Blog

Einblicke in das SOC-Team

RESPOND

How Darktrace Could Have Stopped a Surprise DDoS Incident

Standard-BlogbildStandard-BlogbildStandard-BlogbildStandard-BlogbildStandard-BlogbildStandard-Blogbild
23
Nov 2022
23
Nov 2022
Learn how Darktrace could revolutionize DDoS defense, enabling companies to stop threats without 24/7 monitoring. Read more about how we thwart attacks!

When is the best time to be hit with a cyber-attack?

The answer that springs to most is ‘Never’,  however in today’s threat landscape, this is often wishful thinking. The next best answer is ‘When we’re ready for it’. Yet, this does not take into account the intention of those committing attacks. The reality is that the best time for a cyber-attack is when no one else is around to stop it.

When do cyber attacks happen?

Previous analysis from Mandiant reveals that over half of ransomware compromises occur at out of work hours, a trend Darktrace has also witnessed in the past two years [1]. This is deliberate, as the fewer people that are online, the harder it is to get ahold of security teams and the higher the likelihood there is of an attacker achieving their goals. Given this landscape, it is clear that autonomous response is more important than ever. In the absence of human resources, autonomous security can fill in the gap long enough for IT teams to begin remediation. 

This blog will detail an incident where autonomous response provided by Darktrace RESPOND would have entirely prevented an infection attempt, despite it occurring in the early hours of the morning. Because the customer had RESPOND in human confirmation mode (AI response must first be approved by a human), the attempt by XorDDoS was ultimately successful. Given that the attack occurred in the early hours of the morning, there was likely no one around to confirm Darktrace RESPOND actions and prevent the attack.

XorDDoS Primer

XorDDoS is a botnet, a type of malware that infects devices for the purpose of controlling them as a collective to carry out specific actions. In the case of XorDDoS, it infects devices in order to carry out denial of service attacks using said devices. This year, Microsoft has reported a substantial increase in activity from this malware strain, with an increased focus on Linux based operating systems [2]. XorDDoS most commonly finds its way onto systems via SSH brute-forcing, and once deployed, encrypts its traffic with an XOR cipher. XorDDoS has also been known to download additional payloads such as backdoors and cryptominers. Needless to say, this is not something you have on a corporate network. 

Initial Intrusion of XorDDoS

The incident begins with a device first coming online on 10th August. The device appeared to be internet facing and Darktrace saw hundreds of incoming SSH connections to the device from a variety of endpoints. Over the course of the next five days, the device received thousands of failed SSH connections from several IP addresses that, according to OSINT, may be associated with web scanners [3]. Successful SSH connections were seen from internal IP addresses as well as IP addresses associated with IT solutions relevant to Asia-Pacific (the customer’s geographic location). On midnight of 15th August, the first successful SSH connection occurred from an IP address that has been associated with web scanning. This connection lasted around an hour and a half, and the external IP uploaded around 3.3 MB of data to the client device. Given all of this, and what the industry knows about XorDDoS, it is likely that the client device had SSH exposed to the Internet which was then brute-forced for initial access. 

There were a few hours of dwell until the device downloaded a ZIP file from an Iraqi mirror site, mirror[.]earthlink[.]iq at around 6AM in the customer time zone. The endpoint had only been seen once before and was 100% rare for the network. Since there has been no information on OSINT around this particular endpoint or the ZIP files downloaded from the mirror site, the detection was based on the unusualness of the download.

Following this, Darktrace saw the device make a curl request to the external IP address 107.148.210[.]218. This was highlighted as the user agent associated with curl had not been seen on the device before, and the connection was made directly to an IP address without a hostname (suggesting that the connection was scripted). The URIs of these requests were ‘1.txt’ and ‘2.txt’. 

The ‘.txt’ extensions on the URIs were deceiving and it turned out that both were executable files masquerading as text files. OSINT on both of the hashes revealed that the files were likely associated with XorDDoS. Additionally, judging from packet captures of the connection, the true file extension appeared to be ‘.ELF’. As XorDDoS primarily affects Linux devices, this would make sense as the true extension of the payload. 

Figure 1: Packet capture of the curl request made by the breach device.

C2 Connections

Immediately after the ‘.ELF’ download, Darktrace saw the device attempting C2 connections. This included connections to DGA-like domains on unusual ports such as 1525 and 8993. Luckily, the client’s firewall seems to have blocked these connections, but that didn’t stop XorDDoS. XorDDoS continued to attempt connections to C2 domains, which triggered several Proactive Threat Notifications (PTNs) that were alerted by SOC. Following the PTNs, the client manually quarantined the device a few hours after the initial breach. This lapse in actioning was likely due to an early morning timing with the customer’s employees not being online yet. After the device was quarantined, Darktrace still saw XorDDoS attempting C2 connections. In all, hundreds of thousands of C2 connections were detected before the device was removed from the network sometime on 7th September.

Figure 2: AI Analyst was able to identify the anomalous activity and group it together in an easy to parse format.

An Alternate Timeline 

Although the device was ultimately removed, this attack would have been entirely prevented had RESPOND/Network not been in human confirmation mode. Autonomous response would have kicked in once the device downloaded the ‘.ZIP file’ from the Iraqi mirror site and blocked all outgoing connections from the breach device for an hour:

Figure 3: Screenshot of the first Antigena (RESPOND) breach that would have prevented all subsequent activity.

The model breach in Figure 3 would have prevented the download of the XorDDoS executables, and then prevented the subsequent C2 connections. This hour would have been crucial, as it would have given enough time for members of the customer’s security team to get back online should the compromised device have attempted anything else. With everyone attentive, it is unlikely that this activity would have lasted as long as it did. Had the attack been allowed to progress further, the infected device would have at the very least been an unwilling participant in a future DDoS attack. Additionally, the device could have a backdoor placed within it, and additional malware such as cryptojackers might have been deployed. 

Conclusions 

Unfortunately, we do not exist in the alternate timeline that autonomous response would have prevented this whole series of events.Luckily, although it was not in place, the PTN alerts provided by Darktrace’s SOC team still sped up the process of remediation in an event that was never intended to be discovered given the time it occurred. Unusual times of attack are not just limited to ransomware, so organizations need to have measures in place for the times that are most inconvenient to them, but most convenient to attackers. With Darktrace/RESPOND however, this is just one click away.

Thanks to Brianna Leddy for their contribution.

Appendices

Darktrace Model Detections

Below is a list of model breaches in order of trigger. The Proactive Threat Notification models are in bold and only the first Antigena [RESPOND] breach that would have prevented the initial compromise has been included. A manual quarantine breach has also been added to show when the customer began remediation.

  • Compliance / Incoming SSH, August 12th 23:39 GMT +8
  • Anomalous File / Zip or Gzip from Rare External Location, August 15th, 6:07 GMT +8 
  • Antigena / Network / External Threat / Antigena File then New Outbound Block, August 15th 6:36 GMT +8 [part of the RESPOND functionality]
  • Anomalous Connection / New User Agent to IP Without Hostname, August 15th 6:59 GMT +8
  • Anomalous File / Numeric Exe Download, August 15th 6:59 GMT +8
  • Anomalous File / Masqueraded File Transfer, August 15th 6:59 GMT +8
  • Anomalous File / EXE from Rare External Location, August 15th 6:59 GMT +8
  • Device / Internet Facing Device with High Priority Alert, August 15th 6:59 GMT +8
  • Compromise / Rare Domain Pointing to Internal IP, August 15th 6:59 GMT +8
  • Device / Initial Breach Chain Compromise, August 15th 6:59 GMT +8
  • Compromise / Large Number of Suspicious Failed Connections, August 15th 7:01 GMT +8
  • Compromise / High Volume of Connections with Beacon Score, August 15th 7:04 GMT +8
  • Compromise / Fast Beaconing to DGA, August 15th 7:04 GMT +8
  • Compromise / Suspicious File and C2, August 15th 7:04 GMT +8
  • Antigena / Network / Manual / Quarantine Device, August 15th 8:54 GMT +8 [part of the RESPOND functionality]

List of IOCs

MITRE ATT&CK Mapping

Reference List

[1] They Come in the Night: Ransomware Deployment Trends

[2] Rise in XorDdos: A deeper look at the stealthy DDoS malware targeting Linux devices

[3] Alien Vault: Domain Navicatadvvr & https://www.virustotal.com/gui/domain/navicatadvvr.com & https://maltiverse.com/hostname/navicatadvvr.com

EINBLICKE IN DAS SOC-Team
Darktrace Cyber-Analysten sind erstklassige Experten für Threat Intelligence, Threat Hunting und Incident Response. Sie bieten Tausenden von Darktrace Kunden auf der ganzen Welt rund um die Uhr SOC-Support. Einblicke in das SOC-Team wird ausschließlich von diesen Experten verfasst und bietet Analysen von Cyber-Vorfällen und Bedrohungstrends, die auf praktischen Erfahrungen in diesem Bereich basieren.
AUTOR
ÜBER DEN AUTOR
Steven Sosa
Analyst Team Lead
Book a 1-1 meeting with one of our experts
share this article
ANWENDUNGSFÄLLE
Keine Artikel gefunden.
COre-Abdeckung

More in this series

Keine Artikel gefunden.

Blog

E-Mail

How to Protect your Organization Against Microsoft Teams Phishing Attacks

Standard-BlogbildStandard-Blogbild
21
May 2024

The problem: Microsoft Teams phishing attacks are on the rise

Around 83% of Fortune 500 companies rely on Microsoft Office products and services1, with Microsoft Teams and Microsoft SharePoint in particular emerging as critical platforms to the business operations of the everyday workplace. Researchers across the threat landscape have begun to observe these legitimate services being leveraged more and more by malicious actors as an initial access method.

As Teams becomes a more prominent feature of the workplace many employees rely on it for daily internal and external communication, even surpassing email usage in some organizations. As Microsoft2 states, "Teams changes your relationship with email. When your whole group is working in Teams, it means you'll all get fewer emails. And you'll spend less time in your inbox, because you'll use Teams for more of your conversations."

However, Teams can be exploited to send targeted phishing messages to individuals either internally or externally, while appearing legitimate and safe. Users might receive an external message request from a Teams account claiming to be an IT support service or otherwise affiliated with the organization. Once a user has accepted, the threat actor can launch a social engineering campaign or deliver a malicious payload. As a primarily internal tool there is naturally less training and security awareness around Teams – due to the nature of the channel it is assumed to be a trusted source, meaning that social engineering is already one step ahead.

Screenshot of a Microsoft Teams message request from a Midnight Blizzard-controlled account (courtesy of Microsoft)
Figure 1: Screenshot of a Microsoft Teams message request from a Midnight Blizzard-controlled account (courtesy of Microsoft)

Microsoft Teams Phishing Examples

Microsoft has identified several major phishing attacks using Teams within the past year.

In July 2023, Microsoft announced that the threat actor known as Midnight Blizzard – identified by the United States as a Russian state-sponsored group – had launched a series of phishing campaigns via Teams with the aim of stealing user credentials. These attacks used previously compromised Microsoft 365 accounts and set up new domain names that impersonated legitimate IT support organizations. The threat actors then used social engineering tactics to trick targeted users into sharing their credentials via Teams, enabling them to access sensitive data.  

At a similar time, threat actor Storm-0324 was observed sending phishing lures via Teams containing links to malicious SharePoint-hosted files. The group targeted organizations that allow Teams users to interact and share files externally. Storm-0324’s goal is to gain initial access to hand over to other threat actors to pursue more dangerous follow-on attacks like ransomware.

For a more in depth look at how Darktrace stops Microsoft Teams phishing read our blog: Don’t Take the Bait: How Darktrace Keeps Microsoft Teams Phishing Attacks at Bay

The market: Existing Microsoft Teams security solutions are insufficient

Microsoft’s native Teams security focuses on payloads, namely links and attachments, as the principal malicious component of any phishing. These payloads are relatively straightforward to detect with their experience in anti-virus, sandboxing, and IOCs. However, this approach is unable to intervene before the stage at which payloads are delivered, before the user even gets the chance to accept or deny an external message request. At the same time, it risks missing more subtle threats that don’t include attachments or links – like early stage phishing, which is pure social engineering – or completely new payloads.

Equally, the market offering for Teams security is limited. Security solutions available on the market are always payload-focused, rather than taking into account the content and context in which a link or attachment is sent. Answering questions like:

  • Does it make sense for these two accounts to speak to each other?
  • Are there any linguistic indicators of inducement?

Furthermore, they do not correlate with email to track threats across multiple communication environments which could signal a wider campaign. Effectively, other market solutions aren’t adding extra value – they are protecting against the same types of threats that Microsoft is already covering by default.

The other aspect of Teams security that native and market solutions fail to address is the account itself. As well as focusing on Teams threats, it’s important to analyze messages to understand the normal mode of communication for a user, and spot when a user’s Teams activity might signal account takeover.

The solution: How Darktrace protects Microsoft Teams against sophisticated threats

With its biggest update to Darktrace/Email ever, Darktrace now offers support for Microsoft Teams. With that, we are bringing the same AI philosophy that protects your email and accounts to your messaging environment.  

Our Self-Learning AI looks at content and context for every communication, whether that’s sent in an email or Teams message. It looks at actual user behavior, including language patterns, relationship history of sender and recipient, tone and payloads, to understand if a message poses a threat. This approach allows Darktrace to detect threats such as social engineering and payloadless attacks using visibility and forensic capabilities that Microsoft security doesn’t currently offer, as well as early symptoms of account compromise.  

Unlike market solutions, Darktrace doesn’t offer a siloed approach to Teams security. Data and signals from Teams are shared across email to inform detection, and also with the wider Darktrace ActiveAI security platform. By correlating information from email and Teams with network and apps security, Darktrace is able to better identify suspicious Teams activity and vice versa.  

Interested in the other ways Darktrace/Email augments threat detection? Read our latest blog on how improving the quality of end-user reporting can decrease the burden on the SOC. To find our more about Darktrace's enduring partnership with Microsoft, click here.

References

[1] Essential Microsoft Office Statistics in 2024

[2] Microsoft blog, Microsoft Teams and email, living in harmony, 2024

Continue reading
About the author
Carlos Gray
Product Manager

Blog

Einblicke in das SOC-Team

Don’t Take the Bait: How Darktrace Keeps Microsoft Teams Phishing Attacks at Bay

Standard-BlogbildStandard-Blogbild
20
May 2024

Social Engineering in Phishing Attacks

Faced with increasingly cyber-aware endpoint users and vigilant security teams, more and more threat actors are forced to think psychologically about the individuals they are targeting with their phishing attacks. Social engineering methods like taking advantage of the human emotions of their would-be victims, pressuring them to open emails or follow links or face financial or legal repercussions, and impersonating known and trusted brands or services, have become common place in phishing campaigns in recent years.

Phishing with Microsoft Teams

The malicious use of the popular communications platform Microsoft Teams has become widely observed and discussed across the threat landscape, with many organizations adopting it as their primary means of business communication, and many threat actors using it as an attack vector. As Teams allows users to communicate with people outside of their organization by default [1], it becomes an easy entry point for potential attackers to use as a social engineering vector.

In early 2024, Darktrace/Apps™ identified two separate instances of malicious actors using Microsoft Teams to launch a phishing attack against Darktrace customers in the Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. Interestingly, in this case the attackers not only used a well-known legitimate service to carry out their phishing campaign, but they were also attempting to impersonate an international hotel chain.

Despite these attempts to evade endpoint users and traditional security measures, Darktrace’s anomaly detection enabled it to identify the suspicious phishing messages and bring them to the customer’s attention. Additionally, Darktrace’s autonomous response capability, was able to follow-up these detections with targeted actions to contain the suspicious activity in the first instance.

Darktrace Coverage of Microsoft Teams Phishing

Chats Sent by External User and Following Actions by Darktrace

On February 29, 2024, Darktrace detected the presence of a new external user on the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) environment of an EMEA customer for the first time. The user, “REDACTED@InternationalHotelChain[.]onmicrosoft[.]com” was only observed on this date and no further activities were detected from this user after February 29.

Later the same day, the unusual external user created its first chat on Microsoft Teams named “New Employee Loyalty Program”. Over the course of around 5 minutes, the user sent 63 messages across 21 different chats to unique internal users on the customer’s SaaS platform. All these chats included the ‘foreign tenant user’ and one of the customer’s internal users, likely in an attempt to remain undetected. Foreign tenant user, in this case, refers to users without access to typical internal software and privileges, indicating the presence of an external user.

Darktrace’s detection of unusual messages being sent by a suspicious external user via Microsoft Teams.
Figure 1: Darktrace’s detection of unusual messages being sent by a suspicious external user via Microsoft Teams.
Advanced Search results showing the presence of a foreign tenant user on the customer’s SaaS environment.
Figure 2: Advanced Search results showing the presence of a foreign tenant user on the customer’s SaaS environment.

Darktrace identified that the external user had connected from an unusual IP address located in Poland, 195.242.125[.]186. Darktrace understood that this was unexpected behavior for this user who had only previously been observed connecting from the United Kingdom; it further recognized that no other users within the customer’s environment had connected from this external source, thereby deeming it suspicious. Further investigation by Darktrace’s analyst team revealed that the endpoint had been flagged as malicious by several open-source intelligence (OSINT) vendors.

External Summary highlighting the rarity of the rare external source from which the Teams messages were sent.
Figure 3: External Summary highlighting the rarity of the rare external source from which the Teams messages were sent.

Following Darktrace’s initial detection of these suspicious Microsoft Teams messages, Darktrace's autonomous response was able to further support the customer by providing suggested mitigative actions that could be applied to stop the external user from sending any additional phishing messages.

Unfortunately, at the time of this attack Darktrace's autonomous response capability was configured in human confirmation mode, meaning any autonomous response actions had to be manually actioned by the customer. Had it been enabled in autonomous response mode, it would have been able promptly disrupt the attack, disabling the external user to prevent them from continuing their phishing attempts and securing precious time for the customer’s security team to begin their own remediation procedures.

Darktrace autonomous response actions that were suggested following the ’Large Volume of Messages Sent from New External User’ detection model alert.
Figure 4: Darktrace autonomous response actions that were suggested following the ’Large Volume of Messages Sent from New External User’ detection model alert.

External URL Sent within Teams Chats

Within the 21 Teams chats created by the threat actor, Darktrace identified 21 different external URLs being sent, all of which included the domain "cloud-sharcpoint[.]com”. Many of these URLs had been recently established and had been flagged as malicious by OSINT providers [3]. This was likely an attempt to impersonate “cloud-sharepoint[.]com”, the legitimate domain of Microsoft SharePoint, with the threat actor attempting to ‘typo-squat’ the URL to convince endpoint users to trust the legitimacy of the link. Typo-squatted domains are commonly misspelled URLs registered by opportunistic attackers in the hope of gaining the trust of unsuspecting targets. They are often used for nefarious purposes like dropping malicious files on devices or harvesting credentials.

Upon clicking this malicious link, users were directed to a similarly typo-squatted domain, “InternatlonalHotelChain[.]sharcpoInte-docs[.]com”. This domain was likely made to appear like the SharePoint URL used by the international hotel chain being impersonated.

Redirected link to a fake SharePoint page attempting to impersonate an international hotel chain.
Figure 5: Redirected link to a fake SharePoint page attempting to impersonate an international hotel chain.

This fake SharePoint page used the branding of the international hotel chain and contained a document named “New Employee Loyalty Program”; the same name given to the phishing messages sent by the attacker on Microsoft Teams. Upon accessing this file, users would be directed to a credential harvester, masquerading as a Microsoft login page, and prompted to enter their credentials. If successful, this would allow the attacker to gain unauthorized access to a user’s SaaS account, thereby compromising the account and enabling further escalation in the customer’s environment.

Figure 6: A fake Microsoft login page that popped-up when attempting to open the ’New Employee Loyalty Program’ document.

This is a clear example of an attacker attempting to leverage social engineering tactics to gain the trust of their targets and convince them to inadvertently compromise their account. Many corporate organizations partner with other companies and well-known brands to offer their employees loyalty programs as part of their employment benefits and perks. As such, it would not necessarily be unexpected for employees to receive such an offer from an international hotel chain. By impersonating an international hotel chain, threat actors would increase the probability of convincing their targets to trust and click their malicious messages and links, and unintentionally compromising their accounts.

In spite of the attacker’s attempts to impersonate reputable brands, platforms, Darktrace/Apps was able to successfully recognize the malicious intent behind this phishing campaign and suggest steps to contain the attack. Darktrace recognized that the user in question had deviated from its ‘learned’ pattern of behavior by connecting to the customer’s SaaS environment from an unusual external location, before proceeding to send an unusually large volume of messages via Teams, indicating that the SaaS account had been compromised.

A Wider Campaign?

Around a month later, in March 2024, Darktrace observed a similar incident of a malicious actor impersonating the same international hotel chain in a phishing attacking using Microsoft Teams, suggesting that this was part of a wider phishing campaign. Like the previous example, this customer was also based in the EMEA region.  

The attack tactics identified in this instance were very similar to the previously example, with a new external user identified within the network proceeding to create a series of Teams messages named “New Employee Loyalty Program” containing a typo-squatted external links.

There were a few differences with this second incident, however, with the attacker using the domain “@InternationalHotelChainExpeditions[.]onmicrosoft[.]com” to send their malicious Teams messages and using differently typo-squatted URLs to imitate Microsoft SharePoint.

As both customers targeted by this phishing campaign were subscribed to Darktrace’s Proactive Threat Notification (PTN) service, this suspicious SaaS activity was promptly escalated to the Darktrace Security Operations Center (SOC) for immediate triage and investigation. Following their investigation, the SOC team sent an alert to the customers informing them of the compromise and advising urgent follow-up.

Schlussfolgerung

While there are clear similarities between these Microsoft Teams-based phishing attacks, the attackers here have seemingly sought ways to refine their tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), leveraging new connection locations and creating new malicious URLs in an effort to outmaneuver human security teams and conventional security tools.

As cyber threats grow increasingly sophisticated and evasive, it is crucial for organizations to employ intelligent security solutions that can see through social engineering techniques and pinpoint suspicious activity early.

Darktrace’s Self-Learning AI understands customer environments and is able to recognize the subtle deviations in a device’s behavioral pattern, enabling it to effectively identify suspicious activity even when attackers adapt their strategies. In this instance, this allowed Darktrace to detect the phishing messages, and the malicious links contained within them, despite the seemingly trustworthy source and use of a reputable platform like Microsoft Teams.

Credit to Min Kim, Cyber Security Analyst, Raymond Norbert, Cyber Security Analyst and Ryan Traill, Threat Content Lead

Anhang

Darktrace Model Detections

SaaS Model

Large Volume of Messages Sent from New External User

SaaS / Unusual Activity / Large Volume of Messages Sent from New External User

Indicators of Compromise (IoCs)

IoC – Type - Description

https://cloud-sharcpoint[.]com/[a-zA-Z0-9]{15} - Example hostname - Malicious phishing redirection link

InternatlonalHotelChain[.]sharcpolnte-docs[.]com – Hostname – Redirected Link

195.242.125[.]186 - External Source IP Address – Malicious Endpoint

MITRE Tactics

Tactic – Technique

Phishing – Initial Access (T1566)

References

[1] https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoftteams/trusted-organizations-external-meetings-chat?tabs=organization-settings

[2] https://www.virustotal.com/gui/ip-address/195.242.125.186/detection

[3] https://www.virustotal.com/gui/domain/cloud-sharcpoint.com

Continue reading
About the author
Min Kim
Cyber Security Analyst
Our ai. Your data.

Elevate your cyber defenses with Darktrace AI

Starten Sie Ihren kostenlosen Test
Darktrace AI protecting a business from cyber threats.