Dissection of Sednit Espionage Group

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ESET researchers announce the staggered release of their extensive 3-part research paper “En-Route with Sednit” today. This infamous group of cyber-attackers— also known as APT28, Fancy Bear and Sofacy, has been operating since 2004; its main objective, stealing confidential information from specific targets.

  • Part 1: En Route with Sednit: Approaching the Target focuses on whom its phishing campaigns are aimed, the attack methods used and the first-stage malware we call SEDUPLOADER, composed of a dropper and its associated payload.
  • Part 2: “En Route with Sednit: Observing the Comings and Goings” covers Sednit’s activities since 2014 and looks at its espionage toolkit, used for the long-term monitoring of compromised computers via two spying backdoors SEDRECO and XAGENT, plus the network tool XTUNNEL.
  • Part 3: “En Route with Sednit: A Mysterious Downloader” describes the first-stage software named DOWNDELPH, which, according to our telemetry data has only been deployed seven times. Of note, some of these deployments employed advanced persistence methods: Windows bootkit and a Windows rootkit.

“ESET’s ongoing interest in these malevolent activities was born from the detection of an impressive number of custom software deployed by the Sednit group over the last two years,” said Alexis Dorais-Joncas, the ESET Security Intelligence team lead dedicated to exploring the mystery behind Sednit group. “Sednit's arsenal is in constant development; the group deploys brand-new software and techniques on a regular basis, while their flagship malware has also evolved significantly over the last years.”

According to ESET researchers, data collected from Sednit phishing campaigns show that more than 1,000 high-profile individuals involved in Eastern European politics were attacked. “Moreover, Sednit group, unlike any other espionage group before, developed its own exploit kit and deployed a surprisingly high number of 0-day exploits,” concluded Dorais-Joncas.

Over the past several years, the group’s high-profile activities have invited the considerable interest of many researchers in this field. Hence, the intended contribution of this document is to provide a readable technical description, with tightly grouped indicators of compromise (IOCs), available for immediate leverage by both researchers and defenders alike tasked with analyzing Sednit detections.

The whole 3-part paper is extensively backed-up on ESET’s GitHub account.

For further information, please visit ESET’s news portal WeLiveSecurity.com, read introductory blogpost for Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3 or dive-deep into all 3-parts of the whitepaper:

ESET will as well issue a digest from all three parts on its news portal WeLiveSecurity.com.