2021 - II 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 second quarter of 2021 has been observed a decrease of identifiable threat groups’ activity. Comparing the 1st quarter of 2021 with second, the decrease can be estimate around - 59 %.

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:

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.

Also, during the second quarter of 2021, it is 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, but there has also been a significant increase in DNS Hijacking, i.e., the manipulation of the process of managing domain name and IP addresses.

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 significant increase in events using C2 infrastructures.


The monitoring system showed a substantial prevalence of the use of Malware especially associated with IoT systems.

During this period, events were observed that used DGA (Domain Generation Algorithm), i.e., a technique used to generate new domain names and IP addresses for malware command and control servers.

Monitoring systems have also recorded an increase in the use of Trojans.

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.

With regard to component and system vulnerabilities, the monitoring system identified the following:

IT Target

Information on the attacked IT target is not sufficiently described by the analysed events.

It should be noted that there is still some residual evidence of the attack campaign conducted in the previous quarter by HAFNIUM, which led to the exploitation of a number of vulnerabilities in the Microsoft Exchange Server system.

These vulnerabilities allow a malicious user to effectively inject code into resources used in the Exchange Offline Address Book (OAB) service. After gaining initial access, actors implemented web shells on the compromised server. After successfully deploying a web shell, the actors would maintain access to take further actions, including downloading additional malware, stealing data, and moving into the victim's network.

Type of Impact

The information detected by the monitoring system regarding the type of consequences for the victim is mainly related to ransom demands.

Type of Victim

There has been a continuation of attacks on airlines, although a decrease compared to previous quarters.

Attacks on banking systems are still in evidence and there has been an increase in attacks on public and private institutions.