Iranian cyber espionage group APT39 focus on stealing on personal information o perform monitoring, tracking, or surveillance operations against specific individuals.

The group carrying a widespread campaign focused their operations in the Middle East, the U.S. and South Korea. Following are the industries targeted including telecommunications, travel industries, high-tech industry, and government entities.

“We have moderate confidence APT39 operations are conducted in support of Iranian national interests based on regional targeting patterns focused in the Middle East, infrastructure, timing, and similarities to APT34”, reads FireEye report.

Focused Attack – APT39

The attack starts with spear phishing emails, stolen credentials, and web server compromise. Phishing emails carry malicious attachments resulting in downloading the POWBAT malware.

For C2 server communications the hacker group register domains that pose as a legitimate one and relevant to organizations.

Also, the group compromise web servers with know vulnerabilities of the targeted organizations and inject web shells such as ANTAK and ASPXSPY. Stolen credentials used to gain access to the email accounts.

APT39 uses custom backdoors such as SEAWEED, CACHEMONEY variants of POWBAT to gain access to the target organizations and to escalate privileges using freely available tools such as Mimikatz and Ncrack.


Lateral movement carried out through popular tools such as Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), Secure Shell (SSH), PsExec, RemCom, xCmdSvc and with custom tools REDTRIP, PINKTRIP, and BLUETRIP.

To archive, the stolen data the APT 39 group uses WinRAR or 7-Zip and they use a modified version of Mimikatz to evade anti-virus detection.

Telecommunication and travel industries are the prime targets for the group as they as they store large amounts of personal and customer information,

“APT39’s targeting not only represents a threat to known targeted industries, but it extends to these organizations’ clientele, which includes a wide variety of sectors and individuals on a global scale,” researchers concluded.

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