Cyberespionage group Pawn Storm uses exploit for unpatched Java flaw

The exploit was used in attacks against the armed forces of a NATO country and a U.S. defense organization

Big data

Big data

A sophisticated group of hackers known for targeting military, government and media organizations is currently using an exploit for a vulnerability in Java that hasn't been patched by Oracle.

The zero-day exploit was recently observed by researchers from antivirus vendor Trend Micro in attacks against the armed forces of an unnamed NATO country and a U.S. defense organization. Those targets received spear-phishing emails that contained links to Web pages hosting the exploit.

The cyberespionage group, known as APT28 and Pawn Storm, has been active since at least 2007. Some security vendors believe that it operates out of Russia and has ties to that country's intelligence services.

The group has been targeting NATO members and governments in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, as well as defense contractors and media organizations. It typically sends rogue emails to its victims with malicious links to supposed articles about geopolitical events.

The newly found exploit affects the latest version of the Java runtime environment, Java 8 Update 45, which was released in April, researchers from Trend Micro said in a blog post.

Surprisingly, the exploit doesn't affect the older Java 7 and Java 6 versions, which no longer receive public security patches from Oracle.

A couple of years ago Java was the most frequently attacked browser plug-in, which prompted Oracle to beef up security in Java 8.

This is the first Java zero-day exploit reported in nearly two years, the Trend Micro researchers said.

Zero-day exploits are those that target previously unknown vulnerabilities for which patches are not yet available.

Although unrelated, this exploit's discovery comes at a time when security researchers found three zero-day exploits for Flash Player in data leaked from a surveillance software maker called Hacking Team.

Disabling both Flash Player and Java is advisable until these vulnerabilities are patched, the Trend Micro researchers said in a separate blog post. "Extra caution should be exercised for the foreseeable future and special attention paid for the possibility of compromised ad servers."

"Flash and Java vulnerabilities are particularly well-suited for malvertising attacks, so we could possibly see these vulnerabilities incorporated into exploit kits that, in turn, are used to attack ad servers," the researchers said.

In fact, two of the newly found Flash Player exploits have already been integrated into exploit kits that are used in malvertising attacks.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags intrusiontrend microsecurityExploits / vulnerabilitiesmalwareOracle

More about NATOOracleTrend Micro

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Lucian Constantin

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