‘Molerat’ Hackers Target Governments

Wednesday, June 4, 2014 @ 06:06 AM gHale

There is a group of Middle Eastern hackers targeting multiple European government organizations and at least one financial institution in the U.S., researchers said.

The attacks occurred between April 29 and May 27, and ended up traced to a campaign known as “Operation Molerats,” said researchers at security firm FireEye.

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The attacks reuse the same command and control infrastructure and tactics as previous attacks, the researchers said. Among the victims: Government departments in countries like Israel, Slovenia and the U.S.; the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); and the Office of the Quarter Representative.

“Previous Molerats campaigns have used several garden-variety, freely available backdoors such as CyberGate and Bifrost, but, most recently, we have observed them making use of the PIVY (Poison Ivy) and Xtreme RATs,” FireEye researchers said in a blog post.

“Previous campaigns made use of at least one of three observed forged Microsoft certificates, allowing security researchers to accurately tie together separate attacks even if the attacks used different backdoors. There also appears to be a habitual use of lures or decoy documents -– in either English or Arabic-language -– with content focusing on active conflicts in the Middle East. The lures come packaged with malicious files that drop the Molerats’ flavor of the week, which happen to all be Xtreme RAT binaries in these most recent campaigns.”

The means of the attack varied somewhat. In at least one example, the attackers used a spearphishing email with a malicious link. In other cases, the emails contained malicious attachments.

Hacking activities in the Middle East have been on the rise for the past few years. Iranian attackers developed more than a dozen fake identities on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter as part of a cyber-espionage effort that began in 2011. Using the phony identities, the attackers were able to successfully connect to more than 2,000 individuals.

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