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NCC raises alarm as Iranian Hacking Group, Lyceum attack Nigerian Ministry Of Foreign Affairs, Telcos

An Iranian hacking group known as Lyceum is targeting telecoms Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Ministries of Foreign Affairs in Nigeria and other African countries, the Nigerian Communications Commission has said.

The NCC said the hackers are using upgraded malware in recent politically motivated attacks oriented in cyber espionage.

The agency said the Nigerian Computer Emergency Response Team has rated the probability and damage level of the new malware as high.

Between July and October, 2021, Lyceum was indicted in attacks against ISPs and telecoms organisations in Israel, Morocco, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia.

NCC said, “The Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) group has been linked to campaigns that hit Middle Eastern oil and gas companies in the past. Now, the group appears to have expanded its focus to the technology sector. In addition, the APT is responsible for a campaign against an unnamed African government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“By the attackers’ mode of operation, Lyceum’s initial onslaught vectors include credential stuffing and brute-force attacks. So, once a victim’s system is compromised, the attackers conduct surveillance on specific targets. In that mode, Lyceum will attempt to deploy two different kinds of malware: Shark and Milan (known together as James).

“Both malware are backdoors. Shark, a 32-bit executable written in C# and .NET, generates a configuration file for domain name system (DNS) tunneling or Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) C2 communications; whereas Milan – a 32-bit Remote Access Trojan (RAT) retrieves data.

“Both are able to communicate with the group’s command-and-control (C2) servers. The APT maintains a C2 server network that connects to the group’s backdoors, consisting of over 20 domains, including six that were previously not associated with the threat actors.”

NCC explained that Lyceum targets individual accounts at companies of interest.

Once the targeted accounts are breached, they are used as a springboard to launch spear-phishing attacks against high-profile executives in an organization.

“Not only do these attackers seek out data on subscribers and connected third-party companies, but once compromised, threat actors or their sponsors can also use these industries to surveil individuals of interest,” NCC added.

The commission advised Nigerians to ensure the consistent use of firewalls (software, hardware and cloud firewalls).

NCC further advised Nigerians to, “Install Up-to-date antivirus programmes to help detect and prevent a wide range of malware, trojans, and viruses, which APT hackers will use to exploit your system.

“Implement the use of Intrusion Prevention Systems that monitor your network.

“Create a secure sandboxing environment that allows you to open and run untrusted programs or codes without risking harm to your operating system.

“Ensure the use of a virtual private network (VPN) to prevent an easy opportunity for APT hackers to gain initial access to your company’s network.

“Enable spam and malware protection for your email applications, and educate your employees on how to identify potentially malicious emails.”

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