A couple of weeks after similar revelations made by Twitter, Facebook has joined the unwelcome list of Social Networks hit by targeted attacks.
This news has shaken this quiet week end of February, as Facebook officials told to Ars Technica they discovered in January several computers belonging to mobile application developers hacked using a zero-day Java attack. According to a consolidated attack schema, the malware installed a collection of previously unseen malware.
The attack occurred within the same timeframe as the hack that hit Twitter and exposed cryptographically hashed passwords of 250,000 users, and apparently targeted other companies completely unaware of the attack, until they were notified by Facebook.
According to the information available the attack showed several interesting (and nowadays common) patterns:
- The attackers used a “watering hole” attack, compromising the server of a popular mobile developer Web forum and using it to spring the zero-day Java exploit on site visitors. The attack was injected into the site’s HTML, affecting any visitor who had Java enabled in his browser, regardless of the level of patching of the machine.
- The exploit was used to download malware to victims’ computers affecting both Windows and Apple computers.
- As usual, I would say, Antivirus software was unable to detect the malware, neither the malware was slowed down by the fact that the machines were patched.
Facebook said it is working with FBI to investigate the attack. Only the latest example of a class of targeted sophisticated threats increasingly common and aggressive against high-profile targets including tech industries, media, and now social networks. As a matter of fact (state sponsored ?) cyber criminals are actively exploiting 0-Day vulnerabilities targeting Java (and Adobe Flash), in this 2013 that, in only two months, is proving to be dramatic for the Infosec Landscape.
According to the French Magazine “L’Express” earlier in May some computers in the offices of former France’s president Nicolas Sarkozy have been victims of a targeted attack carried via a Flame variant.
What is surprising is not (only) the fact that this is the first known case of a Flame infection out of the Middle East, but most of all the fact that the malware was allegedly implanted by U.S. Hackers.
The attack was successful and, according to the French magazine, the attackers were able to get to the heart of French political power, harvesting the computers of close advisers of Nicolas Sarkozy and obtaining “secret notes” and “strategic plans”.
The attack model resembles a spy story: the attacker crafted a false profile on Facebook (a bogus friend of someone who worked for the president’s office) and successfully used that profile to contact (and compromise) personnel working at the President’s Office (The Elysèe).
After contacting the unaware victims, the attacker sent them a malicious link to a fake Elysée webpage, where they entered their real login and password details that the attacker used to hack into the network and spread the Flame variant.
The reasons of the attack are unknown.
Looks like Israel has approached a “wait and see” strategy, as these last days of cyber war have seen almost exclusively actions against that country without any appreciable response. In a certain sense, most of all at the Israeli site, the cyber conflict seems to have fallen into a rest, even if new actors have entered the scene, as is the case of the Mauritania Hacker Team, who opened with the leak of 2500 Israeli emails and claimed to have hacked the Central Bank of Israel. Despite these events the number and intensity of the attacks is no longer that of the early days.
The frequency of the attacks has drastically fallen, even because the early cyber fighters seem to have disappeared, apart from the AlienZ who, every now and then reappear with some dumps against arab sites (and not only).
In the meantime, Iran is suffering several sparse attacks from the Anonymous, targeting that country in the name of #OpIran, and in contemporary attacks its Azerbaijani neighbors considered close to Israel.
Interesting to notice I also found evidence of internal attacks in Iran against reformist websites considered close to former President Mohammad Khatami. The storyboard follows the same line both in real and virtual world.
Apparently Israel seems not to respond to attacks. A temporary truce or a real turnaround?
The more I look inside the Middle East Cyber War between Israel and the Arab Hackers, the more I realize that it follows exactly the same shape than the real conflict.
In particular this last week has seen a strong reduction of the cyber events between the involved parties, although it is not clear if this was due to stronger cyber defenses enforced, or it was rather a kind of “calm before the storm”.
Among the reported events I considered particularly meaningful the attack of InLightPress, a Palestinian news website, of whom I did not find any other report except the one quoted in the Infographic which comes from a Pro-Israeli Website (this is the reason why this event must be considered with the necessary caution). Maybe it is not directly related to the Middle East Cyber War, anyway it looks like this attack was not originated by Israeli hackers, but had rather been “commissioned” by the Palestinian Authority. In the real world political parties or movement have different wings (typically hawks and doves), it looks like this is true for the cyber world as well. On the other hand, some believe that also the attack carried on last week against the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, considered close to Pro-Palestinian movements, has an internal origin, that maybe explains the subsequent excuses by the alleged authors of the attack (BTW at the above link there is an interesting list of the hack published in pastebin by the Israeli Hackers).
Do you believe the descending trend of the cyber events will be confirmed in the next period, or it is rather a temporary cyber truce before the digital storm?
This infamous 2011 is nearly gone and here it is the last post for this year concerning the 2011 Cyber Attacks Timeline. As you will soon see from an infosec perspective this month has been characterized by two main events: the LulzXmas with its terrible Stratfor hack (whose effects are still ongoing with the recent release of 860,000 accounts), and an unprecented wave of breaches in China which led to the dump of nearly 88 million of users for a theoretical cost of nearly $19 million (yes the Sony brech is close). For the rest an endless cyberwar between India and Pakistan, some hactivism and (unfortunately) the usual amounts of “minor” breaches and defacement. After the page break you find all the references.
Last but not least… This post is my very personal way to wish you a happy new infosec year.