NCC alerts of hacking group targeting Ministries, telcos, others

From Adanna Nnamani, Abuja

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has alerted the public of the existence of an Iranian hacking group that is targeting telecoms, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Ministries of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in Africa with the intent of obtaining secret and confidential information.

The group known as Lyceum (also known as Hexane, Siamesekitten, or Spirlin) operates with upgraded malware in recent politically motivated attacks oriented in cyberespionage.

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The NCC advised companies and organisations to adopt multiple layers of security and constant network monitoring to protect against potential attacks.

In a statement on Monday, the Commission said, Information about this cyber-attack is contained in the latest advisory issued by the Nigerian Computer Emergency Response Team (ngCERT).

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It said the ngCERT rated the probability and damage level of the new malware as high.

“According to the advisory, the hacking group is known to be focused on infiltrating the networks of telecoms companies and ISPs. Between July and October, 2021, Lyceum was implicated in attacks against ISPs and telecoms organisations in Israel, Morocco, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia.

The advanced persistent threat (APT) group has been linked to campaigns that hit Middle Eastern oil and gas companies in the past. Now, the group appears to have expanded its focus to the technology sector. In addition, the APT is responsible for a campaign against an unnamed African government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“By the attackers’ mode of operation, Lyceum’s initial onslaught vectors include credential stuffing and brute-force attacks. So, once a victim’s system is compromised, the attackers conduct surveillance on specific targets. In that mode, Lyceum will attempt to deploy two different kinds of malware: Shark and Milan (known together as James).

Both malware are backdoors. Shark, a 32-bit executable written in C# and .NET, generates a configuration file for domain name system (DNS) tunneling or Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) C2 communications; whereas Milan – a 32-bit Remote Access Trojan (RAT) retrieves data.

“Both are able to communicate with the group’s command-and-control (C2) servers. The APT maintains a C2 server network that connects to the group’s backdoors, consisting of over 20 domains, including six that were previously not associated with the threat actors.

“According to reports, individual accounts at companies of interest are usually targeted, and then once these accounts are breached, they are used as a springboard to launch spear-phishing attacks against high-profile executives in an organization. The report suggests that not only do these attackers seek out data on subscribers and connected third-party companies, but once compromised, threat actors or their sponsors can also use these industries to surveil individuals of interest.

“However, to guard against this kind of threats, the NCC wishes to re-echo ngCERT reports that multiple layers of security in addition to constant network monitoring is required by telecom companies and ISPs alike to stave off potential attacks.” NCC explained.

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