Some of my Webex rooms recently have been blowing up with memes about blaming Canada or wild speculation that a state-sponsored actor is carrying out some sort of major campaign.  

After a widespread outage of cellular service with AT&T and other carriers a few weeks ago, people were sure it was some sort of coordinated attack to disrupt Americans’ services that largely power our day-to-day lives. The outage lasted about 11 hours, and after the fact, the company announced they’d give customers a whopping $5 credit to make up for the issue. The Federal Communications Commission also announced last week that it was launching a formal investigation into the outage, requesting more information about the exact cause and how many users were affected.  

About two weeks later, the same kinds of messages and questions to our team came flooding in when Meta experienced an outage across many of its platforms, most notably Facebook, Instagram and Threads. Though this only lasted a few hours, any time Americans can’t access their Instagram feeds, it’s going to make headlines. 

In both cases, consumers immediately wanted to start pointing fingers — Which actor was behind these? Why is there so little information about this outage? Is this China getting revenge for talk of forcing a TikTok sale? What’s the broader conspiracy behind this? The outages also quickly opened the door for some of the world’s chief spreaders of misinformation and fake news to start spreading conspiracy theories. 

The problem is, not every technical issue can or needs to be explained away by a cyber attack. That’s not to undersell the danger that state-sponsored APTs pose currently, or the fact that they *could* one day cause a disruption like this. But jumping to that conclusion every time Down Detector pops off is only going to spread fear/FUD and help these outlets for disinformation reach a larger audience.  

It creates a “boy who cried wolf” situation for when a major cyber attack actually does happen, and the average consumer is forced to make an immediate update to some piece of software or hardware. 

There are a few reasons why we’re so ready to jump to the “it’s a cyber attack!” conclusion. One is that Hollywood has been “glamorizing” the idea of a major cyber attack or major disruption for years now. Movies and TV shows like Netflix’s “Leave the World Behind” have dramatized what a major cyber attack or internet outage may look like, and how quickly it could lead to the unraveling of civilization. Because of our current doomscrolling culture, the second something even looks like it could be a cyber event, we’re ready to declare the end of our economy and society. 

It’s also sexier when it’s a cyber attack. AT&T says its outage was caused by a technical error that occurred when it was trying to upgrade its network’s capacity, explicitly stating it was not caused by any sort of disruption campaign or cyber attack. Meta simply chalked their outage up to a “technical issue.”  

None of these things make for good headlines. But sometimes, the simplest explanation is the most obvious one — we’ve all pressed a wrong button here or there, and stuff breaks on the internet all the time for all sorts of reasons. But “Users logged out of Instagram after Meta employee hits ‘enter’ too soon” isn’t as eye-catching as “Are Instagram and Facebook down because of a cyber attack?” 

Could these multi-billion-dollar corporations be lying? Sure, but I also find it hard enough to believe that the truth would not have made it out to consumers by now if these outages weren’t simple technical issues, nor would AT&T feel compelled to reimburse customers for something that could be totally out of their control. 

And if you ever get logged out of Facebook or Instagram, maybe you’re just better off being offline for a few hours anyway than immediately assuming Mahershala Ali is going to be knocking on your vacation home’s door in any minute.   

The one big thing 

We want to keep reminding users to update and upgrade their network infrastructure. Aging devices like switches and routers that are used across the globe are a consistently vulnerable surface for adversaries to gain an initial foothold onto targeted networks. Talos recently highlighted the three most common post-compromise attacks that adversaries carry out after compromising these types of vulnerable devices, including modifying the device’s firmware and downgrading the firmware to remove older patches and open the door to new exploitable vulnerabilities. Nick Biasini from Talos Outreach also spoke about this issue for an article in NetworkWorld.  

Why do I care? 

As Hazel Burton puts it in the blog post linked above: “Adversaries, particularly APTs, are capitalizing on this scenario to conduct hidden post-compromise activities once they have gained initial access to the network. The goal here is to give themselves a greater foothold, conceal their activities, and hunt for data and intelligence that can assist them with their espionage and/or disruptive goals. Think of it like a burglar breaking into a house via the water pipes. They’re not using “traditional” methods such as breaking down doors or windows (the noisy smash-and-grab approach) — they’re using an unusual route, because no one ever thinks their house will be broken into via the water pipes. Their goal is to remain stealthy on the inside while they take their time to find the most valuable artefacts.” 

So now what? 

If you are using network infrastructure that is end of life, out of support, and now has vulnerabilities that cannot be patched, now really is the time to replace those devices. Using networking equipment that has been built with secure-by-design principles such as running secure boot, alongside having a robust configuration and patch management approach, is key to combatting these types of threats. Ensure that these devices are being watched very carefully for any configuration changes and patch them promptly whenever new vulnerabilities are discovered.   

Top security headlines of the week 

Security researchers have found a new vulnerability affecting chips made by nearly all major CPU makers dubbed “GhostRace.” The vulnerability, identified as CVE-2024-2193, requires an adversary to win a race condition and to have physical or privileged access to the targeted machine. However, it could allow a malicious user to steal potentially sensitive information from memory like passwords and encryption keys. "The vulnerability affects many CPU architectures, including those made by Intel, AMD, Arm and IBM. It also affected some hypervisor vendors and the Linux operating system. AMD released an advisory this week that informed customers that they should follow previous defense guidance for other security flaws like Spectre that have affected CPUs in the past. “Our analysis shows all the other common write-side synchronization primitives in the Linux kernel are ultimately implemented through a conditional branch and are therefore vulnerable to speculative race conditions,” VU Amsterdam said in its blog post disclosing GhostRace. (SecurityWeek, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Health care providers are still reeling from a cyber attack on Change Healthcare, a subsidiary of the United HealthGroup Inc. insurance provider. First Health Advisory, a digital health risk assurance firm, recently estimated that health care providers are losing an estimated $100 million daily as they still cannot process payments from insurance providers. Change first disclosed the suspected ransomware attack in late February, and on March 5, the U.S. government announced a plan to provide relief payments for providers who are facing financial shortfalls due to the outage. Many doctors' offices and care clinics are facing late rent payments and unpaid invoices. The attack has also limited some patients’ ability to obtain pre-authorization for certain services and surgeries, and others have not been able to refill their prescriptions at hospitals. U.S. Congress is also asking the CEO of United HealthGroup to appear before a committee to answer questions about the hack. (CBS News, Bloomberg

The U.S. has placed formal sanctions against two individuals and five entities associated with the Intellexa Consortium, responsible for developing and distributing the Predator spyware. Talos has previously reported on Intellexa’s tools, and how their spyware is silently loaded onto targeted devices. This is the first time the Treasury Department has sanctioned a spyware organization and announced it publicly. The sanctions include five vendors who work with Intellexa to sell the spyware, all of whom are spread across Europe. Intellexa itself is based in Greece. Predator and other spyware developed by private parties are often used to target high-risk individuals to track their communication and movement, including politicians, journalists, activists and political dissidents. Under the sanctions, anyone in the U.S. is forbidden from doing business with Intellexa or the associated companies and individuals. The Biden administration has long pushed for additional action against spyware makers, including Israel-based NSO Group, which distributes the Pegasus spyware. (Voice of America, Axios

Can’t get enough Talos? 

Upcoming events where you can find Talos 


Botconf (April 23 - 26) 

Nice, Côte d'Azur, France

This presentation from Chetan Raghuprasad details the Supershell C2 framework. Threat actors are using this framework massively and creating botnets with the Supershell implants.

CARO Workshop 2024 (May 1 - 3) 

Arlington, Virginia

Over the past year, we’ve observed a substantial uptick in attacks by YoroTrooper, a relatively nascent espionage-oriented threat actor operating against the Commonwealth of Independent Countries (CIS) since at least 2022. Asheer Malhotra's presentation at CARO 2024 will provide an overview of their various campaigns detailing the commodity and custom-built malware employed by the actor, their discovery and evolution in tactics. He will present a timeline of successful intrusions carried out by YoroTrooper targeting high-value individuals associated with CIS government agencies over the last two years.

RSA (May 6 - 9) 

San Francisco, California   

Most prevalent malware files from Talos telemetry over the past week 

SHA 256: a31f222fc283227f5e7988d1ad9c0aecd66d58bb7b4d8518ae23e110308dbf91  
MD5: 7bdbd180c081fa63ca94f9c22c457376 
Typical Filename: c0dwjdi6a.dll 
Claimed Product: N/A  
Detection Name: Trojan.GenericKD.33515991 

SHA 256: 24283c2eda68c559f85db7bf7ccfe3f81e2c7dfc98a304b2056f1a7c053594fe 
MD5: 49ae44d48c8ff0ee1b23a310cb2ecf5a 
Typical Filename: nYzVlQyRnQmDcXk 
Claimed Product: N/A 
Detection Name: Win.Dropper.Scar::tpd 

SHA 256: e38c53aedf49017c47725e4912fc7560e1c8ece2633c05057b22fd4a8ed28eb3 
MD5: c16df0bfc6fda86dbfa8948a566d32c1 
Typical Filename: CEPlus.docm 
Claimed Product: N/A  
Detection Name: 

SHA 256: 9f1f11a708d393e0a4109ae189bc64f1f3e312653dcf317a2bd406f18ffcc507  
MD5: 2915b3f8b703eb744fc54c81f4a9c67f  
Typical Filename: VID001.exe  
Claimed Product: N/A  
Detection Name: Win.Worm.Coinminer::1201 

SHA 256: e4973db44081591e9bff5117946defbef6041397e56164f485cf8ec57b1d8934 
MD5: 93fefc3e88ffb78abb36365fa5cf857c 
Typical Filename: Wextract 
Claimed Product: Internet Explorer 
Detection Name: W32.File.MalParent