The British company Cyjax discovered a large-scale attack against employees of state agencies in Russia and neighboring countries. Attackers create websites that simulate e-mail access for officials, and this data can be used to further attack agencies or sell access in the shadow market. Experts give different versions of the direction of the attacks, from political provocations to banal data phishing.
Among the attacked organizations are the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), the mail service Mail.ru as well as state structures of more than a dozen countries, including Armenia, Azerbaijan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Belarus, Ukraine, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
According to Cyjax, 15 sites are currently active that simulate e-mail login page for employees of the ministries of Foreign Affairs, finance or energy of various countries.
Mail.ru said that they monitor the appearance of phishing sites and fraudulent emails and “respond in a timely manner to such incidents.” They added that they have an anti-spam system that adapts to new spam scenarios, including phishing.
Cyjax believes that the purpose of the attack is to collect usernames and passwords to access the mailboxes of government officials. Moreover, a certain pro-state group may be behind this, since there is no financial benefit from the attack and the Russian Federation and neighboring countries have become targets of attacks.
“The motive of the campaign may be a provocation against Russia on the theme that Russia itself is hacking its neighbors,” says Yuri Drugach, co— founder of the StopPhish project. The provocation is indicated by the fact that some of the domains were registered in July and the servers are hosted in Russia.
Yuri Drugach suggested that several groups of scammers are behind the attacks. For example, the Russian Academy of Sciences has six fake sites where attackers engage in phishing and install malicious add-ons in the browser.