Security

Russia/Ukraine-themed War Documents become Lure of Choice for Cyber Espionage

Check Point

Check Point Research (CPR) sees threat groups worldwide using Russia/Ukraine-themed documents to spread malware and lure victims into cyber espionage. Depending on the targets and region, attackers are using decoys ranging from official-looking documents, to news articles and job postings. CPR believes the motivation behind these recent campaigns is cyber espionage, to steal sensitive information from governments, banks and energy companies. The threat groups and their victims are not concentrated to one region, but span worldwide, including Latin America, Middle East and Asia.

Malware Capabilities 

CPR studied the malware laced by each of the three APT groups, specifically for these cyber espionage activities. Capabilities include: 

  • Keylogging: steals everything you enter using the keyboard  
  • Credential collection: collects credentials stored in Chrome and Firefox browsers 
  • File collection: collects information about the files on each drive and collect file names and file sizes, allowing theft of specific files 
  • Screenshotting 
  • Clipboard data collection 
  • Command execution 

Attack Methodologies 

El Machete 

  1. Spear-phishing email with text about Ukraine 
  2. Attached Word document with article about Ukraine 
  3. Malicious macro inside the document drops a sequence of files 
  4. Malware downloaded to the PC 

Lyceum 

  1. Email with content about war crimes in Ukraine and link to malicious document hosted on a website 
  2. The document executes a macro code when the document is closed 
  3. Exe file is saved to the PC 
  4. Next time you restart your PC the malware runs 

SideWinder 

  1. Malicious document is opened by the victim 
  2. When it’s opened, the document retrieves a remote template from an actor-controlled server 
  3. The external template that’s downloaded is an RTF file, that exploits the CVE-2017-11882 vulnerability 
  4. Malware on the PC of the victim 

Russia/Ukraine-themed Documents become Lure of Choice 

El Machete was spotted sending spear-phishing emails to financial organizations in Nicaragua, with an attached Word document titled “Dark plans of the neo-Nazi regime in Ukraine.” The document contained an article written and published by Alexander Khokholikov, the Russian Ambassador to Nicaragua that discussed the Russo-Ukrainian conflict from the perspective of the Kremlin. 

Sergey Shykevich, Threat Intelligence Group Manager at Check Point Software, said, “Right now, we are seeing a variety of APT campaigns that utilizes the current war for malware distribution. The campaigns are highly targeted and sophisticated, focusing on victims in the government, financial and energy sectors. In our newest report, we profile and bring examples from three different APT groups, who all originate in different parts of the world, that we caught orchestrating these spear-phishing campaigns. We studied the malware involved closely, and found capabilities that span keylogging, screenshotting and more. It is my strong belief that these campaigns are designed with the core motivation of cyber espionage. Our findings reveal a clear trend, that collateral around the war between Russia and Ukraine has become a lure of choice for threat groups world-wide. I strongly recommend governments, banks and energy companies to reiterate cyber awareness and education to employees, and to implement cyber security solutions that protect the network on all levels.” 


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