On 19 July at 11pm Ankara time, Wikileaks published the first emails that were grabbed from the Turkish AKP. The organization led by Julian Assange, being in line with its policy on publication of secret information, also released the content of the attachments spreading the malware contained in the emails.
However, many aspects of these attacks are still unknown as ElevenPaths, Telefonica’s cyber security unit, states in the recent report where the malware samples and their malicious content have been analyzed.
The Infection Vector
One of the requirements that any attacker needs to handle is to get access to a technological infrastructure that allows him to maintain control of the infected systems without being detected. In this case, after analyzing the source IP addresses of the compromised emails it has been found that the attackers leveraged vulnerable configurations on mail servers to maximize their chances of success. This way they could perform up to three different social engineering techniques with the aim of ensuring that each recipient opened the attached malicious files.
Amongst the 2067 IP addresses which became the source of the malicious emails distributed worldwide included web servers, residential ADSLs and mail servers. The large number of IP addresses used for sending the emails, as well as the types variety and the fact that they are spread over a wide area, has served as a key element in ensuring the anonymity of the attackers.
Types of Malware used in the political cyberattacks
Mainly, downloaders (programs or scripts involved in the first phase of infection, responsible for downloading the malicious file) have been found. These downloaders were focused on downloading ransomware and banking Trojans linked to massive campaigns performed by organized cybercrime syndicates for purely monetary purposes. However, the most important aspect of the research was the identification of the use of backdoor Trojans that are usually associated with information thefts and attacks that may include lateral movements or other techniques associated with Advanced Persistent Threats.
After analyzing all the malicious attachments, several senior Turkish government officials have been identified as the target of these Trojans like Bekir Bozdağ (Ministry of Justice), Ömer Çelik (Minister of European Union Affairs), Nurettin Canikli (Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey) and Hüseyin Çelik (Minister of National Education).
Traditional Security Is Not Enough
Traditional security solutions are not enough to tackle samples which are very fresh and which could be related to targeted political cyberattacks, since they are unlikely to be found on black lists. However, defense technology against advanced malware can be the solution to threats that have a very high probability of being implemented in all kinds of entities, both corporate and governmental.
In the words of Eugene H. Spafford, a well-known computer security expert, the only truly secure system is one that is powered off, cast in a block of concrete and sealed in a lead-lined room with armed guards. And even then Eugene has his doubts. This case is another illustrative reason of why it is always important to stay alerted in regard to our own defense systems.
(Security Affairs – Political Cyberattacks, malware)