(Cyber) GRU (VI): and now what?

The information that has come to light during 2018, both the official information of governments of the United Kingdom, the United States, the Netherlands and Canada, as well as the unofficial additional investigations, both individuals and from different organizations (highlighting Bellingcat and RFE/RL, Radio Free Europe/RadioLiberty) has exposed a lot of interesting information about the GRU. It has provided us with data on its units (identification, structure, functions, physical location…), on people who are part of the service (identities, jobs, functions, aliases, relationships, personal scope…) and its operations (objectives, TTP, software, artifacts, IOC…). In addition, they have revealed deficient operational security measures, which have made it possible to broaden the initial investigations even further and have brought to light identities, private homes, relatives… of members – or former members – of the GRU. [Read more…]

(Cyber) GRU (V): October 2018

If 2018 was already a bad year for the GRU, on October 4th, different Western countries gave the final touch to the Service by publishing information about their operations and agents: it is the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States – and immediately Australia and New Zealand, as is normal, supported their allies. Summarizing: Holland and FVEY finish off the annus horribilis of the Service, as we will see in this post.

Holland

On October 4th, the Dutch military intelligence, the MIVD (Militaire Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdienst) published in a press conference ([1]) the operation carried out in April in which four GRU members were identified and expelled from the country on charges of attacking the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW); as the US Department of Justice did in July, it provides a wealth of detail about the identities, techniques, security measures, objectives … of GRU agents operating on Dutch soil with diplomatic passports. According to this information, four agents of the Service (two assigned to Unit 26165, Aleksei SERGEYEVICH MORENETS and Evgenii MIKHAYLOVICH SEREBRIAKOV, and two possibly assigned to Unit 22177, Alexey VALEREVICH MININ and Oleg MIKHAYLOVICH SOTNIKOV) land on April 10 in the Netherlands and are received by staff from the Russian Embassy in this country, they rent a car and execute a close access operation to try to compromise the security of the OPCW. They are identified, money is seized in cash and technical equipment (which of course is analyzed in detail, showing data from other operations) that includes devices to attack wireless networks and are accompanied to an Aeroflot plane that returns them to Russia. In the face of serious Dutch accusations, Russia defends that its agents simply conducted a security inspection at the country’s embassy in the Netherlands. [Read more…]

Case study: “Imminent RATs” (III)

Articles from the series “Case study: “Imminent RATs”: [1] [2] [3]

Note: This is a fictional story; the characters and situations are not real. The only real thing is the technological part, which is based on a mixture of work done, experiences of other colleagues and research carried out.
These articles are part of a basic incident response workshop. Therefore, there are things that could be done more efficiently and elegantly… but the idea was to do them in a simple way so that they were easy to understand. And like any good practical workshop, you can follow it step by step: you can download a Remnux virtual machine with everything you need for the workshop here (for VMWare) or here (.ova format))

Additional analysis

The incident was practically solved in the previous article, but we still have some doubts in the pipeline:

  • What actions did the malware perform on the system?
  • What type of malware is it?

To get out of doubts we execute the document in a specially tuned virtual machine with anti-VM measures, which also has Noriben and Sysmon installed. In addition, we capture the outgoing traffic with WireShark to have as complete a view as possible of what the malware does.
[Read more…]

Case study: “Imminent RATs” (II)

Analysis (follow-up)

In the previous article, we had determined there was “something weird” in the computer, and we had downloaded both, a possibly malicious .doc and a user executable and mailbox. It’s time to get down to work to see what they may contain…

[Note: As a good security practice, malicious files should NEVER be shared without minimal protection. Therefore, you can download both files from here, but they are zipped with the password “infected”. Please, handle them with extreme care, you’ve been warned.]

To start with, we can open the user’s .pst to verify that the infection path is correct, something we can easily do from Windows with the Kernel Outlook PST Viewer:
[Read more…]

Business continuity in ISMS?

This article analyzes what has changed in the ISO 27002 series of standards regarding business continuity.

Introduction

This article discusses the possible overlap between two disciplines that are quite related to each other, although each one has its own specific area: information security and business continuity. In particular, it analyzes how the two reference standards (ISO 27001 and ISO 22301) are overlapped or not.

In a separate article I will discuss where the two worlds come together and how the implementation of both standards can be carried out without falling into unnecessary redundancies.
[Read more…]

Case study: “Imminent RATs” (I)

Note: This is a fictional story; the characters and situations are not real. The only real thing is the technological part, which is based on a mixture of work done, experiences of other colleagues and research carried out.
These articles are part of a basic incident response workshop. Therefore, there are things that could be done more efficiently and elegantly… but the idea was to do them in a simple way so that they were easy to understand. And like any good practical workshop, you can follow it step by step: you can download a Remnux virtual machine with everything you need for the workshop here (for VMWare) or here (.ova format)).

Incident Response in less than 15 lines

Ultra-fast summary of incident response:

  • Preparation: We prepare ourselves for a possible attack by deploying detection and response measures in the Organization.
  • Detection and analysis: We detect possible attacks and analyze them to determine whether or not they are false positives, and in the event of an attack we analyze its severity.
  • Containment, eradication and recovery: We contain the spread of the attackers through the system, expel them and return the system to normal operation.
  • Post-incident lessons: We analyze the incident in search of measures to improve both the security of the system and the response itself for future incidents.

[Read more…]

(Cyber) GRU (IV): September 2018

Serguei Skripal was a GRU agent who was arrested in 2004. He was accused of collaborating with the British MI6 and sentenced for high treason until 2010, when he was exchanged for Russian agents arrested as part of the ‘Operation Illegal’. Since then, he had lived in the United Kingdom, apparently away from any “annoying” activity linked to his past as a member of the Service. However, in March 2018, he was found unconscious together with his daughter Yulia – she was visiting the United Kingdom – in a bank in Salisbury, allegedly the victim of an attack with Novichok, a Soviet nerve agent. The United Kingdom blames Russia for this attack without much detail.

At the end of June two Britons, a man and a woman, were admitted to the Salisbury District Hospital. An ambulance brought them from Amesbury, a few kilometres from where the former GRU agent and his daughter were poisoned. The investigation confirmed that they had also been poisoned with Novichok, apparently by accident: none of them had any previous connection with what happened in March and, possibly, they found by chance the nerve agent in what appeared to be a bottle of perfume abandoned in a park. The woman died in early July as a result of the effects of the poisoning.

[Read more…]

(Cyber) GRU (III): July 2018

As we have said, if until this year the GRU was one of the most opaque services in the world, in 2018 everything changes. Three facts stand out in the chronography, which conclude with the death of Lieutenant General KOROBOV in November; we will see in this section the first of them -and in the coming ones the other two, which occurred in the month of July.

On July 13, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) publishes [1], a document accusing twelve GRU agents – directly summoned by name and surnames – of possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections. The person signing the document is none other than Robert Mueller, an advisor to the DoJ who coordinates investigations in this area – that of Russia’s relationship with the US presidential elections- and who, among other things, was director of the FBI for more tan ten years. After this accusation, the FBI includes among its “Cyber most wanted” the twelve agents of the service, highlighting that they can be armed and dangerous. Until then, the only Russian service that had the privilege of having agents among the most wanted by the FBI was the FSB. [Read more…]

Artificial intelligence and cybersecurity

The eternal game of cat and mouse between attackers and defenders in the world of cybersecurity has historically involved a constant improvement of the methodologies carried out by both parties. The rapid and innovative development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is very attractive for the development of new methodologies for both attackers and defenders.

Broadly speaking, AI refers to the learning done by machines or computers, to carry out actions considered as “intelligent”. One of the great challenges of this discipline is to provide them with “human” capabilities so that they can have behaviors similar to ours. One of the branches with the greatest potential today in artificial intelligence is the so-called ‘Machine Learning’. The basic objective of this branch is to “train” the machine so that it is capable of giving an adequate response based on input parameters.

[Read more…]

Cyber (GRU) (II): historical SIGINT

The GRU, Military Unit 44388, obtains and processes intelligence from multiple disciplines, including IMINT, SATINT and, of course OSINT, with information needs linked to the military, political, technological, economic and ecological/energy fields ([1]). It was already indicated in the article dedicated to the GRU, within the series on the Russian Cyberintelligence Community, that the Sixth Directorate of the GRU has historically had the SIGINT (COMINT and ELINT) attributions of the Service. An excellent description of these attributions can be found in [2]; in the image, the historical structure of the GRU:

The Sixth Directorate, which reports directly to the Service’s Deputy Director for Technical Affairs, was divided into four divisions [Read more…]