In a blog post published Friday, the Japanese-owned American cybersecurity firm Trend Micro wrote about new efforts by a hacking group to infiltrate the U.S. Senate’s computer system.
The group, called Pawn Storm, has been involved in a number of “brazen attacks” against political organizations in France, Germany, Montenegro, Turkey, Ukraine, and the U.S. over the past two years. The report connects the attacks to the Russian government, and while it doesn’t mention the Democratic National Committee “hack,” Trend Micro has connected Pawn Storm to that attack in the past. Contrary to liberal mainstream media reports, however, the report makes no mention of the Fancy Bear hacking group alleged to have hacked the DNC.
These attacks don’t show much technical innovation over time, but they are well prepared, persistent, and often hard to defend against. Pawn Storm has a large toolset full of social engineering tricks, malware and exploits, and therefore doesn’t need much innovation apart from occasionally using their own zero-days and quickly abusing software vulnerabilities shortly after a security patch is released …
Beginning in June 2017, phishing sites were set up mimicking the ADFS (Active Directory Federation Services) of the U.S. Senate. By looking at the digital fingerprints of these phishing sites and comparing them with a large data set that spans almost five years, we can uniquely relate them to a couple of Pawn Storm incidents in 2016 and 2017. The real ADFS server of the U.S. Senate is not reachable on the open internet, however phishing of users’ credentials on an ADFS server that is behind a firewall still makes sense. In case an actor already has a foothold in an organization after compromising one user account, credential phishing could help him get closer to high profile users of interest.
The group’s tactics include “phishing,” “spear phishing,” and “tabnabbing” attacks, all of which attempt to fool users into giving up valuable security information.