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NCC raises alarm over existence of hacking group targeting telecoms, ISPs, others

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The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has once again alerted Nigerians of the existence of another hacking group orchestrating cyberespionage in the African telecoms space.

The NCC says that the recent notification is part of its effort in keeping with its commitment to continuously keep stakeholders in the country’s telecoms sector informed, educated and protected.

This disclosure is contained in a press statement issued by NCC and signed by its Director for Public Affairs, Dr Ikechukwu Adinde, on November 15, 2021, and can be seen on its website.

NCC said that an Iranian hacking group known as Lyceum (also known as Hexane, Siamesekitten, or Spirlin) has been reported to be targeting telecoms, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Ministries of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in Africa with upgraded malware in a recent politically motivated attacks oriented in cyberespionage.

The telecoms regulator also noted that information about this cyberattack is contained in the latest advisory issued by the Nigerian Computer Emergency Response Team (ngCERT). The ngCERT rated the probability and damage level of the new malware as high.

What the NCC is saying in the statement

NCC in the statement quoted the advisory report as saying. ‘’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) tunnelling or Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) C2 communications; whereas Milan – a 32-bit Remote Access Trojan (RAT) retrieves data.’’

The NCC further pointed out that both were able to communicate with the group’s command-and-control (C2) servers adding that 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.

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The statement also noted that the reports said, ‘’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.’’

In order to guard against such kinds of threats, NCC in the statement emphasized on ngCERT reports that multiple layers of security in addition to constant network monitoring are required by telecom companies and ISPs alike to stave off potential attacks.

Some of the measures expected to be put in place by the telecom consumers and the general public include;

  • Ensure the consistent use of firewalls (software, hardware and cloud firewalls).
  • Enable a Web Application Firewall to help detect and prevent attacks coming from web applications by inspecting HTTP traffic.
  • Install Up-to-date antivirus programmes to help detect and prevent a wide range of malware, trojans, and viruses, which APT hackers will use to exploit your system.
  • Implement the use of Intrusion Prevention Systems that monitor your network.
  • Create a secure sandboxing environment that allows you to open and run untrusted programs or codes without risking harm to your operating system.
  • Ensure the use of virtual private network (VPN) to prevent an easy opportunity for APT hackers to gain initial access to your company’s network.
  • Enable spam and malware protection for your email applications, and educate your employees on how to identify potentially malicious emails.
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NCC in the statement noted that for further technical assistance, the public should contact ngCERT on [email protected].

In case you missed it

Recall that barely a week ago, the NCC warned android phone users of a new malware gaining access to smartphones and taking control of infected phones.

The NCC in October also alerted Nigerian telecom consumers over the existence of what it described as new, high-risk and extremely damaging malware called Flubot which impersonates Android mobile banking applications to draw fake web views on targeted applications. Its goal transcends stealing personal data and essentially targets stealing of credit card details or online banking credentials.

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Akinola
Akinola
Akinola Olusegun is a blogger and publisher of this blog, money247.com.ng. You can also check out his other blogs : segtv.com.ng (videos & news), letgoonline.com.ng (e-commerce), letgoonline.com.ng/blog (news) among others. Follow him via any or all of his social media pages to get fresh posts update.
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