Cybercrime Disrupting SEABORGIUM’s Ongoing Phishing Operations


Thread author
Staff Member
Malware Hunter
Jul 27, 2015
Quote: " The Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) has observed and taken actions to disrupt campaigns launched by SEABORGIUM, an actor Microsoft has tracked since 2017. SEABORGIUM is a threat actor that originates from Russia, with objectives and victimology that align closely with Russian state interests. Its campaigns involve persistent phishing and credential theft campaigns leading to intrusions and data theft. SEABORGIUM intrusions have also been linked to hack-and-leak campaigns, where stolen and leaked data is used to shape narratives in targeted countries. While we cannot rule out that supporting elements of the group may have current or prior affiliations with criminal or other nonstate ecosystems, MSTIC assesses that information collected during SEABORGIUM intrusions likely supports traditional espionage objectives and information operations as opposed to financial motivations. "

Quote: "

SEABORGIUM is a highly persistent threat actor, frequently targeting the same organizations over long periods of time. Once successful, it slowly infiltrates targeted organizations’ social networks through constant impersonation, rapport building, and phishing to deepen their intrusion. SEABORGIUM has successfully compromised organizations and people of interest in consistent campaigns for several years, rarely changing methodologies or tactics. Based on known indicators of compromise and actor tactics, SEABORGIUM overlaps with the threat groups tracked as Callisto Group (F-Secure), TA446 (Proofpoint) and COLDRIVER (Google). Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) has associated Callisto with Gamaredon Group (tracked by Microsoft as ACTINIUM); however, MSTIC has not observed technical intrusion links to support the association.

Since the beginning of 2022, Microsoft has observed SEABORGIUM campaigns targeting over 30 organizations, in addition to personal accounts of people of interest. SEABORGIUM primarily targets NATO countries, particularly the US and the UK, with occasional targeting of other countries in the Baltics, the Nordics, and Eastern Europe. Such targeting has included the government sector of Ukraine in the months leading up to the invasion by Russia, and organizations involved in supporting roles for the war in Ukraine. Despite some targeting of these organizations, Microsoft assesses that Ukraine is likely not a primary focus for this actor; however, it is most likely a reactive focus area for the actor and one of many diverse targets. Within the target countries, SEABORGIUM primarily focuses operations on defense and intelligence consulting companies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), think tanks, and higher education. SEABORGIUM has a high interest in targeting individuals as well, with 30% of Microsoft’s nation-state notifications related to SEABORGIUM activity being delivered to Microsoft consumer email accounts. SEABORGIUM has been observed targeting former intelligence officials, experts in Russian affairs, and Russian citizens abroad. As with any observed nation-state actor activity, Microsoft directly notifies customers of Microsoft services that have been targeted or compromised, providing them with the information they need to secure their accounts. "

Quote: " Before starting a campaign, SEABORGIUM often conducts reconnaissance of target individuals, with a focus on identifying legitimate contacts in the targets’ distant social network or sphere of influence. Based on some of the impersonation and targeting observed, we suspect that the threat actor uses social media platforms, personal directories, and general open-source intelligence (OSINT) to supplement their reconnaissance efforts. MSTIC, in partnership with LinkedIn, has observed fraudulent profiles attributed to SEABORGIUM being used sporadically for conducting reconnaissance of employees from specific organizations of interest. In accordance with their policies, LinkedIn terminated any account (including the one shown below) identified as conducting inauthentic or fraudulent behavior.

SEABORGIUM also registers new email accounts at various consumer email providers, with the email address or alias configured to match legitimate aliases or names of impersonated individuals. While the creation of new consumer accounts is common, we have also observed SEABORGIUM returning to and reusing historical accounts that match the industry of the ultimate target. In one case, we observed SEABORGIUM returning to an account it had not used in a year, indicating potential tracking and reusing of accounts if relevant to targets’ verticals.

After registering new accounts, SEABORGIUM proceeds to establish contact with their target. In cases of personal or consumer targeting, MSTIC has mostly observed the actor starting the conversation with a benign email message, typically exchanging pleasantries before referencing a non-existent attachment while highlighting a topic of interest to the target. It’s likely that this additional step helps the actor establish rapport and avoid suspicion, resulting in further interaction. If the target replies, SEABORGIUM proceeds to send a weaponized email."

Quote: " MSTIC has observed an increase in the use of attachments in SEABORGIUM campaigns. These attachments typically imitate a file or document hosting service, including OneDrive, and request the user to open the document by clicking a button. SEABORGIUM also abuses OneDrive to host PDF files that contain a link to the malicious URL. This activity does not represent any security issues or vulnerabilities on the OneDrive platform. The actors include a OneDrive link in the body of the email that when clicked directs the user to a PDF file hosted within a SEABORGIUM-controlled OneDrive account. As seen in the previous example, the victim is presented with what appears to be a failed preview message, enticing the target to click the link to be directed to the credential-stealing infrastructure. Occasionaly, SEABORGIUM makes use of open redirects within the PDF file to further disguise their operational infrastructure. "

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