A recent report has revealed that due to the mass WannaCry infection, fraudster have been sending spam mails offering users different services to fight against the epidemic.
In Q2 2017, cybercriminals involved in spam distribution tried to capitalise on public fears when the WannaCry ransomware epidemic struck in May. Knowing that there are lots of people out there infected with this ransomware, and searching for ways to get their encrypted data back, fraudsters sent out spam and phishing emails, offering users different services to fight against the epidemics. This is one of the key findings of Kaspersky Lab’s “Spam and phishing in Q2 2017” report.
The WannaCry ransomware attack affected more than 200,000 computers across the globe, resulting in massive panic, and spammers instantly capitalised on the opportunity. Researchers detected a large amount of messages offering services such as protection from WannaCry attacks, data recovery, and, moreover, educational workshops and courses for users. In addition, spammers successfully implemented a traditional scheme of fraudulent offers to install software updates on affected computers. However, links were redirecting users to phishing pages, where the personal data of victims would have been stolen.
One of the main trends in the past three months is the number of mass mailings targeted at corporate networks. Based on Kaspersky Lab research, these have expanded since the beginning of the year. Spammers began to widely disguise malicious mailings as corporate dialogues, by using the identities of corporate mail services, including real signatures, logos and even banking information. In archives attached to the email, cybercriminals sent out exploit packages targeted at stealing FTP, email and other passwords. Kaspersky Lab experts highlight that most attacks on the corporate sector have financial goals.
In addition, in the second quarter of the year researchers detected a growth in number of mass mailings with malicious Trojans, sent on behalf of international delivery services. Spammers were sending shipping reports with information about non-existent parcel deliveries. With the aim to infect computers or to steal personal credentials, criminals were found spreading download links with malware, including the banking Trojan Emotet, which was first detected back in 2014. Overall, the volume of malicious mass mailings have increased by 17%, according to the new Kaspersky Lab report.
“During the second quarter of the year, we have seen that the main trends in spam and phishing attacks have continued to grow. The use of WannaCry in mass mailings proves that cybercriminals are very attentive and reactive to international events. Moreover, cybercriminals have started to focus more on the B2B sector, seeing it as lucrative. We expect this tendency will continue to grow, and the overall amount of corporate attacks and their variety will expand”, said Darya Gudkova, Spam Analyst Expert at Kaspersky Lab.
Other important trends and statistics in Q2, highlighted by Kaspersky Lab researchers, include the following:
- The average amount of spam has increased up to 56.97%. Vietnam became the most popular source of spam, overtaking the U.S. and China. The top 10 countries include Russia, Brazil, France, Iran and the Netherlands.
- The Necurs botnet is still active. However, the experts spotted a decrease in the volume of spam sent from this botnet, and its instability.
- The country most targeted by malicious mailshots was Germany. The leader of the previous period, China, came second, followed by U.K., Japan and Russia. Other popular targets include Brazil, Italy, Vietnam, France and the U.S.
- The Kaspersky Lab Anti-Phishing system was triggered 46,557,343 times on the computers of Kaspersky Lab users. The largest percentage of affected users were in Brazil (18.09%). Overall, 8.26% unique users of Kaspersky Lab products worldwide were attacked by phishing.
- As in Q1, the main targets of phishing attacks remained the same and were primarily from the financial sector: banks, payments services and online stores.
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.
Crouching Yeti strikes
Kaspersky Lab has uncovered infrastructure used by the Russian-speaking APT group Crouching Yeti, also known as Energetic Bear, which includes compromised servers across the world.
According to the research, numerous servers in different countries were hit since 2016, sometimes in order to gain access to other resources. Others, including those hosting Russian websites, were used as watering holes.
Crouching Yeti is a Russian-speaking advanced persistent threat (APT) group that Kaspersky Lab has been tracking since 2010. It is best known for targeting industrial sectors around the world, with a primary focus on energy facilities, for the main purpose of stealing valuable data from victim systems. One of the techniques the group has been widely using is through watering hole attacks: the attackers injected websites with a link redirecting visitors to a malicious server.
Recently Kaspersky Lab has discovered a number of servers, compromised by the group, belonging to different organisations based in Russia, the U.S., Turkey and European countries, and not limited to industrial companies. According to researchers, they were hit in 2016 and 2017 with different purposes. Thus, besides watering hole, in some cases they were used as intermediaries to conduct attacks on other resources.
In the process of analysing infected servers, researchers identified numerous websites and servers used by organisations in Russia, U.S., Europe, Asia and Latin America that the attackers had scanned with various tools, possibly to find a server that could be used to establish a foothold for hosting the attackers’ tools and to subsequently develop an attack. Some of the sites scanned may have been of interest to the attackers as candidates for waterhole. The range of websites and servers that captured the attention of the intruders is extensive. Kaspersky Lab researchers found that the attackers had scanned numerous websites of different types, including online stores and services, public organisations, NGOs, manufacturing, etc.
Also, experts found that the group used publicly available malicious tools, designed for analyzing servers, and for seeking out and collecting information. In addition, a modified sshd file with a preinstalled backdoor was discovered. This was used to replace the original file and could be authorised with a ‘master password’.
“Crouching Yeti is a notorious Russian-speaking group that has been active for many years and is still successfully targeting industrial organisations through watering hole attacks, among other techniques. Our findings show that the group compromised servers not only for establishing watering holes, but also for further scanning, and they actively used open-sourced tools that made it much harder to identify them afterwards,” said Vladimir Dashchenko, Head of Vulnerability Research Group at Kaspersky Lab ICS CERT.
“The group’s activities, such as initial data collection, the theft of authentication data, and the scanning of resources, are used to launch further attacks. The diversity of infected servers and scanned resources suggests the group may operate in the interests of the third parties,” he added.
Kaspersky Lab recommends that organisations implement a comprehensive framework against advanced threats comprising of dedicated security solutions for targeted attack detection and incident response, along with expert services and threat intelligence. As a part of Kaspersky Threat Management and Defense, our anti-targeted attack platform detects an attack at early stages by analysing suspicious network activity, while Kaspersky EDR brings improved endpoint visibility, investigation capabilities and response automation. These are enhanced with global threat intelligence and Kaspersky Lab’s expert services with specialisation in threat hunting and incident response.
More details on this recent Crouching Yeti activity can be found on the Kaspersky Lab ICS CERT website.