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L'intelligenza artificiale neutralizza l'attacco IoT che minacciava di interrompere le Olimpiadi di Tokyo

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19
Sep 2021
19
Sep 2021
When a cyber-attack struck a national sporting body one week before the start of the Tokyo Olympics, Darktrace was on hand to autonomously stop the threat. This blog breaks down the attack in detail.

One of the greatest issues in security is how to deal with high-stress scenarios when there is a significant breach, and there is too much to do in too little time. The nightmare scenario for any CISO is when this happens during a critical moment for the organization: an important acquisition, a crucial news announcement, or in this case, a global sporting event attracting an audience of millions.

Threat actors often exploit the pressure of these events to cause disruption or extract hefty sums. Sporting occasions, especially Formula 1 races, the Super Bowl, and the Olympics, attract a great deal of criminal interest.

The games begin

There have been several recorded attacks and data breaches at the Olympics this year, including an incident when a volleyball commentator asked his colleague for his computer password – not realizing he was still on air.

In a more nefarious case discovered by Darktrace, a Raspberry Pi device was covertly implanted into a national sporting body directly involved in the Olympics, in an attempt to exfiltrate sensitive data. The events took place one week before the start of the Games, and a data breach at this time would have had significant ramifications for the reputation of the organization, the confidentiality of their plans, and potentially the safety of their athletes.

Darktrace AI recognized this activity as malicious given its evolving understanding of ‘self’ for the organization, and Antigena – Darktrace’s autonomous response capability – took action at machine speed to interrupt the threat, affording the human security team the critical time they needed to catch up and neutralize the attack.

In what follows, we break down the attack.

Figure 1: The overall dwell time was three days.

Breaking down the attack

July 15, 14:09 — Initial intrusion

An unauthorized Raspberry Pi device connected to the organization’s digital environment – disguised and named in a way which mimicked the corporate naming convention. As a small IoT device, Raspberry Pis can be easily hidden and are difficult to locate physically in large environments. They have been used in various high-profile hacks in the past including the 2018 NASA breach.

IoT devices – from printers to fish tanks – pose a serious risk to security, as they can be exploited to gather information, move laterally, and escalate privileges.

July 15, 15:25 — External VPN activity

Anomalous UDP connections were made to an external endpoint over port 1194 (Open VPN activity). URIs showed that the device downloaded data potentially associated with Open VPN configuration files. This could represent an attempt to establish a secure channel for malicious activity such as data exfiltration.

By establishing an outgoing VPN, the attacker obfuscated their activity and bypassed the organization’s signature-based security, which could not detect the encrypted traffic. Antigena immediately blocked the suspicious connectivity, regardless of the encryption, identifying that the activity was a deviation from the ‘pattern of life’ for new devices.

July 15, 16:04 — Possible C2 activity

The Raspberry Pi soon began making repeated HTTP connections to a new external endpoint and downloaded octet streams — arbitrary binary data. It seems the activity was initiated by a standalone software process as opposed to a web browser.

Darktrace revealed that the device was performing an unusual external data transfer to the same endpoint, uploading 7.5 MB which likely contained call home data about the new location and name of the device.

July 15, 16:41 — Internal reconnaissance

The device engaged in TCP scanning across three unique internal IP addresses over a wide range of ports. Although the network scan only targeted three internal servers, the activity was identified by Darktrace as a suspicious increase in internal connections and failed internal connections.

Antigena instantly stopped the Raspberry Pi from making internal connections over the ports involved in the scanning activity, as well as enforcing the device’s ‘pattern of life’.

Figure 2: Device event log showing the components which enable Darktrace to detect network scanning.

July 15, 18:14 — Multiple internal reconnaissance tactics

The Raspberry Pi then scanned a large number of devices on SMB port 445 and engaged in suspicious use of the outdated SMB version 1 protocol, suggesting more in-depth reconnaissance to find exploitable vulnerabilities.

Reacting to the scanning activity alongside the insecure protocol SMBv1, Antigena blocked connections from the source device to the destination IPs for one hour.

Four minutes later, the device engaged in connections to the open-source vulnerability scanner, Nmap. Nmap can be used legitimately for vulnerability scanning and so often is not alerted to by traditional security tools. However, Darktrace’s AI detected that the use of the tool was highly anomalous, and so blocked all outgoing traffic for ten minutes.

July 15, 22:03 — Final reconnaissance

Three hours later, the Raspberry Pi initiated another network scan across six unique external IPs – this was in preparation for the final data exfiltration. Antigena responded with instant, specific blocks to the external IPs which the device was attempting to connect to – before any data could be exfiltrated.

After 30 minutes, Darktrace detected bruteforcing activity from the Raspberry Pi using the SMB and NTLM authentication protocols. The device made a large number of failed login attempts to a single internal device using over 100 unique user accounts. Antigena blocked the activity, successfully stopping another wave of attempted SMB lateral movement.

By this stage, Antigena had bought the security team enough time to respond. The team applied an Antigena quarantine rule (the most severe action Antigena can take) to the Raspberry Pi, until they were able to find the physical location of the device and unplug it from the network.

How AI Analyst stitched together the incident

Cyber AI Analyst autonomously reported on three key moments of the attack:

  • Trasferimento dati esterno insolito
  • Possible HTTP Command and Control
  • TCP Scanning of Multiple Devices (the attempted data exfiltration)

It tied together activities over the span of multiple days, which could have been easily missed by human analysis. The AI provided crucial pieces of information, including the extent of the scanning activity. Such insights are time-consuming to calculate manually.

Figure 3: A screenshot from Cyber AI Analyst summarizing potential C2 activity.

Autonomous Response

Antigena took targeted action throughout to neutralize the suspicious behavior, while allowing normal business operations to continue unhindered.

Rather than widespread blocking, Antigena implemented a range of nuanced responses depending on the situation, always taking the smallest action necessary to deal with the threat.

Figure 4: Darktrace’s UI reveals the attempted network reconnaissance, and Antigena actions a targeted response. All IP addresses have been randomized.

Raspberry Pi: IoT threats

In an event involving 206 countries and 11,000 athletes, facing attacks from hacktivists, criminal groups, and nation states, with many broadcasters working remotely and millions watching from home, organizations involved in the Olympics needed a security solution which could rise to the occasion.

Even with the largest affairs, threats can come from the smallest places. The ability to detect unauthorized IoT devices and maintain visibility over all activity in your digital estate is essential.

Autonomous Response protects against the unexpected, stopping malicious activity at machine speed without any user input. This is necessary for rapid response and remediation, especially for resource-stretched internal security teams. When it comes to defending systems and outpacing attackers, AI always wins the race.

Thanks to Darktrace analysts Emma Foulger and Greg Chapman for their insights on the above threat find.

Learn how two rogue Raspberry Pi devices infected a healthcare provider

Darktrace model detections:

  • Compromise / Ransomware / Suspicious SMB Activity
  • Tags / New Raspberry Pi Device
  • Device / Network Scan
  • Unusual Activity / Unusual Raspberry Pi Activity
  • Antigena / Network / Insider Threat / Antigena Network Scan Block
  • Device / Suspicious Network Scan Activity
  • Antigena / Network / Significant Anomaly / Antigena Significant Anomaly from Client Block
  • Antigena / Network / Significant Anomaly / Antigena Controlled and Model Breach
  • Device / Suspicious SMB Scanning Activity
  • Antigena / Network / Significant Anomaly / Antigena Breaches Over Time Block
  • Device / Attack and Recon Tools
  • Device / New Device with Attack Tools
  • Device / Anomalous Nmap Activity
  • Device / External Network Scan
  • Device / SMB Session Bruteforce
  • Antigena / Network / Manual / Block All Outgoing Connections
INSIDE THE SOC
Darktrace cyber analysts are world-class experts in threat intelligence, threat hunting and incident response, and provide 24/7 SOC support to thousands of Darktrace customers around the globe. Inside the SOC is exclusively authored by these experts, providing analysis of cyber incidents and threat trends, based on real-world experience in the field.
AUTHOR
ABOUT ThE AUTHOR
Oakley Cox
Analyst Technical Director, APAC

Oakley is a technical expert with 5 years’ experience as a Cyber Analyst. After leading a team of Cyber Analysts at the Cambridge headquarters, he relocated to New Zealand and now oversees the defense of critical infrastructure and industrial control systems across the APAC region. His research into cyber-physical security has been published by Cyber Security journals and CISA. Oakley is GIAC certified in Response and Industrial Defense (GRID), and has a Doctorate (PhD) from the University of Oxford.

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Email

How to Protect your Organization Against Microsoft Teams Phishing Attacks

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21
May 2024

The problem: Microsoft Teams phishing attacks are on the rise

Around 83% of Fortune 500 companies rely on Microsoft Office products and services1, with Microsoft Teams and Microsoft SharePoint in particular emerging as critical platforms to the business operations of the everyday workplace. Researchers across the threat landscape have begun to observe these legitimate services being leveraged more and more by malicious actors as an initial access method.

As Teams becomes a more prominent feature of the workplace many employees rely on it for daily internal and external communication, even surpassing email usage in some organizations. As Microsoft2 states, "Teams changes your relationship with email. When your whole group is working in Teams, it means you'll all get fewer emails. And you'll spend less time in your inbox, because you'll use Teams for more of your conversations."

However, Teams can be exploited to send targeted phishing messages to individuals either internally or externally, while appearing legitimate and safe. Users might receive an external message request from a Teams account claiming to be an IT support service or otherwise affiliated with the organization. Once a user has accepted, the threat actor can launch a social engineering campaign or deliver a malicious payload. As a primarily internal tool there is naturally less training and security awareness around Teams – due to the nature of the channel it is assumed to be a trusted source, meaning that social engineering is already one step ahead.

Screenshot of a Microsoft Teams message request from a Midnight Blizzard-controlled account (courtesy of Microsoft)
Figure 1: Screenshot of a Microsoft Teams message request from a Midnight Blizzard-controlled account (courtesy of Microsoft)

Microsoft Teams Phishing Examples

Microsoft has identified several major phishing attacks using Teams within the past year.

In July 2023, Microsoft announced that the threat actor known as Midnight Blizzard – identified by the United States as a Russian state-sponsored group – had launched a series of phishing campaigns via Teams with the aim of stealing user credentials. These attacks used previously compromised Microsoft 365 accounts and set up new domain names that impersonated legitimate IT support organizations. The threat actors then used social engineering tactics to trick targeted users into sharing their credentials via Teams, enabling them to access sensitive data.  

At a similar time, threat actor Storm-0324 was observed sending phishing lures via Teams containing links to malicious SharePoint-hosted files. The group targeted organizations that allow Teams users to interact and share files externally. Storm-0324’s goal is to gain initial access to hand over to other threat actors to pursue more dangerous follow-on attacks like ransomware.

For a more in depth look at how Darktrace stops Microsoft Teams phishing read our blog: Don’t Take the Bait: How Darktrace Keeps Microsoft Teams Phishing Attacks at Bay

The market: Existing Microsoft Teams security solutions are insufficient

Microsoft’s native Teams security focuses on payloads, namely links and attachments, as the principal malicious component of any phishing. These payloads are relatively straightforward to detect with their experience in anti-virus, sandboxing, and IOCs. However, this approach is unable to intervene before the stage at which payloads are delivered, before the user even gets the chance to accept or deny an external message request. At the same time, it risks missing more subtle threats that don’t include attachments or links – like early stage phishing, which is pure social engineering – or completely new payloads.

Equally, the market offering for Teams security is limited. Security solutions available on the market are always payload-focused, rather than taking into account the content and context in which a link or attachment is sent. Answering questions like:

  • Does it make sense for these two accounts to speak to each other?
  • Are there any linguistic indicators of inducement?

Furthermore, they do not correlate with email to track threats across multiple communication environments which could signal a wider campaign. Effectively, other market solutions aren’t adding extra value – they are protecting against the same types of threats that Microsoft is already covering by default.

The other aspect of Teams security that native and market solutions fail to address is the account itself. As well as focusing on Teams threats, it’s important to analyze messages to understand the normal mode of communication for a user, and spot when a user’s Teams activity might signal account takeover.

The solution: How Darktrace protects Microsoft Teams against sophisticated threats

With its biggest update to Darktrace/Email ever, Darktrace now offers support for Microsoft Teams. With that, we are bringing the same AI philosophy that protects your email and accounts to your messaging environment.  

Our Self-Learning AI looks at content and context for every communication, whether that’s sent in an email or Teams message. It looks at actual user behavior, including language patterns, relationship history of sender and recipient, tone and payloads, to understand if a message poses a threat. This approach allows Darktrace to detect threats such as social engineering and payloadless attacks using visibility and forensic capabilities that Microsoft security doesn’t currently offer, as well as early symptoms of account compromise.  

Unlike market solutions, Darktrace doesn’t offer a siloed approach to Teams security. Data and signals from Teams are shared across email to inform detection, and also with the wider Darktrace ActiveAI security platform. By correlating information from email and Teams with network and apps security, Darktrace is able to better identify suspicious Teams activity and vice versa.  

Interested in the other ways Darktrace/Email augments threat detection? Read our latest blog on how improving the quality of end-user reporting can decrease the burden on the SOC. To find our more about Darktrace's enduring partnership with Microsoft, click here.

References

[1] Essential Microsoft Office Statistics in 2024

[2] Microsoft blog, Microsoft Teams and email, living in harmony, 2024

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About the author
Carlos Gray
Product Manager

Blog

Inside the SOC

Don’t Take the Bait: How Darktrace Keeps Microsoft Teams Phishing Attacks at Bay

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20
May 2024

Social Engineering in Phishing Attacks

Faced with increasingly cyber-aware endpoint users and vigilant security teams, more and more threat actors are forced to think psychologically about the individuals they are targeting with their phishing attacks. Social engineering methods like taking advantage of the human emotions of their would-be victims, pressuring them to open emails or follow links or face financial or legal repercussions, and impersonating known and trusted brands or services, have become common place in phishing campaigns in recent years.

Phishing with Microsoft Teams

The malicious use of the popular communications platform Microsoft Teams has become widely observed and discussed across the threat landscape, with many organizations adopting it as their primary means of business communication, and many threat actors using it as an attack vector. As Teams allows users to communicate with people outside of their organization by default [1], it becomes an easy entry point for potential attackers to use as a social engineering vector.

In early 2024, Darktrace/Apps™ identified two separate instances of malicious actors using Microsoft Teams to launch a phishing attack against Darktrace customers in the Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. Interestingly, in this case the attackers not only used a well-known legitimate service to carry out their phishing campaign, but they were also attempting to impersonate an international hotel chain.

Despite these attempts to evade endpoint users and traditional security measures, Darktrace’s anomaly detection enabled it to identify the suspicious phishing messages and bring them to the customer’s attention. Additionally, Darktrace’s autonomous response capability, was able to follow-up these detections with targeted actions to contain the suspicious activity in the first instance.

Darktrace Coverage of Microsoft Teams Phishing

Chats Sent by External User and Following Actions by Darktrace

On February 29, 2024, Darktrace detected the presence of a new external user on the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) environment of an EMEA customer for the first time. The user, “REDACTED@InternationalHotelChain[.]onmicrosoft[.]com” was only observed on this date and no further activities were detected from this user after February 29.

Later the same day, the unusual external user created its first chat on Microsoft Teams named “New Employee Loyalty Program”. Over the course of around 5 minutes, the user sent 63 messages across 21 different chats to unique internal users on the customer’s SaaS platform. All these chats included the ‘foreign tenant user’ and one of the customer’s internal users, likely in an attempt to remain undetected. Foreign tenant user, in this case, refers to users without access to typical internal software and privileges, indicating the presence of an external user.

Darktrace’s detection of unusual messages being sent by a suspicious external user via Microsoft Teams.
Figure 1: Darktrace’s detection of unusual messages being sent by a suspicious external user via Microsoft Teams.
Advanced Search results showing the presence of a foreign tenant user on the customer’s SaaS environment.
Figure 2: Advanced Search results showing the presence of a foreign tenant user on the customer’s SaaS environment.

Darktrace identified that the external user had connected from an unusual IP address located in Poland, 195.242.125[.]186. Darktrace understood that this was unexpected behavior for this user who had only previously been observed connecting from the United Kingdom; it further recognized that no other users within the customer’s environment had connected from this external source, thereby deeming it suspicious. Further investigation by Darktrace’s analyst team revealed that the endpoint had been flagged as malicious by several open-source intelligence (OSINT) vendors.

External Summary highlighting the rarity of the rare external source from which the Teams messages were sent.
Figure 3: External Summary highlighting the rarity of the rare external source from which the Teams messages were sent.

Following Darktrace’s initial detection of these suspicious Microsoft Teams messages, Darktrace's autonomous response was able to further support the customer by providing suggested mitigative actions that could be applied to stop the external user from sending any additional phishing messages.

Unfortunately, at the time of this attack Darktrace's autonomous response capability was configured in human confirmation mode, meaning any autonomous response actions had to be manually actioned by the customer. Had it been enabled in autonomous response mode, it would have been able promptly disrupt the attack, disabling the external user to prevent them from continuing their phishing attempts and securing precious time for the customer’s security team to begin their own remediation procedures.

Darktrace autonomous response actions that were suggested following the ’Large Volume of Messages Sent from New External User’ detection model alert.
Figure 4: Darktrace autonomous response actions that were suggested following the ’Large Volume of Messages Sent from New External User’ detection model alert.

External URL Sent within Teams Chats

Within the 21 Teams chats created by the threat actor, Darktrace identified 21 different external URLs being sent, all of which included the domain "cloud-sharcpoint[.]com”. Many of these URLs had been recently established and had been flagged as malicious by OSINT providers [3]. This was likely an attempt to impersonate “cloud-sharepoint[.]com”, the legitimate domain of Microsoft SharePoint, with the threat actor attempting to ‘typo-squat’ the URL to convince endpoint users to trust the legitimacy of the link. Typo-squatted domains are commonly misspelled URLs registered by opportunistic attackers in the hope of gaining the trust of unsuspecting targets. They are often used for nefarious purposes like dropping malicious files on devices or harvesting credentials.

Upon clicking this malicious link, users were directed to a similarly typo-squatted domain, “InternatlonalHotelChain[.]sharcpoInte-docs[.]com”. This domain was likely made to appear like the SharePoint URL used by the international hotel chain being impersonated.

Redirected link to a fake SharePoint page attempting to impersonate an international hotel chain.
Figure 5: Redirected link to a fake SharePoint page attempting to impersonate an international hotel chain.

This fake SharePoint page used the branding of the international hotel chain and contained a document named “New Employee Loyalty Program”; the same name given to the phishing messages sent by the attacker on Microsoft Teams. Upon accessing this file, users would be directed to a credential harvester, masquerading as a Microsoft login page, and prompted to enter their credentials. If successful, this would allow the attacker to gain unauthorized access to a user’s SaaS account, thereby compromising the account and enabling further escalation in the customer’s environment.

Figure 6: A fake Microsoft login page that popped-up when attempting to open the ’New Employee Loyalty Program’ document.

This is a clear example of an attacker attempting to leverage social engineering tactics to gain the trust of their targets and convince them to inadvertently compromise their account. Many corporate organizations partner with other companies and well-known brands to offer their employees loyalty programs as part of their employment benefits and perks. As such, it would not necessarily be unexpected for employees to receive such an offer from an international hotel chain. By impersonating an international hotel chain, threat actors would increase the probability of convincing their targets to trust and click their malicious messages and links, and unintentionally compromising their accounts.

In spite of the attacker’s attempts to impersonate reputable brands, platforms, Darktrace/Apps was able to successfully recognize the malicious intent behind this phishing campaign and suggest steps to contain the attack. Darktrace recognized that the user in question had deviated from its ‘learned’ pattern of behavior by connecting to the customer’s SaaS environment from an unusual external location, before proceeding to send an unusually large volume of messages via Teams, indicating that the SaaS account had been compromised.

A Wider Campaign?

Around a month later, in March 2024, Darktrace observed a similar incident of a malicious actor impersonating the same international hotel chain in a phishing attacking using Microsoft Teams, suggesting that this was part of a wider phishing campaign. Like the previous example, this customer was also based in the EMEA region.  

The attack tactics identified in this instance were very similar to the previously example, with a new external user identified within the network proceeding to create a series of Teams messages named “New Employee Loyalty Program” containing a typo-squatted external links.

There were a few differences with this second incident, however, with the attacker using the domain “@InternationalHotelChainExpeditions[.]onmicrosoft[.]com” to send their malicious Teams messages and using differently typo-squatted URLs to imitate Microsoft SharePoint.

As both customers targeted by this phishing campaign were subscribed to Darktrace’s Proactive Threat Notification (PTN) service, this suspicious SaaS activity was promptly escalated to the Darktrace Security Operations Center (SOC) for immediate triage and investigation. Following their investigation, the SOC team sent an alert to the customers informing them of the compromise and advising urgent follow-up.

Conclusion

While there are clear similarities between these Microsoft Teams-based phishing attacks, the attackers here have seemingly sought ways to refine their tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), leveraging new connection locations and creating new malicious URLs in an effort to outmaneuver human security teams and conventional security tools.

As cyber threats grow increasingly sophisticated and evasive, it is crucial for organizations to employ intelligent security solutions that can see through social engineering techniques and pinpoint suspicious activity early.

Darktrace’s Self-Learning AI understands customer environments and is able to recognize the subtle deviations in a device’s behavioral pattern, enabling it to effectively identify suspicious activity even when attackers adapt their strategies. In this instance, this allowed Darktrace to detect the phishing messages, and the malicious links contained within them, despite the seemingly trustworthy source and use of a reputable platform like Microsoft Teams.

Credit to Min Kim, Cyber Security Analyst, Raymond Norbert, Cyber Security Analyst and Ryan Traill, Threat Content Lead

Appendix

Darktrace Model Detections

SaaS Model

Large Volume of Messages Sent from New External User

SaaS / Unusual Activity / Large Volume of Messages Sent from New External User

Indicators of Compromise (IoCs)

IoC – Type - Description

https://cloud-sharcpoint[.]com/[a-zA-Z0-9]{15} - Example hostname - Malicious phishing redirection link

InternatlonalHotelChain[.]sharcpolnte-docs[.]com – Hostname – Redirected Link

195.242.125[.]186 - External Source IP Address – Malicious Endpoint

MITRE Tactics

Tactic – Technique

Phishing – Initial Access (T1566)

References

[1] https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoftteams/trusted-organizations-external-meetings-chat?tabs=organization-settings

[2] https://www.virustotal.com/gui/ip-address/195.242.125.186/detection

[3] https://www.virustotal.com/gui/domain/cloud-sharcpoint.com

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About the author
Min Kim
Cyber Security Analyst
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