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Iranian Hackers Impersonate Israeli Security Firm

A group of Iranian hackers focused on cyber-espionage recently built up a website to impersonate ClearSky Cyber Security, the Israeli firm that exposed their activities not long ago.

A group of Iranian hackers focused on cyber-espionage recently built up a website to impersonate ClearSky Cyber Security, the Israeli firm that exposed their activities not long ago.

The hackers, tracked as APT35 and also known as NewsBeef, Newscaster, and Charming Kitten, have been active since at least 2011, with their activities detailed for the first time several years ago.

In December 2017, ClearSky Cyber Security published a report detailing the group’s activities during the 2016-2017 timeframe. The security firm not only described the actor’s infrastructure, but also provided information on DownPaper, a new piece of malware the hackers had been using.

The security firm exposed the link between the group and Behzad Mesri, also known as Skote Vahshat, who was charged in November 2017 with the hacking of HBO. Furthermore, the researchers also managed to establish the identity of two other alleged members of the group.

Roughly half a year after the report was published, the security firm announced on its Twitter account that the hackers built their own site impersonating ClearSky.

“#CharmingKitten built a phishing website impersonating our company. The fake website is (the real website is,” the security firm announced.

The advanced persistent threat (APT) apparently copied entire pages from the legitimate website, but also changed one of them to include a sign in option with multiple services. Anyone entering credentials there would have had them sent to the actor instead.

 “These sign in options are all phishing pages that would send the victim’s credentials to the attackers. Our legitimate website does not have any sign in option. I
t seems that the impersonating website is still being built because some of the pages have error messages in them,” the security firm announced.

One of the pages on the fake website, the security researchers discovered, featured content related to a Charming Kitten campaign that ClearSky exposed only several weeks ago. That page, however, wasn’t customized to look like the security firm’s website.

The fake website started being flagged as deceptive soon after ClearSky discovered it. The security firm says that its employees, services, and customers were not affected.

Over the past years, security researchers managed to link various hacking groups to Iran, including APT33, Rocket Kitten, Magic Hound, and CopyKittens, and even revealed that they tend to share infrastructure and malware code.

Related: HBO Hacker Linked to Iranian Spy Group

Related: Iranian Cyberspies Use New Trojan in Middle East Attacks

Written By

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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