APT10 Breach Managed Service Providers

An alleged Chinese APT (Advanced Persistent Threat) known by the name APT10. This group is also known as:

  • Red Apollo by PwC UK
  • CVNX by BAE Systems
  • Stone Panda by CrowdStrike
  • POTASSIUM by Microsoft
  • and menuPass Team by Trend Micro

The group behind the attacks has targeted Canada, Brazil, France, Norway, Finland, Switzerland, South Africa, Australia, Japan, and India for intellectual property and other sensitive information, according to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) UK and BAE Systems report and the technical annexure.

You need to take cognizance of the fact that if your MSP is in the list of compromised service providers, and you are sitting in a different country, you need to assume that you have been compromised.

The following companies are noted to have been breached by a hacking campaign called ‘Cloud Hopper’.

  • IBM
  • Ericsson
  • Fujitsu
  • HPE
  • Tata Consultancy Services
  • NTT Data
  • Dimension Data
  • Computer Sciences Corporation and DXC Technology. HPE spun-off its services arm in a merger with Computer Sciences Corporation in 2017 to create DXC.
  • Sabre
  • Huntington Ingalls Industries
  • And many of their clients….

Some evidence of the breach at the compromised MSPs (Managed Service Providers) dates back as early as 2010.

If you feel you may have been compromised through a 3rd-party service provider. I recommend that you engage with an independent expert for an investigation and NOT the same MSP as we have found that it is easy to ‘hide’ evidence.

RDP – ‘Really Do Patch’

With the release of security notice CVE 2019-0708 on the 14th of May 2019, a sudden increase in port 3389 scanning on our external honeypot as can be seen from the image below.

So far I have seen that there are more than 1 million IP addresses exposed to the Internet that are vulnerable to “BlueKeep” exploit.

If we look at victimology, we need to understand the reason and also look at the source of the attacks. As we can see from the image below, Russia is the largest ‘culprit’ just after the exploit was made known. As a low-level cyber-war is taking place under our noses, we may have been compromised without realizing it. It is also said that a system compromise is normally detected after 150 days. I have worked on a breach that has been active for more than 240 days.

RDP – Attacks by Country

The following image to me is a bit more worrying as a very small percentage on the left diagram is ‘anonymizer’. A source using an anonymizer may be a more sophisticated attacker which may have tools to exploit your system. The problem with a system that has been breached, it still stays breached after you apply the patch.

RDP – Attack Source Reputation

As a CIO/CSO of your organization, you should have a handle on the assets internal as well as external facing. Many companies are allowing for RDP (Terminal Services), TCP 3389 to be accessible from the Internet which in fact should not be allowed. It is a high risk to the organisation and usually, I do not find any logging and monitoring on such systems.

If you need access to any system, this should be done via a secure VPN with a proper authentication solution such as a 2FA (Two-Factor-Authentication) scheme.

It is time to do a system check!

Dunning-Kruger Effect in the Workplace

Information Security, IT Auditing, IT Risk Management, and many of these types of functions within an organization lend itself to many traits that can be classed as psychological egoism and can have a negative impact in the work environment. One of the most dangerous users you may encounter suffers from the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Let me explain what I have seen in some organisations and some of the attributes exhibited by the ‘problematic’ users.

Egocentric Superman

There could be many reasons why we find these users in our work environment. But before we try and classify others we need to also look at ourselves critically to make sure we do not fall into that category.

A challenge with a ‘CIO’ made me take a step back and have an independent subject-matter expert review my work as well as legal discovery to make sure that I am not at fault or lacking in my delivery. Let me describe what I have seen in the workplace over the years.

  • To hide laziness or incompetence, you will find the user shouting and complaining with a curse-words thrown in as a matter of expression. He will hide mistakes by moving the blame in public communication to create conflict. This conflict is used to direct attention away from the actual problem. His co-workers would mostly avoid the conflict and he would feel satisfied as he managed the ‘expectation’ but alas only in his eyes.
  • The next user is a parasite leaching of his co-workers to climb the corporate ladder and exhibit knowledge that he actually do not have. In the book 40 Rules of Power by Robert Greene , rule 7 states ‘Get others to do the work for you, but always take the credit’. You know the guy… asking in email, or any other communication, for solutions to a problem and then publish it to management as his own. He will not share information with co-workers and if there is a team-effort he will treat it as a one-way street.. to his benefit.
  • The last one for this topic, there are more, is the user that exhibits the Dunning-Kruger Effect. This is a total lack of empathy and a self-fulfilling attributes a person can have. Decisions are made without consideration of any data but a believe that he is right beyond any doubt. If he is challenged, he would use others that he has convinced to be in his circle to do the ‘dirty-work’ to support his decisions. Examples include writing reports or emails that are filled with half-truths or deflecting from the evidence at hand. The company he works for is not important, just his existence.

Recommended action is that you must always document any interaction with co-workers to ensure that conflict is managed before it escalates where it becomes a Human Resources problem. I suggest reading ’40 Rules of Power’ and try to analyse yourself and your co-workers as a start.

‘Evidence trumps Dunning-Kruger’

Takes these challenges and make sure they feed your growth as a person with your primary focus on delivery for the organisation. One challenge I experienced triggered me to complete a task that has been on the back-burner for a while. Everything is a learning experience.