Gamaredon Hacking Group Sending Spear Phishing Campaigns to Infect Outlook Contacts with Malware
Russian advanced persistent threat (APT) group Gamaredon has increased their malicious cyber activity in the past few months. The hackers target Microsoft Office accounts and swamp email inboxes with constant waves of malicious emails. This report from cyber security researchers at ESET says that Gamaredon uses the target’s email to send spear phishing emails containing malware to the victim’s contacts. The malware is designed to collect information and infect other computers as fast as possible.
The hackers send “constant waves” of malicious emails to contact in an infected email account. The phishing emails contain attachments with malicious macros that download more malware when executed.
Gamaredon APT group uses compromised accounts to send spear phishing emails to send emails to the victims Microsoft Office contacts. The hackers can also inject malicious macros into Microsoft Office documents. The attachments to these emails are documents with malicious macros that, when executed, try to download a multitude of different malware variants.
The malicious code starts out with a VBScript that shuts down Outlook, if it is running. It then adjusts MS Office macro security settings to allow VBA macro execution in Outlook. Next Outlook is launched along with the malicious code.
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Gamaredon’s malware may send spear phishing emails to:
- The victim’s entire address book
- Everyone in the organization
- A predefined list of email addresses
The hacking tools used by Gamaredon are simple and use programming tools like C#, VBScript, batch files, and C/C++.
“In the last few months, there has been an increase in activity from this group, with constant waves of malicious emails hitting their targets’ mailboxes. The attachments to these emails are documents with malicious macros that, when executed, try to download a multitude of different malware variants.,” say the report by ESET.
What is Gamaredon?
Gamaredon is a state-sponsored hacking organization associated with the Russian government. They have been active since at least 2013 and usually attacks targets in Ukrainian targets. CERT-UA published an advisory on the malware Pterodo used by Gamaredon.
What are advanced persistent threats?
Advanced persistent threats are organized state-sponsored groups of hackers who work at the behest of their sponsoring agency. Advanced persistent threats usually carry out their malicious activity with a low-and-slow strategy. They work towards their goals over long periods of time to avoid detection and maximize their take. In general, advanced persistent threats steal money to fund other operations for their sponsoring nation-state, they may also conduct corporate espionage, spy on political targets, or target high profile individuals. Social engineering attacks, spear phishing emails, and malware are the tools of advanced persistent threat groups.
Gamaredon Is different though this advanced persistent threat group doesn’t seem to make the effort to avoid detection their goal seems to be to spread malicious activity as fast as possible and as far as possible with no particular concern about detection.