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How to Prevent Supply-Chain Attacks
Kaspersky researchers recently reported that they continue to observe in the 3rd quarter of 2021 supply-chain attacks.
“We continue to see supply-chain attacks, including those of SmudgeX, DarkHalo and Lazarus,” Kaspersky researchers said in their “APT trends report Q3 2021.”
What Is Supply-Chain Attack?
Supply-chain attack is a type of cyberattack in which an attacker inserts malicious code into a legitimate software.
In a supply-chain attack, an attacker turns the compromised software into a Trojan horse. A Trojan horse is a type of malicious software (malware) that’s introduced onto a victim’s computer as it’s disguised as legitimate software.
In a supply-chain attack, by compromising a single software, attackers gain access to hundreds or hundreds of thousands of customers of a legitimate software.
The three common supply-chain attack techniques include hijacking updates, undermining code signing, and compromising open-source code. Attackers may use these three common supply-chain attack techniques simultaneously.
Supply-Chain Attacks Examples
DarkHalo is the name given by researchers to the group that launched the SolarWinds supply-chain attack. Other researchers call the group behind the SolarWinds supply-chain attack Nobelium.
SolarWinds supply-chain attack is one of the high-profile supply-chain attacks that was exposed in December 2020. According to SolarWinds, the "vulnerability" was inserted within the company's Orion products and existed in updates released between March and June 2020.
In a report to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), SolarWinds said that nearly 33,000 of its more than 300,000 customers were Orion customers, and that fewer than 18,000 customers may have had installed the Orion product that contained the malicious code. One of the notable victims of the Solarwinds supply chain attack is Microsoft.
According to Kaspersky researchers, evidence suggests that DarkHalo had spent six months inside OrionIT’s networks to perfect their attack.
“In June, more than six months after DarkHalo had gone dark, we observed the DNS hijacking of multiple government zones of a CIS member state that allowed the attacker to redirect traffic from government mail servers to computers under their control – probably achieved by obtaining credentials to the control panel of the victims’ registrar,” Kaspersky researchers said. “When victims tried to access their corporate mail, they were redirected to a fake copy of the web interface. Following this, they were tricked into downloading previously unknown malware. The backdoor, dubbed Tomiris, bears a number of similarities to the second-stage malware, Sunshuttle (aka GoldMax), used by DarkHalo last year. ”
Kaspersky researchers called the supply-chain incident in which a threat actor modified a fingerprint scanner software installer package as SmudgeX. The fingerprint scanner software is used by government employees of a country in South Asia for attendance recording.
Kaspersky researchers said the threat actor changed a configuration file and added a DLL with a .NET version of a PlugX injector to the installer package. “On installation, even without network connectivity, the .NET injector decrypts and injects a PlugX backdoor payload into a new svchost system process and attempts to beacon to a C2 [command and control infrastructure],” Kaspersky researchers said.
The Trojanized installer version of the fingerprint scanner software appeared to have been staged on the distribution server from March to June, Kaspersky researchers said.
According to Kaspersky researchers, evidence showed that the threat group known as Lazarus is building supply-chain attack capabilities. The researchers said that one supply-chain attack from this threat group originated from a compromised legitimate South Korean security software.
Another supply-chain attack launched by this group, Kaspersky researchers said, stemmed from a hijacked asset monitoring solution software in Latvia.
The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), meanwhile, reported that in 2017, Kaspersky Antivirus was being used by a foreign intelligence service for spying. The U.S. government directed government offices to remove the vendor’s products from networks.
Cybersecurity Best Practices Against Supply-Chain Attacks
Supply-chain attacks aren’t easy to protect against. Your organization’s software vendors, even the top big IT software vendors, are as vulnerable to supply-chain attacks.
Here are some of the cybersecurity best practices against supply-chain attacks:
Supply-chain attackers target not just software. They also target hardware. Attackers compromised hardware components with the end view of compromising hardware users. In 2016, attackers hijacked the design of a mobile phone. The phones sold to customers encrypted users’ text and call details and transmitted the data to a server every 72-hours.
Most of the cybersecurity best practices against software supply-chain attacks also apply to hardware supply-chain attacks.
Steve E. Driz, I.S.P., ITCP