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CISA, FBI warn Iran-based threat actor could plan ransomware attacks



Government systems are among those targeted by a threat actor who, according to industry sources, is a contractor to the Iranian government and is exploiting vulnerabilities in virtual private networks and cloud computing software, apparently. to exfiltrate data, warn federal agencies.

Industry reports indicate that the threat actor is operating as an entrepreneur supporting the interests of the Iranian government, but the malicious activity also appears to serve the financial interests of the threat actors. an opinion the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the FBI released Tuesday. The FBI notes that this threat actor has the ability, and possibly the intent, to deploy ransomware on victim networks.

The technical details of the advisory outline the tactics and techniques of an attacker that officials now associate with a group that goes by the names of Pioneer Kitten and UNC757. The Ministry of Justice would have plans to issue indictments for hackers linked to Iran soon.

CISA and the FBI are aware of a widespread campaign by a malicious Iranian-based cyber actor targeting several industries primarily associated with the IT, government, healthcare, finance, insurance and media across the United States, the notice says. The threat actor performs a mass scan and uses tools, such as Nmap, to identify open ports. Once the open ports are identified, the threat actor exploits [Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures] linked to the VPN infrastructure to gain initial access to a targeted network.

The threat actor also relied heavily on a vulnerability in NetScaler, an application delivery controller created by the software company as a service Citrix, used to accelerate operations in cloud environments.

The threat actor primarily gained initial access by compromising a Citrix NetScaler remote access server using a publicly available exploit for CVE-2019-19781, the advisory says.

CISA issued an alert urging organizations to patch the CVE in January, noting that once an attacker is inside an affected device, they can remain there even after closing their initial means for it. achieve.

Compromised systems cannot be remedied by applying the software patches that have been released to fix the vulnerability, according to the alert.

The threat actor collected credentials, including by accessing password managers such as KeyPass, and used 7-Zip to archive the data.

CISA said it has not yet observed data exfiltrations, but encourages organizations to monitor network traffic for unexpected and untrusted protocols, especially to the Internet.

Mitigation measures also include the use of multi-factor authentication and the implementation of least privilege principles for data access, Citrix vulnerability remediation and, if already compromised, rebuilding NetScaler devices.

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