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Threat Spotlight: Group 72, Opening the ZxShell

This post was authored by Andrea Allievi, Douglas Goddard, Shaun Hurley, and Alain Zidouemba.

Recently, there was a blog post on the takedown of a botnet used by threat actor group known as Group 72 and their involvement in Operation SMN.  This group is sophisticated, well funded, and exclusively targets high profile organizations with high value intellectual property in the manufacturing, industrial, aerospace, defense, and media sector. The primary attack vectors are watering-hole, spear phishing, and other web-based attacks.

Frequently, a remote administration tool (RAT) is used to maintain persistence within a victim’s organization. These tools are used to further compromise the organization by attacking other hosts inside the targets network.

ZxShell (aka Sensocode) is a Remote Administration Tool (RAT) used by Group 72 to conduct cyber-espionage operations. Once the RAT is installed on the host it will be used to administer the client, exfiltrate data, or leverage the client as a pivot to attack an organization’s internal infrastructure.  Here is a short list of the types of tools included with ZxShell:

  • Keylogger (used to capture passwords and other interesting data)
  • Command line shell for remote administration
  • Remote desktop
  • Various network attack tools used to fingerprint and compromise other hosts on the network
  • Local user account creation tools

For a complete list of tools please see the MainConnectionIo section.

The following paper is a technical analysis on the functionality of ZxShell. The analysts involved were able to identify command and control (C2) servers, dropper and installation methods, means of persistence, and identify the attack tools that are core to the RAT’s purpose. In addition, the researchers used their analysis to provide detection coverage for Snort, Fireamp, and ClamAV.

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Weaponized Powerpoint in the Wild

This post was written by Jaeson Schultz.

On October 14th information related to a new Windows vulnerability, CVE-2014-4114, was published. This new vulnerability affects all supported versions of Microsoft Windows. Windows XP, however, is not affected by this vulnerability. The problem lies in Windows’ OLE package manager. When triggered it allows for remote code execution.

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POODLE and The Curse of Backwards Compatibility

This post was written by Martin Lee

Old protocol versions are a fact of life. When a new improved protocol is released, products still need to support the old version for backwards compatibility. If previous versions contain weaknesses in security, yet their continued support is mandated, then security can become a major issue when a potential weakness is discovered to be a genuine vulnerability and an exploit is released.

The Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol defines how systems can exchange data securely. The current version 1.2 dates from August 2008, however the protocol’s origins lie in the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) standard first published in February 1995. As weaknesses in the cryptography and flaws in the protocol design were discovered, new versions of the protocol were released.

In order to maintain interoperability the most recent TLS standard requires that systems support previous versions down to SSL 3.0. The discovery of a cryptographic weakness in SSL 3.0 and the publication of an attack that can exploit this provide attackers with a means to attack TLS implementations by intercepting communications using the old SSL 3.0 protocol.

The vulnerability, assigned the Common Vulnerability and Exposure ID CVE-2014-3566, and referred to as POODLE, allows an attacker to modify the padding bytes that are inserted into SSL packets to ensure that they are of the correct length and replay modified packets to a system in order to identify the bytes within a message,  one by one. This allows an attacker to discover the values of cookies used to authenticate https secured web sessions. Nevertheless, the vulnerability potentially affects any application that secures traffic using TLS, not only https traffic. Read More »

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Microsoft Update Tuesday October 2014: Fixes for 4 0-day Vulnerabilities

This post was authored by Yves Younan

Microsoft Tuesday is here once again and this month they are releasing a total of eight bulletins. Three of which are rated as critical, while the remaining five are rated as important. There’s a total of 24 CVEs this month, 20 of which were privately disclosed to Microsoft and four which are either publicly known or under active attack, making them 0-day vulnerabilities. Of those four, two are being actively attacked, while two have been publicly disclosed but do not seem to be under attack for supported software. Of the 24 CVEs, 15 are categorized as allowing remote code execution, four as elevation of privilege and three as security feature bypasses.

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Threat Spotlight: Group 72

This post is co-authored by Joel Esler, Martin Lee and Craig Williams

Everyone has certain characteristics that can be recognised. This may be a way of walking, an accent, a turn of phrase or a style of dressing. If you know what to look for you can easily spot a friend or acquaintance in a crowd by knowing what characteristics to look for. Exactly the same is true for threat actors.

Each threat actor group may have certain characteristics that they display during their attack campaigns. These may be the types of malware that they use, a pattern in the naming conventions of their command and control servers, their choice of victims etc. Collecting attack data allows an observer to spot the characteristics that define each group and identify specific threat actors from the crowd of malicious activity on the internet.

Talos security and intelligence research group collects attack data from our various telemetry systems to analyse, identify and monitor threat actors through their different tactics, techniques, and procedures. Rather than give names to the different identified groups, we assign numbers to the threat actors. We frequently blog about significant attack campaigns that we discover, behind the scenes we integrate our intelligence data directly into our products. As part of our research we keep track of certain threat actor groups and their activities. In conjunction with a number of other security companies, we are taking action to highlight and disrupt the activities of the threat actors identified by us as Group 72. Read More »

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