Cisco Talos works with many organizations around the world, monitoring and protecting against sophisticated threats every day. As such, we are watching the current state of events in the Middle East very closely for our customers and partners who may be impacted by the ongoing situation. We are continuing to evaluate potential threats and attack vectors, especially related to critical infrastructure and high-profile businesses and industries.
A challenge with protecting against state-sponsored campaigns is that the primary and ideal targets are potentially already compromised, either by a specific adversary or their allies who would be amenable to acting on their behalf. In previous research, Talos has observed footholds like this that can go undetected for extended periods, waiting to be modified remotely to exact a variety of potential malicious activities.
It may be difficult for primary target organizations to detect activity and defend themselves at the perimeter. Hopefully, they have employed a layered defense, which should include two-factor authentication, network segmentation and endpoint protection.
Of course, the potential also exists for the adversary to move away from a targeted maneuver to more broadly focused disruptions that could incorporate a much wider array of businesses and even consumers. This means that everyone should view this as a wake-up call — shore up defenses, update/patch your devices and focus on cyber hygiene. Employ authentication everywhere, beware of suspicious links, emails, etc. — phishing/credential theft continues to be popular among attackers. Every business should at least take a second look at every strange thing they see — don’t ignore anomalous activities, take the time to see if there is something nefarious at the end of the tunnel.
While prior campaigns in the region have heavily relied on wiper malware, this is no guarantee that future campaigns will continue this trend. At times like this, vigilance is key.