Russia-linked Sofacy APT group shift focus from NATO members to towards the Middle East and Central Asia

Experts from Kaspersky highlighted a shift focus in the Sofacy APT group’s interest, from NATO member countries and Ukraine to towards the Middle East and Central Asia.

The Russia-linked APT28 group (aka Pawn StormFancy BearSofacySednitTsar Team and Strontium.) made the headlines again, this time security experts from Kaspersky highlighted a shift focus in their interest, from NATO member countries and Ukraine to towards the Middle East and Central Asia.

“Sofacy, one of the most active APT we monitor, continues to spearphish their way into targets, reportedly widely phishes for credentials, and infrequently participates in server side activity (including host compromise with BeEF deployment, for example). KSN visibility and detections suggests a shift from their early 2017 high volume NATO spearphish targeting towards the middle east and Central Asia, and finally moving their focus further east into late 2017.” states Kaspersky.

The experts analyzed the infections of the Sofacy backdoor tracked as SPLM, CHOPSTICK and X-Agent, the APT group had been increasingly targeting former Soviet countries in Central Asia. The hackers mostly targeted telecoms companies and defense-related organization, primary target were entities in Turkey, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Jordan and Uzbekistan.

The researchers observed several attacks leveraging the SPLM and the Zebrocy tool between the second and fourth quarters of 2017 against organizations in Asia. The list of targeted countries included China, Mongolia, South Korea and Malaysia.

Sofacy APT

“This high level of cyber-espionage activity goes back years. In 2011-2012, the group used a relatively tiny implant (known as “Sofacy” or SOURFACE) as their first stage malware, which at the time had similarities with the old Miniduke implants.” states Kaspersky.

“This made us believe the two groups were connected, although it looks they split ways at a certain point, with the original Miniduke group switching to the CosmicDuke implant in 2014. The division in malware was consistent and definitive at that point.”

The Zebrocy tool was used by attackers to collect data from victims, researchers observed its involvement in attacks on accounting firms, science and engineering centers, industrial organizations, ministries, embassies and consulates, national security and intelligence agencies, press and translation services, and NGOs.

The researchers highlighted that the attack infrastructure used in the last attacks pointed to the Sofacy APT, the group has been fairly consistent throughout even if their TTPs were well documented by security firms across the years. Researchers at Kaspersky expect to see some significant changes this year.

“Sofacy set up and maintained multiple servers and c2 for varying durations, registering fairly recognizable domains with privacy services, registrars that accept bitcoin, fake phone numbers, phony individual names, and 1 to 1 email address to domain registration relationships. Some of this activity and patterns were publicly disclosed, so we expect to see more change in their process in 2018. Also, throughout the year and in previous years, researchers began to comment publicly on Sofacy’s fairly consistent infrastructure setup.” continues Kaspersky.

Further details are included in the analysis published by Kaspersky, including Indicators of Compromise (IOCs).


Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – Sofacy APT, Asia)



The post Russia-linked Sofacy APT group shift focus from NATO members to towards the Middle East and Central Asia appeared first on Security Affairs.



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