The Iranian based hacker group Charming Kitten, also known as APT35 or Ajax or Phosphorus is active since 2014. The hacker group primarily targets researchers from the US, Middle East, and France, focusing on Iranian academic researchers, Iranian dissidents in the US.
The group plays a vital role in democratic procedures, they attempt to intercept the elections in the US, Germany, and France.
Charming Kitten Attack Vector
The hacker group employes a spear-phishing method as the main attack vector, along with the phishing method the group attempts social media impersonation such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for delivering malicious links. They also use SMS for delivering malicious links.
Pretending as Google Services
Threat actors use Google sites domain to trick the users in downloading the attachments, and they also collect the user’s Google account credentials. The email found to be sent from a no-reply email address.
ClearSky researchers observed multiple waves of a phishing campaign, one with a link to Google Drive and another set of emails from a colleague’s email. The Google drive link appears below.
On clicking into the Google links, users are redirected to a shortened URL and directed to the malicious site. The malicious site poses as the entrance to Google services and tempts victims to enter login credentials.
SMS message as Attack Vector
Threat actors send SMS with a link embedded from the Sender ID ‘Live Recover’, the SMS asks to verify the victims with the attached link.
Login Attempt Alert
Attackers use to send fake login alerts, in one of the messages the victim receives a security alert for Yahoo, but the email was sent from Gmail.
Researchers found that Charming Kitten impersonates as a security team of social networks such as facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
“We have found an open directory at port 80 which contains files relevant for the deployment of different phishing sites. As seen from the picture, the first uploaded files were Facebook and Twitter impersonations.”
Recently Microsoft issued a serious warning that Iran state-sponsored hacking group Charming Kitten targets Government and private sector to compromise high profile email accounts.