This Intelligence In View provides federal, state, local, and private sector stakeholders an overview of Russian Government-affiliated cyber activity targeting the United States and Russian regional adversaries, including disruptive or destructive cyber activity, cyber espionage in support of intelligence collection, and malign foreign influence in service of Russian political agendas. This In View also provides examples of malware and tools used by Russian Government-affiliated cyber actors.
On February 24, 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order 14017 on America’s Supply Chains directing the Secretary of Energy to submit a supply chain strategy overview report for the energy sector industrial base (as determined by the Secretary of Energy). The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) defines the Energy Sector Industrial Base (ESIB) as the energy sector and associated supply chains that include all industries/companies and stakeholders directly and indirectly involved in the energy sector. The energy sector industrial base involves a complex network of industries and stakeholders that spans from extractive industries, manufacturing industries, energy conversion and delivery industries, end of life and waste management industries, and service industries to include providers of digital goods and services.
(U//FOUO) DHS Bulletin: Warning of Potential for Cyber Attacks Targeting the United States in the Event of a Russian Invasion of Ukraine
We assess that Russia would consider initiating a cyber attack against the Homeland if it perceived a US or NATO response to a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine threatened its long-term national security. Russia maintains a range of offensive cyber tools that it could employ against US networks—from low-level denials-of-service to destructive attacks targeting critical infrastructure. However, we assess that Russia’s threshold for conducting disruptive or destructive cyber attacks in the Homeland probably remains very high and we have not observed Moscow directly employ these types of cyber attacks against US critical infrastructure—notwithstanding cyber espionage and potential prepositioning operations in the past.
Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Mail-In Voting in 2020 Infrastructure Risk Assessment
All forms of voting – in this case mail-in voting – bring a variety of cyber and infrastructure risks. Risks to mail-in voting can be managed through various policies, procedures, and controls.
The outbound and inbound processing of mail-in ballots introduces additional infrastructure and technology, which increases the potential scalability of cyber attacks. Implementation of mail-in voting infrastructure and processes within a compressed timeline may also introduce new risk. To address this risk, election officials should focus on cyber risk management activities, including access controls and authentication best practices when implementing expanded mail-in voting.
(U//FOUO) DHS Bulletin: Russia Likely to Continue Seeking to Undermine Faith in US Electoral Process
We assess that Russia is likely to continue amplifying criticisms of vote-by-mail and shifting voting processes amidst the COVID-19 pandemic to undermine public trust in the electoral process. Decisions made by state election officials on expanding vote-by-mail and adjusting in-person voting to accommodate challenges posed by COVID-19 have become topics of public debate. This public discussion represents a target for foreign malign influence operations that seeks to undermine faith in the electoral process by spreading disinformation about the accuracy of voter data for expanded vote-by-mail, outbound/inbound mail ballot process, signature verification and cure process, modifying scale of in-person voting, and safety and health concerns at polling places, according to CISA guidance documents provided to state and local election officials.
(U//FOUO) DHS Bulletin: Cybercriminals See Opportunity to Exploit Online Distance Learning Platforms and Users
Most US school districts as of 23 March 2020 are and will remain closed until the end of the academic school year or “until further notice” because of COVID-19, according to data provided by a Maryland-based online publication that provides scholastic news and analysis. This Article assumes that while pre-kindergarten through 12th grade schools, institutions of higher education, and business and trade schools are closed, many are relying on internet-enabled distance learning (eLearning) alternatives in place of traditional classroom instruction.
(U//FOUO) DHS Bulletin: APT Actors Likely View Zoom Vulnerabilities as Opportunity to Threaten Public and Private Sector Entities
APT actors likely will identify new or use existing vulnerabilities in Zoom to compromise user devices and accounts for further exploitation of corporate networks. This judgment includes critical infrastructure entities using Zoom. We base this judgment on recent public exposure of Zoom’s numerous vulnerabilities. While vendors regularly publish patches for vulnerabilities, reports indicate there are instances in which users and organizations delay updates. The patching process is undermined by APT actors who often capitalize on delays and develop exploits based on the vulnerability and available patches.
FBI Cyber Bulletin: Website Defacement Activity Indicators of Compromise and Techniques Used to Disseminate Pro-Iranian Messages
Following last week’s US airstrikes against Iranian military leadership, the FBI observed increased reporting of website defacement activity disseminating Pro-Iranian messages. The FBI believes several of the website defacements were the result of cyber actors exploiting known vulnerabilities in content management systems (CMSs) to upload defacement files.
FBI Cyber Bulletin: Cyber Criminals Use Social Engineering and Technical Attacks to Circumvent Multi-Factor Authentication
The FBI has observed cyber actors circumventing multi-factor authentication through common social engineering and technical attacks. This PIN explains these methods and offers mitigation strategies for organizations and entities using multi-factor authentication in their security efforts. Multi-factor authentication continues to be a strong and effective security measure to protect online accounts, as long as users take precautions to ensure they do not fall victim to these attacks.
FBI Cyber Bulletin: Targeting of Audio and Visual Communication Devices on Business Networks to Identify Vulnerabilities for Exploitation
The FBI identified incidents over the past few months in which cyber actors scanned for and sought to exploit audio and visual communication devices on networks to identify vulnerabilities which could later be used to gain access and unlawfully acquire information about the organization. In addition to targeting corporate information, vulnerable devices may be targeted for compromise for use in botnets or other criminal activities. The types of devices targeted include: Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phones, video conferencing equipment, conference phones, VoIP routers, and cloud-based communication systems. While cyber actors have targeted VoIP and other communication devices in the past, the FBI continues to see these devices scanned by cyber actors for vulnerabilities.
FBI Private Sector Report: US Adversaries Exploit Social Media Information to Target US Individuals and Government Clearance Holders
The FBI’s Washington Field Office, in coordination with the FBI’s Office of Private Sector (OPS), is informing private sector partners regarding foreign intelligence services’ (FIS) exploitation of social media platforms and data to target corporate and US government (USG) clearance holders. FIS and US adversary intelligence officers are using popular US-based social media platforms to identify, recruit, and conduct operations against USG clearance holders, to include private sector employees or contractors supporting the USG. FIS officers will use popular US-based platforms and their respective countries’ social media platforms for personal and intelligence gathering/operations purposes.
The FBI has identified successful spearphishing campaigns directed at college and university students, especially during periods when financial aid funds are disbursed in large volumes. In general, the spearphishing emails request students’ login credentials for the University’s internal intranet. The cyber criminals then capture students’ login credentials, and after gaining access, change the students’ direct deposit destination to bank accounts within the threat actor’s control.
The legal and political environment of the People’s Republic of China (“PRC”) in which the companies primarily operate and whose laws are required to comply with, requires private companies to cooperate in meeting the interests of the PRC, including participation in intelligence activities etc. At the same time, these companies usually do not refrain from such cooperation with the state; in this environment, efforts to protect customers’ interests at the expense of the interests of the PRC are significantly reduced. According to available information, there is an organizational and personal link between these companies and the state. Therefore, this raises concerns that the interests of the PRC may be prioritized over the interests of the users of these companies’ technologies.
This reference aid draws on CTIIC’s experience promoting interagency situational awareness and information sharing during previous significant cyber events—including cyber threats to elections. It provides a guide to cyber threat terms and related terminology issues likely to arise when describing cyber activity. The document includes a range of cyber-specific terms that may be required to accurately convey intelligence on a cyber threat event and terms that have been established by relevant authorities regarding technical infrastructure for conducting elections.
In the 2011 report to Congress on Foreign Spies Stealing U.S. Economic Secrets in Cyberspace, the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive provided a baseline assessment of the many dangers facing the U.S. research, development, and manufacturing sectors when operating in cyberspace, the pervasive threats posed by foreign intelligence services and other threat actors, and the industries and technologies most likely at risk of espionage. The 2018 report provides additional insight into the most pervasive nation-state threats, and it includes a detailed breakout of the industrial sectors and technologies judged to be of highest interest to threat actors. It also discusses several potentially disruptive threat trends that warrant close attention.
In March 2018, an identified financial services corporation received a thumb drive infected with the bank credential-stealing Qakbot malware variant, targeting information from networked computers and financial institution web sites. The financial services corporation purchased bulk thumb drives from a US online retailer of computer hardware. The thumb drives were originally manufactured in China. According to FBI forensic analysis, the Qakbot malware was on the infected thumb drive before the drive arrived in the United States. Qakbot is extremely persistent and requires removal of all malware from every device. Failure to remove even one node of malware may result in re-infecting previously sanitized systems possibly costing the victim hundreds of thousands of dollars in malware removal and system downtime.
Electricity is critical to every aspect of modern life. The United States’ national security, economy, and public health and safety rely on the North American electric grid every second of the day. These, and many other functions powered by the grid have likely experienced local outages caused by weather, accidents, or sometimes from tree branches falling on power lines. Larger power outages, however, are infrequent occurrences, due in part to an array of organizations that work tirelessly to ensure the grid remains reliable, resilient, and secure. Nonetheless, it is neither practical nor possible to prevent all disruptive events. Grid owners and operators balance risk, investment, and cost to customers when making investments in their systems.
(U//FOUO) DHS Intelligence Note: Unidentified Cyber Actor Attacks State and Local Government Networks with GrandCrab Ransomware
An unidentified cyber actor in mid-March 2018 used GrandCrab Version 2 ransomware to attack a State of Connecticut municipality network and a state judicial branch network, according to DHS reporting derived from a state law enforcement official with direct and indirect access. The municipality did not pay the ransom, resulting in the encryption of multiple servers that affected some data backups and the loss of tax payment information and assessor data. The attack against the state judicial branch resulted in the infection of numerous computers, but minimal content encryption, according to the same DHS report.
Cyberspace operations (CO) is the employment of cyberspace capabilities where the primary purpose is to achieve objectives in or through cyberspace. This publication focuses on military operations in and through cyberspace; explains the relationships and responsibilities of the Joint Staff (JS), combatant commands (CCMDs), United States Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM), the Service cyberspace component (SCC) commands, and combat support agencies; and establishes a framework for the employment of cyberspace forces and capabilities.
FBI Report: E-mail Account Compromise Techniques Used to Steal Millions in Real Estate Settlement Funds
The Office of Private Sector, in coordination with the Criminal Investigative Division, is providing this LIR to inform private sector partners about the increasing use of e-mail account compromise (EAC) techniques in the US real estate settlement industry. Consumer borrowers, settlement/title companies, real estate agents, real estate attorneys, builders, and others are being targeted by criminal actors netting millions in illicit proceeds. These proceeds are often directed initially to US banks then re-directed via money service businesses and international accounts to Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa, China, Ghana, Turkey, and India. The increased use of EAC techniques, as well as, the evolving expansion into previously unidentified countries indicates this fraud scheme is not slowing and puts additional strain on industry participants to be vigilant with their e-mail communications and identity verification processes.
APT actors in the near future likely intend to target US Cleared Defense Contractors (CDC) via spear phishing campaigns or network infrastructure compromises, according to recent intelligence. Common spear phish targets may include individuals featured on internet-facing CDC Web sites and high-ranking CDC executives.
The American people are increasingly dependent upon the Internet for daily conveniences, critical services, and economic prosperity. Substantial growth in Internet access and networked devices has facilitated widespread opportunities and innovation. This extraordinary level of connectivity, however, has also introduced progressively greater cyber risks for the United States. Long-standing threats are evolving as nation-states, terrorists, individual criminals, transnational criminal organizations, and other malicious actors move their activities into the digital world. Enabling the delivery of essential services—such as electricity, finance, transportation, water, and health care—through cyberspace also introduces new vulnerabilities and opens the door to potentially catastrophic consequences from cyber incidents. The growing number of Internet-connected devices and reliance on global supply chains further complicates the national and international risk picture.
BOD 17-01 requires all federal executive branch departments and agencies to (1) identify the use or presence of “Kaspersky-branded products” on all federal information systems within 30 days of BOD issuance (i.e., by October 13); (2) develop and provide to DHS a detailed plan of action to remove and discontinue present and future use of all Kaspersky-branded products within 60 days of BOD issuance (i.e., by November 12); and (3) begin to implement the plan of action at 90 days after BOD issuance (i.e., December 12), unless directed otherwise by DHS in light of new information obtained by DHS, including but not limited to new information submitted by Kaspersky.