Iran-linked Tortoiseshell APT behind watering hole attacks on shipping and logistics Israeli websites
Iran-linked threat actor Tortoiseshell targeted shipping, logistics, and financial services companies in Israel with watering hole attacks.
ClearSky Cyber Security uncovered a watering hole attack on at least eight Israeli websites belonging to shipping, logistics, and financial services companies and attributed them with low confidence to the Iran-linked APT group Tortoiseshell (aka TA456 or Imperial Kitten).
The threat actors used a script on the compromised websites to collect preliminary user information.
The activity of the APT group was first detailed by Symantec in 2019, the experts analyzed a series of attacks against IT providers in Saudi Arabia and US entities. The expert spotted the Iranian group in 2018, but they speculate that it has been active for a longer time.
Five out of eight compromised websites were hosted by the uPress hosting service, which was hit by a cyber attack carried out by the Iranian group Emennet Pasargad5, “Hackers of Savior”, in 2020.
“uPress”, a hosting service, was attacked in 2020 by the Iranian group Emennet Pasargad5 , “Hackers of Savior”, who defaced thousands of Israeli sites hosted by it.
The collected data were transferred into a JSON file via a POST request to a website under the control of the threat actor.
“The script is downloaded from the malicious website cdnpakage[.]com. Our team discovered that cdnpakage[.]com previously had another SSL certificate related to another domain – globalpneuservices[.]com.” reads the report published by ClearSky. “Using the domain cdnpakage[.]com, additional infected domains were found: tel-bar.co[.]il, aviram.co[.]il.”
The attribution to an Iran-linked APT is based on the following evidence:
- C2 Attribution – The domain jquery-stack[.]online is attributed to TA456 (Tortoiseshell).
by using “jQuery” in their domain names. The trick to use domain names impersonating jQuery was observed in a previous Iranian campaign from 2017.
- Watering holes have been part of the initial access stage used by Iran-linked APT since at
- Iranian threat actors target Israeli websites and attempt to collect data on logistics companies
associated with shipping and healthcare.
- Re-use of open-source penetration testing tools that focus on web browsers was seen both in
an Iranian campaign in 2017 and in this current campaign.
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