Cybersecurity

FBI warns on IP addresses

 

The FBI sent out a flash notice in late July warning of a broad persistent cyberattack campaign backed by a group with assets based in Iran targeting U.S., Middle Eastern, and European networks.

A July 25 alert warned of "malicious cyber actors" using U.S.-hosted virtual private server infrastructure to set cyber traps aimed at compromising government, corporate and academic networks.

It didn't name the group, however.

The warning was first posted on the American Bar Association's cybersecurity legal task force page, then on the Public Intelligence open source site on July 31.

The cyberattackers, said the warning, mask malicious domains and IP addresses that support a "broad cyber campaign" that uses a laundry list of attack methods, including email spear-phishing, social engineering and "watering hole" web sites.

The FBI lists 87 IP addresses and 136 domain names associated with the group that targeted organizations should watch for, as well as some advice on mitigating exposure.

The warning said some victim information from the group's activity crossed U.S.-based infrastructure to Iranian IP addresses, and at least one identified malicious domain was registered by a presumed Iranian national tied to a physical address in Tehran.

"The majority of the victims were located in Middle Eastern countries known to be traditional adversaries of the Iranian regime," it said.

According to the agency, the group has been active for a while, at least since early 2015.

The alert was rated "Amber," the second-highest level under the "Traffic Light Protocol" used by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.

At around the same time as the FBI's warning, cybersecurity companies Tokyo-based Trend Micro and Israel-based Clearsky issued a report on "CopyKittens," a cyberespionage group that the companies said uses many of the tactics described in the FBI warning. Those tools, according to the Trend Micro/Clearsky report, include watering hole attacks, malicious web sites, fake social-media presence and malicious documents.

The report said CopyKittens' focus was on spying on strategic targets in Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the U.S., Jordan and Germany.

Among the targets in those countries were government agencies, academic institutions, defense companies and their sub-contractors, municipal authorities  and large IT companies. Online news outlets and general websites were breached and weaponized as vehicles for watering hole attacks, as well, it said.

The report said most of the infrastructure used by the group is in the U.S., Russia and the Netherlands and didn't link it directly to Iran. However, researchers told Reuters that the group was "Iranian government infrastructure."

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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