APT #5 – Cozy Bear

An artist’s impression of Cozy Bear

Cozy Bear APT is a sophisticated hacking group that has been operating since at least 2008. The group is believed to be based in Russia and has been linked to a number of high-profile cyber attacks against governments, companies, and other organizations.

One of the most significant attacks attributed to Cozy Bear APT was the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in the United States. This attack involved the theft of thousands of emails and other sensitive data from the DNC’s computer systems, and the subsequent release of this information on the internet in an effort to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Who has Cozy Bear attacked?

  • Cozy Bear hacked the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 US presidential election.
  • The group targeted the US State Department in a spear-phishing attack.
  • Cozy Bear compromised the website of a prominent think tank in a watering hole attack.
  • The group targeted the European Parliament in a spear-phishing campaign.
  • Cozy Bear was responsible for a data breach at the US Treasury and Commerce Departments.
  • The group hacked into the networks of several US government agencies in 2020.
  • Cozy Bear targeted COVID-19 vaccine research in a spear-phishing campaign.
  • The group compromised the email accounts of several senior officials in the UK Foreign Office.
  • Cozy Bear targeted the International Olympic Committee during the 2018 Winter Olympics.
  • The group carried out a spear-phishing attack against the US Department of Homeland Security.

Understanding Cozy Bear

Cozy Bear APT is known for using a variety of sophisticated tools and techniques to carry out their attacks. These tools and techniques include spearphishing, watering hole attacks, and the use of custom malware.

Spearphishing and Cozy Bear

In one example of a spear-phishing attack attributed to Cozy Bear, the group sent emails to employees of the US State Department in an effort to gain access to sensitive information. The emails appeared to be from a trusted sender and included a link to a fake login page designed to steal the victim’s credentials. Once the victim entered their login information, the attackers were able to access their email accounts and steal sensitive information.

Watering hole attacks and Cozy Bear

For an example of a watering hole attack, Cozy Bear compromised the website of a hotel in Europe that was frequently used by government officials and diplomatic staff. The attackers planted malware on the hotel’s website and waited for unsuspecting victims to visit the site. Once a victim visited the site, the malware was downloaded onto their system, giving the attackers access to sensitive information.

Cozy Bear’s malware suite

Cozy Bear APT is also known for using custom malware in their attacks. This malware is designed specifically to evade detection by antivirus software and other security measures. One example of custom malware used by Cozy Bear APT is Hammertoss, a tool that is designed to blend in with legitimate network traffic and evade detection.

In addition to these techniques, Cozy Bear APT is known to use a variety of other tools and methods in their attacks. For example, the group is believed to have used a commercial tool called Cobalt Strike to carry out post-exploitation activities, such as lateral movement through a network and the exfiltration of data. Cozy Bear is also believed to have used a tool called Mimikatz to steal Windows credentials and gain access to sensitive systems.

Ties to Russia…

Cozy Bear is widely believed to have strong ties to the Russian government, although the Russian government has denied involvement in their activities. The group’s attacks are seen as part of Russia’s broader strategy of using cyber espionage as a tool of statecraft.

Mitigating the threat

Despite the group’s sophistication and success in carrying out attacks, there are measures that organizations can take to mitigate the risk of being targeted by Cozy Bear APT. These measures include implementing strong cybersecurity measures, educating employees about the risks of spearphishing and other types of social engineering attacks, and staying up-to-date on the latest threats and vulnerabilities.

Organizations can also use threat intelligence services to stay informed about emerging threats and to monitor their networks for signs of compromise. These services can provide real-time alerts when indicators of compromise are detected, allowing organizations to respond quickly and effectively to potential attacks.

In addition to these measures, it’s important for organizations to have an incident response plan in place in the event of a cyber attack. This plan should include clear procedures for responding to a potential attack, such as isolating affected systems and contacting law enforcement.

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