I found the juxtaposition of stories on the Talos blog over the past week-plus kind of funny. 

On one hand, we had a massive story about Arid Viper, a Middle Eastern threat actor spreading spyware, one of the most dangerous types of malware out there right now, operating out of Gaza no less. 

Then, we had “Roblox,” a children’s video game (which I’ve written about multiple times and I maintain was the OG metaverse).  

The scale of these attacks is obviously vastly different. Spyware is being used across the globe to monitor some of the most vulnerable activists, journalists and government officials to track their physical movement.  

Meanwhile, “Roblox” players are losing money in a game where the characters look like vague LEGO minifigure knockoffs.  

And the blog homepage is just a perfect encapsulation of how cybersecurity means more than just blocking malware. It can mean teaching your children how to stay safe when they go online, how to properly lock down your login credentials and just being smart at spotting scams. 

But it can also have global implications in areas where there is a global military conflict, just like we’ve written about countless times in Ukraine. 

I would never call one security researcher’s work more “important” than another's — everyone in the security community works extremely hard to keep the internet safe, no matter what company you work for or what your area of expertise is. Tiago from our Outreach team who wrote about the “Roblox” scams has certainly done way more malware research beyond this. But it’s clear that the real-world implications of both these threats are very different. 

For me, the takeaway is just to leave room for all of this. It can be easy to get caught up in the “big” questions in cybersecurity, like how to stop ransomware globally or keep hospitals up and running when they’re targeted by data theft extortion. But that doesn’t mean we can ignore the “small stuff” either because those problems are more likely to end up on our virtual front door. 

If I may continue to plug Talos’ work, we have a new video series launching today, too, under our Threat Spotlight banner. Each month, Decipher reporters and Talos researchers will team up to recap the top stories, malware and threats in the headlines. We’re excited about this new partnership with Decipher.


The one big thing 

Attackers are using a new tactic to get spam through their email inbox filters via Google Forms. Google Forms has a “quiz” option for their fields, and adversaries have found a workaround to send the “answers” to a quiz to targets, which are actually spam messages that appear to the user like they’re legitimate messages coming from Google. In one case, we found a deep cryptocurrency-related scam using this method, and other actors are just hoping to get the user to click on a malicious link that could lead to other scams or malware.  

Why do I care? 

The average user is going to see a message from Google Forms, especially after they just filled out a Form, and assume it’s legitimate, so attackers are more likely to be successful using this method of delivering their spam compared to traditional email methods. Google Forms abuse has been present in spam attacks for several years, though our investigation showed that this particular feature of Google Forms quizzes was not very heavily abused to send spam until relatively recently. 

So now what? 

As with all types of spam, follow the basic rule, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” While there is no concrete method of blocking these comments and quiz results from coming through, if you’re using Google Forms, be weary of illegitimate messages making their way through. Look for things like misspellings, typos, or URLs that you don’t recognize.  

Top security headlines of the week 

A coalition of more than 40 international governments, including the European Union and Interpol, have agreed to not pay ransomware attackers’ extortion payments. The commitment came from last week's U.S.-led Counter Ransomware Initiative meeting and applies to those countries’ government agencies. Private companies who operate in these nations are most often the targets of ransomware, however, but leaders hope the pledge will influence them to take the same stance. Whether to pay the ransom is often a tough decision for the private sector, which needs to balance the cost of keeping their network operations offline during recovery versus having their files returned as quickly as possible. However, there is never a guarantee that the ransomware actor will provide a decryption key as promised. Government officials hope that cutting off the flow of income to the threat actors will dry up their resources and discourage future attacks. (Axios, Reuters

Atlassian elevated a recently disclosed vulnerability to the maximum severity rating after threat actors started exploiting it to deliver the Cerber ransomware. CVE-2023-22518 is an improper authorization vulnerability in Confluence Data Center and Server, which first received a patch on Oct. 31. Adversaries can exploit this vulnerability on internet-facing Confluence servers by sending specially devised requests to setup-restore endpoints. Confluence accounts hosted in Atlassian’s cloud environment are not affected, according to the company. In its initial disclosure of CVE-2023-22518, Atlassian warned of “significant data loss if exploited” and said, “customers must take immediate action to protect their instances.” (SC Media, Ars Technica

The Mozi botnet mysteriously has gone offline, and experts are unsure if the original creators are responsible. Mozi was once a massive network that attackers used to carry out distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, data exfiltration and payload execution against internet-of-things (IoT) devices. Once one of the largest botnets in the world, it’s now essentially offline, according to security researchers. A kill switch seems to be the root cause, though it’s unclear if the operators did this on their own volition if they had their hand forced by law enforcement, or if another third party was involved. The kill switch code shares some code snippets with the original botnet, and whoever deployed it used the correct private keys to sign the payload. Botnets tend to still come back to life after reported takedowns, so there is no guarantee that Mozi is gone forever. (Dark Reading, The Register

Can’t get enough Talos? 

Upcoming events where you can find Talos 

Black Hat Middle East and Africa (Nov. 16) 

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 

Rami Atalhi from Talos Incident Response will discuss how generative AI affects red and blue teams in cybersecurity. Discover how generative AI creates a bridge between these teams, fostering teamwork and innovative strategies. Real-world cases will demonstrate how generative AI drives success, providing insights for building resilient cybersecurity plans. 

misecCON (Nov. 17) 

Lansing, Michigan 

Terryn Valikodath from Talos Incident Response will deliver a talk providing advice on the best ways to conduct analysis, learning from his years of experience (and mishaps). He will speak about the everyday tasks he and his Talos IR teammates must go through to properly perform analysis. This talk covers topics such as planning, finding evil, recording findings, correlation and creating your own timelines. 

"Power of the Platform” by Cisco (Dec. 5 & 7) 

Virtual (Please note: This presentation will only be given in German) 

The annual IT event at the end of the year where Cisco experts, including Gergana Karadzhova-Dangela from Cisco Talos Incident Response, discuss the future-oriented topics in the implementation of digitalization together with you.  

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: bea312ccbc8a912d4322b45ea64d69bb3add4d818fd1eb7723260b11d76a138a 
MD5: 200206279107f4a2bb1832e3fcd7d64c 
Typical Filename: lsgkozfm.bat 
Claimed Product: N/A 
Detection Name: Win.Dropper.Scar::tpd 

SHA 256: 8664e2f59077c58ac12e747da09d2810fd5ca611f56c0c900578bf750cab56b7  
MD5: 0e4c49327e3be816022a233f844a5731  
Typical Filename: aact.exe  
Claimed Product: AAct x86  
Detection Name: PUA.Win.Tool.Kmsauto::in03.talos 

SHA 256: 5e537dee6d7478cba56ebbcc7a695cae2609010a897d766ff578a4260c2ac9cf 
MD5: 2cfc15cb15acc1ff2b2da65c790d7551 
Typical Filename: rcx4d83.tmp 
Claimed Product: N/A   
Detection Name: Win.Dropper.Pykspa::tpd 

SHA 256: 975517668a3fe020f1dbb1caafde7180fd9216dcbf0ea147675ec287287f86aa 
MD5: 9403425a34e0c78a919681a09e5c16da 
Typical Filename: vincpsarzh.exe 
Claimed Product: N/A 
Detection Name: Win.Dropper.Scar::tpd