Blog

Inside the SOC

Better the Devil You Know? Darktrace’s Detection of Unattributed Ransomware

Default blog imageDefault blog imageDefault blog imageDefault blog imageDefault blog imageDefault blog image
22
Aug 2023
22
Aug 2023
This blog details how Darktrace leveraged its anomaly-based detection to successfully identify an ongoing ransomware attack on the network of a customer, as well as the activity that preceded it.

In the current threat landscape, much of the conversation around ransomware focusses on high-profile strains and notorious threat groups. While organizations and their security teams are justified in these concerns, it is important not to underestimate the danger posed by smaller scale, unattributed ransomware attacks.

Unlike attributed ransomware strains, there are often no playbooks or lists of previously observed indicators of compromise (IoCs) that security teams can consult to help them shore up their cyber defenses. As such, anomaly detection is critical to ensure that emerging threats can be detected based on their abnormality on the network, rather than relying heavily on threat intelligence.

In mid-March 2023, a Darktrace customer requested analytical support from the Darktrace Security Operations Center (SOC) after they had been hit by a ransomware attack a few hours earlier. Darktrace was able to uncover a myriad of malicious activity that preceded the eventual ransomware deployment, ultimately assisting the customer to identify compromised devices and contain the ransomware attack.

攻撃の概要

While there were a small number of endpoints that had been flagged as malicious by open-source intelligence (OSINT), Darktrace DETECT™ focused on the unusualness of the activity surrounding this emerging ransomware attack. This provided unparalleled visibility over this ransomware attack at every stage of the cyber kill chain, whilst also revealing the potential origins of the compromise which came months area.

Initial Compromise

Initial investigation revealed that several devices that Darktrace were observed performing suspicious activity had previously engaged in anomalous behavior several months before the ransomware event, indicating this could be a part of a repeated compromise or the result of initial access brokers.

Most notably, in late January 2023 there was a spike in unusual activity when some of the affected devices were observed performing activity indicative of network and device scanning.

Darktrace DETECT identified some of the devices establishing unusually high volumes of internal failed connections via TCP and UDP, and the SMB protocol. Various key ports, such as 135, 139, and 445, were also scanned.

Due to the number of affected devices, the exact initial attack vector is unclear; however, one likely scenario is associated with an internet-facing DNS server. Towards the end of January 2023, the server began to receive unusual TCP DNS requests from the rare external endpoint, 103.203.59[.]3, which had been flagged as potentially malicious by OSINT [4]. Based on a portion of the hostname of the device, dc01, we can assume that this server served as a gateway to the domain controller. If a domain controller is compromised, a malicious actor would gain access to usernames and passwords within a network allowing attackers to obtain administrative-level access to an organization’s digital estate.

Around the same time as the unusual TCP DNS requests, Darktrace DETECT observed the domain controller engaging in further suspicious activity. As demonstrated in Figure 1, Darktrace recognized that this server was not responding to common requests from multiple internal devices, as it would be expected to. Following this, the device was observed carrying out new or uncommon Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) activity. WMI is typically used by network administrators to manage remote and local Windows systems [3].

Figure 1: Device event log depicting the possible Initial attack vector.


Had Darktrace RESPOND™ been enabled in autonomous response mode, it would have to blocked connections originating from the compromised internal devices as soon as they were detected, while also limiting affected devices to their pre-established patterns of file to prevent them from carrying out any further malicious activity.

Darktrace subsequently observed multiple devices establishing various chains of connections that are indicative of lateral movement activity, such as unusual internal RDP and WMI requests. While there may be devices within an organization that do regularly partake these types of connections, Darktrace recognized that this activity was extremely unusual for these devices.

Darktrace’s Self-Learning AI allows for a deep understanding of customer networks and the devices within them. It’s anomaly-based threat detection capability enables it to recognize subtle deviations in a device’s normal patterns of behavior, without depending on known IoCs or signatures and rules to guide it.

Figure 2: Observed chain of possible lateral movement.


持続性

Darktrace DETECT observed several affected devices communicating with rare external endpoints that had also been flagged as potentially malicious by OSINT tools. Multiple devices were observed performing activity indicative of NTLM brute-forcing activity, as seen in the Figure 3 which highlights the event log of the aforementioned domain controller. Said domain controller continuously engaged in anomalous behavior throughout the course of the attack. The same device was seen using a potentially compromise credential, ‘cvd’, which was observed via an SMB login event.

Figure 3: Continued unusual external connectivity.


Affected devices, including the domain controller, continued to engage in consistent communication with the endpoints prior to the actual ransomware attack. Darktrace identified that some of these malicious endpoints had likely been generated by Domain Generation Algorithms (DGA), a classic tactic utilized by threat actors. Subsequent OSINT investigation revealed that one such domain had been associated with malware such as TrojanDownloader:Win32/Upatre!rfn [5].

All external engagements were observed by Darktrace DETECT and would have been actioned on by Darktrace RESPOND, had it been configured in autonomous response mode. It would have blocked any suspicious outgoing connections originating from the compromised devices, thus preventing additional external engagement from taking place. Darktrace RESPOND works in tandem with DETECT to autonomously take action against suspicious activity based on its unusualness, rather than relying on static lists of ‘known-bads’ or malicious IoCs.

偵察

On March 14, 2023, a few days before the ransomware attack, Darktrace observed multiple internal devices failing to establish connections in a manner that suggests SMB, RDP and network scanning. Among these devices once more was the domain controller, which was seen performing potential SMB brute-forcing, representing yet another example of malicious activity carried out by this device.

ラテラルムーブメント

Immediately prior to the attack, many compromised devices were observed mobilizing to conduct an array of high-severity lateral movement activity. Darktrace detected one device using two administrative credentials, namely ‘Administrator’ and ‘administrator’, while it also observed a notable spike in the volume of successful SMB connections from the device around the same time.

At this point, Darktrace DETECT was observing the progression of this attack along the cyber kill chain. What had started as internal recognisance, had escalated to exploitation and ensuing command-and-control activity. Following an SMB brute-force attempt, Darktrace DETECT identified a successful DCSync attack.

A DCSync attack occurs when a malicious actor impersonates a domain controller in an effort to gather sensitive information, such as user credentials and passwords hashes, by replicating directory services [1]. In this case, a device sent various successful DRSGetNCChanges operation requests to the DRSUAPI endpoint.

データ漏えい

Around the same time, Darktrace detected the compromised server transferring a high volume of data to rare external endpoints associated with Bublup, a third-party project management application used to save and share files. Although the actors attempted to avoid the detection of security tools by using a legitimate file storage service, Darktrace understood that this activity represented a deviation in this device’s expected pattern of life.

In one instance, around 8 GB of data was transferred, and in another, over 4 GB, indicating threat actors were employing a tactic known as ‘low and slow’ exfiltration whereby data is exfiltrated in small quantities via multiple connections, in an effort to mask their suspicious activity. While this tactic may have evaded the detection of traditional security measures, Darktrace’s anomaly-based detection allowed it to recognize that these two incidents represented a wider exfiltration event, rather than viewing the transfers in isolation.

影響

Finally, Darktrace began to observe a large amount of suspicious SMB activity on the affected devices, most of which was SMB file encryption. DETECT observed the file extension ‘uw9nmvw’ being appended to many files across various internal shares and devices. In addition to this, a potential ransom note, ‘RECOVER-uw9nmvw-FILES.txt’, was detected on the network shortly after the start of the attack.

Figure 4: Depiction of the high-volume of suspicious SMB activity, including file encryption.


結論

Ultimately, this incident show cases how Darktrace was able to successfully identify an emerging ransomware attack using its unrivalled anomaly-based detection capabilities, without having to rely on any previously established threat intelligence. Not only was Darktrace DETECT able to identify the ransomware at multiple stages of the kill chain, but it was also able to uncover the anomalous activity that took place in the buildup to the attack itself.

As the attack progressed along the cyber kill chain, escalating in severity at every juncture, DETECT was able to provide full visibility over the events. Through the successful identification of compromised devices, anomalous administrative credentials usage and encrypted files, Darktrace was able to greatly assist the customer, ensuring they were well-equipped to contain the incident and begin their incident management process.

Darktrace would have been able to aid the customer even further had they enabled its autonomous response technology on their network. Darktrace RESPOND would have taken targeted, mitigative action as soon as suspicious activity was detected, preventing the malicious actors from achieving their goals.

Credit to: Natalia Sánchez Rocafort, Cyber Security Analyst, Patrick Anjos, Senior Cyber Analyst.

MITRE Tactics/Techniques Mapping

RECONNAISSANCE

Scanning IP Blocks  (T1595.001)

RECONNAISSANCE

Vulnerability Scanning  (T1595.002)

IMPACT

Service Stop  (T1489)

LATERAL MOVEMENT

Taint Shared Content (T1080)

IMPACT

Data Encrypted for Impact (T1486)

INITIAL ACCESS

Replication Through Removable Media (T1200)

DEFENSE EVASION

Rogue Domain Controller (T1207)

COMMAND AND CONTROL

Domain Generation Algorithms (T1568.002)

実行

Windows Management Instrumentation (T1047)

INITIAL ACCESS

Phishing (T1190)

EXFILTRATION

Exfiltration Over C2 Channel (T1041)

IoC Table

IoC ----------- TYPE ------------- DESCRIPTION + PROBABILITY

CVD --------- credentials -------- Possible compromised credential

.UW9NMVW - File extension ----- Possible appended file extension

RECOVER-UW9NMVW-FILES.TXT - Ransom note - Possible ransom note observed

84.32.188[.]186 - IP address ------ C2 Endpoint

AS.EXECSVCT[.]COM - Hostname - C2 Endpoint

ZX.EXECSVCT[.]COM - Hostname - C2 Endpoint

QW.EXECSVCT[.]COM - Hostname - C2 Endpoint

EXECSVCT[.]COM - Hostname ------ C2 Endpoint

15.197.130[.]221 --- IP address ------ C2 Endpoint

AS59642 UAB CHERRY SERVERS - ASN - Possible ASN associated with C2 Endpoints

108.156.28[.]43

108.156.28[.]22

52.84.93[.]26

52.217.131[.]241

54.231.193[.]89 - IP addresses - Possible IP addresses associated with data exfiltration

103.203.59[.]3 -IP address ---- Possible IP address associated with initial attack vector

References:

[1] https://blog.netwrix.com/2021/11/30/what-is-dcsync-an-introduction/

[2] https://www.easeus.com/computer-instruction/delete-system32.html#:~:text=System32%20is%20a%20folder%20on,DLL%20files%2C%20and%20EXE%20files.

[3] https://www.techtarget.com/searchwindowsserver/definition/Windows-Management-Instrumentation#:~:text=WMI%20provides%20users%20with%20information,operational%20environments%2C%20including%20remote%20systems.

[4] https://www.virustotal.com/gui/ip-address/103.203.59[.]3

[5] https://otx.alienvault.com/indicator/ip/15.197.130[.]221

INSIDE THE SOC
Darktrace cyber analysts are world-class experts in threat intelligence, threat hunting and incident response, and provide 24/7 SOC support to thousands of Darktrace customers around the globe. Inside the SOC is exclusively authored by these experts, providing analysis of cyber incidents and threat trends, based on real-world experience in the field.
AUTHOR
ABOUT ThE AUTHOR
Natalia Sánchez Rocafort
Cyber Security Analyst
Book a 1-1 meeting with one of our experts
この記事を共有
COre coverage

More in this series

該当する項目はありません。

Blog

Inside the SOC

Stemming the Citrix Bleed Vulnerability with Darktrace’s ActiveAI Platform

Default blog imageDefault blog image
28
May 2024

What is Citrix Bleed?

Since August 2023, cyber threat actors have been actively exploiting one of the most significant critical vulnerabilities disclosed in recent years: Citrix Bleed. Citrix Bleed, also known as CVE-2023-4966, remained undiscovered and even unpatched for several months, resulting in a wide range of security incidents across business and government sectors [1].

How does Citrix Bleed vulnerability work?

The vulnerability, which impacts the Citrix Netscaler Gateway and Netscaler ADC products, allows for outside parties to hijack legitimate user sessions, thereby bypassing password and multifactor authentication (MFA) requirements.

When used as a means of initial network access, the vulnerability has resulted in the exfiltration of sensitive data, as in the case of Xfinity, and even the deployment of ransomware variants including Lockbit [2]. Although Citrix has released a patch to address the vulnerability, slow patching procedures and the widespread use of these products has resulted in the continuing exploitation of Citrix Bleed into 2024 [3].

How Does Darktrace Handle Citrix Bleed?

Darktrace has demonstrated its proficiency in handling the exploitation of Citrix Bleed since it was disclosed back in 2023; its anomaly-based approach allows it to efficiently identify and inhibit post-exploitation activity as soon as it surfaces.  Rather than relying upon traditional rules and signatures, Darktrace’s Self-Learning AI enables it to understand the subtle deviations in a device’s behavior that would indicate an emerging compromise, thus allowing it to detect anomalous activity related to the exploitation of Citrix Bleed.

In late 2023, Darktrace identified an instance of Citrix Bleed exploitation on a customer network. As this customer had subscribed to the Proactive Threat Notification (PTN) service, the suspicious network activity surrounding the compromise was escalated to Darktrace’s Security Operation Center (SOC) for triage and investigation by Darktrace Analysts, who then alerted the customer’s security team to the incident.

Darktrace’s Coverage

Initial Access and Beaconing of Citrix Bleed

Darktrace’s initial detection of indicators of compromise (IoCs) associated with the exploitation of Citrix Bleed actually came a few days prior to the SOC alert, with unusual external connectivity observed from a critical server. The suspicious connection in question, a SSH connection to the rare external IP 168.100.9[.]137, lasted several hours and utilized the Windows PuTTY client. Darktrace also identified an additional suspicious IP, namely 45.134.26[.]2, attempting to contact the server. Both rare endpoints had been linked with the exploitation of the Citrix Bleed vulnerability by multiple open-source intelligence (OSINT) vendors [4] [5].

Darktrace model alert highlighting an affected device making an unusual SSH connection to 168.100.9[.]137 via port 22.
Figure 1: Darktrace model alert highlighting an affected device making an unusual SSH connection to 168.100.9[.]137 via port 22.

As Darktrace is designed to identify network-level anomalies, rather than monitor edge infrastructure, the initial exploitation via the typical HTTP buffer overflow associated with this vulnerability fell outside the scope of Darktrace’s visibility. However, the aforementioned suspicious connectivity likely constituted initial access and beaconing activity following the successful exploitation of Citrix Bleed.

Command and Control (C2) and Payload Download

Around the same time, Darktrace also detected other devices on the customer’s network conducting external connectivity to various endpoints associated with remote management and IT services, including Action1, ScreenConnect and Fixme IT. Additionally, Darktrace observed devices downloading suspicious executable files, including “tniwinagent.exe”, which is associated with the tool Total Network Inventory. While this tool is typically used for auditing and inventory management purposes, it could also be leveraged by attackers for the purpose of lateral movement.

防衛回避

In the days surrounding this compromise, Darktrace observed multiple devices engaging in potential defense evasion tactics using the ScreenConnect and Fixme IT services. Although ScreenConnect is a legitimate remote management tool, it has also been used by threat actors to carry out C2 communication [6]. ScreenConnect itself was the subject of a separate critical vulnerability which Darktrace investigated in early 2024. Meanwhile, CISA observed that domains associated with Fixme It (“fixme[.]it”) have been used by threat actors attempting to exploit the Citrix Bleed vulnerability [7].

Reconnaissance and Lateral Movement

A few days after the detection of the initial beaconing communication, Darktrace identified several devices on the customer’s network carrying out reconnaissance and lateral movement activity. This included SMB writes of “PSEXESVC.exe”, network scanning, DCE-RPC binds of numerous internal devices to IPC$ shares and the transfer of compromise-related tools. It was at this point that Darktrace’s Self-Learning AI deemed the activity to be likely indicative of an ongoing compromise and several Enhanced Monitoring models alerted, triggering the aforementioned PTNs and investigation by Darktrace’s SOC.

Darktrace observed a server on the network initiating a wide range of connections to more than 600 internal IPs across several critical ports, suggesting port scanning, as well as conducting unexpected DCE-RPC service control (svcctl) activity on multiple internal devices, amongst them domain controllers. Additionally, several binds to server service (srvsvc) and security account manager (samr) endpoints via IPC$ shares on destination devices were detected, indicating further reconnaissance activity. The querying of these endpoints was also observed through RPC commands to enumerate services running on the device, as well as Security Account Manager (SAM) accounts.  

Darktrace also identified devices performing SMB writes of the WinRAR data compression tool, in what likely represented preparation for the compression of data prior to data exfiltration. Further SMB file writes were observed around this time including PSEXESVC.exe, which was ultimately used by attackers to conduct remote code execution, and one device was observed making widespread failed NTLM authentication attempts on the network, indicating NTLM brute-forcing. Darktrace observed several devices using administrative credentials to carry out the above activity.

In addition to the transfer of tools and executables via SMB, Darktrace also identified numerous devices deleting files through SMB around this time. In one example, an MSI file associated with the patch management and remediation service, Action1, was deleted by an attacker. This legitimate security tool, if leveraged by attackers, could be used to uncover additional vulnerabilities on target networks.

A server on the customer’s network was also observed writing the file “m.exe” to multiple internal devices. OSINT investigation into the executable indicated that it could be a malicious tool used to prevent antivirus programs from launching or running on a network [8].

Impact and Data Exfiltration

Following the initial steps of the breach chain, Darktrace observed numerous devices on the customer’s network engaging in data exfiltration and impact events, resulting in additional PTN alerts and a SOC investigation into data egress. Specifically, two servers on the network proceeded to read and download large volumes of data via SMB from multiple internal devices over the course of a few hours. These hosts sent large outbound volumes of data to MEGA file storage sites using TLS/SSL over port 443. Darktrace also identified the use of additional file storage services during this exfiltration event, including 4sync, file[.]io, and easyupload[.]io. In total the threat actor exfiltrated over 8.5 GB of data from the customer’s network.

Darktrace Cyber AI Analyst investigation highlighting the details of a data exfiltration attempt.
Figure 2: Darktrace Cyber AI Analyst investigation highlighting the details of a data exfiltration attempt.

Finally, Darktrace detected a user account within the customer’s Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) environment conducting several suspicious Office365 and AzureAD actions from a rare IP for the network, including uncommon file reads, creations and the deletion of a large number of files.

Unfortunately for the customer in this case, Darktrace RESPOND™ was not enabled on the network and the post-exploitation activity was able to progress until the customer was made aware of the attack by Darktrace’s SOC team. Had RESPOND been active and configured in autonomous response mode at the time of the attack, it would have been able to promptly contain the post-exploitation activity by blocking external connections, shutting down any C2 activity and preventing the download of suspicious files, blocking incoming traffic, and enforcing a learned ‘pattern of life’ on offending devices.

結論

Given the widespread use of Netscaler Gateway and Netscaler ADC, Citrix Bleed remains an impactful and potentially disruptive vulnerability that will likely continue to affect organizations who fail to address affected assets. In this instance, Darktrace demonstrated its ability to track and inhibit malicious activity stemming from Citrix Bleed exploitation, enabling the customer to identify affected devices and enact their own remediation.

Darktrace’s anomaly-based approach to threat detection allows it to identify such post-exploitation activity resulting from the exploitation of a vulnerability, regardless of whether it is a known CVE or a zero-day threat. Unlike traditional security tools that rely on existing threat intelligence and rules and signatures, Darktrace’s ability to identify the subtle deviations in a compromised device’s behavior gives it a unique advantage when it comes to identifying emerging threats.

Credit to Vivek Rajan, Cyber Analyst, Adam Potter, Cyber Analyst

付録

Darktrace モデルカバレッジ

Device / Suspicious SMB Scanning Activity

Device / ICMP Address Scan

Device / Possible SMB/NTLM Reconnaissance

Device / Network Scan

Device / SMB Lateral Movement

Device / Possible SMB/NTLM Brute Force

Device / Suspicious Network Scan Activity

User / New Admin Credentials on Server

Anomalous File / Internal::Unusual Internal EXE File Transfer

Compliance / SMB Drive Write

Device / New or Unusual Remote Command Execution

Anomalous Connection / New or Uncommon Service Control

Anomalous Connection / Rare WinRM Incoming

Anomalous Connection / Unusual Admin SMB Session

Device / Unauthorised Device

User / New Admin Credentials on Server

Anomalous Server Activity / Outgoing from Server

Device / Long Agent Connection to New Endpoint

Anomalous Connection / Multiple Connections to New External TCP Port

Device / New or Uncommon SMB Named Pipe

Device / Multiple Lateral Movement Model Breaches

Device / Large Number of Model Breaches

Compliance / Remote Management Tool On Server

Device / Anomalous RDP Followed By Multiple Model Breaches

Device / SMB Session Brute Force (Admin)

Device / New User Agent

Compromise / Large Number of Suspicious Failed Connections

Unusual Activity / Unusual External Data Transfer

Unusual Activity / Enhanced Unusual External Data Transfer

Device / Increased External Connectivity

Unusual Activity / Unusual External Data to New Endpoints

Anomalous Connection / Data Sent to Rare Domain

Anomalous Connection / Uncommon 1 GiB Outbound

Anomalous Connection / Active Remote Desktop Tunnel

Anomalous Server Activity / Anomalous External Activity from Critical Network Device

Compliance / Possible Unencrypted Password File On Server

Anomalous Connection / Suspicious Read Write Ratio and Rare External

Device / Reverse DNS Sweep]

Unusual Activity / Possible RPC Recon Activity

Anomalous File / Internal::Executable Uploaded to DC

Compliance / SMB Version 1 Usage

Darktrace AI Analyst Incidents

Scanning of Multiple Devices

Suspicious Remote Service Control Activity

SMB Writes of Suspicious Files to Multiple Devices

Possible SSL Command and Control to Multiple Devices

Extensive Suspicious DCE-RPC Activity

Suspicious DCE-RPC Activity

Internal Downloads and External Uploads

Unusual External Data Transfer

Unusual External Data Transfer to Multiple Related Endpoints

MITRE ATT&CK マッピング

Technique – Tactic – ID – Sub technique of

Network Scanning – Reconnaissance - T1595 - T1595.002

Valid Accounts – Defense Evasion, Persistence, Privilege Escalation, Initial Access – T1078 – N/A

Remote Access Software – Command and Control – T1219 – N/A

Lateral Tool Transfer – Lateral Movement – T1570 – N/A

Data Transfers – Exfiltration – T1567 – T1567.002

Compressed Data – Exfiltration – T1030 – N/A

NTLM Brute Force – Brute Force – T1110 - T1110.001

AntiVirus Deflection – T1553 - NA

Ingress Tool Transfer   - COMMAND AND CONTROL - T1105 - NA

Indicators of Compromise (IoCs)

204.155.149[.]37 – IP – Possible Malicious Endpoint

199.80.53[.]177 – IP – Possible Malicious Endpoint

168.100.9[.]137 – IP – Malicious Endpoint

45.134.26[.]2 – IP – Malicious Endpoint

13.35.147[.]18 – IP – Likely Malicious Endpoint

13.248.193[.]251 – IP – Possible Malicious Endpoint

76.223.1[.]166 – IP – Possible Malicious Endpoint

179.60.147[.]10 – IP – Likely Malicious Endpoint

185.220.101[.]25 – IP – Likely Malicious Endpoint

141.255.167[.]250 – IP – Malicious Endpoint

106.71.177[.]68 – IP – Possible Malicious Endpoint

cat2.hbwrapper[.]com – Hostname – Likely Malicious Endpoint

aj1090[.]online – Hostname – Likely Malicious Endpoint

dc535[.]4sync[.]com – Hostname – Likely Malicious Endpoint

204.155.149[.]140 – IP - Likely Malicious Endpoint

204.155.149[.]132 – IP - Likely Malicious Endpoint

204.155.145[.]52 – IP - Likely Malicious Endpoint

204.155.145[.]49 – IP - Likely Malicious Endpoint

参考文献

  1. https://www.axios.com/2024/01/02/citrix-bleed-security-hacks-impact
  2. https://www.csoonline.com/article/1267774/hackers-steal-data-from-millions-of-xfinity-customers-via-citrix-bleed-vulnerability.html
  3. https://www.cybersecuritydive.com/news/citrixbleed-security-critical-vulnerability/702505/
  4. https://www.virustotal.com/gui/ip-address/168.100.9.137
  5. https://www.virustotal.com/gui/ip-address/45.134.26.2
  6. https://www.trendmicro.com/en_us/research/24/b/threat-actor-groups-including-black-basta-are-exploiting-recent-.html
  7. https://www.cisa.gov/news-events/cybersecurity-advisories/aa23-325a
  8. https://www.file.net/process/m.exe.html
続きを読む
著者について
Vivek Rajan
Cyber Analyst

Blog

Eメール

How to Protect your Organization Against Microsoft Teams Phishing Attacks

Default blog imageDefault blog image
21
May 2024

The problem: Microsoft Teams phishing attacks are on the rise

Around 83% of Fortune 500 companies rely on Microsoft Office products and services1, with Microsoft Teams and Microsoft SharePoint in particular emerging as critical platforms to the business operations of the everyday workplace. Researchers across the threat landscape have begun to observe these legitimate services being leveraged more and more by malicious actors as an initial access method.

As Teams becomes a more prominent feature of the workplace many employees rely on it for daily internal and external communication, even surpassing email usage in some organizations. As Microsoft2 states, "Teams changes your relationship with email. When your whole group is working in Teams, it means you'll all get fewer emails. And you'll spend less time in your inbox, because you'll use Teams for more of your conversations."

However, Teams can be exploited to send targeted phishing messages to individuals either internally or externally, while appearing legitimate and safe. Users might receive an external message request from a Teams account claiming to be an IT support service or otherwise affiliated with the organization. Once a user has accepted, the threat actor can launch a social engineering campaign or deliver a malicious payload. As a primarily internal tool there is naturally less training and security awareness around Teams – due to the nature of the channel it is assumed to be a trusted source, meaning that social engineering is already one step ahead.

Screenshot of a Microsoft Teams message request from a Midnight Blizzard-controlled account (courtesy of Microsoft)
Figure 1: Screenshot of a Microsoft Teams message request from a Midnight Blizzard-controlled account (courtesy of Microsoft)

Microsoft Teams Phishing Examples

Microsoft has identified several major phishing attacks using Teams within the past year.

In July 2023, Microsoft announced that the threat actor known as Midnight Blizzard – identified by the United States as a Russian state-sponsored group – had launched a series of phishing campaigns via Teams with the aim of stealing user credentials. These attacks used previously compromised Microsoft 365 accounts and set up new domain names that impersonated legitimate IT support organizations. The threat actors then used social engineering tactics to trick targeted users into sharing their credentials via Teams, enabling them to access sensitive data.  

At a similar time, threat actor Storm-0324 was observed sending phishing lures via Teams containing links to malicious SharePoint-hosted files. The group targeted organizations that allow Teams users to interact and share files externally. Storm-0324’s goal is to gain initial access to hand over to other threat actors to pursue more dangerous follow-on attacks like ransomware.

Darktrace がMicrosoft Teamsのフィッシングを阻止する方法について、さらに詳しく知りたい方は、ブログをお読みください: 餌に喰いつくな:Darktrace Microsoft Teamsのフィッシング攻撃を阻止する方法

The market: Existing Microsoft Teams security solutions are insufficient

Microsoft’s native Teams security focuses on payloads, namely links and attachments, as the principal malicious component of any phishing. These payloads are relatively straightforward to detect with their experience in anti-virus, sandboxing, and IOCs. However, this approach is unable to intervene before the stage at which payloads are delivered, before the user even gets the chance to accept or deny an external message request. At the same time, it risks missing more subtle threats that don’t include attachments or links – like early stage phishing, which is pure social engineering – or completely new payloads.

Equally, the market offering for Teams security is limited. Security solutions available on the market are always payload-focused, rather than taking into account the content and context in which a link or attachment is sent. Answering questions like:

  • Does it make sense for these two accounts to speak to each other?
  • Are there any linguistic indicators of inducement?

Furthermore, they do not correlate with email to track threats across multiple communication environments which could signal a wider campaign. Effectively, other market solutions aren’t adding extra value – they are protecting against the same types of threats that Microsoft is already covering by default.

The other aspect of Teams security that native and market solutions fail to address is the account itself. As well as focusing on Teams threats, it’s important to analyze messages to understand the normal mode of communication for a user, and spot when a user’s Teams activity might signal account takeover.

The solution: How Darktrace protects Microsoft Teams against sophisticated threats

With its biggest update to Darktrace/Email ever, Darktrace now offers support for Microsoft Teams. With that, we are bringing the same AI philosophy that protects your email and accounts to your messaging environment.  

Our Self-Learning AI looks at content and context for every communication, whether that’s sent in an email or Teams message. It looks at actual user behavior, including language patterns, relationship history of sender and recipient, tone and payloads, to understand if a message poses a threat. This approach allows Darktrace to detect threats such as social engineering and payloadless attacks using visibility and forensic capabilities that Microsoft security doesn’t currently offer, as well as early symptoms of account compromise.  

Unlike market solutions, Darktrace doesn’t offer a siloed approach to Teams security. Data and signals from Teams are shared across email to inform detection, and also with the wider Darktrace ActiveAI security platform. By correlating information from email and Teams with network and apps security, Darktrace is able to better identify suspicious Teams activity and vice versa.  

Interested in the other ways Darktrace/Email augments threat detection? Read our latest blog on how improving the quality of end-user reporting can decrease the burden on the SOC. To find our more about Darktrace's enduring partnership with Microsoft, click here.

参考文献

[1] Essential Microsoft Office Statistics in 2024

[2] Microsoft blog, Microsoft Teams and email, living in harmony, 2024

続きを読む
著者について
Carlos Gray
Product Manager
Our ai. Your data.

Elevate your cyber defenses with Darktrace AI

無償トライアルを開始
Darktrace AI protecting a business from cyber threats.