APT28 hacking crew plans attacks on financial institutions

Pierluigi Paganini May 14, 2015

According to a report published by the experts at root9B the hacking crew APT28 is planning to attack several financial institutions worldwide.

In October 2014, security expert at FireEye published a report on the activities conducted by a group of Russian hackers, dubbed APT28, the hacking crew is behind long-running cyber espionage campaigns that targeted US defense contractors, European security organizations and Eastern European government entities.

The hackers have been around since at least 2007 and targeted attendees of European defense exhibitions, including the EuroNaval 2014, EUROSATORY 2014, and the Counter Terror Expo and the Farnborough Airshow 2014.

In April 2015, FireEye detected a new highly targeted attack run by the same APT28 group exploiting two zero-day flaws to compromise an “international government entity”.

The same group was identified by other security firms which dubbed it with different names, for example Trend Micro called it Pawn Storm and provided important information on the techniques tactics and procedures (TTPs) of the collective.

Due to the nature of the targets and the techniques and tools adopted by ATP28, the experts speculate that the group is allegedly linked to the Russian Government.

FireEye highlighted that that the APT28 was not financially motivated, but a new information provided by root9B seems to call into question this assertion. The root9b group affirms to have uncovered plans by the APT28 group to target international financial institutions.

The information reveals that the group targeted Bank of America, the Commercial Bank International (CBI) in the United Arab Emirates, TD Canada Trust, Regions Bank, the United Nations Children’s Fund, United Bank for Africa, and possibly Germany-based Commerzbank.

“While none of the targeted organizations are clients of root9B, we felt it imperative to disclose the findings to them, and as broadly as possible to the security community,” said Eric Hipkins, CEO of root9B.

The experts uncovered the plans in April during a routine investigation, the researchers spotted a spear phishing campaign that was targeting a financial organization in the United Arab Emirates. The experts confirm that the server used to run the campaign is linked to previous operations attributed to state-sponsored hackers and the researchers also detected several components of a new strain of malware with signatures specific to APT28.

By analyzing the fake information used by the hackers to register the phishing domains, the experts discovered other domains set up to target other financial institutions.

“While the continued vector of the attack remains unclear, root9B assesses that it will most likely be a spear-phishing campaign. This attack vector will likely use a well-crafted email containing either a malicious file or web hyperlink to what recipients believe is the actual website; but is instead a fake landing page,” states a report from the company.

APT28 report

Experts not excluded that the team was gathering information to gather information to use in further hacking campaigns.

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – APT28, Russia)

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