Research

OPERATION SOFT CELL: A WORLDWIDE CAMPAIGN AGAINST TELECOMMUNICATIONS PROVIDERS

RESEARCH BY: MOR LEVI, ASSAF DAHAN, AND AMIT SERPER

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

In 2018, the Cybereason Nocturnus team identified an advanced, persistent attack targeting global telecommunications providers carried out by a threat actor using tools and techniques commonly associated with Chinese-affiliated threat actors, such as APT10.  This multi-wave attacks focused on obtaining data of specific, high-value targets and resulted in a complete takeover of the network.

KEY POINTS

  • Earlier this year, Cybereason identified an advanced, persistent attack targeting telecommunications providers that has been underway for years, soon after deploying into the environment.
  • Cybereason spotted the attack and later supported the telecommunications provider through four more waves of the advanced persistent attack over the course of 6 months.
  • Based on the data available to us, Operation Soft Cell has been active since at least 2012, though some evidence suggests even earlier activity by the threat actor against telecommunications providers.
  • The attack was aiming to obtain CDR records of a large telecommunications provider.
  • The threat actor was attempting to steal all data stored in the active directory, compromising every single username and password in the organization, along with other personally identifiable information, billing data, call detail records, credentials, email servers, geo-location of users, and more.
  • The tools and TTPs used are commonly associated with Chinese threat actors
  • During the persistent attack, the attackers worked in waves- abandoning one thread of attack when it was detected and stopped, only to return months later with new tools and techniques.

SECURITY RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Add an additional security layer for web servers. For example, use WAF (Web Application FW) to prevent trivial attacks on Internet-facing web servers.
  • Expose as few systems or ports to the Internet as possible. Make sure that all web servers and web services that are exposed are patched.
  • Use an EDR tool to give visibility and immediate response capabilities when high severity incidents are detected.
  • Proactively hunt in your environment for sensitive assets periodically.

 

For more details about this research, please visit: https://www.cybereason.com/blog/operation-soft-cell-a-worldwide-campaign-against-telecommunications-providers

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