Acquire Infrastructure: Domains
Adversaries may purchase domains that can be used during targeting. Domain names are the human readable names used to represent one or more IP addresses. They can be purchased or, in some cases, acquired for free.
Adversaries can use purchased domains for a variety of purposes, including for Phishing, Drive-by Compromise, and Command and Control. Adversaries may choose domains that are similar to legitimate domains, including through use of homoglyphs or use of a different top-level domain (TLD). Typosquatting may be used to aid in delivery of payloads via Drive-by Compromise. Adversaries can also use internationalized domain names (IDNs) to create visually similar lookalike domains for use in operations.
Domain registrars each maintain a publicly viewable database that displays contact information for every registered domain. Private WHOIS services display alternative information, such as their own company data, rather than the owner of the domain. Adversaries may use such private WHOIS services to obscure information about who owns a purchased domain. Adversaries may further interrupt efforts to track their infrastructure by using varied registration information and purchasing domains with different domain registrars.
Sandworm Team has registered domain names and created URLs that are often designed to mimic or spoof legitimate websites, such as email login pages, online file sharing and storage websites, and password reset pages.
Silent Librarian has acquired domains to establish credential harvesting pages, often spoofing the target organization and using free top level domains .TK, .ML, .GA, .CF, and .GQ.
Organizations may intentionally register similar domains to their own to deter adversaries from creating typosquatting domains. Other facets of this technique cannot be easily mitigated with preventive controls since it is based on behaviors performed outside of the scope of enterprise defenses and controls.
Domain registration information is, by design, captured in public registration logs. Consider use of services that may aid in tracking of newly acquired domains, such as WHOIS databases and/or passive DNS. In some cases it may be possible to pivot on known pieces of domain registration information to uncover other infrastructure purchased by the adversary. Consider monitoring for domains created with a similar structure to your own, including under a different TLD. Though various tools and services exist to track, query, and monitor domain name registration information, tracking across multiple DNS infrastructures can require multiple tools/services or more advanced analytics.
Detection efforts may be focused on related stages of the adversary lifecycle, such as during Initial Access and Command and Control.
- CISA. (2020, September 14). Alert (AA20-258A): Chinese Ministry of State Security-Affiliated Cyber Threat Actor Activity. Retrieved October 1, 2020.
- FireEye. (2015). APT28: A WINDOW INTO RUSSIA’S CYBER ESPIONAGE OPERATIONS?. Retrieved August 19, 2015.
- Bob Sullivan. (2000, July 24). PayPal alert! Beware the 'PaypaI' scam. Retrieved March 2, 2017.
- CISA. (2019, September 27). Security Tip (ST05-016): Understanding Internationalized Domain Names. Retrieved October 20, 2020.
- Mandiant. (n.d.). APT1 Exposing One of China’s Cyber Espionage Units. Retrieved July 18, 2016.
- Brady, S . (2018, October 3). Indictment - United States vs Aleksei Sergeyevich Morenets, et al.. Retrieved October 1, 2020.
- Nafisi, R., Lelli, A. (2021, March 4). GoldMax, GoldFinder, and Sibot: Analyzing NOBELIUM’s layered persistence. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
- Smith, L., Leathery, J., Read, B. (2021, March 4). New SUNSHUTTLE Second-Stage Backdoor Uncovered Targeting U.S.-Based Entity; Possible Connection to UNC2452. Retrieved March 12, 2021.
- Adair, S. and Lancaster, T. (2020, November 6). OceanLotus: Extending Cyber Espionage Operations Through Fake Websites. Retrieved November 20, 2020.
- ThreatConnect. (2020, September 28). Kimsuky Phishing Operations Putting In Work. Retrieved October 30, 2020.
- Cimpanu, C. (2020, September 30). North Korea has tried to hack 11 officials of the UN Security Council. Retrieved November 4, 2020.
- CISA, FBI, CNMF. (2020, October 27). https://us-cert.cisa.gov/ncas/alerts/aa20-301a. Retrieved November 4, 2020.
- Dahan, A. et al. (2020, November 2). Back to the Future: Inside the Kimsuky KGH Spyware Suite. Retrieved November 6, 2020.
- Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. (2021, February 21). AppleJeus: Analysis of North Korea’s Cryptocurrency Malware. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
- United States District Court Southern District of New York (USDC SDNY) . (2018, December 17). United States of America v. Zhu Hua and Zhang Shilong. Retrieved April 17, 2019.
- US District Court Southern District of New York. (2018, December 17). United States v. Zhu Hua Indictment. Retrieved December 17, 2020.
- Counter Threat Unit Research Team. (2019, December 29). BRONZE PRESIDENT Targets NGOs. Retrieved April 13, 2021.
- Insikt Group. (2020, July 28). CHINESE STATE-SPONSORED GROUP ‘REDDELTA’ TARGETS THE VATICAN AND CATHOLIC ORGANIZATIONS. Retrieved April 13, 2021.
- Roccia, T., Seret, T., Fokker, J. (2021, March 16). Technical Analysis of Operation Dianxun. Retrieved April 13, 2021.
- Scott W. Brady. (2020, October 15). United States vs. Yuriy Sergeyevich Andrienko et al.. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
- DOJ. (2018, March 23). U.S. v. Rafatnejad et al . Retrieved February 3, 2021.
- Hassold, Crane. (2018, March 26). Silent Librarian: More to the Story of the Iranian Mabna Institute Indictment. Retrieved February 3, 2021.
- Counter Threat Unit Research Team. (2018, August 24). Back to School: COBALT DICKENS Targets Universities. Retrieved February 3, 2021.
- Proofpoint Threat Insight Team. (2019, September 5). Threat Actor Profile: TA407, the Silent Librarian. Retrieved February 3, 2021.
- Counter Threat Unit Research Team. (2019, September 11). COBALT DICKENS Goes Back to School…Again. Retrieved February 3, 2021.
- Malwarebytes Threat Intelligence Team. (2020, October 14). Silent Librarian APT right on schedule for 20/21 academic year. Retrieved February 3, 2021.
- Burt, T. (2020, September 10). New cyberattacks targeting U.S. elections. Retrieved March 24, 2021.