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Wednesday, 10 July 2019 10:17

State-sponsored group compromised Greece domain admin: claim

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State-sponsored group compromised Greece domain admin: claim Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

A state-sponsored group compromised the organisation that manages the top-level domains for Greece — .gr and .el — in April this year, the Cisco Talos Intelligence Group claims, adding that those behind it appeared to be a group that they had earlier named Sea Turtle.

Researchers Danny Adamitis and Paul Rascagneres said in a blog post that the compromise had been carried out through a new DNS hijacking technique.

In their first report on Sea Turtle, the Cisco researchers said a total of 40 organisations in 13 countries had been compromised by what they claimed was an advanced state-sponsored actor that appeared to be looking to gain persistent access to sensitive networks and systems.

The organisation that manages the top-level domains for Greece is known as the Institute of Computer Science of the Foundation for Research and Technology – Hellas or ICS-Forth announced on 19 April that it had been compromised. Adamitis and Rascagneres said Cisco telemetry had confirmed that Se Turtle was responsible.

"Cisco telemetry confirmed that the actors behind Sea Turtle maintained access to the ICS-Forth network from an operational command and control (C2) node," they said.

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"Our telemetry indicates that the actors maintained access in the ICS-Forth network through at least 24 April, five days after the statement was publicly released.

"Upon analysis of this operational C2 node, we determined that it was also used to access an organisation in Syria that was previously redirected using the actor-controlled name server ns1[.]intersecdns[.]com. This indicates that the same threat actors were behind both operations."

New primary targets which were attacked by Sea Turtle included government organisations, energy companies, think-tanks, international NGOs and at least one airport, Adamitis and Rascagneres said.

The Talos researchers did not speculate as to which country might be behind Sea Turtle.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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