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New Breed of Nation-state Hackers Keep Governments on Their Toes

APT33 has targeted organisations – spanning multiple industries – headquartered in the US, Saudi Arabia and South Korea

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Cyber attacks are growing exponentially and the threat of data breaches now loom over both government and private enterprises owing to new nation-state hackers coming to the fore.

North Korea leads the race in harbouring such groups for cyber warfare.

North Korea’s hacking branch is known as “Bureau 121” which is behind several high-profile cyber attacks, including the most famous “Wannacry” ransomware attack.

The “WannaCry” began in May 2017 as a global cyber attack which targeted computers by encrypting data and demanding ransom payments in the Bitcoin cryptocurrency.

The attack was estimated to have affected more than 200,000 computers across 150 countries including in India – with damages running into millions of dollars.

They were also responsible for a massive data leak at Sony Pictures in 2014.

Cyber security firm FireEye pays special attention to advanced persistent threats (APT) groups that receive direction and support from an established nation state.

Cyberattacks
An employee works near screens in the virus lab at the headquarters of Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Labs in Moscow, July 29, 2013. VOA

Like other attackers, APT groups try to steal data, disrupt operations or destroy infrastructure. Unlike most cyber criminals, APT attackers pursue their objectives over months or years.

“APT38” is another North Korean regime-backed threat group responsible for conducting the largest observed cyber heists.

Although APT38 shares malware development resources and North Korean state sponsorship with a group referred to by the security community as “Lazarus”, APT38’s financial motivation, unique toolset, and tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) are distinct enough for them to be tracked separately from other North Korean cyber activity, says FireEye.

“APT38” has conducted operations in over 16 organisations in at least 11 countries.

High-profile organisations in engineering, transportation and defence industries, particularly with links to the maritime sector, are being targeted by China-based “APT 40”. The group has been active since at least January 2013.

“Anonymous” is another known hacking group. Starting operations in 2003, they initially hacked into smaller social networking sites.

On August 9, 2014, Michael Brown Jr., an 18-year-old African American man, was fatally shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the city of Ferguson, Missouriin the US.

“Anonymous” shut down Ferguson City Hall’s Internet following the shooting. In 2011, they took down the PlayStation Network and stole user data.

cyberattack
Image source: wordpress.com

Fancy Bear is a hacking group associated with the Russian government and appears to support its cyber warfare activities.

“Despite being one of the most disruptive hackers in the world, Fancy Bear almost never takes credit for their own work,” say media reports.

When it comes to Middle Eastern hacker groups with destructive capabilities, many think of the suspected Iranian group that previously used SHAMOON – aka Disttrack – to target organizations in the Persian Gulf.

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“However, over the past few years, we have been tracking a separate, less widely known suspected Iranian group with potential destructive capabilities, whom we call APT33,” says FireEye.

The analysis reveals that APT33 is a capable group that has carried out cyber espionage operations since at least 2013 “at the behest of the Iranian government”.

APT33 has targeted organisations – spanning multiple industries – headquartered in the US, Saudi Arabia and South Korea. (IANS)

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Iran-based Hackers Steal Data From Citrix

"Citrix deeply regrets the impact this incident may have on affected customers,"

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Iran-based hackers have stolen terabytes of data from desktop virtualisation leader Citrix, with the company admitting that the cyber criminals may have accessed and downloaded business documents.
“The specific documents that may have been accessed, however, are currently unknown. At this time, there is no indication that the security of any Citrix product or service was compromised,” Citrix Chief Information Security Officer Stan Black said in a blog post.
According to a report in The Registrar on Sunday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) last week warned Citrix about the data hack.
According to cyber security firm Resecurity, at least six terabytes of sensitive internal files were stolen by the Iranian-backed IRIDIUM hacker gang.
Cloudhopper, cyberattacks
Alister Shepherd, the director of a subsidiary of the cybersecurity firm FireEye, gestures during a presentation about the APT33 hacking group, which his firm suspects are Iranian government-aligned hackers, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. VOA
The researchers said they had alerted Citrix as early as December 28 last year about the ongoing attack.
“Citrix has taken action to contain the incident. We commenced a forensic investigation; engaged a leading cyber security firm to assist; took actions to secure our internal network; and continue to cooperate with the FBI,” Black wrote.
The hackers probably used a tactic known as “password spraying”, which exploits weak passwords. Once they gain a foothold with limited access, they worked to circumvent additional layers of security.
“Citrix deeply regrets the impact this incident may have on affected customers,” he said. (IANS)