Pawn Storm cyberespionage group increases activity, targets NATO

New attacks were observed this year from the group, including against people with links to the White House

Even though its activities were exposed last year, a cyberespionage group dubbed Pawn Storm has ramped up its efforts over the past few months, targeting NATO members and potentially the White House.

The first quarter of this year "has seen a great deal of activity from the group," researchers from antivirus firm, Trend Micro, said in a blog post. "Most notably this involved setting up dozens of exploit URLs and a dozen new command-and-control (C&C) servers targeting NATO members and governments in Europe, Asia and the Middle East."

The group has been active since at least 2007, and it has targeted military and government entities, defense contractors and media organizations. It uses several attack methods against potential victims, including spear phishing emails with malicious attachments, Web-based exploits launched from compromised websites and fake Microsoft Outlook Web Access (OWA) login pages.

Trend Micro documented the group's attacks in October 2014, revealing its main information-stealing tool is a malware program called Sednit, or Sofacy. The group's targets included military, government and media organizations in the U.S. and its allies, as well as Kremlin critics and Ukrainian activists and military. This led to speculation that Pawn Storm might serve the interests of the Russian government.

Some new Pawn Storm email attacks no longer include malicious attachments, but links to alleged news articles about geopolitical events. Those links lead to rogue websites that ask visitors to install a browser add-on allegedly needed to view HTML5 video content.

"The add-on in question turns out to be a version of X-Agent or Fysbis spyware if you're a Linux user, and Sednit if you're running Windows," the Trend Micro researchers said.

The group has also continued its phishing attacks using fake Microsoft OWA login pages, with some of the new targets being a large U.S. company that sells nuclear fuel to power stations, the armed forces of two European NATO members and the NATO Liaison in Ukraine.

The White House might also have been targeted, but indirectly. In January, the Pawn Storm group targeted two popular YouTube bloggers with Gmail phishing attacks, several days after they had interviewed President Barack Obama at the White House, the Trend Micro researchers said.

"This is a classic island hopping technique, in which attackers focus their efforts not on the actual target but on companies or people that might interact with that target, but which may have weaker security in place," they said. "In a similar way, a well-known military correspondent for a large U.S. newspaper was hit via his personal email address in December 2014, probably leaking his credentials. Later that month Operation Pawn Storm attacked around 55 employees of the same newspaper on their corporate accounts."

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags securitymalwarespywaretrend microintrusion

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?