This report describes a malware attack on a Syrian citizen media group critical of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Though we are unable to conclusively attribute the attack to ISIS or its supporters, a link to ISIS is plausible. The malware used in the attack differs substantially from campaigns linked to the Syrian regime, and the attack is against a group that is an active target of ISIS forces. In the interest of highlighting a developing threat, this post analyzes the attack and provides a list of Indicators of Compromise.
John Scott-Railton is a Senior Researcher at The Citizen Lab. His work focuses on technological threats civil society, including targeted malware operations, cyber militias, and online disinformation. His greatest hits include a collaboration with colleague Bill Marczak that uncovered the the systematic use of Pegasus spyware to target civil society in several countries, including Mexico and the UAE. Pegasus is developed by the Israeli cyber-warfare company NSO Group and sold exclusively to governments. That investigation also uncovered the first iPhone zero-day and remote jailbreak seen in the wild. Other investigations with Citizen Lab colleagues include the first report of ISIS-led malware operations, China's "Great Cannon," the Government of China's nation-scale DDoS attack, and the 'tainted leaks' disinformation campaigns strongly linked to the Russian Government. These investigations, and others, have served as the basis for criminal investigations and lawsuits. John has also investigated the manipulation of news aggregators such as Google News, and privacy and security issues with fitness trackers. Recently, John was a fellow at Google Ideas and Jigsaw at Alphabet. John has undergraduate degrees from the University of Chicago and a Masters from the University of Michigan. He is completing a PhD at UCLA. Previously he founded The Voices Projects, collaborative information feeds that bypassed internet shutdowns in Libya and Egypt. John's work has been covered by Time Magazine, BBC, CNN, The Washington Post, and the New York Times. He can be reached at jsr [at] citizenlab.ca
A new report, entitled “Communities @ Risk: Targeted Digital Threats Against Civil Society,” involved 10 civil society groups that enrolled as study subjects over a period of four years. The study sought to obtain greater visibility into an often overlooked digital risk environment affecting–whether they know it or not–many of society’s most essential institutions.
We analyze a newly discovered Android implant that we attribute to Hacking Team and highlight the political subtext of the bait content and attack context. In addition, we expose the functionality and architecture of Hacking Team’s Remote Control system and operator tradecraft in never-before published detail.
This report outlines an extensive US nexus for a network of servers forming part of the collection infrastructure of Hacking Team’s Remote Control System. The network, which includes data centers across the US, is used to obscure government clients of Hacking Team. It is used by at least 10 countries ranging from Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan to Korea, Poland and Ethiopia. In addition we highlight an intriguing US-only Hacking Team circuit.
In this report, we identified three instances where Ethiopian journalist group ESAT was targeted with spyware in the space of two hours by a single attacker. In each case the spyware appeared to be RCS (Remote Control System), programmed and sold exclusively to governments by Milan-based Hacking Team.
The Citizen Lab is pleased to announce the release of Some Devices Wander by Mistake: Planet Blue Coat Redux. In this report, we use a combination of network measurement and scanning methods and tools to identify instances of Blue Coat ProxySG and PacketShaper devices. This equipment can be used to secure and maintain networks, but can also be used to implement politically-motivated restrictions on access to information, and monitor and record private communications. We found Blue Coat devices on public networks of 83 countries. Included in these countries are regimes with questionable human rights records, and three countries that are subject to US sanctions: Iran, Syria, and Sudan.
The Citizen Lab is pleased to announce the publication of A Call to Harm: New Malware Attacks Against the Syrian Opposition. This research report by Morgan Marquis-Boire and John Scott-Railton examines two recent cyber attacks targeting the Syrian opposition: malware masquerading as the circumvention tool Freegate and a campaign masquerading as a call to arms by a pro-opposition cleric.