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Phishing in the Wild II

OVERVIEW
Phishing events are commonly seen in the public so the Proficio’s threat intelligence team often receives opportunities to research different type of phishing activities. On the 13th November 2020, a client had requested for assistance on a phishing incidence that had occurred within their environment.

In this blog, we share some of the findings from our own deep-dive investigations into the HTM spear-phishing email campaigns.

PHISHING DETAILS
In this type of phishing attempt, the adversary would send a spear-phishing email with a HTM (.htm) file attach containing a URL link to the victim. Based on the team’s investigation of the incident that was reported, upon clicking on the phishing link it would redirect the victim to a phishing page which was hosted on another domain.

In this incidence, the phishing link was observed to be hosted on the domain “bayleafinternational[.]com” and upon clicking, the page would be redirected to the domain “laikipianorthtvc[.]ac[.]ke”. However, by 18th November 2020, the redirected phishing domain was taken down so instead of the first observed site “laikipianorthtvc[.]ac[.]ke”, it would redirect the user towards the domain “altia[.]in”. A Whois lookup (Figure 1) was performed on the first redirected link “laikipianorthtvc[.]ac[.]ke” and based on the updated date, it is suggested that this site was likely to taken down on 16th November 2020.

Figure 1 - Sample phishing domain

Figure 1 – Sample phishing domain

The team further investigated the redirected phishing link. Simulating access of the phishing domain would display a phishing page that resembles a Microsoft login page (Figure 2). Upon entering the credentials, we noticed that the phishing site would redirect the victim to a URL on the same domain with a URL path containing “/complete?ss=2”. In this incidence that we were investigating, the user was redirected to the request URL “hxxps://altia[.]in/complete?ss=2”. A HTTP POST request could also be identified upon submitting the credentials (Figure 3).

Figure 2 - Redirected fake login page

Figure 2 – Redirected fake login page

 

Test access with response code

Figure 3 – Test access with response code

Similar phishing activities were also found in the wild, with our research suggesting that this phishing campaign appears to have started as far back as 1st September 2020; it is likely this phishing campaign is still ongoing. We have noticed that multiple domains were being used in this phishing campaign, but some of the used and older pages have since been taken down.

Comparing the phishing activities observed with those seen in the wild, aside from the same fake Microsoft login page used, the phishing links appears to share similar naming formats as follows:

  • Initial URL from email
    • <domain>/<base64-encoded victim’s email address>
  • Redirected phishing page
    • < phishing domain>/?ss=2&ea=<victim email address>&session=<session ID>
  • Redirected complete page
    • <phishing domain>/complete?ss=2

MITRE ATT&CK FRAMWORK
The following framework is produced based on the investigated incidence:

Tactics  Techniques  Use 
Reconnaissance [TA0043]  Phishing for Information: Spearphishing Link [T1598.003] The phishing email contains a HTM file with a phishing link that leads to a fake login page used to steal credentials
Defense Evasion [TA0005]  Masquerading: Match legitimate name or location [T1036.005] The phishing email contains the use of a htm files with the file name containing the client’s domain.
Initial access [TA0001]  Phishing: Spearphishing Link [T1566.002] The adversaries utilize spear phishing emails and redirect victims to credential harvesting sites.

 

PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES
Anyone can fall victim to a phishing attack. Cybercriminals offer try and catch unsuspecting individuals by sending a phishing email from a reputable or known users that they wouldn’t expect to be compromised. It is advisable to safeguard yourself and your organization to avoid being the next victim from phishing attacks and credential theft. We would recommend organization to consider the following measures if this has seen within your environment.

  • Educate your employees and users to improve cybersecurity awareness.
    • Remind users to report any suspicious emails received, even from other employees, to their cyber-security team.
  • Apply content filters on email gateways and email systems to prevent malicious content from reaching users and reduce the chance of a possible compromise.
  • Always verify any suspicious emails through a different channel such as calling the supposed sender for verification.
  • If your organization is expecting legitimate emails from the senders, filter by email subjects and quarantine emails sent from those compromised senders to anyone outside of an expected recipient list.
  • Reach out to any legitimate sender that appear have their account(s) compromised and instruct them to take action to secure their account(s).
  • Make use of Multi-Factor Authentication to secure email and other user credentials.
  • Make use of network segmentation alongside the zero-trust model.

Typeform Phishing Campaign

OVERVIEW
In recent years, phishing campaign comes in different types and forms. The attackers are known to utilize free online tools and a variety of methods in hope to harvest credentials out from the victims.

On 16 August 2020, a relatively new spear-phishing campaign was detected which appears to utilize a free online tool – Typeform. The attacker created and hosted fake online forms to harvest victims’ credentials.

In this blog, we share some of the findings from our own deep-dive investigations into the attack activities that we have observed.

PHISHING DETAILS
Our investigation showed that victims would receive variants of emails, which can contain a URL link or an attachment that would redirect the victim to a phishing page. The phishing pages observed would inform the victim about a document that was sent through OneDrive in a PDF format.

Typeform Phished Email Example

Figure 1 – An example of phished email received

From our investigation, we have seen events where upon a successful phishing attempt, the compromised host would be used to subsequently broadcast the phishing email to all other employee using the organization email domain.

We have also seen events where the victim executed the phished PDF attachment in which the PDF would display a Microsoft labelled document with a “Open in OneDrive” button. Our investigation shows that clicking the button redirects to a phishing subdomain in Typeform with domain names such as

  • “hXXps://document-signonline[dot]typeform[dot]com”
  • ”hXXps://microsofonedrive6575[dot]typeform[dot]com”.
Typefrom Phishing Attachement Example

Figure 2 – An example of the attachment

Further investigations by the team reveals interesting network behaviour. Upon successful access to the phishing site and the user starts filling the phishing form, the page loads the domain ending with the URL parameter “/start-submission”. The phishing form first prompts for the user’s email address and then their password. Once the credentials are filled in, a button is displayed for the user to click on in order to send the inputs and view a document on the website. Clicking the button loads the domain ending with the URL parameter “/complete-submission”. Observing this traffic would represent a complete cycle whereby the victim has accessed and provided the credentials to the phished sites.

DETECTION AND DISCOVERY EFFORTS
Proficio’s Threat Intelligence Team collected several different IOCs to identify potential access to the phishing sites. The IOCs include URL parameters and IP addresses.

The most notable indicator of accessing the phishing page was the sequence of redirections that occur after clicking the initial phishing link. Based on this, we were able to identify potential phishing attempts with higher certainty despite the limited visibility allowed for an MDRP/MSSP like Proficio.

From our investigation, this campaign appears to target by organization rather than random individuals, as we had observed the phishing emails being sent to multiple employees within an organization together in one wave. Even if the emails were blocked, there were no repeated attempts to send the emails to the targets. This campaign does not appear to target any specific industry sector.

PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES
This could have happened to anyone of us that works in any organization whom we would unexpectedly receive phishing email send by reputable or known users that were being compromised. It is advisable to safeguard you and your organization to avoid being the next victim from phishing attacks and credential theft. We would recommend organization to consider the following measures if this has seen within your environment.

  • Educate your employees and users to improve cybersecurity awareness.
  • Apply content filters on email gateways and email systems to prevent malicious content from reaching users and reduce the chance of a possible compromise.
  • Educate users to report any suspicious emails received, even from other employees, to their cyber-security team.
  • Always verify any suspicious emails through a different channel such as calling the supposed sender for verification.
  • Quarantine emails sent from those compromised senders to anyone outside of an expected recipient list of filtering by email subjects if your organization is expecting legitimate emails from the senders.
  • Reach out to any legitimate sender that appear have their account(s) compromised and instruct them to take action to secure their account(s).
  • Make use of Multi-Factor Authentication to secure email and other user credentials
  • Make use of network segmentation alongside the zero-trust model

Attacker: Actor – TEMP.Periscope / Leviathan

The threat actor TEMP.Periscope (FireEye) / Leviathan (Proofpoint) has been observed running targeted spear phishing campaigns against maritime and engineering targets. The threat actors appear to be tied to Chinese espionage. The TTPs of this threat actor are what are normally expected from a state sponsored level threat actor. Some of the interesting tools used include “LUNCHMONEY” (FireEye), a utility used to exfiltrate data to Dropbox, and BLACKCOFFEE (FireEye), a tool used to obfuscated data on Microsoft Technet pages as command and control.

Technical analysis of TTPs used by TEMP.Periscope – https://www.fireeye.com/blog/threat-research/2018/03/suspected-chinese-espionage-group-targeting-maritime-and-engineering-industries.html

Info on spear phishing campaigns detected attributed to Leviathan. – https://www.proofpoint.com/us/threat-insight/post/leviathan-espionage-actor-spearphishes-maritime-and-defense-targets

Technical information on the BLACKCOFFEE tool. – https://www.fireeye.com/blog/threat-research/2015/05/hiding_in_plain_sigh.html

Proficio Threat Intelligence Recommendations:

  • If the capability is available, ban the hashes of the IOCs identified by FireEye from running in your organization.
  • Consider banning certain cloud storage, such as Dropbox, if it does not have a business case within the organization.