‘The Weirdest Development in Cybersecurity’: Nation-States Returning to USBs

'The Weirdest Trend in Cybersecurity': Nation-States Returning to USBs

Nation-state cyber risk teams are as soon as once more turning to USBs to compromise extremely guarded authorities organizations and demanding infrastructure amenities.

Having fallen out of vogue for a while, and positively not helped by COVID lockdowns, USBs are as soon as once more proving an efficient manner for high-level risk actors to bodily bypass safety at notably delicate organizations.

In a keynote presentation this week at CPX 2024 in Las Vegas, Maya Horowitz, vp of analysis at Examine Level, famous that USBs represented the first an infection vector for at the very least three completely different main risk teams in 2023: China’s Camaro Dragon (aka Mustang Panda, Bronze President, Earth Preta, Luminous Moth, Crimson Delta, Stately Taurus); Russia’s Gamaredon (aka Primitive Bear, UNC530, ACTINIUM, Shuckworm, UAC-0010, Aqua Blizzard), and the risk actors behind Raspberry Robin.

“For fairly a number of years, we did not actually hear about USBs — it was all cyberattacks over the Web,” Horowitz tells Darkish Studying. “However normally there are fashions with risk actors — one assault is profitable, so others will copy it. I believe that that is what we’re beginning to see with USB drives, resurfacing this assault vector.”

Resurgent Menace of USBs

How usually have you ever opened your door, seen an Amazon bundle in your welcome mat, and forgotten what you’d truly ordered two days in the past?

“Not too long ago, we labored with an influence firm the place one of many workers acquired an Amazon field, with Amazon tape,” Daniel Wiley, Examine Level head of risk administration, recalled at a Wednesday presser. “Inside there was a sealed SanDisk USB — utterly model new. He thought his spouse ordered it. So he opened it up, plugged it in. The whole lot else was a sequence response. It was capable of break in throughout their VPN. Let’s simply say the ability firm was not in place.”

That it was an influence firm worker was no coincidence — important trade usually separates IT and OT networks with air gaps or unidirectional gateways, via which Web-based assaults can not journey. USBs present a bridge over that hole, as Stuxnet famously demonstrated greater than a decade in the past.

USB assaults might be helpful with out that air-gap constraint as effectively. Contemplate an worker of a UK hospital, who not way back attended a convention in Asia. Through the convention, he shared his presentation with fellow attendees by way of a USB drive. Sadly, one in every of his colleagues was contaminated with Camaro Dragon malware, which the hospital worker then caught and introduced again with him to the UK, infecting the hospital’s complete company community.

As Horowitz recalled in her keynote, the malware opened up a backdoor into newly contaminated machines but additionally acted like a worm, transmitting to any new units coming into contact by way of USB. This enabled it to unfold past Western Europe into nations reminiscent of India, Myanmar, Russia, and South Korea.

Raspberry Robin has been spreading in a lot the identical manner, enabling ransomware actors worldwide. And Gamaredon’s USBs have taken its LitterDrifter worm to nations as various as Chile, Germany, Poland, South Korea, Ukraine, the US, and Vietnam.

What to Do About These Pesky USBs

There are easy steps organizations can take to guard towards most USB-bound threats, like all the time separating private and work units, and treating the latter with elevated care.

“Some organizations solely scan recordsdata which can be downloaded from the Web,” Horowitz stated. “That is improper, as a result of both risk actors or workers that need to trigger injury can deliver their very own USB drive to bypass that safety saved for recordsdata which can be downloaded from the Web.”

Important infrastructure industries must go a step additional: sanitation stations, strict detachable system insurance policies, and tape over a USB port can do the trick in a pinch.

For organizations that do not need to — or cannot afford to — surrender on detachable media, “Carry Your Personal Machine (BYOD) is OK, you are able to do it, however it implies that you want extra safety layers,” Horowitz tells Darkish Studying.

And most vital of all: “Examine your orders on Amazon earlier than you open them,” Wiley quipped.


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