Staff at European government organizations have been receiving malicious emails that appear to be coming from email accounts belonging to members of the Ukrainian military.
Russia’s war with Ukraine is taking place both in the real world and in cyberspace, with state-sponsored units and hacktivists fighting for both sides. The online battle has involved a wide range of tactics and tools, including distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, malware, data leaks, and misinformation.
Shortly after Russia launched its invasion, the Ukrainian government warned that phishing emails had been sent to email addresses belonging to Ukrainian military personnel and related individuals. The attack has been attributed to UNC1151, a threat actor previously tied to Belarus and possibly Russia, and which specializes in disinformation campaigns.
Cybersecurity firm Proofpoint, which tracks the threat group as TA445, on Wednesday reported seeing the email accounts of European government personnel involved in managing the Ukrainian refugee crisis receiving malicious emails from a possibly compromised email account belonging to a Ukrainian armed service member.
While Proofpoint has not found definitive evidence, the timing and goal of the campaign suggest that the emails sent to European officials could represent the next stage of the phishing attacks that the Ukrainian government warned about.
The emails sent to European government personnel referenced a recent emergency meeting of the NATO Security Council. The message carried an attachment — a macro-enabled XLS file — that was set up to deliver a piece of malware named SunSeed. This malware is a downloader that is likely used by the attacker to deliver additional malicious payloads to the compromised devices.
The campaign, which Proofpoint tracks as Asylum Ambuscade, may be aimed at collecting information on refugee movements out of Ukraine, as well as details on the funds, supplies and logistics used by Europe to manage the crisis.
“The targeted individuals possessed a range of expertise and professional responsibilities,” Proofpoint explained in a blog post. “However, there was a clear preference for targeting individuals with responsibilities related to transportation, financial and budget allocation, administration, and population movement within Europe. This campaign may represent an attempt to gain intelligence regarding the logistics surrounding the movement of funds, supplies, and people within NATO member countries.”
Ukraine’s IT Army, created shortly after Russia launched its invasion, now counts roughly 260,000 members.
An individual who uses the online moniker CyberKnow has compiled a list of the various hacker groups supporting both Russia and Ukraine. There are currently more than 30 groups on the list.
One of the groups targeting Ukraine appears to be based in Brazil and, according to WordPress security company Defiant, it has hacked the websites of tens of Ukrainian universities since the conflict started.
Unsurprisingly, profit-driven cybercriminals are trying to take advantage of the conflict. Anti-phishing solutions provider Cofense has reported seeing several spam campaigns whose goal is to steal data and scam users.