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Phish For the Future

DEEPLINKS BLOG
September 27, 2017

Phish For the Future

Spearphishing

This report describes “Phish For The Future,” an advanced persistent spearphishing campaign targeting digital civil liberties activists at Free Press and Fight For the Future. Between July 7th and August 8th of 2017 we observed almost 70 spearphishing attempts against employees of internet freedom NGOs Fight for the Future and Free Press, all coming from the same attackers.

This campaign appears to have been aimed at stealing credentials for various business services including Google, Dropbox, and LinkedIn. At least one account was compromised and was used to send out additional spearphishing emails to others in the organization. Because the compromised account had been neglected for years and contained no recent activity, we suspect the attackers were trying to leverage trust in order to compromise a more recent or high-value account. We were unable to determine what the secondary goal of the campaign was after the credentials were stolen. The attackers were remarkably persistent, switching up their attacks after each failed attempt and becoming increasingly creative with their targeting over time.

An example of a google credential phishing page

Some of the attacks were generic, such as a link to view a Gmail document supposedly sent by a co-worker or a LinkedIn notification message from a colleague. Other spearphishing attempts demonstrated quite a bit more ingenuity. One attempt, which targeted Evan Greer, Campaign Director of Fight For The Future, pretended to be a question about where to find the link to buy her music, which is available online. Evan replied with a link. The attacker replied with an email in which they complained that the link was not working correctly, having replaced the link with a phishing page made to look like a Gmail login.  Another attack pretended to be from a target’s husband, sharing family photos; the email was forged to include the husband’s name. Yet another attack pretended to be a YouTube comment for a real YouTube video that the target had uploaded. As one might expect from a YouTube comment, the contents of the fake comment were quite aggressive and hateful.

Other attacks involved sending clickbait headlines to try to get the targets’ interest. Some of the headlines are designed to appeal to the political interests of the targets, such as: “George W. Bush ON TRUMP'S TWEET: A FREE PRESS IS ‘INDISPENSABLE TO DEMOCRACY,’” “Chelsea Manning's release is the inspiring proof: nothing is impossible,” and “Net Neutrality Activists 'Rickroll' FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.” While others are lurid clickbait, presumably designed to embarrass the recipient into clicking a fake unsubscribe link such as “Porn star Jessica Drake claims Donald Trump offered her $10G, use of his private jet for sex,”and “Reality show mom wants to hire a hooker for her autistic son.” The combination of headlines which would appeal to leftist activists and tabloid clickbait which is embarrassing to be found in one’s work email seems well designed to attract the attention of the targets. Each of the emails contained an “unsubscribe” link which lead the user to a gmail credential phishing page such as the one above.

Newspaper Headline "reality show mom..."

An example of the lurid headlines sent as clickbait

At one point the attackers got extremely creative, preying on anxiety about pornographic content showing up in work email. The attackers sent emails titled “You have been successfully subscribed to Pornhub.com” and “You have been successfully subscribed to Redtube.com” to the victims. This was followed up minutes later with several emails all disguised as coming from Pornhub or Redtube with explicit subject lines. Each of the emails contained an unsubscribe link which directed the target to a Google credential phishing page.

The sophistication of the targeting, the accuracy of the credential phishing pages, the working hours, and the persistent nature of the attacks seem to indicate that the attackers are professionals and had a budget for this campaign. The working hours, as determined by the times the emails were sent seem to indicate that the attackers are working for hire out of an office, they took Saturday and Sunday off. Their hours are consistent with working hours in the UTC+3-5:30 timezone. A login IP from the only account that was compromised successfully did not reveal the physical location of the attackers, as it belonged to AirVPN.

We observed 16 separate top level domains used in this campaign. Using historical whois data from Passive Total, we were able to discover that some of the domains had been registered with the email address amandalovers@mail[.]com. Several other domains, apparently not used in this campaign, were also registered by amandalovers@mail[.]com1, many of which followed a similar naming pattern to domains used for this campaign. Some of the domains had previously shared servers with domains used in these attacks, increasing our confidence that all of these domains are owned by the same actor. We also discovered a group of domains which were located on what appears to be a dedicated server with transferdomain[.]my, one of the domains used by the attackers.

Although this phishing campaign does not appear to have been carried out by a nation-state actor and does not involve malware, it serves as an important reminder that civil society is under attack. It is important for all activists, including those working on digital civil liberties issues in the United States, to be aware that they may be targeted by persistent actors who are well-informed about their targets’ personal and professional connections.

The good news is that 2-factor authentication is an effective countermeasure against the kinds of phishing attacks we saw in this campaign. Even SMS-based 2FA, the least secure 2-factor solution, would have effectively prevented these account takeovers. In addition to becoming adept at spotting emails associated with this phishing campaign, both organizations implemented 2FA on all accounts, which significantly reduced their attack surface.

Online activism is not always very organized. It often involves a centralized organization and a large network of volunteers, which can pose a security challenge. We recommend an organization-wide requirement to enable two-factor authentication on all accounts with access to sensitive data such as emails, social media accounts, planning documents, github logins, CMS logins, or other credentials. It is our recommended best practice to secure all accounts with two-factor authentication so that trusted compromised accounts can’t be used in the service of more effective spearphishing attacks. For more information on how to set up two-factor authentication see our Surveillance Self Defense guide.

Indicators of Compromise

Indicator

Type

Notes

amandalovers@mail.com

email

whois information

[redacted]@gmail.com.rcwnbkcoefuqxeh.mesvr.com

email

emails used in campaign

[redacted]@gmail.com.vedvvyuvlhlvifk.mesvr.com

email

emails used in campaign

n0replyn0tificati0nupdatemail@gmail.com

email

emails used in campaign

n0reply.notificationexsasuve@gmail.com

email

emails used in campaign

noreply.535466586you6585tubadh@gmail.com

email

emails used in campaign

no.reply.n0tification.alsdkch@gmail.com

email

emails used in campaign

noreply.notifications.gkejkdgj@gmail.com

email

emails used in campaign

noreplynotification.updates@gmail.com

email

emails used in campaign

no.reply.updates.asdfaffgh78jg@gmail.com

email

emails used in campaign

no-reply.updates.mailtghtjhthtth@mail.com

email

emails used in campaign

no-reply.updates.mailtghtjhthtth@mail.com.qcfhazrahkvspdi.mesvr.com

email

emails used in campaign

scorpiobond4@gmail.com

email

emails used in campaign

sophia.1johnson@mail.com

email

emails used in campaign

[redacted]@freepress.net.ccfczucunupblvv.mesvr.com

email

emails used in campaign

[redacted]@freepress.net.pyqdmoszioqnarv.mesvr.com

email

emails used in campaign

[redacted]@freepress.net.uaflghqlqzjaxsi.mesvr.com

email

emails used in campaign

[redacted]@freepress.net.urjkombsdfgsoui.mesvr.com

email

emails used in campaign

[redacted]@freepress.net.vcrzowfhbqqwnlv.mesvr.com

email

emails used in campaign

[redacted]@freepress.net.wpzrarbvxhjiacv.mesvr.com

email

emails used in campaign

[redacted]@freepress.net.zzchltemoounvvi.mesvr.com

email

emails used in campaign

tyc@anewwayforward.org

email

emails used in campaign

rulinuxbasic.com

domain

phish for the future

linuxbasicsg.com

domain

phish for the future

optionalbloggingeu.com

domain

phish for the future

shrinkthisurl.com

domain

phish for the future

optionalblogginguk.com

domain

phish for the future

linuxbasicsg1.com

domain

phish for the future

shrinkandshareurl.com

domain

phish for the future

transferdomainmy.com

domain

phish for the future

shoponlinefreeuk.com

domain

phish for the future

strngbltru.com

domain

phish for the future

linuxbasichk.com

domain

phish for the future

pushthisurl.com

domain

phish for the future

linuxbasichk1.com

domain

phish for the future

linuxbasicru.com

domain

phish for the future

domainsfortechhelp.com

domain

phish for the future

colnoygums.com

domain

associated with transferdomainmy.com

habbo.support

domain

associated with transferdomainmy.com

iofficedocx-sign.com

domain

associated with transferdomainmy.com

weboffice-exceldocuments.com

domain

associated with transferdomainmy.com

mehashwaree.com

domain

associated with transferdomainmy.com

user-recover.com

domain

associated with transferdomainmy.com

eofficedocx-websecure.com

domain

associated with transferdomainmy.com

transferdomainmy.com

domain

associated with transferdomainmy.com

unlqscan.com

domain

associated with transferdomainmy.com

versandwelt-klingel.com

domain

associated with transferdomainmy.com

active-life24.com

domain

associated with transferdomainmy.com

planyourexoticvacation.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

russialinuxbasic.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

updatenameserver45.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

optionalblogginges.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

domainsforsupport.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

linuxbasicru1.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

domainsforfreehosting.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

linuxbasicmy.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

hostingserviceforall.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

hostingserviceclean.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

hostingservicesukit.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

hostingservicesloyal.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

standardofficeholland.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

standardofficeil.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

standardofficeuk.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

serverfornetworks.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

serverformailings.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

postserverem.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

serviceforneworder.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

serverforzapper.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

loginservicehelp.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

shortenurlservices.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

youranotherserver.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

linuxhostingplatformuk.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

hostusewithtech.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

serverforhiretech.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

serverfortechhelp.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

serverforhome.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

blogforpranks.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

usewithcareathome.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

optionsothego.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

anitmationworldnews.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

servicegoingfar.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

trusteventservices.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

hostserverrus.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

registrationonlineeurope.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

secureservereurope.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

secureserverasia.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

serverasiasap.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

serverloadbalance.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

mailservereurope.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

localserversa.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

serverdemoservice.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

frwrdrwr.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

fastserveruk.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

fastserverasia.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

fastservereurope.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

fastserverusa.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

chromeperfection.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

trustedserviceonline.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

browserdirectservice.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

browserredirect.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

optionalblogging.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

selectedmaxstores.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

auditionregistrationonline.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

knowledgebaseonlineuk.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

homeforallorphans.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

getreadytorunhalfmarathon.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

linuxserverfast.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

tinyurlshortner.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

economyservicesil.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

maxlaboratories.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

selectiveservicemax.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

portfoliofasinating.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

backwaterreservoir.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

bellsouthnetwork.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

homeremedytipntricks.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

economyfeeds.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

ecoserveraus.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

cyberserverusa.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

inrsrvrer.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

mrgrhr.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

com-nh-en-us.com

domain

registered by amandalovers@mail.com

101.99.75.22

ipv4

currently hosts domains owned by attackers

101.99.75.6

ipv4

currently hosts domains owned by attackers

104.27.134.250

ipv4

currently hosts domains owned by attackers

111.90.149.149

ipv4

currently hosts domains owned by attackers

111.90.157.22

ipv4

currently hosts domains owned by attackers

111.90.157.26

ipv4

currently hosts domains owned by attackers

78.128.92.144

ipv4

currently hosts domains owned by attackers

78.128.92.223

ipv4

currently hosts domains owned by attackers

78.128.92.242

ipv4

currently hosts domains owned by attackers

  • 1. From this we can conclude that the attackers are bonded by their love of a woman or women named Amanda.
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