April 27, 2016
It looks like some hackers are no longer afraid of the proverbial light, we learn from “Sony Hackers Still Active, ‘Darkhotel’ Checks Out of Hotel Hacking” at InformationWeek. Writer Kelly Jackson Higgins cites Kaspersky security researcher Juan Andres Guerrero-Saade, who observes that those behind the 2014 Sony hack, thought to be based in North Korea, did not vanish from the scene after that infamous attack. Higgins continues:
“There has been a noticeable shift in how some advanced threat groups such as this respond after being publicly outed by security researchers. Historically, cyber espionage gangs would go dark. ‘They would immediately shut down their infrastructure when they were reported on,’ said Kurt Baumgartner, principal security researcher with Kaspersky Lab. ‘You just didn’t see the return of an actor sometimes for years at a time.’
“But Baumgartner says he’s seen a dramatic shift in the past few years in how these groups react to publicity. Take Darkhotel, the Korean-speaking attack group known for hacking into WiFi networks at luxury hotels in order to target corporate and government executives. Darkhotel is no longer waging hotel-targeted attacks — but they aren’t hiding out, either.
“In July, Darkhotel was spotted employing a zero-day Adobe Flash exploit pilfered from the HackingTeam breach. ‘Within 48 hours, they took the Flash exploit down … They left a loosely configured server’ exposed, however, he told Dark Reading. ‘That’s unusual for an APT [advanced persistent threat] group.’”
Seeming to care little about public exposure, Darkhotel has moved on to other projects, like reportedly using Webmail to attack targets in Southeast Asia.
On the other hand, one group which experts had expected to see more of has remained dark for some time. We learn:
“Kaspersky Lab still hasn’t seen any sign of the so-called Equation Group, the nation-state threat actor operation that the security firm exposed early last year and that fell off its radar screen in January of 2014. The Equation Group, which has ties to Stuxnet and Flame as well as clues that point to a US connection, was found with advanced tools and techniques including the ability to hack air gapped computers, and to reprogram victims’ hard drives so its malware can’t be detected nor erased. While Kaspersky Lab stopped short of attributing the group to the National Security Agency (NSA), security experts say all signs indicate that the Equation Group equals the NSA.”
The Kaspersky team doesn’t think for a minute that this group has stopped operating, but believe they’ve changed up their communications. Whether a group continues to lurk in the shadows or walks boldly in the open may be cultural, they say; those in the Far East seem to care less about leaving tracks. Interesting.
Cynthia Murrell, April 27, 2016