2020 - III Quarterly Bulletin
C3 TOP – Threat Observatory Platform
Threat Agent activities
Behind every cyber-attack there is an actor with a specific intent. However, for many events, the identity and general motivation are unknown. On the other hand, some groups have been well known for years and their criminal activities and techniques are documented and monitored. Typically, they conduct targeted attacks against specific organisations, using relatively sophisticated tools and attack procedures.
Some of them are considered as State-sponsored, but the actual link with various countries stays often subject of controversies and should be considered with prudence.
During the third quarter of 2020 has been observed a general decrease of identifiable threat groups’ activity. Comparing the third quarter of 2020 with second quarter of 2020, the decrease can be estimate around - 30 %.
As during previous quarters, the attribution rate of events is very low. This means that most of the ongoing attacks are not attributable.
According to the attribution found in the MISP records, the following groups were particularly active during this quarter:
APT41 is a prolific cyber threat group that carries out Chinese state-sponsored espionage activity in addition to financially motivated activity potentially outside of state control;
Evilium is a financially motivated threat group that has been active since at least 2018; the main group’s targets are fintech companies;
Lazarus group is a North Korean state-sponsored cyber threat group; it uses a wide range of methods depending on the characteristics of the campaigns carried out and the objectives pursued. It mainly aimed at manipulating employees of strategically important companies such as those involved in the military or aerospace industry;
Putter Panda is a Chinese threat group mainly based in Shanghai, China. The group has been tracking since 2012. It is conducting intelligence-gathering operations targeting the Government, defence, research, and technology sectors in the United States, with specific targeting of the US defence and European satellite and aerospace industries.
External transfer pathway and infrastructures
The transfer of the malicious artefacts or payloads is done through a number of different types of technical procedures and infrastructures.
The records related to this period confirmed that the most frequently used strategy is associated with scams that use email or similar approaches to reach potential victims.
Phishing is the most common strategy. In most of these cases, the pathway is a human to human or machine to human infrastructure.
This period also shows an increase of malspam, i.e., spam email that delivers malware.
The attribution rates are significantly better than for threat actors, even if still fairly low. Attribution means that it was possible to identify the external transfer pathway for a given event.
Infrastructures represent the type of systems being used for supporting attacks. Some are meant to compromise or help compromise, the targeted system, others are more focused on helping to maintain the foothold in it. Indeed, once access to a system device has been gained, a communication channel is maintained through the use of command and control (C2) infrastructures. The specific mechanisms vary greatly between attacks, but C2 generally consists of one or more covert communication channels between devices in a victim organization and a platform that the attacker controls. These communication channels are supporting the malicious activities. They are used to issue instructions to the compromised devices, download additional malicious payloads, and pipe stolen data back to the cyber-actor.
During this period, there was a clear decrease in the use of C2 infrastructures and malicious websites.
The monitoring system showed a substantial prevalence of the use of Malware especially associated with IoT systems. The monitoring system recorded a significant increase in trojan malware.
In contrast, during this quarter, there was a decrease in the number of attack events with fake websites and the use of downloaders.
Compared to the other dimensions of the interpretation model, this dimension is confirmed as having the highest attribution rate.
Points of access
The most common access point reported by MISPPRIV users is e-mail, which isn’t too surprising as it’s an effective ingress vector for several types of attacks. It’s often exploiting users’ weaknesses, be they voluntary (negligence) or involuntary lack of knowledge about a specific threat.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that the attribution rate is rather low. Most of the attacks’ point of access is not known.
With regard to component and system vulnerabilities, the monitoring system identified the following as the most critical:
A flaw of the Microsoft Windows Netlogon Remote Protocol;
Windows DNS - a remote code execution vulnerability exists in Windows Domain Name System servers when they fail to properly handle requests;
SAP Java System – Authentication check is not properly performed;
Vulnerability of Oracle Coherence product; easily exploitable vulnerability allows to takeover of the of Oracle system;
Number of vulnerabilities associated to the Windows component RemoteFX vGPU;
Vulnerability of Sonatype Nexus Repository;
Microsoft Windows vulnerability associated with the use of Windows Adobe;
Number of vulnerabilities associated to Microsoft Exchange;
Router Tenda AC15 AC1900 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary system commands.
Information on the attacked IT target is not sufficiently described by the analysed events.
Type of Impact
The attribution rate for this dimension is very low and not sufficiently described.
Information on the type of consequences for the victim is mainly related to ransom demands.
Type of Victim
During this period the monitoring system recorded a decrease of attacks on airlines and governmental institutions.
Attacks on banks and financial institutions remain constant.