Original release date: January 13, 2021Background

These types of attacks frequently occurred when victim organizations’ employees worked remotely and used a mixture of corporate laptops and personal devices to access their respective cloud services. Despite the use of security tools, affected organizations typically had weak cyber hygiene practices that allowed threat actors to conduct successful attacks.

Technical Details

The cyber threat actors involved in these attacks used a variety of tactics and techniques—including phishing, brute force login attempts, and possibly a “pass-the-cookie” attack—to attempt to exploit weaknesses in the victim organizations’ cloud security practices.

Phishing

CISA observed cyber threat actors using phishing emails with malicious links to harvest credentials for users’ cloud service accounts (Phishing: Spearphishing Link [T1566.002]). The cyber actors designed emails that included a link to what appeared to be a secure message and also emails that looked like a legitimate file hosting service account login. After a targeted recipient provided their credentials, the threat actors then used the stolen credentials to gain Initial Access [TA0001] to the user’s cloud service account (Valid Accounts [T1078]). CISA observed the actors’ logins originating from foreign locations (although the actors could have been using a proxy or The Onion Router (Tor) to obfuscate their location). The actors then sent emails from the user’s account to phish other accounts within the organization. In some cases, these emails included links to documents within what appeared to be the organization’s file hosting service.

In one case, an organization did not require a virtual private network (VPN) for accessing the corporate network. Although their terminal server was located within their firewall, due to remote work posture, the terminal server was configured with port 80 open to allow remote employees to access it—leaving the organization’s network vulnerable. The threat actor attempted to exploit this by launching brute force login attempts (Brute Force [T1110]).

Forwarding Rules

In several engagements, CISA observed threat actors collecting sensitive information by taking advantage of email forwarding rules, which users had set up to forward work emails to their personal email accounts (Email Collection: Email Forwarding Rule [T1114.003]).

Modified Forwarding

In one case, CISA determined that the threat actors modified an existing email rule on a user’s account—originally set by the user to forward emails sent from a certain sender to a personal account—to redirect the emails to an account controlled by the actors. The threat actors updated the rule to forward all email to the threat actors’ accounts.

Keyword Search Rule

Threat actors also modified existing rules to search users’ email messages (subject and body) for several finance-related keywords (which contained spelling mistakes) and forward the emails to the threat actors’ account.

New Rule Creation and Forwarding

In addition to modifying existing user email rules, the threat actors created new mailbox rules that forwarded certain messages received by the users (specifically, messages with certain phishing-related keywords) to the legitimate users’ Really Simple Syndication (RSS) Feeds or RSS Subscriptions folder in an effort to prevent warnings from being seen by the legitimate users.

Authentication

CISA verified that the threat actors successfully signed into one user’s account with proper multi-factor authentication (MFA). In this case, CISA believes the threat actors may have used browser cookies to defeat MFA with a “pass-the-cookie” attack (Use Alternate Authentication Material: Web Session Cookie [T1550.004]).

The threat actors attempted brute force logins (Brute Force [T1110]) on some accounts. However, this activity was not successful. This thwarted attempt was due, in part, to the threat actors not guessing a correct username/password combination, as well as the organization’s use of MFA to access their cloud environment.

This product is provided subject to this Notification and this Privacy & Use policy.Original release date: January 13, 2021

Background

These types of attacks frequently occurred when victim organizations’ employees worked remotely and used a mixture of corporate laptops and personal devices to access their respective cloud services. Despite the use of security tools, affected organizations typically had weak cyber hygiene practices that allowed threat actors to conduct successful attacks.

Technical Details

The cyber threat actors involved in these attacks used a variety of tactics and techniques—including phishing, brute force login attempts, and possibly a “pass-the-cookie” attack—to attempt to exploit weaknesses in the victim organizations’ cloud security practices.

Phishing

CISA observed cyber threat actors using phishing emails with malicious links to harvest credentials for users’ cloud service accounts (Phishing: Spearphishing Link [T1566.002]). The cyber actors designed emails that included a link to what appeared to be a secure message and also emails that looked like a legitimate file hosting service account login. After a targeted recipient provided their credentials, the threat actors then used the stolen credentials to gain Initial Access [TA0001] to the user’s cloud service account (Valid Accounts [T1078]). CISA observed the actors’ logins originating from foreign locations (although the actors could have been using a proxy or The Onion Router (Tor) to obfuscate their location). The actors then sent emails from the user’s account to phish other accounts within the organization. In some cases, these emails included links to documents within what appeared to be the organization’s file hosting service.

In one case, an organization did not require a virtual private network (VPN) for accessing the corporate network. Although their terminal server was located within their firewall, due to remote work posture, the terminal server was configured with port 80 open to allow remote employees to access it—leaving the organization’s network vulnerable. The threat actor attempted to exploit this by launching brute force login attempts (Brute Force [T1110]).

Forwarding Rules

In several engagements, CISA observed threat actors collecting sensitive information by taking advantage of email forwarding rules, which users had set up to forward work emails to their personal email accounts (Email Collection: Email Forwarding Rule [T1114.003]).

Modified Forwarding

In one case, CISA determined that the threat actors modified an existing email rule on a user’s account—originally set by the user to forward emails sent from a certain sender to a personal account—to redirect the emails to an account controlled by the actors. The threat actors updated the rule to forward all email to the threat actors’ accounts.

Keyword Search Rule

Threat actors also modified existing rules to search users’ email messages (subject and body) for several finance-related keywords (which contained spelling mistakes) and forward the emails to the threat actors’ account.

New Rule Creation and Forwarding

In addition to modifying existing user email rules, the threat actors created new mailbox rules that forwarded certain messages received by the users (specifically, messages with certain phishing-related keywords) to the legitimate users’ Really Simple Syndication (RSS) Feeds or RSS Subscriptions folder in an effort to prevent warnings from being seen by the legitimate users.

Authentication

CISA verified that the threat actors successfully signed into one user’s account with proper multi-factor authentication (MFA). In this case, CISA believes the threat actors may have used browser cookies to defeat MFA with a “pass-the-cookie” attack (Use Alternate Authentication Material: Web Session Cookie [T1550.004]).

The threat actors attempted brute force logins (Brute Force [T1110]) on some accounts. However, this activity was not successful. This thwarted attempt was due, in part, to the threat actors not guessing a correct username/password combination, as well as the organization’s use of MFA to access their cloud environment.

This product is provided subject to this Notification and this Privacy & Use policy.

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