“Smishing Triad” Targeted USPS and US Citizens for Data Theft

Pierluigi Paganini September 04, 2023

Resecurity has identified a large-scale smishing campaign, tracked as Smishing Triad, targeting the US Citizens.

Earlier episodes have revealed victims from the U.K., Poland, Sweden, Italy, Indonesia, Japan and other countries – the group was impersonating the Royal Mail, New Zealand Postal Service (NZPOST), Correos (Spain), Postnord, Poste Italiane and the Italian Revenue Service (Agenzia delle Entrate). Similar scams have been observed before targeting Fedex and UPS.

The bad actors attributed to Chinese-speaking cybercriminals are leveraging a package tracking text scam sent via iMessage to collect personal (PII) and payment information from the victims with the goal of identity theft and credit card fraud. The cybercriminal group with the associated campaign has been named “Smishing Triad” as it leverages smishing as the main attack vector and originates from China.

Smishing is a form of phishing that involves a text message or phone number. Victims will typically receive a deceptive text message that is intended to lure the recipient into providing their personal or financial information. These scammers often attempt to disguise themselves as a government agency, bank, or other organization to lend legitimacy to their claims, for example, a postal service like the United States Postal Service (USPS), asking to pay additional delivery fees via credit card. Once the victim shares payment information, the bad actors use it for fraudulent purposes and unauthorized charges.

Smishing Triad

Expecting the spike of this activity during summer time, USPS has timely warned about the growing risk of package tracking text scams sent via SMS/iMessage. The spike of this activity has been observed during August with big number of domain names registered by attackers.

The notable detail of “Smishing Triad” campaign is that bad actors used solely iMessage sent from compromised Apple iCloud accounts as the main delivery method of malicious messages to victims instead of traditional SMS or calls how it was done in other scam campaigns like “PostalFurious” and “RedZei” observed by other researchers in the past.

“Smishing Triad” also attacks online-shopping platforms and injects malicious code to intercept customer data. Around July 19, 2023 – there was identified a campaign conducted by the same actors targeting popular online-shopping platforms with malicious scenarios containing payment form impersonating Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC). Around same time, there were also identified customized forms impersonating New Zealand Transport Agency and the Agenzia delle Entrate (the Italian Revenue Agency), that enforces the financial code of Italy and collects taxes and revenue.

The bad actors also distribute an engine of fake online-shop (TrickyCart) allowing them to defraud consumers with a pseudo 3D Secure Payment form impersonating popular payment systems and e-commerce platforms including Visa, Mastercard and PayPal. 

“Smishing Triad” has own Telegram channel with over 2,725 members on it and several private groups. The actors are weaponizing other cybercriminals by selling them customized ‘smishing kits’ targeting popular U.S., U.K. and EU brands – starting at $200 per month provided on subscription with further support. Resecurity has identified a group of domain names used by “Smishing Triad” registered in “.top” zone via NameSilo and protected by Cloudflare around August 2023. Notably, some of the domain names are still functioning as well as the identified Telegram group managed by the actors.

After acquisition of the ‘smishing kit’, Resecurity was able to identify a vulnerability acting as a hidden backdoor in the code allowing actors to silently extract collected personal and payment data from their clients. According to researchers, such scenarios are widely used by cybercriminals in password stealers and phishing kits allowing them to profit from efforts of their clients or at least to monitor their activity. Resecurity was able to recover over 108,044 records with victims’ compromised data in order to alert them about identity theft. The collected information has been shared with relevant law enforcement agencies and the United States Postal Inspection Service.

Resecurity highlighted that it may be complicated to disrupt such cybercriminal activity committed by foreign actors located in jurisdictions like China without proper law enforcement and industry collaboration. Therefor, Resecurity is sharing the information about the “Smishing Triad” with the wider community and network defenders to raise awareness and safeguard their customers.

Further technical details are available in the report published by ReSecurity.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, Smishing Triad)

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