February 26, 2024

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Cybersecurity Advisory on Latest Global Cyber Campaign

Personal computer protected from external attacks by a brick wall. Digital illustration.

The National Security Agency (NSA), Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) released a Cybersecurity Advisory today exposing malicious cyber activities against the U.S. and global organisations, starting from mid-2019 and likely ongoing.  This advisory is being released as part of the NSA’s routine and continuing cybersecurity mission to warn network defenders of nation-state threats.

The advisory details how another country has targeted hundreds of U.S. and foreign organisations using brute force access to penetrate government and private sector victim networks. The advisory reveals the Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs) used in their campaign to exploit targeted networks, access credentials, move laterally, and collect and exfiltrate data. It also arms system administrators with the mitigations needed to counter this threat.

Malicious cyber actors use brute force techniques to discover valid credentials often through extensive login attempts, sometimes with previously leaked usernames and passwords or by guessing with variations of the most common passwords. While the brute force technique is not new, in this case, the cyber actors uniquely leveraged software containers to easily scale their brute force attempts.

Once valid credentials were discovered, the cyber actors combined them with various publicly known vulnerabilities to gain further access into victim networks. This, along with various techniques also detailed in the advisory, allowed the actors to evade defences and collect and exfiltrate various information in the networks, including mailboxes.

The advisory warns system administrators that exploitation is almost certainly ongoing. Targets have been global but primarily focused on the U.S. and Europe. Targets include government and military, defence contractors, energy companies, higher education, logistics companies, law firms, media companies, political consultants or political parties, and think tanks.

NSA encourages Department of Defense (DoD), National Security Systems (NSS), and Defence Industrial Base (DIB) system administrators to immediately review the indicators of the compromise included in the advisory and to apply the recommended mitigations. The most effective mitigation is the use of multi-factor authentication, which is not guessable during brute force access attempts.

As with mitigations for other credential theft techniques, organisations can take the following measures to ensure strong access control:

  • Use multi-factor authentication with strong factors and require regular reauthentication. Strong authentication factors are not guessable, so they would not be guessed during brute force attempts.
  • Enable time-out and lock-out features whenever password authentication is needed. Time-out features should increase in duration with additional failed login attempts. Lock-out features should temporarily disable accounts after many consecutive failed attempts. This can force slower brute force attempts, making them infeasible.
  • For protocols that support human interaction, utilise captchas to hinder automated access attempts.
  • Change all default credentials and disable protocols that use weak authentication (e.g., clear-text passwords, or outdated and vulnerable authentication or encryption protocols) or do not support multi-factor authentication. Always configure access controls on cloud resources carefully to ensure that only well-maintained and well-authenticated accounts have access.
  • Employ appropriate network segmentation and restrictions to limit access and utilise additional attributes (such as device information, environment, access path) when making access decisions, with the desired state being a Zero Trust security model
  • Use automated tools to audit access logs for security concerns and identify anomalous access requests.
  • Some services can check passwords against common password dictionaries when users change passwords, denying many poor password choices before they are set. This makes brute-force password guessing far more difficult.

As part of the ongoing response, agencies across the U.S. government announced new resources and initiatives to protect American businesses and communities from ransomware attacks. As reported by OpenGov Asia, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), together with federal partners, has launched a new website to combat the threat of ransomware.

StopRansomware.gov establishes a one-stop hub for ransomware resources for individuals, businesses, and other organisations. The new website is a collaborative effort across the federal government and the first joint website created to help private and public organisations mitigate their ransomware risk.

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Qlik’s vision is a data-literate world, where everyone can use data and analytics to improve decision-making and solve their most challenging problems. A private company, Qlik offers real-time data integration and analytics solutions, powered by Qlik Cloud, to close the gaps between data, insights and action. By transforming data into Active Intelligence, businesses can drive better decisions, improve revenue and profitability, and optimize customer relationships. Qlik serves more than 38,000 active customers in over 100 countries.

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CTC Global Singapore, a premier end-to-end IT solutions provider, is a fully owned subsidiary of ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation (CTC) and ITOCHU Corporation.

Since 1972, CTC has established itself as one of the country’s top IT solutions providers. With 50 years of experience, headed by an experienced management team and staffed by over 200 qualified IT professionals, we support organizations with integrated IT solutions expertise in Autonomous IT, Cyber Security, Digital Transformation, Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure, Workplace Modernization and Professional Services.

Well-known for our strengths in system integration and consultation, CTC Global proves to be the preferred IT outsourcing destination for organizations all over Singapore today.

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Planview has one mission: to build the future of connected work. Our solutions enable organizations to connect the business from ideas to impact, empowering companies to accelerate the achievement of what matters most. Planview’s full spectrum of Portfolio Management and Work Management solutions creates an organizational focus on the strategic outcomes that matter and empowers teams to deliver their best work, no matter how they work. The comprehensive Planview platform and enterprise success model enables customers to deliver innovative, competitive products, services, and customer experiences. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, with locations around the world, Planview has more than 1,300 employees supporting 4,500 customers and 2.6 million users worldwide. For more information, visit www.planview.com.

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SIRIM is a premier industrial research and technology organisation in Malaysia, wholly-owned by the Minister​ of Finance Incorporated. With over forty years of experience and expertise, SIRIM is mandated as the machinery for research and technology development, and the national champion of quality. SIRIM has always played a major role in the development of the country’s private sector. By tapping into our expertise and knowledge base, we focus on developing new technologies and improvements in the manufacturing, technology and services sectors. We nurture Small Medium Enterprises (SME) growth with solutions for technology penetration and upgrading, making it an ideal technology partner for SMEs.

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HashiCorp provides infrastructure automation software for multi-cloud environments, enabling enterprises to unlock a common cloud operating model to provision, secure, connect, and run any application on any infrastructure. HashiCorp tools allow organizations to deliver applications faster by helping enterprises transition from manual processes and ITIL practices to self-service automation and DevOps practices. 

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IBM is a leading global hybrid cloud and AI, and business services provider. We help clients in more than 175 countries capitalize on insights from their data, streamline business processes, reduce costs and gain the competitive edge in their industries. Nearly 3,000 government and corporate entities in critical infrastructure areas such as financial services, telecommunications and healthcare rely on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift to affect their digital transformations quickly, efficiently and securely. IBM’s breakthrough innovations in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions and business services deliver open and flexible options to our clients. All of this is backed by IBM’s legendary commitment to trust, transparency, responsibility, inclusivity and service.

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