Nobelium Espionage Campaign Persists, Service Providers in Crosshairs

In an advisory released on October 24, Microsoft announced ongoing campaigns it has attributed to the Nobelium state-sponsored threat group. IBM X-Force tracks this group as Hive099. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because it is the same group that targeted SolarWinds in 2020. The U.S. government has identified Nobelium as part of Russia’s foreign intelligence service known as the SVR.

Microsoft warns that the activity they are seeing appears to focus on cloud service resellers, technology providers, and their downstream customers in Europe and the U.S. organizations are urged to take notice and act to mitigate the risk of compromise.

Abusing Digital Trust Relationships

The ongoing wave of attacks is designed to abuse trusted relationships, such as delegated administrative privilege (DAP). Those can enable attackers to move through the channels that underpin provider/customer relationships. With the goal of compromising accounts at the service provider level, activity has persisted through summer of 2021 and does not appear to exploit any specific vulnerabilities. Instead, the attackers are reported to be using a toolkit of malware, password spraying, API abuse, and spear-phishing to obtain stolen credentials and infiltrate networks with privileged access.

These attack tactics are not novel, and organizations can arm themselves better to reduce the chance of compromise by using multi-factor authentication. Further mitigation can come from restricting the use of privileged access by employees and third parties alike. It is also recommended to review DAP and terminate unused access or places where suspicious activity may have been logged.

Remain Vigilant

At this time, IBM recommends that organizations with increased risk to Nobelium attacks begin looking into their specific implementations, both in cloud environments and on premises.

IBM is closely monitoring the overall situation and is engaged with clients and the security community. More details can be found in our designated X-Force Exchange collection, which will be updated as this situation evolves.

Assistance is also available to assist 24×7 via IBM Security X-Force’s US hotline 1-888-241-9812 | Global hotline (+001) 312-212-8034.

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Author: Limor Kessem