Cell Networks Hacked by (Probable) Nation-State Attackers
A sophisticated attacker has successfuly infiltrated cell providers to collect information on specific users:
The hackers have systematically broken in to more than 10 cell networks around the world to date over the past seven years to obtain massive amounts of call records — including times and dates of calls, and their cell-based locations — on at least 20 individuals.
Cybereason researchers said they first detected the attacks about a year ago. Before and since then, the hackers broke into one cell provider after the other to gain continued and persistent access to the networks. Their goal, the researchers believe, is to obtain and download rolling records on the target from the cell provider’s database without having to deploy malware on each target’s device.
The researchers found the hackers got into one of the cell networks by exploiting a vulnerability on an internet-connected web server to gain a foothold onto the provider’s internal network. From there, the hackers continued to exploit each machine they found by stealing credentials to gain deeper access.
Who did it?
Cybereason did say it was with “very high probability” that the hackers were backed by a nation state but the researchers were reluctant to definitively pin the blame.
The tools and the techniques - such as the malware used by the hackers - appeared to be “textbook APT 10,” referring to a hacker group believed to be backed by China, but Div said it was either APT 10, “or someone that wants us to go public and say it’s [APT 10].”
Based on the data available to us, Operation Soft Cell has been active since at least 2012, though some evidence suggests even earlier activity by the threat actor against telecommunications providers.
The attack was aiming to obtain CDR records of a large telecommunications provider.
The threat actor was attempting to steal all data stored in the active directory, compromising every single username and password in the organization, along with other personally identifiable information, billing data, call detail records, credentials, email servers, geo-location of users, and more.
The tools and TTPs used are commonly associated with Chinese threat actors.
During the persistent attack, the attackers worked in waves — abandoning one thread of attack when it was detected and stopped, only to return months later with new tools and techniques.
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