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NCSC Advisory January 2023 - Warns Politicians & Journalists against Russian & Iranian Hackers

STATE ACTORS: NCSC warns Politicians & Journalists against Russian & Iranian Hackers
Syndicated by Iain Fraser - Cybersecurity Journalist

UK cyber experts NCSC warn of targeted phishing attacks from actors based in Russia & Iran and highlights techniques used by attackers in spear-phishing campaigns. Advisory highlights ongoing threat from spear-phishing by Russia-based group SEABORGIUM and Iran-based group TA453

The advisory issued by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) – a part of GCHQ – shared details about the techniques and tactics used by the attackers as well as mitigation advice to combat the continuing threat. It goes on to e advisory highlights that throughout 2022 separate malicious campaigns were conducted by Russia-based group SEABORGIUM and Iran-based group TA453, also known as APT42, to target a range of organisations and individuals in the UK and elsewhere for information-gathering purposes.

NCSC says that the attacks are not aimed at the general public but highlights details of malicious campaigns against targets of interest across specified sectors targets in specified sectors, including including academia, defence, government organisations, NGOs, think-tanks, as well as politicians, journalists and activists and has urged such entities to stay vigilant to potential approaches and take action to secure online accounts

Paul Chichester, NCSC Director of Operations, said: “The UK is committed to exposing malicious cyber activity alongside our industry partners and this advisory raises awareness of the persistent threat posed by spear-phishing attacks." He went on “These campaigns by threat actors based in Russia and Iran continue to ruthlessly pursue their targets in an attempt to steal online credentials and compromise potentially sensitive systems." “We strongly encourage organisations and individuals to remain vigilant to potential approaches and follow the mitigation advice in the advisory to protect themselves online.”

This activity is typical of spear-phishing attacks, where the actor undertakes reconnaissance activity around their target to tailor their content before making an approach.Thereafter contact may initially appear benign as the attacker looks to gain targets’ trust and build a rapport, before using typical phishing tradecraft to share malicious links that can lead to credential theft and onward compromise.

The advisory describes how approaches have been made via email, social media and professional networking platforms, with attackers impersonating real-world contacts of their targets, sending false invitations to conferences and events, and sharing malicious links disguised as Zoom meeting URLs.

The advisory includes the following advice to mitigate the spear-phishing activity:

  • Use strong and separate passwords for your email account
  • Turn on multi-factor authentication (also known as 2-step verification, or 2SV) 
  • Protect your devices and networks by keeping them up to date
  • Exercise vigilance
  • Enable your email providers’ automated email scanning features
  • Disable mail-forwarding
The ‘Think Before You Link’ app, from the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI), is also designed to help individuals identify malicious online profiles and reduce the risk of being targeted.

The NCSC is committed to raising awareness of the latest cyber threats and provides a range of practical guidance on its website to help public sector organisations, critical national infrastructure, businesses of all sizes, and individuals protect themselves online. Read the Full Advisory /... 

NCSC Advisory January 2023

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