Russian State-Sponsored and Criminal Cyber Threats to Critical … – US-CERT




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Actions critical infrastructure organizations should implement to immediately protect against Russian state-sponsored and criminal cyber threats:
• Patch all systems. Prioritize patching known exploited vulnerabilities.
• Enforce multifactor authentication.
• Secure and monitor Remote Desktop Protocol and other risky services.
• Provide end-user awareness and training.
The cybersecurity authorities of the United States[1][2][3], Australia[4], Canada[5], New Zealand[6], and the United Kingdom[7][8] are releasing this joint Cybersecurity Advisory (CSA). The intent of this joint CSA is to warn organizations that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could expose organizations both within and beyond the region to increased malicious cyber activity. This activity may occur as a response to the unprecedented economic costs imposed on Russia as well as materiel support provided by the United States and U.S. allies and partners.
Evolving intelligence indicates that the Russian government is exploring options for potential cyberattacks (see the March 21, 2022, Statement by U.S. President Biden for more information). Recent Russian state-sponsored cyber operations have included distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, and older operations have included deployment of destructive malware against Ukrainian government and critical infrastructure organizations
Additionally, some cybercrime groups have recently publicly pledged support for the Russian government. These Russian-aligned cybercrime groups have threatened to conduct cyber operations in retaliation for perceived cyber offensives against the Russian government or the Russian people. Some groups have also threatened to conduct cyber operations against countries and organizations providing materiel support to Ukraine. Other cybercrime groups have recently conducted disruptive attacks against Ukrainian websites, likely in support of the Russian military offensive.
This advisory updates joint CSA Understanding and Mitigating Russian State-Sponsored Cyber Threats to U.S. Critical Infrastructure, which provides an overview of Russian state-sponsored cyber operations and commonly observed tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs). This CSA—coauthored by U.S., Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, and UK cyber authorities with contributions from industry members of the Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative (JCDC)—provides an overview of Russian state-sponsored advanced persistent threat (APT) groups, Russian-aligned cyber threat groups, and Russian-aligned cybercrime groups to help the cybersecurity community protect against possible cyber threats.
U.S., Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, and UK cybersecurity authorities urge critical infrastructure network defenders to prepare for and mitigate potential cyber threats—including destructive malware, ransomware, DDoS attacks, and cyber espionage—by hardening their cyber defenses and performing due diligence in identifying indicators of malicious activity. Refer to the Mitigations section of this advisory for recommended hardening actions.
For more information on Russian state-sponsored cyber activity, see CISA’s Russia Cyber Threat Overview and Advisories webpage. For more information on the heightened cyber threat to critical infrastructure organizations, see the following resources:
Click here for a PDF version of this report.
Russian state-sponsored cyber actors have demonstrated capabilities to compromise IT networks; develop mechanisms to maintain long-term, persistent access to IT networks; exfiltrate sensitive data from IT and operational technology (OT) networks; and disrupt critical industrial control systems (ICS)/OT functions by deploying destructive malware. 
Historical operations have included deployment of destructive malware—including BlackEnergy and NotPetya—against Ukrainian government and critical infrastructure organizations. Recent Russian state-sponsored cyber operations have included DDoS attacks against Ukrainian organizations. Note: for more information on Russian state-sponsored cyber activity, including known TTPs, see joint CSA Understanding and Mitigating Russian State-Sponsored Cyber Threats to U.S. Critical Infrastructure
Cyber threat actors from the following Russian government and military organizations have conducted malicious cyber operations against IT and/or OT networks:
Overview: FSB, the KGB’s successor agency, has conducted malicious cyber operations targeting the Energy Sector, including UK and U.S. energy companies, U.S. aviation organizations, U.S. government and military personnel, private organizations, cybersecurity companies, and journalists. FSB has been known to task criminal hackers for espionage-focused cyber activity; these same hackers have separately been responsible for disruptive ransomware and phishing campaigns.
Industry reporting identifies three intrusion sets associated with the FSB, but the U.S. and UK governments have only formally attributed one of these sets—known as BERSERK BEAR—to FSB.
The U.S. and UK governments assess that this APT group is almost certainly FSB’s Center 16, or Military Unit 71330, and that FSB’s Center 16 has conducted cyber operations against critical IT systems and infrastructure in Europe, the Americas, and Asia. 
Resources: for more information on BERSERK BEAR, see the MITRE ATT&CK® webpage on Dragonfly.
High-Profile Activity: in 2017, FSB employees, including one employee in the FSB Center for Information Security (also known as Unit 64829 and Center 18), were indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for accessing email accounts of U.S. government and military personnel, private organizations, and cybersecurity companies, as well as email accounts of journalists critical of the Russian government.[9] More recently, in 2021, FSB Center 16 officers were indicted by the U.S. DOJ for their involvement in a multi-stage campaign in which they gained remote access to U.S. and international Energy Sector networks, deployed ICS-focused malware, and collected and exfiltrated enterprise and ICS-related data. One of the victims was a U.S. nuclear power plant.[10
Resources: for more information on FSB, see: 
Overview: SVR has operated an APT group since at least 2008 that has targeted multiple critical infrastructure organizations. SVR cyber threat actors have used a range of initial exploitation techniques that vary in sophistication coupled with stealthy intrusion tradecraft within compromised networks. SVR cyber actors’ novel tooling and techniques include:
High-Profile Activity: the U.S. Government, the Government of Canada, and the UK Government assess that SVR cyber threat actors were responsible for the SolarWinds Orion supply chain compromise and the associated campaign that affected U.S. government agencies, critical infrastructure entities, and private sector organizations.[12][13][14]Also known as: APT29, COZY BEAR, CozyDuke, Dark Halo, The Dukes, NOBELIUM, and NobleBaron, StellarParticle, UNC2452, YTTRIUM [15]Resources: for more information on SVR, see:
For more information on the SolarWinds Orion supply chain compromise, see:
Overview: GTsSS, or Unit 26165, is an APT group that has operated since at least 2004 and primarily targets government organizations, travel and hospitality entities, research institutions, and non-governmental organizations, in addition to other critical infrastructure organizations. 
According to industry reporting, GTsSS cyber actors frequently collect credentials to gain initial access to target organizations. GTsSS actors have collected victim credentials by sending spearphishing emails that appear to be legitimate security alerts from the victim’s email provider and include hyperlinks leading to spoofed popular webmail services’ logon pages. GTsSS actors have also registered domains to conduct credential harvesting operations. These domains mimic popular international social media platforms and masquerade as tourism- and sports-related entities and music and video streaming services.
High-Profile Activity: the U.S. Government assesses that GTsSS cyber actors have deployed Drovorub malware against victim devices as part of their cyber espionage operations.[16] The U.S. Government and UK Government assess that GTsSS actors used a Kubernetes® cluster to conduct widespread, distributed, and anonymized brute force access attempts against hundreds of government and private sector targets worldwide.[17
Also known as: APT28, FANCY BEAR, Group 74, IRON TWILIGHT, PawnStorm, Sednit, SNAKEMACKEREL, Sofacy, STRONTIUM, Swallowtail, TG-4127, Threat Group-4127, and Tsar Team [18]Resources: for more information on GTsSS, see the MITRE ATT&CK webpage on APT28
Overview: GTsST, or Unit 74455, is an APT group that has operated since at least 2009 and has targeted a variety of critical infrastructure organizations, including those in the Energy, Transportation Systems, and Financial Services Sectors. According to industry reporting, GTsST also has an extensive history of conducting cyber espionage as well as destructive and disruptive operations against NATO member states, Western government and military organizations, and critical infrastructure-related organizations, including in the Energy Sector.
The primary distinguishing characteristic of the group is its operations use techniques aimed at causing disruptive or destructive effects at targeted organizations using DDoS attacks or wiper malware. The group’s destructive operations have also leveraged wiper malware that mimics ransomware or hacktivism and can result in collateral effects to organizations beyond the primary intended targets. Some of their disruptive operations have shown disregard or ignorance of potential secondary or tertiary effects. 
High-Profile Activity: the malicious activity below has been previously attributed to GTsST by the U.S. Government and the UK Government.[19][20]The U.S. Government, the Government of Canada, and UK Government have also attributed the October 2019 large-scale, disruptive cyber operations against a range of Georgian web hosting providers to GTsST. This activity resulted in websites—including sites belonging to the Georgian government, courts, non-government organizations (NGOs), media, and businesses—being defaced and interrupted the service of several national broadcasters.[21]22][23]Also known as: ELECTRUM, IRON VIKING, Quedagh, the Sandworm Team, Telebots, VOODOO BEAR [24]Resources: for more information on GTsST, see the MITRE ATT&CK webpage on Sandworm Team
Overview: TsNIIKhM, as described on their webpage, is a research organization under Russia’s Ministry of Defense (MOD). Actors associated with TsNIIKhM have developed destructive ICS malware.
High-Profile Activity: TsNIIKhM has been sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury for connections to the destructive Triton malware (also called HatMan and TRISIS); TsNIIKhM has been sanctioned by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) for a 2017 incident that involved safety override controls (with Triton malware) in a foreign oil refinery.[25][26] In 2021, the U.S. DOJ indicted a TsNIIKhM Applied Development Center (ADC) employee for conducting computer intrusions against U.S. Energy Sector organizations. The indicted employee also accessed the systems of a foreign oil refinery and deployed Triton malware.[27] Triton is a custom-built malware designed to manipulate safety instrumented systems within ICS controllers, disabling the safety alarms that prevent dangerous conditions. 
Also known as: Temp.Veles, XENOTIME [28]Resources: for more information on TsNIIKhM, see the MITRE ATT&CK webpage on TEMP.Veles. For more information on Triton, see:
In addition to the APT groups identified in the Russian State-Sponsored Cyber Operations section, industry reporting identifies two intrusion sets—PRIMITIVE BEAR and VENOMOUS BEAR—as state-sponsored APT groups, but U.S., Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, and UK cyber authorities have not attributed these groups to the Russian government.
Resources: for more information on PRIMITIVE BEAR, see the MITRE ATT&CK webpage on the Gamaredon Group.
Resources: for more information on VENOMOUS BEAR, see the MITRE ATT&CK webpage on Turla.
Cybercrime groups are typically financially motivated cyber actors that seek to exploit human or security vulnerabilities to enable direct theft of money (e.g., by obtaining bank login information) or by extorting money from victims. These groups pose consistent threats to critical infrastructure organizations globally. 
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, some cybercrime groups have independently publicly pledged support for the Russian government or the Russian people and/or threatened to conduct cyber operations to retaliate against perceived attacks against Russia or materiel support for Ukraine. These Russian-aligned cybercrime groups likely pose a threat to critical infrastructure organizations primarily through:
Based on industry and open-source reporting, U.S., Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, and UK cyber authorities assess multiple Russian-aligned cybercrime groups pose a threat to critical infrastructure organizations. These groups include:
Note: although some cybercrime groups may conduct cyber operations in support of the Russian government, U.S., Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, and UK cyber authorities assess that cyber criminals will most likely continue to operate primarily based on financial motivations, which may include targeting government and critical infrastructure organizations.
Overview: the CoomingProject is a criminal group that extorts money from victims by exposing or threatening to expose leaked data. Their data leak site was launched in August 2021.[31] The CoomingProject stated they would support the Russian Government in response to perceived cyberattacks against Russia.[32]Overview: according to open-source reporting, Killnet released a video pledging support to Russia.[33
Victims: Killnet claimed credit for carrying out a DDoS attack against a U.S. airport in March 2022 in response to U.S. materiel support for Ukraine.[34]Overview: MUMMY SPIDER is a cybercrime group that creates, distributes, and operates the Emotet botnet. Emotet is advanced, modular malware that originated as a banking trojan (malware designed to steal information from banking systems but that may also be used to drop additional malware and ransomware). Today Emotet primarily functions as a downloader and distribution service for other cybercrime groups. Emotet has been used to deploy WIZARD SPIDER’s TrickBot, which is often a precursor to ransomware delivery. Emotet has worm-like features that enable rapid spreading in an infected network. 
Victims: according to open sources, Emotet has been used to target industries worldwide, including financial, e-commerce, healthcare, academia, government, and technology organizations’ networks.
Also known as: Gold Crestwood, TA542, TEMP.Mixmaster, UNC3443
Resources: for more information on Emotet, see joint Alert Emotet Malware. For more information on TrickBot, see joint CSA TrickBot Malware
Overview: SALTY SPIDER is a cybercrime group that develops and operates the Sality botnet. Sality is a polymorphic file infector that was discovered in 2003; since then, it has been replaced by more advanced peer-to-peer (P2P) malware loaders.[35]Victims: according to industry reporting, in February 2022, SALTY SPIDER conducted DDoS attacks against Ukrainian web forums used to discuss events relating to Russia’s military offensive against the city of Kharkiv.
Also known as: Sality
Overview: SCULLY SPIDER is a cybercrime group that operates using a malware-as-a-service model; SCULLY SPIDER maintains command and control infrastructure and sells access to their malware and infrastructure to affiliates, who distribute their own malware.[36][37] SCULLY SPIDER develops and operates the DanaBot botnet, which originated primarily as a banking Trojan but expanded beyond banking in 2021 and has since been used to facilitate access for other types of malware, including TrickBot, DoppelDridex, and Zloader. Like Emotet, Danabot effectively functions as an initial access vector for other malware, which can result in ransomware deployment.
According to industry reporting, recent DDoS activity by the DanaBot botnet suggests SCULLY SPIDER has operated in support of Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine. 
Victims: SCULLY SPIDER affiliates have primarily targeted organizations in the United States, Canada, Germany, United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, Poland, Mexico, and Ukraine.[38] According to industry reporting, in March 2022, Danabot was used in DDoS attacks against multiple Ukrainian government organizations. 
Also known as: Gold Opera
Overview: SMOKEY SPIDER is a cybercrime group that develops Smoke Loader (also known as Smoke Bot), a malicious bot that is used to upload other malware. Smoke Loader has been available since at least 2011, and operates as a malware distribution service for a number of different payloads, including—but not limited to—DanaBot, TrickBot, and Qakbot.
Victims: according to industry reporting, Smoke Loader was observed in March 2022 distributing DanaBot payloads that were subsequently used in DDoS attacks against Ukrainian targets.
Resources: for more information on Smoke Loader, see the MITRE ATT&CK webpage on Smoke Loader.
Overview: WIZARD SPIDER is a cybercrime group that develops TrickBot malware and Conti ransomware. Historically, the group has paid a wage to the ransomware deployers (referred to as affiliates), some of whom may then receive a share of the proceeds from a successful ransomware attack. In addition to TrickBot, notable initial access and persistence vectors for affiliated actors include Emotet, Cobalt Strike, spearphishing, and stolen or weak Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) credentials.
After obtaining access, WIZARD SPIDER affiliated actors have relied on various publicly available and otherwise legitimate tools to facilitate earlier stages of the attack lifecycle before deploying Conti ransomware.
WIZARD SPIDER pledged support to the Russian government and threatened critical infrastructure organizations of countries perceived to carry out cyberattacks or war against the Russian government.[39] They later revised this pledge and threatened to retaliate against perceived attacks against the Russian people.[40]Victims: Conti victim organizations span across multiple industries, including construction and engineering, legal and professional services, manufacturing, and retail. In addition, WIZARD SPIDER affiliates have deployed Conti ransomware against U.S. healthcare and first responder networks.
Also known as: UNC2727, Gold Ulrick
Resources: for more information on Conti, see joint CSA Conti Ransomware. For more information on TrickBot, see joint CSA TrickBot Malware
Overview: XakNet is a Russian-language cyber group that has been active as early as March 2022. According to open-source reporting, the XakNet Team threatened to target Ukrainian organizations in response to perceived DDoS or other attacks against Russia.[41] According to reporting from industry, on March 31, 2022, XakNet released a statement stating they would work “exclusively for the good of [Russia].” According to industry reporting, the XakNet Team may be working with or associated with Killnet actors, who claimed credit for the DDoS attacks against a U.S. airport (see the Killnet section).
Victims: according to industry reporting, in late March 2022, the XakNet Team leaked email contents of a Ukrainian government official. The leak was accompanied by a political statement criticizing the Ukrainian government, suggesting the leak was politically motivated. 
U.S., Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, and UK cyber authorities urge critical infrastructure organizations to prepare for and mitigate potential cyber threats by immediately (1) updating software, (2) enforcing MFA, (3) securing and monitoring RDP and other potentially risky services, and (4) providing end-user awareness and training.
As part of a longer-term effort, implement network segmentation to separate network segments based on role and functionality. Network segmentation can help prevent the spread of ransomware and threat actor lateral movement by controlling traffic flows between—and access to—various subnetworks.
To further prepare for and mitigate cyber threats from Russian state-sponsored or criminal actors, U.S., Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, and UK cyber authorities encourage critical infrastructure organizations to implement the recommendations listed below.
U.S., Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, and UK cybersecurity authorities urge network defenders of critical infrastructure organizations to exercise due diligence in identifying indicators of malicious activity. Organizations detecting potential APT or ransomware activity in their IT or OT networks should:
For additional guidance on responding to a ransomware incident, see the CISA-Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) Joint Ransomware Guide.
See the joint advisory from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States on Technical Approaches to Uncovering and Remediating Malicious Activity for guidance on hunting or investigating a network, and for common mistakes in incident handling.
Additionally, CISA, the FBI, and NSA encourage U.S. critical infrastructure owners and operators to see CISA’s Federal Government Cybersecurity Incident and Vulnerability Response Playbooks. Although tailored to federal civilian branch agencies, these playbooks provide operational procedures for planning and conducting cybersecurity incident and vulnerability response activities and detail each step for both incident and vulnerability response.  
Note: U.S., Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, and UK cyber authorities strongly discourage paying a ransom to criminal actors. Paying a ransom may embolden adversaries to target additional organizations, encourage other criminal actors to engage in the distribution of ransomware, and/or fund illicit activities. Paying the ransom does not guarantee that a victim’s files will be recovered.
The information you have accessed or received is being provided “as is” for informational purposes only. CISA, NSA, FBI, ACSC, CCCS, NZ NCSC, NCSC-UK, and the UK National Crime Agency (NCA) do not endorse any commercial product or service, including any subjects of analysis. Any reference to specific commercial products, processes, or services by service mark, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply endorsement, recommendation, or favoring.
MITRE and ATT&CK are registered trademarks of The MITRE Corporation. Kubernetes is a registered trademark of The Linux Foundation.
This document was developed by U.S., Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, and UK cybersecurity authorities in furtherance of their respective cybersecurity missions, including their responsibilities to develop and issue cybersecurity specifications and mitigations.
[1] Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency
[2] Federal Bureau of Investigation
[3] National Security Agency
[4] Australian Cyber Security Centre
[5] Canadian Centre for Cyber Security
[6] New Zealand’s National Cyber Security Centre
[7] United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre
[8] United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency
[9] U.S. DOJ Press Release: U.S. Charges Russian FSB Officers and Their Criminal Conspirators for Hacking Yahoo and Millions of Email Accounts
[10] U.S. DOJ Press Release: Four Russian Government Employees Charged in Two Historical Hacking Campaigns Targeting Critical Infrastructure Worldwide
[11] CrowdStrike Blog: Early Bird Catches the Wormhole: Observations from the StellarParticle Campaign
[12] U.S. White House Statement: FACT SHEET: Imposing Costs for Harmful Foreign Activities by the Russian
[
13] Government of Canada Statement on SolarWinds Cyber Compromise
[14] UK Government Press Release: Russia: UK and US expose global campaign of malign activity by Russian intelligence services
[15] MITRE ATT&CK: APT29
[
16] Joint CSA Russian GRU 85th GTsSS Deploys Previously Undisclosed Drovorub Malware
[17] Joint CSA Russian GRU Conducting Global Brute Force Campaign to Compromise Enterprise and Cloud Environments
[18] MITRE ATT&CK APT28
[19] Joint CSA New Sandworm Malware Cyclops Blink Replaces VPNFilter
[20] UK Government Press Release: UK condemns Russia’s GRU over Georgia cyber-attacks
[21] U.S. Department of State, Press Statement: The United States Condemns Russian Cyber Attack Against the Country of Georgia
[22] Government of Canada CSE Statement on Malicious Russian Cyber Activity Targeting Georgia
[23] UK Government Press Release: UK condemns Russia’s GRU over Georgia cyber-attacks
[24] MITRE ATT&CK The Sandworm Team
[25] U.S. Department of the Treasury Press Release: Treasury Sanctions Russian Government Research Institution Connected to the Triton Malware
[26] UK Government Press Release: UK exposes Russian spy agency behind cyber incident
[27] U.S. DOJ Press Release: Four Russian Government Employees Charged in Two Historical Hacking Campaigns Targeting Critical Infrastructure Worldwide
[28] MITRE ATT&CK TEMP.Veles
[29] NSA and NCSC-UK Cybersecurity Advisory Turla Group Exploits Iranian APT To Expand Coverage Of Victims
[30] CrowdStrike Adversary Profile: VENEMOUS BEAR
[31] KELA Cybersecurity Intelligence Center: Ain’t No Actor Trustworthy Enough: The importance of validating sources
[32] Twitter: Valery Marchive Status, Feb. 25, 2022 1:41 PM
[33] The Record by Recorded Future: Russia or Ukraine: Hacking Groups Take Sides
[34] Twitter: CyberKnow Status, March 29, 2022, 7:54 AM
[35] CrowdStrike Blog: Who is Salty Spider (Sality)?
[36] Proofpoint Blog: New Year, New Version of DanaBot
[37] Zscaler Blog: Spike in DanaBot Malware Activity
[38] Proofpoint Blog: New Year, New Version of DanaBot
[39] The Record by Recorded Future: Russia or Ukraine: Hacking Groups Take Sides
[40] TechTarget: Conti ransomware gang backs Russia, threatens US
[41] The Record by Recorded Future: Russia or Ukraine: Hacking Groups Take Sides
The U.S., Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, and UK cyber authorities would like to thank CrowdStrike, Google, LookingGlass Cyber, Mandiant, Microsoft, and Secureworks for their contributions to this CSA.
U.S. organizations: to report suspicious or criminal activity related to information found in this Joint Cybersecurity Advisory, contact CISA’s 24/7 Operations Center at [email protected] or (888) 282-0870 and/or to the FBI via your local FBI field office at www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices, or the FBI’s 24/7 Cyber Watch (CyWatch) at (855) 292-3937 or by email at [email protected]. When available, please include the following information regarding the incident: date, time, and location of the incident; type of activity; number of people affected; type of equipment used for the activity; the name of the submitting company or organization; and a designated point of contact. For NSA client requirements or general cybersecurity inquiries, contact the Cybersecurity Requirements Center at 410-854-4200 or [email protected]. Australian organizations: visit cyber.gov.au/acsc/report or call 1300 292 371 (1300 CYBER 1) to report cybersecurity incidents and access alerts and advisories. Canadian organizations: report incidents by emailing CCCS at [email protected]. New Zealand organizations: report cyber security incidents to [email protected] or call 04 498 7654. United Kingdom organizations: report a significant cyber security incident: ncsc.gov.uk/report-an-incident (monitored 24 hours) or, for urgent assistance, call 03000 200 973.
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