Kaspersky Lab’s advanced exploit prevention system has identified a new Adobe Flash Zero Day exploit, used in an attack by a threat actor known as BlackOasis.
The exploit is delivered through a Microsoft Word document and deploys the FinSpy commercial malware. Kaspersky Lab has reported the vulnerability to Adobe, which has issued an advisory.
According to Kaspersky Lab researchers, the Zero Day, CVE-2017-11292, has been spotted in a live attack, and they advise businesses and government organisations to install the update from Adobe immediately.
The researchers believe that the group behind the attack was also responsible for CVE-2017-8759, another Zero Day, reported in September – and they are confident that the threat actor involved is BlackOasis, which Kaspersky Lab’s Global Research and Analysis Team began tracking in 2016.
Analysis reveals that, upon successful exploitation of the vulnerability, the FinSpy malware (also known as FinFisher) is installed on the target computer. FinSpy is a commercial malware, typically sold to nation states and law enforcement agencies to conduct surveillance. In the past, use of the malware was mostly domestic, with law enforcement agencies deploying it for surveillance on local targets. BlackOasis is a significant exception to this – using it against wide range of targets across the world. This appears to suggest that FinSpy is now fuelling global intelligence operations, with one country using it against another. Companies developing surveillance software such as FinSpy make this arms race possible.
The malware used in the attack is the most recent version of FinSpy, equipped with multiple anti-analysis techniques to make forensic analysis more difficult.
After installation, the malware establishes a foothold on the attacked computer and connects to its command and control servers located in Switzerland, Bulgaria and the Netherlands, to await further instructions and exfiltrate data.
Based on Kaspersky Lab’s assessment, the interests of BlackOasis span a whole gamut of figures involved in Middle Eastern politics, including prominent figures in the United Nations, opposition bloggers and activists, as well as regional news correspondents. They also appear to have an interest in verticals of particular relevance to the region. During 2016, the company’s researchers observed a heavy interest in Angola, exemplified by lure documents indicating targets with suspected ties to oil, money laundering and other activities. There is also an interest in international activists and think tanks.
So far, victims of BlackOasis have been observed in the following countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Libya, Jordan, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, the Netherlands, Bahrain, United Kingdom, Angola and Russia.
“The attack using the recently discovered zero-day exploit is the third time this year we have seen FinSpy distribution through exploits to zero-day vulnerabilities. Previously, actors deploying this malware abused critical issues in Microsoft Word and Adobe products. We believe the number of attacks relying on FinSpy software, supported by Zero Day exploits such as the one described here, will continue to grow,” said Anton Ivanov, the Lead Malware Analyst at Kaspersky Lab.
Kaspersky Lab security solutions successfully detect and block exploits utilising the newly discovered vulnerability.
Kaspersky Lab experts advise organisations to take the following action to protect their systems and data against this threat:
- If not already implemented, use the killbit feature for Flash software and, wherever possible, disable it completely.
- Implement an advanced, multi-layered security solution that covers all networks, systems and endpoints.
- Educate and train personnel on social engineering tactics as this method is often used to make a victim open a malicious document or click on an infected link.
- Conduct regular security assessments of the organisation’s IT infrastructure.
- Use Kaspersky Lab’s Threat Intelligence that tracks cyberattacks, incident or threats and provides customers with up-to-date relevant information that they are unaware of. Find out more at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Data journalism takes top prize in revamped awards
The entries to the 2018 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards were extraordinarily varied and of an excellent standard, with new categories introduced which are based on content as opposed to platforms. This year, the judges decided that two entries were equally worthy of the coveted Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award.
The first co-winning entry, in the new Data Journalism category, is a set of stories by Alastair Otter and Laura Grant of Media Hack which showed how Data Journalism is shaping the future. The second co-winning entrant is Bongani Fuzile of the Daily Dispatch for his articles in the investigative category on how migrant workers were being ripped off by pension deductions (full citations below).
Convenor of the judging panel Ryland Fisher says: “This year we modernised the 12 categories that journalists could enter their work in and the change was embraced by entrants. In a turbulent time for media, the 2018 entries once again proved that there are excellent South African journalists delivering praiseworthy work, and we commend them for finding new and innovative ways to cover the news.”
Takalani Netshitenzhe, Chief Officer for Corporate Affairs at the Vodacom Group, says: “Vodacom is proud of its 17-year association with these prestigious awards, which make an important contribution to our society through the recognition of journalistic excellence. I’d like to congratulate all of tonight’s winners and, as always, I’d like to pay tribute to our hardworking judges. Ryland Fisher, Mathatha Tsedu, Arthur Goldstuck, Collin Nxumalo, Elna Rossouw, Patricia McCracken, Megan Rusi, Mary Papayya, Albe Grobbelaar and Obed Zilwa: thank you for making these awards a continued success.”
Veteran journalist and media stalwart Ms Amina Frense is the winner of the 2018 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Lifetime Achiever Award. She has spent decades in mainstream media both locally and internationally. She is a former Managing Editor: News and Current Affairs at the SA Broadcasting Corporation. She has worked in many countries abroad as a producer and a foreign correspondent, has written two books and is also a founding member of SANEF where she still serves as a council member (full citation below).
The overall winners share the R100 000 main prize. National winners in the various categories are as follows, with each winner taking home R10 000:
The entries in this category were of an exceptionally high standard. One entrant stood out and became the unanimous winner. This journalist showed an exceptional skill for story-telling and for finding unexpected angles and unknown facts. For his stories about Musangwe’s fight for recognition, Age cheating in SA football, and Hansie Cronje revisited, the winner is Ronald Masinda, and the team of Gift Kganyago, Nceba Ntlanganiso and Charles Lombard from eSAT TV.
Cons exploit Telegram ICO
Kaspersky Lab researchers have uncovered dozens of highly convincing fake websites claiming to be investment sites for an initial coin offering (ICO) by the Telegram messaging service. Many of these websites appear to belong to the same group. In one case alone, tens of thousands of US dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency were stolen from victims believing they were investing in ‘Grams’, Telegram’s rumoured new currency. Telegram has not officially confirmed an ICO and has warned people about fraudulent investor sites.
In late 2017, stories started to circulate that the Telegram messaging service was launching an initial coin offering (ICO) to finance a blockchain platform based on its TON (Telegram Open Network) technology. Unverified technical documentation was posted online, but there appears to have been no confirmation from Telegram itself. The resulting confusion seems to have allowed fraudsters to capitalise on investor interest by creating fake sites and stealing vast sums of money.
Kaspersky Lab researchers have discovered dozens of such sites, possibly belonging to the same group, claiming to sell tokens for ‘Grams’ and inviting investors to pay with cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, lice litecoin, dash and Bitcoin dash. A record of transactions on one site revealed that the scammers were able to steal at least $35,000 US dollars’ worth of Ethereum from investors.
The researchers found that some of the websites were so convincing that even after Telegram and others began to issue warnings, they were still able to recruit potential investors. Most use a secure connection, require registration and generate a unique online wallet for each new victim, making it harder to track the money.
Judging by the content of the fake websites, it appears they may have common ownership. For example, several have the exactly the same ‘Our Team’ section.
“ICOs are a fairly risky investment and many people don’t yet fully understand how they work, so it is not surprising that high quality fake websites, with seemingly reassuring features such as a secure connection and registration are successful at luring people in. People wishing to invest in an ICO would do well to check with the company behind it and make sure they know exactly who they are giving their money to, or they may never see it again,” said Nadezhda Demidova, Lead Web-Content Analyst, Kaspersky Lab.
Kaspersky Lab offers the following advice for users considering investing in an ICO:
- Check for warning signs: for example, some of the fake Telegram ICO websites had the same wrong image next to the name of Telegram’s Chief Product Officer.
- Do your homework: always check with the brand’s official site to verify the legitimacy of the investment site and, if necessary contact the company’s ICO teams before investing any money or currency.
- Use reliable security solutions such as Kaspersky Internet Security and Kaspersky Internet Security for Android, which will warn you if you try to visit fake internet pages.