Russian group behind SolarWinds spy campaign conduct new cyber attacks

The Russian hackers who breached a number of US authorities companies final 12 months have hijacked an electronic mail system utilized by USAID, the event company, to focus on greater than 150 authorities companies, human rights teams and NGOs worldwide, mentioned Microsoft.

Microsoft mentioned the hackers, who it recognized as Nobelium, had been the identical group chargeable for manipulating software program from the US firm SolarWinds with a purpose to breach the US Treasury and Commerce departments, in addition to the Pentagon and a number of other Fortune 500 corporations. The White House said final month the group was a part of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service.

In the most recent assault, Microsoft said the group had used USAID’s mass electronic mail system, known as Constant Contact, to pose because the US worldwide improvement company. They despatched emails to greater than 3,000 accounts at greater than 150 authorities companies, think-tanks, consultancies and non-governmental organisations.

Targets who opened the emails allowed the hackers to carry out “a wide range of activities from stealing data to infecting other computers on a network.”

The scheme, which Microsoft mentioned was an “active incident”, primarily targeted on the US however spanned no less than 24 international locations. At least a quarter of these focused had been concerned in worldwide improvement, humanitarian and human rights work.

Joe Biden, the US president, has confronted calls to bolster the nation’s cyber defences following the marketing campaign, a current Chinese state-backed espionage campaign that exploited vulnerabilities in Microsoft’s electronic mail software program and an assault on a US petroleum pipeline firm by a legal group this month. 

The Biden administration imposed sanctions on Russia and signed an executive order this month requiring increased cyber safety requirements for federal companies and their know-how software program suppliers. 

Microsoft mentioned “many of the attacks” that focused its prospects had been blocked as a result of automated techniques marked the emails as spam and its techniques prevented the malicious software program from gaining entry.

It is unclear if any organisations had been breached regardless of these safety measures. Microsoft declined to remark.

Tom Burt, Microsoft’s company vice-president of buyer safety and belief, mentioned the most recent assaults “appear to be a continuation of multiple efforts by [the hackers] to target government agencies involved in foreign policy as part of intelligence-gathering efforts”.

“When coupled with the attack on SolarWinds, it’s clear that part of [the hackers’] playbook is to gain access to trusted technology providers and infect their customers,” he added.

Constant Contact mentioned it was “aware that the account credentials of one of our customers were compromised and used by a malicious actor to access the customer’s Constant Contact accounts”.

“This is an isolated incident, and we have temporarily disabled the impacted accounts while we work in co-operation with our customer, who is working with law enforcement,” it added.

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