Category Archives: email

Phishing Campaign Leads Users to Site Disguised as Email Scanner

A phishing campaign tricked users into visiting a website that masqueraded as an email scanner in an effort to steal their account credentials. Kaspersky Lab found that the campaign began with a scam email containing a fake virus alert. This email claimed to originate from an organization’s “Email Security Team,” but it actually originated from […]… Read More

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Obscured by Clouds: Insights into Office 365 Attacks and How Mandiant Managed Defense Investigates

With Business Email Compromises (BECs) showing no signs of slowing down, it is becoming increasingly important for security analysts to understand Office 365 (O365) breaches and how to properly investigate them. This blog post is for those who have yet to dip their toes into the waters of an O365 BEC, providing a crash course on Microsoft’s cloud productivity suite and its assortment of logs and data sources useful to investigators. We’ll also go over common attacker tactics we’ve observed while responding to BECs and provide insight into how Mandiant Managed Defense analysts approach these investigations at our customers using PowerShell and the FireEye Helix platform.

Office 365

Office 365 is Microsoft’s cloud-based subscription service for the Microsoft Office suite. It is built from dozens of applications tightly embedded into the lives of today’s workforce, including:

  • Exchange Online, for emails
  • SharePoint, for intranet portals and document sharing
  • Teams and Skype for Business, for instant messaging
  • OneDrive, for file sharing
  • Microsoft Stream, for recorded meetings and presentations

As more and more organizations decide to adopt Microsoft’s cloud-based offering to meet their needs, unauthorized access to these O365 environments, or tenants in Microsoft’s parlance, has become increasingly lucrative to motivated attackers. The current high adoption rate of O365 means that attackers are getting plenty of hands on experience with using and abusing the platform. While many tactics have remained largely unchanged in the years since we’ve first observed them, we’ve also witnessed the evolution of techniques that are effective against even security-conscious users.

In general, the O365 compromises we’ve responded to have fallen into two categories:

  • Business Email Compromises (BECs)
  • APT or state-sponsored intrusions

Based on our experience, BECs are a common threat to any organization's O365 tenant. The term “BEC” typically refers to a type of fraud committed by financially motivated attackers. BEC actors heavily rely on social engineering to carry out their schemes, ultimately defrauding organizations and even personnel.

One common BEC scheme involves compromising a C-suite executive’s account via phishing. Once the victim unwittingly enters their credentials into a web form masquerading as the legitimate Office 365 login portal, attackers log in and instruct others in the organization to conduct a wire transfer, perhaps under the guise of an upcoming acquisition that has yet to be publicly announced. However, we’ve also observed more effective schemes where attackers compromise those in financial positions and patiently wait until an email correspondence has begun about a due payment. Attackers seize this opportunity by sending a doctored invoice (sometimes based on a legitimate invoice that had been stolen earlier) on behalf of the compromised user to another victim responsible for making payments. These emails are typically hidden from the compromised user due to attacker-created Outlook mailbox rules. Often times, by the time the scheme is inevitably discovered and understood days or weeks later, the money is unrecoverable—highlighting the importance of contacting law enforcement immediately if you’ve fallen victim to a fraud.

The personal finances of staff aren’t off limits to attackers either. We’ve observed several cases of W-2 scams, in which attackers send a request to HR for W-2 information from the victim’s account. Once obtained, this personally identifiable information is later used to conduct tax fraud.

Conversely, APT intrusions are typically more sophisticated and are conducted by state-sponsored threat actors. Rather than for financial gain, APT actors are usually tasked to compromise O365 tenants for purposes of espionage, data theft, or destruction. Given the wealth of sensitive information housed in any given organization’s O365 tenant, APT actors may not even need to touch a single endpoint to complete their mission, sidestepping the many security controls organizations have implemented and invested in.

O365 Logs and Data Sources

In this section, we’ll touch on the multitude of logs and portals containing forensic data relevant to an O365 investigation.

Before we can begin investigating an O365 case, we’ll work with our clients to get an “Investigator” account provisioned with the roles required to obtain the forensic data we need. For the purposes of this blog post, we’ll quickly list the roles needed for an Investigator account, but during an active Managed Defense investigation, a designated Managed Defense consultant will provide further guidance on account provisioning.

At a minimum, the Investigator account should have the following roles:

Exchange Admin Roles

  • View-only audit logs
  • View-only configuration
  • View-only recipients
  • Mailbox Search
  • Message Tracking

eDiscovery Rights

  • eDiscovery Manager role

Azure Active Directory Roles

  • Global Reader

Unified Audit Log (UAL)

The Unified Audit Log records activity from various applications within the Office 365 suite, and can be considered O365’s main log source. Entries in the UAL are stored in JSON format. We recommend using the PowerShell cmdlet Search-UnifiedAuditLog to query the UAL as it allows for greater flexibility, though it can also be acquired from the Office 365 Security & Compliance Center located at protection.office.com. In order to leverage this log source (and the Admin Audit Log), ensure that the Audit Log Search feature is enabled.

The UAL has a few nuances that are important to consider. While it provides a good high-level summary of activity across various O365 applications, it won’t log comprehensive mailbox activity (for that, acquire the Mailbox Audit Log). Furthermore, the UAL has a few limitations, namely:

  • Results to a single query are limited to 5000 results
  • Only 90 days of activity are retained
  • Events may take up to 24 hours before they are searchable

Mailbox Audit Log (MAL)

The Mailbox Audit Log, part of Exchange Online, will capture additional actions performed against objects within a mailbox. As such, it’s a good idea acquire and analyze the MAL for each affected user account with the PowerShell cmdlet Search-MailboxAuditLog. Note that entries in the MAL will be retained for 90 days (by default) and timestamps will be based on the user’s local time zone. The MAL’s retention time can always be increased with the PowerShell cmdlet Set-Mailbox along with the AuditLogAgeLimit parameter.

At the time of writing this post, Microsoft has recently released information about enhanced auditing functionality that gives investigators insight into which emails were accessed by attackers. This level of logging for regular user accounts is only available for organizations with an Office 365 E5 subscription. Once Advanced Auditing is enabled, mail access activity will be logged under the MailItemsAccessed operation in both the UAL and MAL.

Administrator Audit Log

If the Audit Log Search feature is enabled, this supplemental data source logs all PowerShell administrative cmdlets (including command-line arguments) executed by administrators. If you suspect that an administrator account was compromised, don’t overlook this log! The PowerShell cmdlet Search-AdminAuditLog is used to query these logs, but note that the Audit Log Search feature must be enabled and the same 90 day retention limit will be in place.

Azure AD Logs

Azure AD logs can be accessed from the Azure portal (portal.azure.com) under the Azure Active Directory service. Azure AD Sign-in logs contain detailed information about how authentications occur and O365 application usage. Azure AD audit logs are also a valuable source of information, containing records of password resets, account creations, role modifications, OAuth grants, and more that could be indicative of suspicious activity. Note that Azure AD logs are only available for 30 days.

Cloud App Security Portal

For cases where OAuth abuse has been observed, information about cloud applications can be found in Microsoft’s Cloud App Security portal (portal.cloudappsecurity.com). Access to this portal requires an E5 license or a standalone Cloud App license. For more background on OAuth abuse, be sure to check out our blog post:  Shining a Light on OAuth Abuse with PwnAuth.

Message Traces

Message traces record the emails sent and received by a user. During an investigation, run reports on any email addresses of interest. The message trace report will contain detailed mail flow information as well as subject lines, original client IP addresses, and message sizes. Message traces are useful for identifying emails sent by attackers from compromised accounts, and can also aid in identifying initial phishing emails if phishing was used for initial access. To obtain the actual emails, use the Content Search tool.

Only the past 10 days of activity is available with the Get-MessageTrace PowerShell cmdlet. Historical searches for older messages can be run with the Get-HistoricalSearch cmdlet (up to 90 days by default), but historical searches typically take hours for the report to be available. Historical reports can also be generated within the Security and Compliance Center.

eDiscovery Content Searches

The Content Search tool allows investigators to query for emails, documents, and instant message conversations stored in an Office 365 tenant. We frequently run Content Search queries to find and acquire copies of emails sent by attackers. Content searches are limited to what has been indexed by Microsoft, so recent activity may not immediately appear. Additionally, only the most recent 1000 items will be shown in the preview pane.

Anatomy of an O365 BEC

As mentioned earlier, BECs are one of the more prevalent threats to O365 tenants seen by Managed Defense today. Sometimes, Mandiant analysts respond to several BEC cases at our customers within the same week. With this frontline experience, we’ve compiled a list of commonly observed tactics and techniques to advise our readers about the types of activities one should anticipate. Please note that this is by no means a comprehensive list of O365 attacks, rather a focus on the usual routes we’ve seen BEC actors take to accomplish their objective.

Phase 1: Initial Compromise

  • Phishing: Emails with links to credential harvesting forms sent to victims, sometimes from the account of a compromised business partner.
  • Brute force: A large dictionary of passwords attempted against an account of interest.
  • Password spray: A dictionary of commonly used passwords attempted against a list of known user accounts.
  • Access to credential dump: Valid credentials used from a previous compromise of the user.
  • MFA bypasses: Use of mail clients leveraging legacy authentication protocols (e.g. IMAP/POP), which bypass MFA policies. Attackers may also spam push notifications to the victim by repeatedly attempting to log in, eventually leading to the victim mistakenly accepting the prompt.

Phase 2: Establish Foothold

  • More phishing: Additional phishing lures sent to internal/external contacts from Outlook’s global address list.
  • More credible lures: New phishing lures uploaded to the compromised user's OneDrive or SharePoint account and shared with the victim’s coworkers.
  • SMTP forwarding: SMTP forwarding enabled in the victim’s mailbox to forward all email to an external address.
  • Forwarding mailbox rules: Mailbox rules created to forward all or certain mail to an external address.
  • Mail client usage: Outlook or third-party mail clients used by attackers. Mail will continue to sync for a short while after a password reset occurs.

Phase 3: Evasion

  • Evasive mailbox rules: Mailbox rules created to delete mail or move some or all incoming mail to uncommonly used folders in Outlook, such as “RSS Subscriptions”.
  • Manual evasion: Manual deletion of incoming and sent mail. Attackers may forego mailbox rules entirely.
  • Mail forwarding: Attackers accessing emails without logging in if a mechanism to forward mail to an external address was set up earlier.
  • Mail client usage: Outlook or third-party mail clients used by attackers. Mail can be synced locally to the attacker’s machine and accessed later.
  • VPN usage: VPN servers, sometimes with similar geolocations to their victims, used in an attempt to avoid detection and evade conditional access policies.

Phase 4: Internal Reconnaissance

  • Outlook searching: The victim’s mailbox queried by attackers for emails of interest. While not recorded in audit logs, it may be available to export if it was not deleted by attackers.
  • O365 searching: Searches conducted within SharePoint and other O365 applications for content of interest. While not recorded in audit logs, SharePoint and OneDrive file interactions are recorded in the UAL.
  • Mail client usage: Outlook or third-party mail clients used by attackers. Mail can be synced locally to the attacker’s machine and accessed later.

Phase 5: Complete Mission

  • Direct deposit update: A request sent to the HR department to update the victim’s direct deposit information, redirecting payment to the BEC actor.
  • W-2 scam: A request sent to the HR department for W-2 forms, used to harvest PII for tax fraud.
  • Wire transfer: A wire transfer requested for an unpaid invoice, upcoming M&A, charities, etc.
  • Third-party account abuse: Abuse of the compromised user’s privileged access to third-party accounts and services, such as access to a corporate rewards site.

How Managed Defense Responds to O365 BECs

In this section, we’re going to walk through how Managed Defense investigates a typical O365 BEC case.

Many of the steps in our investigation rely on querying for logs with PowerShell. To do this, first establish a remote PowerShell session to Exchange Online. The following Microsoft documentation provides guidance on two methods to do this:

Broad Scoping

We start our investigations off by running broad queries against the Unified Audit Log (UAL) for suspicious activity. We’ll review OAuth activity too, which is especially important if something more nefarious than a financially motivated BEC is suspected. Any FireEye gear available to us—such as FireEye Helix and Email Security—will be leveraged to augment the data available to us from Office 365. 

The following are a few initial scoping queries we’d typically run at the beginning of a Managed Defense engagement.

Scoping Recent Mailbox Rule Activity

Even in large tenants, pulling back all recent mailbox rule activity doesn’t typically produce an unmanageable number of results, and attacker-created rules tend to stand out from the rest of the noise.

Querying UAL for all mailbox rule activity in Helix:

class=ms_office365 action:[New-InboxRule, Set-InboxRule, Enable-InboxRule] | table [createdtime, action, username, srcipv4, srcregion, parameters, rawmsg]

Query UAL for new mail rule activity in PowerShell:

Search-UnifiedAuditLog -StartDate (Get-Date).AddDays(-90) -EndDate (Get-Date) -ResultSize 5000 -Operations "New-InboxRule","Set-InboxRule","Enable-InboxRule" | Export-CSV \path\to\file.csv –NoTypeInformation -Encoding utf8

Scoping SMTP Forwarding Activity

SMTP forwarding is sometimes overlooked because it appears under a UAL operation separate from mailbox rules. This query looks for the Set-Mailbox operation containing a parameter to forward mail over SMTP, indicative of automatic forwarding being enabled from OWA.

Querying UAL for SMTP forwarding in Helix:

class=ms_office365 action=Set-Mailbox rawmsg:ForwardingSmtpAddress | table [createdtime, action, username, srcipv4, srcregion, parameters, rawmsg]

Querying UAL for SMTP forwarding in PowerShell:

Search-UnifiedAuditLog -StartDate (Get-Date).AddDays(-90) -EndDate (Get-Date) -ResultSize 5000 -FreeText "ForwardingSmtpAddress" | Export-CSV \path\to\file.csv –NoTypeInformation -Encoding utf8

Analyze Compromised Users Logs

After we’ve finished scoping the tenant, we’ll turn our attention to the individual users believed to be involved in the compromise. We’ll acquire all relevant O365 logs for the identified compromised user(s) - this includes the user's UAL, Mailbox Audit Log (MAL), and Admin audit log (if the user is an administrator). We’ll review these logs for anomalous account activity and assemble a list of attacker IP addresses and User-Agents strings. We’ll use this list to further scope the tenant.

O365 investigations rely heavily on anomaly detection. Many times, the BEC actor may even be active at the same time as the user. In order to accurately differentiate between legitimate user activity and attacker activity within a compromised account, it's recommended to pull back as much data as possible to use as a reference for legitimate activity. Using the Helix query transforms groupby < [srccountry,srcregion], groupby < useragent and groupby < srcipv4 , which highlight the least common geolocations, User Agent strings, and IP addresses, can also assist in identifying anomalies in results.

Querying UAL for a user in Helix:

class=ms_office365 username=user@client.com | table [createdtime, action, username, srcipv4, srccountry, srcregion, useragent, rawmsg] | groupby < [srccountry,srcregion]

Querying UAL for a user in PowerShell:

Search-UnifiedAuditLog -StartDate mm/dd/yyyy -EndDate (Get-Date) -ResultSize 5000 -UserIds user@client.com | Export-CSV \path\to\file.csv –NoTypeInformation -Encoding utf8

Querying MAL for a user in PowerShell:

Search-MailboxAuditLog -Identity user@client.com -LogonTypes Owner,Delegate,Admin -ShowDetails -StartDate (Get-Date).AddDays(-90) -EndDate (Get-Date) | Export-CSV \path\to\file.csv –NoTypeInformation -Encoding utf8

Querying Admin Audit Log for all events within a certain date in PowerShell:

Search-AdminAuditLog -StartDate mm/dd/yyyy -EndDate mm/dd/yyyy | Export-CSV \path\to\file.csv –NoTypeInformation -Encoding utf8

Query UAL with New Leads

Now that we’ve built a list of suspicious IP addresses (or even entire CIDR ranges) and User-Agent strings, we’ll run new queries against the entire UAL to try to identify other compromised user accounts. We’ll repeat this step and the previous step for each newly identified user account.

One advantage to using FireEye Helix platform over PowerShell is that we can query entire CIDR ranges. This is helpful when we observe attackers coming from a VPN or ISP that dynamically assigns IP addresses within the same address block.

Queries for attacker User-Agent strings usually generate more noise to sift through than IP address searches. In practice, User-Agent queries are only beneficial if the attackers are using an uncommon browser or version of a browser. Due to limitations of the Search-UnifiedAuditLog cmdlet, we’ve had the most success using the FreeText parameter and searching for simple strings.

In Helix:

class=ms_office365 (srcipv4:[1.2.3.4, 2.3.4.0/24] OR useragent:Opera) | table [createdtime, action, username, srcipv4, srccountry, srcregion, useragent, rawmsg] | groupby username

Querying the UAL for IPs and user agents in PowerShell:

Search-UnifiedAuditLog -StartDate mm/dd/yyyy -EndDate (Get-Date) -ResultSize 5000 -IPAddresses 1.2.3.4, 2.3.4.5 | Export-CSV \path\to\file.csv –NoTypeInformation -Encoding utf8
Search-UnifiedAuditLog -StartDate mm/dd/yyyy -EndDate (Get-Date) -ResultSize 5000 -FreeText "Opera" | Export-CSV \path\to\file.csv –NoTypeInformation -Encoding utf8

Analyze Message Traces

We’ll use PowerShell to query message traces for the compromised users we’ve identified. If the email was sent within the past 10 days, use the Get-MessageTrace cmdlet, which immediately returns results and allows teams to query IP addresses. For older emails, use the Start-HistoricalSearch cmdlet and download the report later from the Mail Flow section of the Security & Compliance center.

Querying for the last 10 days of mail sent by the victim in PowerShell:

Get-MessageTrace -StartDate (Get-Date).AddDays(-10) -EndDate (Get-Date) -SenderAddress victim@client.com | Select-Object Received, SenderAddress, RecipientAddress, Subject, Status, FromIP, Size, MessageID | Export-CSV \path\to\file.csv –NoTypeInformation -Encoding utf8

Querying for older emails (up to 90 days) in PowerShell:

Start-HistoricalSearch -ReportTitle "Mandiant O365 investigation" -StartDate mm/dd/yyyy -EndDate mm/dd/yyyy -ReportType MessageTraceDetail -SenderAddress victim@client.com

As Message Trace results are reviewed, attention should be given to IP addresses to determine which emails were sent by attackers. If phishing was the suspected initial compromise vector, it’s a good idea to also query for incoming mail received within a few days prior to the first compromise date and look for suspicious sender addresses and/or subject lines.

Acquire Emails of Interest

With our list of suspicious emails identified from message traces, we’ll use the Content Search tool available in the Office 365 Security and Compliance Center acquire the email body and learn what domains were used in phishing lures (if phishing was present). Content Searches are performed by using a straightforward GUI, and the results can either be previewed in the browser, downloaded individually as EML files, or downloaded in bulk as PST files.

Final Scoping

At this point of our investigation, the BEC should be sufficiently scoped within the tenant. To ensure any follow-on activity hasn’t occurred, we’ll take all of the attack indicators and perform our final queries across the UAL.

With that said, there are still edge cases in which attacker activity wouldn’t appear in O365 logs. For example, perhaps an additional user has submitted their credentials to a phishing page, but the attackers haven’t used them to log in yet. To ensure we don’t miss this activity, we’ll perform additional scoping across available network logs, specifically for IP addresses and domains related to the attacker’s phishing infrastructure. We’ll also leverage other FireEye products, such as the Endpoint Security platform, to search for phishing domains present on a host’s web browser history.

Conclusion

Unauthorized access to O365 tenant doesn’t just pose a threat to an organization, but also to its staff and business partners. Organizations without enhanced security controls in O365 are at the greatest risk of experiencing a BEC. However, as multi factor-authentication becomes more and more commonplace, we’ve witnessed an increase of MFA bypass attempts performed by increasingly proficient attackers.

It’s important to remember that social engineering plays a primary role throughout a BEC. Ensure that users are trained on how to identify credential harvesting forms, a common compromise vector. When in the midst of a BEC compromise, teams may want to promptly alert personnel in HR and finance-related roles to exercise extra caution when processing requests related to banking or wire transfers while the investigation is in progress.

The examples covered in this blog post are just a sample of what Managed Defense performs while investigating an Office 365 compromise. To take a proactive approach at preventing BECs, make sure the following best practices are implemented in a O365 tenant. Additionally, FireEye Email Security offers protections against phishing and the Helix platform’s O365 ruleset can alert on anomalous activity as soon as it happens.

Recommended Best Practices

  • Ensure mailbox audit logging is enabled on all accounts
  • Disable Legacy Authentication protocols
  • Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA)
  • Enforce strong passwords and a password expiration policy
  • Forward O365 audit logs to a centralized logging platform for extended retention
  • Enforce an account lockout policy in Azure/on-premise Active Directory
  • Restrict mail forwarding to external domains

Acknowledgements

Special thanks to Doug Bienstock, Glenn Edwards, Josh Madeley, and Tim Martin for their research and assistance on the topic.

The Billion Pound Manchester City Hack

The sport of football is a multi-billion-pound global industry, where the world's top-drawer football clubs push competitive advantages to the extreme, not just for the prestige of winning trophies, as success on the pitch also means a greater slice of jaw-dropping TV, sponsorship and advertising revenues. 

The key commodity in the football industry are football players, elite talent players command transfer fees up to 100 times their weight in gold and receive millions a year in wages.  Investing in recruiting the best football players increases the likelihood of winning matches, titles and lucrative financial rewards. The competition for success is especially fierce between Europe's largest football clubs. This is leading to ever-inflating player transfer fees and wages, rippling downwards throughout football's global pyramid of leagues, with many clubs gambling with financial outlays on recruiting player talent, in hope of achieving the financial rewards which success on the football pitch brings.

Top Ten Football Club Revenues in 2018-19 (change from 2017-18)
1 Barcelona                 £741.1m (+£129.5m)
2 Real Madrid             £667.5m (+£2m)
3 Manchester United £627.1m (+£37.3m)
4 Bayern Munich £581.8m (+£24.4m)
5 Paris St-Germain £560.5m (+£80.6m)
6 Manchester City £538.2m (+£34.7m)
7 Liverpool                 £533m    (+£77.9m)
8 Tottenham               £459.3m (+£79.9m)
9 Chelsea                  £452.2m (-£4.2m)
10 Juventus                £405.2m (-£55.7m)
Source: Deloitte Football Money League

The Deloitte Football Money League illustrates the scale and growth in revenues at Europe's top tier clubs. Most of this revenue is acquired through participation in the UEFA Champions League (up to £150m), club sponsorship deals, and national league TV deals, especially the English Premier League, where clubs finishing in the top six positions are given around £150m a year. The number of bums on seats at stadia doesn't have the financial impact on a club's revenue stream as it once did. Success on the pitch is the greatest driver of a club's revenue, the new model of sustained success in football is recruiting and retaining the best squad of football players.

Such high stakes and large financial numbers are a recipe for pushing and bending football's rules, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City have all been disciplined for breaking youth player recruitment rules. Football's rules are written and enforced by football’s various governing bodies, starting with country-level governance such as the English Premier League and The English Football Association (The FA), continental level governance such as Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) and finally the global football authority which is Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).

The Million Manchester City Pound Hack
As football players are the key elements of achieving success, most top tier clubs invest heavily to build intelligence on the best players to recruit. Clubs operate scouting networks on a global scale, utilising applications to gather and record statistical player data, and employ expert analysts to crunch those stats. All to determine which players they should target to improve their squad, when they should attempt to buy, and how much they should spend to achieve a maximum return on their investment.
Manchester City have a rocky relationship with UEFA

The top two rivals competing for success in the English Premier League in recent years have been Manchester City and Liverpool football clubs, with both clubs winning several major titles. At the end of 2011/12 season, it was a different story, Manchester City had won the Premier League title while Liverpool finished in 8th position, outside of lucrative Champions League qualification and 47 points behind City.  At the end of this season, Liverpool 'poached' two of Manchester City's scouting and recruitment leads, Dave Fallows and Barry Hunter, as their head of scouting and chief scout respectively.  14 months after these appointments were made, Liverpool paid Manchester City £1 million as part of a confidential settlement after it was alleged City’s cloud-based scouting application, Opta's Scout7, had been accessed by Liverpool FC staff on hundreds of occasions.  Whether this breach was 'assisted' by Manchester City not removing ex-employee access to their Scout7 app, or involved the hacking of City's accounts remains undisclosed.
Player Scouting App Scout7

The Premier League were not informed about this incident and the settlement until September 2019, when they launched an investigation, but confirmed on 7th February 2020 it would not be bringing any charges.  An FA spokesperson said: “The FA carefully considered the evidence received in this matter, including information provided by both clubs involved, and has decided not to progress the investigation. This is due to a number of factors including the age of the alleged concerns and the settlement agreed by the two clubs involved.  As per standard protocol, should the FA receive further information or evidence, the decision not to progress the investigation may be reviewed.” 

Since the hack there has been a major resurgence with Liverpool's success on the pitch, under their current manager Liverpool have spent £400 million on recruiting new players, creating arguably one of the strongest squads they have ever had. A squad which won the Champions League last season, while this season Liverpool stands to win the Premier League title for the first time in their history by some distance. The role of this alleged City hack in Liverpool's recent rise to the top can never be understood, a coincidence or not, most football pundits agree Liverpool's player recruitment in recent years has been first class.

As of 25th May 2018 such hacked data breaches are required to be disclosed to the UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), and could theoretically cost Manchester City and perhaps Liverpool millions in fines under the recently updated UK Data Protection Act, which incorporates the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Given the Scout7 app holds the personal data of European players, and  GDPR fines can be up to 4% of global turnover, this means a potential ICO fine of up £20 million. And accessing or hacking into systems without permission is a criminal offence under the UK Computer Misuse Act.

The Billion Pound Manchester City Hack
On 14th February, UEFA's Chamber of the Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) announced its decision to ban Manchester City from competing in European competition for two years, and a £25 million fine for breaching UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules.  



The revenue from missing two Champions League campaigns could cost the Manchester club around £300 million in total. The Premier League and the English FA are also investigating City on the back of the UEFA investigation, so could follow suit with their own FFP sanctions, with media speculating such investigations could result in City's relegation to England's bottom tier of professional football. Dropping to League Two could potentially cost the club around £1 billion in lost TV revenues alone.  However, Man.City quickly announced they will be challenging UEFA’s findings and disciplinary action through the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), so it remains to be seen if those UEFA disciplinary sanctions will stand. City’s FFP woes all started with a hack of their email system, a hack which could ultimately cost the club over billion pounds.

Is Football 'Wikileaks' Ethical?
UEFA's investigation into City started with the club's hacked internal emails being disclosed to the media, by a hacker through a 'football leaks' website. On 5th November 2018, German magazine ‘Der Spiegel’ (The Mirror) published an article which claimed City and their sponsors had manipulated sponsorship contracts to circumvent UEFA FFP rules, inflating the value of their commercial income. The Spiegel article supported claims of FFP ‘wrongdoing’ by quoting extracts from senior Manchester City club officials stolen internal emails.

Portuguese resident Rui Pinto is alleged to be the hacker who successfully hacked into City's internal email system in 2015. Pinto was arrested and remains in prison awaiting trial on 90 different counts of hacking, sabotage and fraud. Pinto reportedly took 70 million documents and 3.4 terabytes of information from a string of football clubs and high profile players, releasing the data via the 'football leaks' website (https://footballleaks2015.wordpress.com/).  

Pinto told Der Spiegel he was aware of the risks of his work and is quoted as saying “I initiated a spontaneous movement of revelations about the football industry.  So depending on your viewpoint, and likely your football club loyalty, this 'Wikileaks for football' is either ethical on transparency grounds, or it should not be condoned given the information was obtained by illegal means.  Just like the actual Wikileaks, individual views will be polarised on the ethics of leaking private and confidential information into the public domain. Although given the tribal and competitive nature of most football fans, aside from Manchester City fans, most football fans are likely to agree the illegal method was justified.  


Rui Pinto, Criminal Hacker or Whistleblower?

It seems UEFA also agree with the illegal method used, as on the back of the Der Spiegel article and hacked emails, UEFA began its investigation into Manchester City on March 2019, stating “The investigation will focus on several alleged violations of FFP that were recently made public in various media outlets."  

The 'Ethical' Legal Battle Ahead
When police authorities and prosecutors do not collect evidence using legal means in criminal trials, such evidence becomes inadmissible in court. Digital evidence not forensically acquired can also be challenged and dismissed. Hacked emails as text files can be easily doctored. For instance, in 2018 said key documents supporting rape claims against Cristiano Ronaldo, as obtained through the Football Leaks website, were subsequently dismissed by Ronaldo's lawyers as having been fabricated by hackers.

If all the other top tier football clubs had all their internal emails disclosed to the media and UEFA investigators, how many other clubs would be found to have bent or broken FFP rules as well?  There are many football fans deeply suspicious about the finances and commercial sponsorship deals at many of Europe’s elite football clubs.

The City email hack will have significant ramifications on the football industry, the power of UEFA and its enforcement of FFP will be tested. With millions at stake, Manchester City’s lawyers and UEFA will be fighting it out in the courts in the coming months, the ethics of using data leaks as evidence will be one of the key arguments

Let Him Who Is Without Sin Cast the First Stone
UEFA doesn’t exactly have a good track record on ethics either, former UEFA Chief Michel Platini was banned from all football activity for 8 years by FIFA’s Ethics Committee in 2015. In June 2019 Platini was questioned by Police in regards to his backing of Qatar's bid to host the 2020 World Cup, despite allegedly telling American officials he would be voting for the United States. Then there is the ethics of UEFA fining football clubs multi-millions for breaching FFP, while at the same time fining clubs in the low thousands for breaches of its racism rules.

A Not-So Civic Duty: Asprox Botnet Campaign Spreads Court Dates and Malware

Executive Summary

FireEye Labs has been tracking a recent spike in malicious email detections that we attribute to a campaign that began in 2013. While malicious email campaigns are nothing new, this one is significant in that we are observing mass-targeting attackers adopting the malware evasion methods pioneered by the stealthier APT attackers. And this is certainly a high-volume business, with anywhere from a few hundred to ten thousand malicious emails sent daily – usually distributing between 50 and 500,000 emails per outbreak.

Through the FireEye Dynamic Threat Intelligence (DTI) cloud, FireEye Labs discovered that each and every major spike in email blasts brought a change in the attributes of their attack. These changes have made it difficult for anti-virus, IPS, firewalls and file-based sandboxes to keep up with the malware and effectively protect endpoints from infection. Worse, if past is prologue, we can expect other malicious, mass-targeting email operators to adopt this approach to bypass traditional defenses.

This blog will cover the trends of the campaign, as well as provide a short technical analysis of the payload.

Campaign Details

fig1

Figure 1: Attack Architecture

The campaign first appeared in late December of 2013 and has since been seen in fairly cyclical patterns each month. It appears that the threat actors behind this campaign are fairly responsive to published blogs and reports surrounding their malware techniques, tweaking their malware accordingly to continuously try and evade detection with success.

In late 2013, malware labeled as Kuluoz, the specific spam component of the Asprox botnet, was discovered to be the main payload of what would become the first malicious email campaign. Since then, the threat actors have continuously tweaked the malware by changing its hardcoded strings, remote access commands, and encryption keys.

Previously, Asprox malicious email campaigns targeted various industries in multiple countries and included a URL link in the body. The current version of Asprox includes a simple zipped email attachment that contains the malicious payload “exe.” Figure 2 below represents a sample message while Figure 3 is an example of the various court-related email headers used in the campaign.

fig2

Figure 2 Email Sample

fig3

Figure 3 Email Headers

Some of the recurring campaign that Asporox used includes themes focused around airline tickets, postal services and license keys. In recent months however, the court notice and court request-themed emails appear to be the most successful phishing scheme theme for the campaign.

The following list contains examples of email subject variations, specifically for the court notice theme:

  • Urgent court notice
  • Notice to Appear in Court
  • Notice of appearance in court
  • Warrant to appear
  • Pretrial notice
  • Court hearing notice
  • Hearing of your case
  • Mandatory court appearance

The campaign appeared to increase in volume during the month of May. Figure 4 shows the increase in activity of Asprox compared to other crimewares towards the end of May specifically. Figure 5 highlights the regular monthly pattern of overall malicious emails. In comparison, Figure 6 is a compilation of all the hits from our analytics.

fig4

Figure 4 Worldwide Crimeware Activity

fig5

Figure 5 Overall Asprox Botnet tracking

fig6

Figure 6 Asprox Botnet Activity Unique Samples

These malicious email campaign spikes revealed that FireEye appliances, with the support of DTI cloud, were able to provide a full picture of the campaign (blue), while only a fraction of the emailed malware samples could be detected by various Anti-Virus vendors (yellow).

fig7

Figure 7 FireEye Detection vs. Anti-Virus Detection

By the end of May, we observed a big spike on the unique binaries associated with this malicious activity. Compared to the previous days where malware authors used just 10-40 unique MD5s or less per day, we saw about 6400 unique MD5s sent out on May 29th. That is a 16,000% increase in unique MD5s over the usual malicious email campaign we’d observed. Compared to other recent email campaigns, Asprox uses a volume of unique samples for its campaign.

fig8

Figure 8 Asprox Campaign Unique Sample Tracking

fig9

Figure 9 Geographical Distribution of the Campaign

fig10

Figure 10 Distribution of Industries Affected

Brief Technical Analysis

fig11

Figure 11 Attack Architecture

Infiltration

The infiltration phase consists of the victim receiving a phishing email with a zipped attachment containing the malware payload disguised as an Office document. Figure 11 is an example of one of the more recent phishing attempts.

fig12

Figure 12 Malware Payload Icon

Evasion

Once the victim executes the malicious payload, it begins to start an svchost.exe process and then injects its code into the newly created process. Once loaded into memory, the injected code is then unpacked as a DLL. Notice that Asprox uses a hardcoded mutex that can be found in its strings.

  1. Typical Mutex Generation
    1. "2GVWNQJz1"
  2. Create svchost.exe process
  3. Code injection into svchost.exe

Entrenchment

Once the dll is running in memory it then creates a copy of itself in the following location:

%LOCALAPPDATA%/[8 CHARACTERS].EXE

Example filename:

%LOCALAPPDATA%\lwftkkea.exe

It’s important to note that the process will first check itself in the startup registry key, so a compromised endpoint will have the following registry populated with the executable:

HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run

Exfiltration/Communication

The malware uses various encryption techniques to communicate with the command and control (C2) nodes. The communication uses an RSA (i.e. PROV_RSA_FULL) encrypted SSL session using the Microsoft Base Cryptographic Provider while the payloads themselves are RC4 encrypted. Each sample uses a default hardcoded public key shown below.

Default Public Key

-----BEGIN PUBLIC KEY-----

MIGfMA0GCSqGSIb3DQEBAQUAA4GNADCBiQKBgQDCUAUdLJ1rmxx+bAndp+Cz6+5I'

Kmgap2hn2df/UiVglAvvg2US9qbk65ixqw3dGN/9O9B30q5RD+xtZ6gl4ChBquqw

jwxzGTVqJeexn5RHjtFR9lmJMYIwzoc/kMG8e6C/GaS2FCgY8oBpcESVyT2woV7U

00SNFZ88nyVv33z9+wIDAQAB

-----END PUBLIC KEY-----

First Communication Packet

Bot ID RC4 Encrypted URL

POST /5DBA62A2529A51B506D197253469FA745E7634B4FC

HTTP/1.1

Accept: */*

Content-Type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded

User-Agent: <host useragent>

Host: <host ip>:443

Content-Length: 319

Cache-Control: no-cache

<knock><id>5DBA62A247BC1F72B98B545736DEA65A</id><group>0206s</group><src>3</src><transport>0</transport><time>1881051166</time><version>1537</version><status>0</status><debug>none<debug></knock>

C2 Commands

In comparison to the campaign at the end of 2013, the current campaign uses one of the newer versions of the Asprox family where threat actors added the command “ear.”

if ( wcsicmp(Str1, L"idl") )

{

if ( wcsicmp(Str1, L"run") )

{

if ( wcsicmp(Str1, L"rem") )

{

if ( wcsicmp(Str1, L"ear")

{

if ( wcsicmp(Str1, L"rdl") )

{

if ( wcsicmp(Str1, L"red") )

{

if ( !wcsicmp(Str1, L"upd") )

C2 commands Description
idl idl This commands idles the process to wait for commands This commands idles the process to wait for commands
run run Download from a partner site and execute from a specified path Download from a partner site and execute from a specified path
rem rem Remove itself Remove itself
ear ear Download another executable and create autorun entry Download another executable and create autorun entry
rdl rdl Download, inject into svchost, and run Download, inject into svchost, and run
upd upd Download and update Download and update
red red Modify the registry Modify the registry

C2 Campaign Characteristics

fig13

For the two major malicious email campaign spikes in April and May of 2014, separate sets of C2 nodes were used for each major spike.

April May-June
94.23.24.58 94.23.24.58 192.69.192.178 192.69.192.178
94.23.43.184 94.23.43.184 213.21.158.141 213.21.158.141
1.234.53.27 1.234.53.27 213.251.150.3 213.251.150.3
84.124.94.52 84.124.94.52 27.54.87.235 27.54.87.235
133.242.134.76 133.242.134.76 61.19.32.24 61.19.32.24
173.45.78.226 173.45.78.226 69.64.56.232 69.64.56.232
37.59.9.98 37.59.9.98 72.167.15.89 72.167.15.89
188.93.74.192 188.93.74.192 84.234.71.214 84.234.71.214
187.16.250.214 187.16.250.214 89.22.96.113 89.22.96.113
85.214.220.78 85.214.220.78 89.232.63.147 89.232.63.147
91.121.20.71 91.121.20.71
91.212.253.253 91.212.253.253
91.228.77.15 91.228.77.15

Conclusion

The data reveals that each of the Asprox botnet’s malicious email campaigns changes its method of luring victims and C2 domains, as well as the technical details on monthly intervals. And, with each new improvement, it becomes more difficult for traditional security methods to detect certain types of malware.

Acknowledgements:

Nart Villeneuve, Jessa dela Torre, and David Sancho. Asprox Reborn. Trend Micro. 2013. http://www.trendmicro.com/cloud-content/us/pdfs/security-intelligence/white-papers/wp-asprox-reborn.pdf