Russian spy group adopts new tools to hack defense contractor networks

Pawn Storm uses air-gap defeating malware

A Russian cyberespionage group known as Pawn Storm has adopted new tools in an ongoing attack campaign against defense contractors with the goal of defeating network isolation policies.

Pawn Storm, also known as Sofacy, after its primary malware tool, has been active since at least 2007 and has targeted governmental, security and military organizations from NATO member countries, as well as media organizations, Ukrainian political activists and Kremlin critics.

Since August, the group has been engaged in an ongoing attack campaign focused on defense contractors, according to security researchers from Kaspersky Lab.

During this operation, the group has used a new version of a backdoor program called AZZY and a new set of data-stealing modules. One of those modules monitors for USB storage devices plugged into the computer and steals files from them based on rules defined by the attackers.

The Kaspersky Lab researchers believe that this module's goal is to defeat so-called network air gaps, network segments where sensitive data is stored and which are not connected to the Internet to limit their risk of compromise.

However, it's fairly common for employees in organizations that use such network isolation policies to move data from air-gapped computers to their workstations using USB thumb drives.

Pawn Storm joins other sophisticated cyberespionage groups, like Equation and Flame, that are known to have used malware designed to defeat network air gaps.

"Over the last year, the Sofacy group has increased its activity almost tenfold when compared to previous years, becoming one of the most prolific, agile and dynamic threat actors in the arena," the Kaspersky researchers said in a blog post. "This activity spiked in July 2015, when the group dropped two completely new exploits, an Office and Java zero-day."

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?