It’s that time of the year when not only do you have to be worried about filing your federal taxes in the U.S., you must also be on the lookout for a whole manner of tax-related scams.  

These are something that pop up every year through email, texts, phone calls and even physical mail — phony promises to get your tax return back faster, file your taxes “easy and free” or maximizing your possible return. Usually, the bad actors behind these are either looking to steal your money or personal information.  

One scam from last year’s tax season could have cost consumers up to $5,000 in penalties for trying to claim a fraudulent tax credit.  

And it turns out this isn’t just a problem in the U.S., either. We published new research last week into a trojan malware that’s been infecting victims in Mexico with tax-related spam emails and other social engineering tactics.  

Many countries across the world all have tax filing deadlines around the same time — Japan’s is just around the corner on March 15, in the U.S. it’s April 15, and several countries (Brazil, Canada, Chile, etc.) all share an April 30 filing deadline. So, adversaries all over the globe are going to be leveraging tax-related topics in their spam emails and social engineering campaigns in the coming weeks, trying to steal money, infect devices with malware, or steal critical personal information. 

It’s important to remember that this isn’t “peak spam season” or anything, though, and it’s not the time to spread FUD that, “Oh, your inboxes are going to be flooded with spam!” 

As I’ve written and talked about before, there isn’t more spam during tax season, it’s just different. Think about the confirmation bias that pops up when you buy a new car, and then suddenly you start seeing that car everywhere else on the road when you didn’t notice it as much before.  

Talos’ telemetry indicates that spam hasn’t increased during tax filing season in the U.S. for many years, and attackers’ tactics largely stay the same: Try to create a convincing offer, document, or link, and try to convince the target to engage with that social engineering in some form.  

It’s important to be vigilant about tax-related scams any time these deadlines roll around, regardless of what country you’re in, but it’s not like you need to be particularly more skeptical in March and April than any other time of the year. As soon as the tax filing deadline comes and goes, attackers will just start looking for the next hot topic to include in their phishing emails — presidential primaries, summer vacation deals or fake Amazon gift cards. 

If you want to hear more about this, listen to the episode of Talos Takes on this topic from last year below. 

The one big thing 

An APT known as GhostSec has increased its ransomware activities over the past year and is now conducting “double extortion” ransomware attacks with fellow group Stormous. GhostSec and Stormous have also launched a new ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) program STMX_GhostLocker and are actively recruiting new affiliates or members.  

Why do I care? 

Talos observed the GhostSec and Stormous ransomware groups operating together to conduct several double extortion attacks using the GhostLocker and StormousX ransomware programs against the victims in Cuba, Argentina, Poland, China, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Vietnam, Thailand and more nations, according to our assessment of the disclosure messages posted by the group in their Telegram channels and Stormous ransomware data leak site. This shows that the groups’ activities are not going to be contained just in one region or industry. RaaS has been a popular business model for many ransomware groups recently, which opens the door to other actors to use GhostSec’s tools by just paying them money.  

So now what? 

Talos has released new IOCs to provide defenders with new ways to block these ransomware actors. One of the implants GhostSec specifically relies on injects an admin bypass and hacking tool targeting the WordPress content management system. Any WordPress users should make sure their login credentials are up-to-date and strong and check their site to ensure there aren’t any illegitimate plugins or processes running on their site.  

Top security headlines of the week 

A fake ransomware gang calling itself “Mogilevich” admitted that they made up a claim that it had hacked video game developer Epic and stolen personal information and game source code. A leak page from the group claimed to have 200GB of data stolen from the company available for sale to other threat actors, or they would return the stolen information to Epic in exchange for a ransom payment. The group claimed it had "email, passwords, full name, payment information, source code and many other data." Epic immediately came forward sand said it had not detected any evidence of a hack or data breach. A few days after the claims went public, representatives from Mogilevich later came forward and called themselves “professional fraudsters” and they never hacked Epic’s network. Epic is known for the popular online platform and game “Fortnite.” The fraudsters also admitted that they had sold fake ransomware infrastructure to other would-be actors who wanted to carry out attacks themselves, including tricking one buyer out of $85,000. (Eurogamer, Cyber Daily

A popular series of white-label security cameras are littered with an array of security vulnerabilities that could allow adversaries to collect images from their cameras without users knowing. The cameras are manufactured by the same company, but sold under the labels of Eken and Tuck on popular websites like Amazon, Walmart, Sears and Temu. The doorbells also do not have a visible ID issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that’s normally required by the agency, which technically makes them illegal to distribute in the U.S., though many of them were still for sale as of late February. The vulnerabilities affect more than 10 different products, which are all controlled by the same app that’s available on the Android app store. All an adversary would need to do to exploit the vulnerabilities and spy on the camera would be to acquire the serial number — no notification is sent to the doorbell’s owner when there’s a new pairing, and the adversary doesn’t even need an account username or password. Retailers that list the cameras for sale did not respond to a request for comment from Consumer Reports, the outlet that performed the research. (Consumer Reports, TechCrunch

Payment systems across the U.S. health care system are offline, with many doctors having to switch to paper billing, after a massive data breach at Change Healthcare, a subsidiary of the UnitedHealth insurance company. Change Healthcare first disclosed the breach on Feb. 21 after adversaries disrupted operations for the company, which processes 15 billion health care-related transactions every year. Now the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is urging health care systems and doctors who use Change to start developing alternatives, as they are unsure when systems will be back online. Change Healthcare is a system that connects doctors, hospitals and other health care providers with insurance companies to pay for medical care and authorize assorted services for patients. The follow-on effects have also been difficult on providers, who are now being faced with rent and other bills that they can’t pay because they still haven’t been paid by insurance companies. (USA Today, The New York Times

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: 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 

SHA 256: 9ef2e8714e85dcd116b709894b43babb4a0872225ae7363152013b7fd1bc95bc 
MD5: 4813fa6d610e180b097eae0ce636d2aa 
Typical Filename: xmrig.exe 
Claimed Product: XMRig 
Detection Name: Trojan.GenericKD.70491190 

SHA 256: a75004c0bf61a2300258d99660552d88bf4e1fe6edab188aad5ac207babcf421 
MD5: c44f8ef0bbaeee256bfb62561c2a17db 
Typical Filename: ggzokjcqkgcbqiaxoohw.exe 
Claimed Product: N/A  
Detection Name: Symmi:GenMalicious-tpd