process, “it is likely that the state actor still has access to systems of a significant number of victims.”

Another problem is that the Coathanger malware can be used in combination with any present or future vulnerability in FortiGate devices – whether zero- or N-day.

Advice for organizations

“Initial compromise of an IT network is difficult to prevent if the attacker uses a zero-day. It is therefore important that organizations apply the ‘assume breach’ principle,” the NCSC opined.

“This principle states that a successful digital attack has already taken place or will soon take place. Based on this, measures are taken to limit the damage and impact. This includes taking mitigating measures in the areas of segmentation, detection, incident response plans and forensic readiness.”

(In the attack targeting the Dutch MoD, the effects of the intrusion were limited due to effective network segmentation.)

Finally, the NCSC noted that the problem is not specifically Fortinet appliances, but “edge” devices – firewalls, VPN servers, routers, SMTP servers, etc. – in general.

“Recent incidents and identified vulnerabilities within various edge devices show that these products are often not designed according to modern security-by-design principles,” they said. Because almost every organization has one or more edge devices deployed, they added, it pays for threat actors to look for vulnerabilities affecting them.

The NCSC has, therefore, published helpful advice on how organizations should deal with using edge devices.

The Hacker and the State: Cyber Attacks and the New Normal of Geopolitics 

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Tags: Chinese hackers, FortiGate appliances, The Hacker and the State

Jan 23 2024

North Korean Weaponize Fake Research

Category: Backdoor,Hackingdisc7 @ 8:26 am

North Korean Hackers Weaponize Fake Research to Deliver RokRAT Backdoor

Media organizations and high-profile experts in North Korean affairs have been at the receiving end of a new campaign orchestrated by a threat actor known as ScarCruft in December 2023.

“ScarCruft has been experimenting with new infection chains, including the use of a technical threat research report as a decoy, likely targeting consumers of threat intelligence like cybersecurity professionals,” SentinelOne researchers Aleksandar Milenkoski and Tom Hegel said in a report shared with The Hacker News.

The North Korea-linked adversary, also known by the name APT37, InkySquid, RedEyes, Ricochet Chollima, and Ruby Sleet, is assessed to be part of the Ministry of State Security (MSS), placing it apart from Lazarus Group and Kimsuky, which are elements within the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB).

Earlier this week, North Korean state media reported that the country had carried out a test of its “underwater nuclear weapons system” in response to drills by the U.S., South Korea, and Japan, describing the exercises as a threat to its national security.

The latest attack chain observed by SentinelOne targeted an expert in North Korean affairs by posing as a member of the North Korea Research Institute, urging the recipient to open a ZIP archive file containing presentation materials.

While seven of the nine files in the archive are benign, two of them are malicious Windows shortcut (LNK) files, mirroring a multi-stage infection sequence previously disclosed by Check Point in May 2023 to distribute the RokRAT backdoor.

There is evidence to suggest that some of the individuals who were targeted around December 13, 2023, were also previously singled out a month prior on November 16, 2023.

SentinelOne said its investigation also uncovered malware – two LNK files (“inteligence.lnk” and “news.lnk”) as well as shellcode variants delivering RokRAT – that’s said to be part of the threat actor’s planning and testing processes.

While the former shortcut file just opens the legitimate Notepad application, the shellcode executed via news.lnk paves the way for the deployment of RokRAT, although this infection procedure is yet to be observed in the wild, indicating its likely use for future campaigns.

Both LNK files have been observed deploying the same decoy document, a legitimate threat intelligence report about the Kimsuky threat group published by South Korean cybersecurity company Genians in late October 2023, in a move that implies an attempt to expand its target list.

This has raised the possibility that the adversary could be looking to gather information that could help it refine its operational playbook and also target or mimic cybersecurity professionals to infiltrate specific targets via brand impersonation techniques.

The development is a sign that the nation-state hacking crew is actively tweaking its modus operandi in an apparent effort to circumvent detection in response to public disclosure about its tactics and techniques.

“ScarCruft remains committed to acquiring strategic intelligence and possibly intends to gain insights into non-public cyber threat intelligence and defense strategies,” the researchers said.

“This enables the adversary to gain a better understanding of how the international community perceives developments in North Korea, thereby contributing to North Korea’s decision-making processes.”

source: https://thehackernews.com/2024/01/north-korean-hackers-weaponize-fake.html

The Hacker and the State: Cyber Attacks and the New Normal of Geopolitics

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Tags: RokRAT Backdoor, The Hacker and the State

Nov 20 2023

Cyber Attack Forces World’s Biggest Bank to Trade via USB Stick

Category: Cyber Attackdisc7 @ 11:17 am

Cyber Attack Forces World’s Biggest Bank to Trade via USB Stick


On Thursday, trades handled by the world’s largest bank in the globe’s biggest market traversed Manhattan on a USB stick.

Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd.’s U.S. unit had been hit by a cyberattack, rendering it unable to clear swathes of U.S. Treasury trades after entities responsible for settling the transactions swiftly disconnected from the stricken systems. That forced ICBC to send the required settlement details to those parties by a messenger carrying a thumb drive as the state-owned lender raced to limit the damage.

The workaround — described by market participants — followed the attack by suspected perpetrator Lockbit, a prolific criminal gang with ties to Russia that has also been linked to hits on Boeing Co., ION Trading U.K. and the U.K.’s Royal Mail. The strike caused immediate disruption as market-makers, brokerages and banks were forced to reroute trades, with many uncertain when access would resume.

The incident spotlights a danger that bank leaders concede keeps them up at night — the prospect of a cyber attack that could someday cripple a key piece of the financial system’s wiring, setting off a cascade of disruptions. Even brief episodes prompt bank leaders and their government overseers to call for more vigilance.

“This is a true shock to large banks around the world,” said Marcus Murray, the founder of Swedish cybersecurity firm Truesec. “The ICBC hack will make large banks around the globe race to improve their defenses, starting today.”


As details of the attack emerged, employees at the bank’s Beijing headquarters held urgent meetings with the lender’s U.S. division and notified regulators as they discussed next steps and assessed the impact, according to a person familiar with the matter. ICBC is considering seeking help from China’s Ministry of State Security in light of the risks of potential attack on other units, the person said.

Late Thursday, the bank confirmed it had experienced a ransomware attack a day earlier that disrupted some systems at its ICBC Financial Services unit. The company said it isolated the affected systems and that those at the bank’s head office and other overseas units weren’t impacted, nor was ICBC’s New York branch.

The extent of the disruption wasn’t immediately clear, though Treasury market participants reported liquidity was affected. The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, or Sifma, held calls with members about the matter Thursday.

ICBC FS offers fixed-income clearing, Treasuries repo lending and some equities securities lending. The unit had $23.5 billion of assets at the end of 2022, according to its most recent annual filing with U.S. regulators.

The attack is only the latest to snarl parts of the global financial system. Eight months ago, ION Trading U.K. — a little-known company that serves derivatives traders worldwide — was hit by a ransomware attack that paralyzed markets and forced trading shops that clear hundreds of billions of dollars of transactions a day to process deals manually. That has put financial institutions on high alert.

ICBC, the world’s largest lender by assets, has been improving its cybersecurity in recent months, highlighting increased challenges from potential attacks amid the expansion of online transactions, adoption of new technologies and open banking.

“The bank actively responded to new challenges of financial cybersecurity, adhered to the bottom line for production safety and deepened the intelligent transformation of operation and maintenance,” ICBC said in its interim report in September.

Ransomware attacks against Chinese firms appear rare in part because China has banned crypto-related transactions, according to Mattias Wåhlén, a threat intelligence specialist at Truesec. That makes it harder for victims to pay ransom, which is often demanded in cryptocurrency because that form of payment provides more anonymity. 

But the latest attack likely exposes weaknesses in ICBC’s defenses, Wåhlén said. 

“It appears ICBC has had a less effective security,” he said, “possibly because Chinese banks have not been tested as much as their Western counterparts in the past.” 

Record levels

Ransomware hackers have become so prolific that attacks may hit record levels this year. 

Blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis had recorded roughly $500 million of ransomware payments through the end of September, an increase of almost 50% from the same period a year earlier. Ransomware attacks surged 95% in the first three quarters of this year, compared with the same period in 2022, according to Corvus Insurance.

In 2020, the website of the New Zealand Stock Exchange was hit by a cyberattack that throttled traffic so severely that it couldn’t post critical market announcements, forcing the entire operation to shut down. It was later revealed that more than 100 banks, exchanges, insurers and other financial firms worldwide were targets of the same type of so-called DDoS attacks simultaneously.

Caesars Entertainment Inc., MGM Resorts International and Clorox Co. are among companies that have been hit by ransomware hackers in recent months.

ICBC was struck as the Securities and Exchange Commission works to reduce risks in the financial system with a raft of proposals that include mandating central clearing of all U.S. Treasuries. Central clearing platforms are intermediaries between buyers and sellers that assume responsibility for completing transactions and therefore prevent a default of one counterparty from causing widespread problems in the marketplace.

The incident underscores the benefits of central clearing in the $26 trillion market, said Stanford University finance professor Darrell Duffie.

“I view it as one example of why central clearing in the U.S. Treasuries market is a very good idea,” he said, “because had a similar problem occurred in a not-clearing firm, it’s not clear how the default risk that might result would propagate through the market.”

The Hacker and the State: Cyber Attacks and the New Normal of Geopolitics

In the Lair of the Cozy Bear: Cyberwarfare with APT 29 Up Close and Personal

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Tags: The Hacker and the State, Trade via USB Stick

Apr 07 2022

A cyber attack forced the wind turbine manufacturer Nordex Group to shut down some of IT systems

Category: Cyber AttackDISC @ 8:45 am

Nordex Group, one of the largest manufacturers of wind turbines, was hit by a cyberattack that forced the company to shut down part of its infrastructure. 


Nordex Group, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of wind turbines, was the victim of a cyberattack that forced the company to take down multiple systems.

The attack was uncovered on March 31 and the company immediately started its incident response procedure to contain the attack.

Nordex Group shut down “IT systems across multiple locations and business units” as a precautionary measure to prevent the threat from spreading across its networks.

“On 31 March 2022 Nordex Group IT security detected that the company is subject to a cyber security incident. The intrusion was noted in an early stage and response measures initiated immediately in line with crisis management protocols. As a precautionary measure, the company decided to shut down IT systems across multiple locations and business units.” reads the announcement published by the company. “The incident response team of internal and external security experts has been set up immediately in order to contain the issue and prevent further propagation and to assess the extent of potential exposure.”

Nordex did not disclose technical details of the cyberattack, but the fact that it was forced to shut down part of its IT infrastructure suggests that it fell victim to a ransomware attack.

According to the press release, customers, employees, and other stakeholders may be affected by the shutdown of the company’s systems.

Nordex did not disclose technical details of the cyberattack, but the fact that it was forced to shut down part of its IT infrastructure suggests that it felt victim to a ransomware attack.

In November another manufacturer of wind turbines was hit by a cyber attack, it was the Danish wind turbine giant Vestas Wind Systems. The company was hit by the Lockbit 2.0 ransomware gang than published stolen data in December after the negotiation for the ransomware payment failed.

Nordex Group

The Hacker and the State: Cyber Attacks and the New Normal of Geopolitics

Tags: Nordex Group, The Hacker and the State

Mar 24 2022

macOS Malware of Chinese Hackers Storm Cloud Exposed

Category: MalwareDISC @ 11:44 am

The Hacker and the State: Cyber Attacks and the New Normal of Geopolitics

Tags: Chinese hackers, Storm Cloud, The Hacker and the State

Feb 22 2022

A cyber attack heavily impacted operations of Expeditors International

Category: Cyber Attack,RansomwareDISC @ 9:45 am

American worldwide logistics and freight forwarding company Expeditors International shuts down global operations after cyber attack

American logistics and freight forwarding company Expeditors International was hit by a cyberattack over the weekend that paralyzed most of its operations worldwide.

Expeditors company has over 18,000 employees worldwide and has annual gross revenue of around $10 billion. The company discovered the attack on February 20, 2022, it doesn’t provide details about the attack and announced to have launched an investigation into the incident.

“Expeditors International of Washington, Inc. (NASDAQ:EXPD) announced that on February 20, 2022, we determined that our company was the subject of a targeted cyber-attack. Upon discovering the incident, we shut down most of our operating systems globally to manage the safety of our overall global systems environment.” reads the announcement published by the company. ”The situation is evolving, and we are working with global cybersecurity experts to manage the situation. While our systems are shut down we will have limited ability to conduct operations, including but not limited to arranging for shipments of freight or managing customs and distribution activities for our customers’ shipments.”

The information publicly available on the attack suggests the company was the victim of a ransomware attack and was forced to shut down its network to avoid the threat from spreading.

The attack impacted the company’s operations, including the capability to arrange for shipments of freight or managing customs and distribution activities for our customers’ shipments.

The company hired cybersecurity experts to investigate the security breach and recover from the attack.

The company warned the incident could have a material adverse impact on our business, revenues, results of operations and reputation

“We are incurring expenses relating to the cyber-attack to investigate and remediate this matter and expect to continue to incur expenses of this nature in the future. Depending on the length of the shutdown of our operations, the impact of this cyber-attack could have a material adverse impact on our business, revenues, results of operations and reputation.” concludes the advisory.

Expeditors International

Cyber Attacks and the New Normal of Geopolitics

Tags: cyber attack, cyberwarfare, The Hacker and the State

Feb 11 2022

Spyware, ransomware and Nation-state hacking: Q&A from a recent interview

Category: Ransomware,SpywareDISC @ 9:56 am

I transcribed a recent interview, here some questions and answers about nation-state hacking, spyware, and cyber warfare. Enjoy”

How has spyware changed the rules of cyber security in recent years? What will cyber security look like now that those tools are all over the internet?

In the last decade, we have observed a progressive weaponization of cyberspace. NATO recognized cyberspace as a new domain of warfare. Cyberspace is the new battlefield for nation-state actors, the digital place where international crime rings operate threatening the pillars of our digital society.

Spyware are powerful weapons in the arsenal of governments and cybercrime gangs. These tools are even more sophisticated and are able to evade detection by using so-called zero-day exploits allowing attackers to bypass the defense of government organizations and businesses. Spyware allows attackers to steal sensitive info from the targets, and perform a broad range of malicious activities.

Is the Pegasus spyware as a game-changer?

Pegasus is probably the most popular surveillance software on the market, it has been developed by the Israeli NSO Group. Anyway, it is not the only one. Many other surveillance firms develop spyware that are every day abused in dragnet surveillance and target journalists, dissidents, and opponents of totalitarian regimes. These software are developed for law enforcement and intelligence agencies, but they are often abused by many governments worldwide cyber espionage operations. The surveillance business is growing in the dark and is becoming very dangerous.

Which are devices of cyber warfare and cyber espionage?

Every technological device can be abused for cyber warfare and cyber espionage. Malware, spyware are the most common means but do not forget the power of social network platforms that can be used for surveillance and misinformation purposes.

Many governments have fallen victim to massive ransomware attacks from groups linked to organized crime, how bad can this new trend of hacking get?

Every day we read about major attacks targeting organizations worldwide with severe impact on their operations. The situation is going worse despite the numerous operations of law enforcement on a global scale. The number of ransomware attacks spiked in the last couple of years due to the implementation of the Ransomware-as-a-Service model, this means that tens of ransomware gangs have created a network of affiliates and provided them their malware. Almost any criminal group could become an affiliate, obtain ransomware from a gang, and spread it, this is amplifying the damages. Critical infrastructure are even more exposed to a new generation of threats that are more aggressive and sophisticated.

Reports are coming out linking North Korea to illegal online activities related to cryptocurrency. How are some governments using the Internet to threaten world peace in one way or another?

When dealing with nation-state actors you must consider the main motivation behind the attacks and distinguish the technique, tactics, and procedure adopted by the different state-sponsored groups.

For example, China-linked nation-state actors are more focused on cyberespionage aimed at stealing intellectual property, while Russia-linked Advanced Persistent Threat groups often operate to destabilize the political contest of foreign states, carry out cyber espionage activities, and conduct disinformation campaigns. North Korea-linked threat actors carry out financially motivated attacks against banks and cryptocurrency firms worldwide to steal funds to re-invest in their military industry.

What about the resilience of countries’ infrastructure to face such kind of war?

We need norms of state behavior in the cyber space and more information sharing on cyber threats. We need to share information about the attacks in an early stage, profiling the threat actors to mitigate and prevent their campaigns. It is essential to increase the level of security of critical infrastructure like power grids, power plants and hospitals. Critical infrastructure are the main targets of nation-state actors in a cyber warfare contest.

Is making the internet a safe place technically possible?

Let me use the title of a famous book, “No place to hide”. I mean that both nation-state actors and cybercriminal organizations are spending a growing effort to increase their hacking capabilities and evasion techniques. Unfortunately, today most of the organizations still consider cybersecurity a cost to cut and this approach gives the attackers an immense advantage. We need a cultural change and we must consider that a security by design approach is the unique way to make the Internet a safe place. We also need globally recognized norms of responsible state behavior in cyberspace.

The Hacker and the State

The Cyberweapons Arms Race

Tags: Nation-state hacking, Ransomware Protection Playbook, Spyware, The Cyberweapons Arms Race, The Hacker and the State

Feb 03 2022

Oil terminals in Europe’s biggest ports hit by a cyberattack

Category: Cyber AttackDISC @ 9:41 am

Some of the major oil terminals in Western Europe’s biggest ports have been targeted with a cyberattack.

Threat actors have hit multiple oil facilities in Belgium’s ports, including Antwerp, which is the second biggest port in Europe after Rotterdam.

Among the impacted port infrastructure, there is the Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp oil trading hub, along with the SEA-Tank Terminal in Antwerp.

“A spokesperson for prosecutors in the northern Belgian city confirmed on Thursday they had begun an investigation earlier this week, but declined to give further details.” reported Reuters agency. “Belgian business daily De Tijd reported that terminal operator Sea-Tank had been hit by a cyber attack last Friday. The company declined to comment.

The AFP agency reported that the attackers have disrupted the unloading of barges in the affected European ports.

“There was a cyber attack at various terminals, quite some terminals are disrupted,” said Jelle Vreeman, senior broker at Riverlake in Rotterdam. “Their software is being hijacked and they can’t process barges. Basically, the operational system is down.”

The attacks were also confirmed by Europol, which is supporting the authorities in Germany, where other ports were hit by the threat actors.

“At this stage the investigation is ongoing and in a sensitive stage,” Europol spokeswoman Claire Georges said.

This week, two oil supply companies in Germany were hit by cyber-attacks that caused severe problems to petrol distribution.

The Hacker and the State: Cyber Attacks and the New Normal of Geopolitics

Tags: cyber attacks, Oil terminals, The Hacker and the State