Middle-Eastern 'Molerats' hackers return to take bite out of the BBC

Iranian or Syrian group expands targets

The burrowing Middle-Eastern 'Molerats' hackers have been at it again. First spotted last year, security firm FireEye has recently noticed a widening target list taking in financial firms, a clutch of governments and even the BBC.

According to FiireEye at the time, attacks stretching as far back as 2011 borrowed the Chinese interest in remote access Trojans to pick off a range of Arab and Israeli targets using the Poison Ivy (PIVY) and XtremeRAT tools.

Now it looks as if the same group returned in April, using much the same methods, tools and even the same command and control, the firm said. What has changed, however, are the targets, which have been expanded to include new Palestinian and Israeli targets, the Governments of Turkey, Slovenia, Macedonia, New Zealand, Latvia, the US, and the UK, an unnamed US finance house, several European government organisations and - wait for it - the BBC.

FireEye doesn't name the country it suspects as being behind the attack, but given the surveillance nature of the organisations being targeted, Iran and Syria look like racing certainties. As for picking on the BBC, it might be easier to say who wouldn't want to attack the Corporation. Most governments hate the BBC.

What Molerats doesn't appear to be is sophisticated, but perhaps it doesn't need to be. The remote access software is always the same, and the habit of using forging digital certificates isn't always skilfully executed.

The hackers do appear to be aware that defenders might know they exist, even sending remote access communications in the clear to avoid having to use known ports that might be blocked by firewalls.

"Molerats campaigns seem to be limited to only using freely available malware; however, their growing list of targets and increasingly evolving techniques in subsequent campaigns are certainly noteworthy," said FireEye's analysis.

By the firm's calculation, the attacks are succeeding in a narrow, targeted way, with perhaps the low hundred of targets clicking on links embedded in specific phishing email campaigns.

If Molerats underlines one thing it is that RAT attacks are no longer the preserve of Chinese attackers.

The region is an growing source for organised, politically-motivated hacking. Only last week an Iranian group said by consultancy iSight Partners to have targeted 2,000 people working for the US Government and military using concocted Facebook and LinkedIn profiles.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Personal TechsecurityFireEye

More about BBC Worldwide AustralasiaFacebookFireEye

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by John E Dunn

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts