NCC alerts on Iranian hackers targeting telcos, ISPs, Nigerian ministry

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The Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) has stated that an Iranian hacking group has been reported to be engaging in cyber espionage across Africa.

The Commission, in a statement signed by Ikechukwu Adinde, its Director of Public Affairs, said the group, known as Lyceum, has been reported to be targeting telecommunication companiess, Internet Service Providers, and Ministries of Foreign Affairs in Nigeria and other African countries.

NCC said the group, also known as Hexane, Siamesekitten, or Spirlin, is targeting these companies with upgraded malware in recent politically motivated attacks.

The Commission said information about this cyber-attack is contained in the latest advisory issued by the Nigerian Computer Emergency Response Team.

“The ngCERT rated the probability and damage level of the new malware as high,” the NCC said.

“According to the advisory, the hacking group is known to be focused on infiltrating the networks of telecoms companies and ISPs. Between July and October 2021, Lyceum was implicated in attacks against ISPs and telecoms organisations in Israel, Morocco, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia.

“The advanced persistent threat group has been linked to campaigns that hit Middle Eastern oil and gas companies in the past. Now, the group appears to have expanded its focus to the technology sector. In addition, the APT is responsible for a campaign against an unnamed African government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“By the attackers’ mode of operation, Lyceum’s initial onslaught vectors include credential stuffing and brute-force attacks. So, once a victim’s system is compromised, the attackers conduct surveillance on specific targets. In that mode, Lyceum will attempt to deploy two different kinds of malware: Shark and Milan (known together as James).”

NCC said that both malware are backdoors and are able to communicate with the group’s command-and-control (C2) servers.

The NCC added that the APT maintains a C2 server network that connects to the group’s backdoors, consisting of over 20 domains, including six that were previously not associated with the threat actors.

It explained further: “According to reports, individual accounts at companies of interest are usually targeted, and then once these accounts are breached, they are used as a springboard to launch spear-phishing attacks against high-profile executives in an organization.

“The report suggests that not only do these attackers seek out data on subscribers and connected third-party companies, but once compromised, threat actors or their sponsors can also use these industries to surveil individuals of interest.”

Mr Adinde urged consumers to ensure the consistent use of firewalls (software, hardware and cloud firewalls) and enable a Web Application Firewall to help detect and prevent attacks coming from web applications by inspecting HTTP traffic.

The NCC advised further that customers should: “Install Up-to-date antivirus programmes to help detect and prevent a wide range of malware, trojans, and viruses, which APT hackers will use to exploit your system; Implement the use of Intrusion Prevention Systems that monitors your network; Create a secure sandboxing environment that allows you to open and run untrusted programs or codes without risking harm to your operating system.”

As a means of guiding against such attacks, the NCC also said that companies and organisations must ensure the use of virtual private network (VPN) to prevent an easy opportunity for APT hackers to gain initial access to your company’s network, enable spam and malware protection for email applications, and educate employees on how to identify potentially malicious emails.

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