recommended reading

Behind the Huge Cyberattack Campaign Against Latin American Governments

fotogestoeber/Shutterstock.com

For the past four years, a secret cyber-attack campaign, possibly state-sponsored, has been directed at several Latin American intelligence services, military, embassies and other government institutions. The Moscow-based cyber-security firm Kaspersky Lab, which claims to have unearthed the campaign, has given it a name: El Machete.

According to Kaspersky, the attacks started in 2010. Its Spanish-speaking roots are revealed in the source code of the attackers as well as the nature of the attacked. Most of the attacks’ victims are located in countries like Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Cuba, and Spain. One target in Russia turned out to be an embassy of a Spanish-speaking country.

Attackers sent e-mails to potential victims with PowerPoint attachments containing pornographic material. Once the victims opened the attachment, their machines were compromised. This is a commonly used tactic known as spear phishing.

The malware that El Machete contains is capable of logging keystrokes; capturing audio from the computer’s microphone; capturing screenshots and geolocation data; taking photos from the computer’s web camera; copying files to a remote server or special USB device; and hijacking the clipboard and capturing information from the target machine.

Dmitry Bestuzhev, head of Kaspersky’s global research and analysis team for Latin America, says the attackers’ identities are unknown, but given the targets, he suspects it is a government actor in the region. That conclusion “is based on the exclusion rule,” Bestuzhev tells Quartz. “There are big players on the market so far: cybercriminals, and they look for money; hacktivists, and they look for media presence; and government[s], who look for secret documents and information like this.”

The data that was targeted, Bestuzhev says, was related to secret dossiers containing sensitive information—this suggests the campaign was not financially motivated. Which country may be the culprit, however, is virtually impossible to say because “the evidence we have doesn’t allow us to make a clear attribution,” says Bestuzhev.

Jen Weedon, who manages threat intelligence at the global cybersecurity company FireEye, agrees that there probably is a state actor at play. She says the types of targets chosen and malware used are “consistent [with what] another government would utilize or [with] an NGO paid by a government to do it.”

Kaspersky believes the El Machete campaign may still be active, but says that can’t be confirmed.

Reprinted with permission from Quartz. The original story can be found here

(Image via fotogestoeber/Shutterstock.com)

Threatwatch Alert

Network intrusion / Spear-phishing

Researchers: Bank-Targeting Malware Sales Rise in Dark Web Markets

See threatwatch report

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.