11:34 am (UTC-7) | by Darin Dutcher (Targeted Attacks Researcher)
Last month, the hacker collective Anonymous announced their intention to launch cyber attacks against the petroleum industry (under the code name #OpPetrol) that is expected to last up to June 20.
Their claimed reason for this attack is primarily due to petroleum being sold with the US dollar instead of currency of the country where petroleum originates. However, there had been some discussions seen online suggesting that the reason to launch new attacks was due to both #OpIsrael and #OpUSA being regarded as ineffective.
Users should note that June 20 is only the day that most attacks are expected to occur and/or be made public. Similar to last month’s #OpUSA, they have begun mobilizing prior that date. Since the announcement of this operation, targets have been hit, credentials have been stolen, and the list of targets is already growing.
It is also not uncommon for these activities to be used as a distraction to mask other attacks. Based on the collateral damage recorded from previous operations and data leaks outside publicized attack dates, their targeting and timing aren’t always precise either.
An announced operation like this is a good opportunity for all current existing and potential targets to exercise the necessary steps to protect themselves. Everyone is a target eventually; there will always be vulnerabilities to be exploited for cause or profit.
If your organization or country you defend is a potential target in this operation, you should consider doing the following steps (see below) and possibly more. If you’re in anyway connected to the targeted industries or located in one of the potential target countries, we advise that you consider going through these steps anyway. However, if you are not affected or linked to the expected targets, you may use these steps as proactive measures against attacks like #OpPetrol.
Before June 20:
- Ensure all IT systems (OSs, applications, websites, etc.) are updated.
- Ensure IT security systems are current, have as wide a view as they can, and can inspect deeply. Can they detect and prevent phases of attack plan and can they be integrated into part of a kill-chain? Can they observe indicators over the network, on disk, and in memory?
- Ensure relevant third party vendors are aware and accessible.
- Probe any anomalous network and system behavior and examine it. Reconnaissance phases of the attack are already in play. Opportunities for exploit are being logged and credentials are already being stolen. Solutions such as Trend Micro Deep Discovery can help you examine dubious network activities.
- Remind your users to be particularly careful and watch out for phishing and spear-phishing emails.
- Plan or review your incident response procedures with all necessary parties (not only IT groups). Explore how the planned response differs among DDoS, defacement, and disclosure.
- Have IT Security, Attorneys, and External Communications departments prepare or review public statements in the event your organization is affected. Ask the question of “how your statements and response might differ if it wasn’t a hacktivist group, but a criminal, nation state, insider, or terrorist?”
- Monitor the many Anonymous sources for any changes in targeting, tools, or motives, lists of accomplishments, or data dumps.
On June 20:
- Note that attackers may attack across different time zones, so it can last longer than the 24 hours in your time zone.
- Continue to monitor the Anonymous’ sources for any changes in targeting, tools, motives, lists of accomplishments, or data dumps.
- Exercise a high level of awareness of your IT and IT Security systems and their logs; continue to apply questioning curiosity to anything interesting.
- If you think your organization is affected, assume that you are affected by DDoS, defacement, and disclosure – and not just one of them.
After June 20:
- Continue to monitor Anonymous’ sources for any lists of accomplishments or data dumps.
- If you’ve made it into Anonymous’ news, you’ll be remediating and designing against future occurrence.
- If you didn’t make it in Anonymous’ news, review for any sign of breach, compromise, or excessive probing.
- Remain vigilant, especially if you’re in the target list. The attacks may not be over.
Similar to how DDoS, defacement, and disclosure tactics can distract and mask each other, so can threat actors. A hacktivist group’s activity can mask or distract criminal, nation state, insider, or even terrorist activity.
Announced operations like these with their relative open disclosure of tactics, tools, and procedures are golden opportunities for evaluation and improvement of countermeasures in real world scenarios. Taking advantage of these opportunities helps train people, process, and technology to recognize signals of a targeted attack regardless whether it is publicly disclosed or covert.
For more information on how targeted attacks work and how organizations can better protect themselves from such threats, you may refer to some of our previous entries here.
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