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The Underground Economist: Volume 2, Issue 4

6 minute read

Welcome back to The Underground Economist, Volume 2, Issue 4, an intelligence focused blog series illuminating Dark Web findings in digestible tidbits from our ZeroFox Dark Ops intelligence team. The Dark Ops team scours the Dark Web, extending visibility and engagement into places traditional security teams can’t reach to share meaningful and insightful intelligence on the trends and tactics threat actors are leveraging across the Dark Web and criminal underground. Here’s the latest for the week of March 18, 2022.

War In Ukraine: Takeaways From The Underground

he ongoing war in Ukraine is making it increasingly more difficult for threat actors to remain politically neutral in the criminal underground. This has led to an increase in cyber attacks against entities that are either perceived to be pro-Russian or pro-Ukrainian.

In early March 2022, ZeroFox observed the hacktivist group “Against the West” publish new leaks of sensitive data related to several Chinese targets, on the English language Deep Web forum raidforums2[.]com. These targets were likely selected due to China’s muted response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The impacted companies include:

  • Decard, a smart card solutions provider
  • Xiaomi, a software contractor with the Chinese government
  • SANY, a heavy equipment manufacturing company

ZeroFox researchers have not observed any public deals involving network access to U.S. companies featured on Russian speaking underground forums like exploit[.]in, xss[.]is, or RAMP since late February 2022. This could indicate that initial access brokers are now communicating directly with ransomware teams or through over other covert channels. Ransomware teams have shown more aggression in their attacks since the start of the war, as there is currently little fear of prosecution in Russian for these acts. ZeroFox researchers warn that an increase in access deals could lead to a surge in ransomware attacks in 2022, especially against U.S. companies.

Finally, ZeroFox researchers have observed malware being disguised as leaks of Russia-based entities on Telegram. The heightened interest among threat actors to acquire data related to Russia likely increases the chances of threat actors successfully compromising more systems.

Zero-day Advertised For RCE Vulnerability In SS7 Gateway Devices

On 15 March 2022, well-regarded threat actor, administrator, and known signaling system no. 7 (SS7) access dealer “LongPig” advertised a zero-day exploit for a remote code execution (RCE) vulnerability in Sangoma Netborder SS7 gateway devices, on the English language Dark Web forum “CryptBB”. This is significant since multiple telecommunications companies around the world use these gateways to decode the SS7 signaling protocols responsible for establishing wired/wireless phone calls, SMS messages, number translation, and prepaid billing services. 

The actor claims that their exploit would allow an unauthenticated threat actor to remotely execute code on the impacted SS7 gateway devices. This would potentially facilitate various types of attacks, including:

  • SIM-swapping
  • Bypassing multi-factor authentication (MFA) codes for services sent via SMS

The actor charged $80,000 for the exploit. 

“LongPig” advertised advertised the same zero-day exploit on the Russian language Deep Web forum exploit[.]in. However, the deal was shut down based on the actor’s failure to meet forum escrow requirements.

ZeroFox researchers note that legitimate access to SS7 gateways and exploits in SS7 gateways are difficult to obtain, and when publicly advertised, these kinds of deals are typically purchased immediately through off-forum communications. 

Original post from threat actor “LongPig” announcing a zero-day exploit for a remote code execution (RCE) vulnerability in Sangoma Netborder SS7 gateway devices 

Compromised SCADA Systems In U.S. & Other Countries

New but positively trending threat actor “boxi” advertised compromised supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems located in the U.S. and other countries, on the Russian language Dark Web forum “RAMP”. These systems are used to control and monitor physical industrial processes, like the flow of water through a pipeline. The actor claimed that attackers could access these devices remotely via virtual network computing (VNC). 

Alleged U.S. compromised entities include:

  • Oil refineries
  • Energy companies
  • Biosparging and skimmer systems
  • Water pressure boosters

In addition to location, the actor specified the following for each device:

  • IP address
  • Port number
  • Login credentials

ZeroFox researchers note that while some of these systems appear to use weak passwords, like “1111” or “1234”, others did not appear to require a password at all. Additionally, many of these devices use default ports to connect. This is likely due to a misconfigured VNC server.

Original post from the threat actor “boxi” advertising compromised SCADA systems

Free SIM Swapping Method Enables Threat Actors To Target U.S. Phone Carriers

ZeroFox identified a free and widely distributed SIM swapping method that is almost certainly enabling threat actors to target AT&T and other U.S. phone carriers on different fraud-focused Telegram channels. This method likely explains why ZeroFox researchers have observed a growing number of SIM swapping services zeroing in on U.S. phone carriers since mid-2021.  

The method requires a threat actor to collect the full PII of a victim, including:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Phone number
  • Phone carrier
  • Email address
  • Physical address

After a threat actor has acquired the PII, the method requires social engineering to convince the phone carrier to transfer the victim’s phone number over to a threat actor-owned SIM card. 

ZeroFox researchers note that threat actors reselling this method likely have large datasets containing the PII of victims with phone numbers registered to AT&T, or other U.S. phone carriers, making them more vulnerable to this method.

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