The security firm RiskIQ released a detailed report about the group's extensive activities on Wednesday US time. Some details about the Wipro attack were revealed by security outfit Flashpoint in May.
RiskIQ head researcher Yonathan Klijnsma told iTWire that the company agreed with Flashpoint's overall conclusion – that the group had been at work for many years across multiple campaigns, using open source/publicly available tooling.
But, he added, "We cannot confirm the connections made to malicious files like Netwire, as those connections did not line up with our findings and analysis."
RiskIQ said widely used email marketing and analytics tools were used by the attackers to create effective phishing campaigns that would appear legitimate to their targets' network security.
The primary targets were major gift card retailers, distributors, and card processors.
Firms involved in financial transactions processing, reserve, and clearing house activities that were targeted.
After gaining access to the gift card infrastructure, the attackers used money transfer services, clearing houses, and other payment processing institutions to monetise their loot.
RiskIQ also found that a PowerShell script, BabySharkPro, used by the group had been associated with North Korean threat activity in the past. But the company said this could have been a false flag to mislead researchers.
The company concluded that the Wipro attack was part of broader targeting in a bid to widen the attackers' reach.
Asked what the ultimate purpose of the attacks was, Klijnsma said: "Based on our analysis of network infrastructure and organisations targeted, RiskIQ finds that the common thread connecting all target organisation links to gift cards and the gift ecosystem.
"Based on this common thread we believe that the actors behind this attack were attempting to gain access to money outside the traditional financial ecosystem."
Klijnsma and fellow researcher Steve Ginty said in their report that the group appeared to have been operating since 2016. They said they had found at least five different attack campaigns using the same infrastructure.
"We built this timeline with both Passive DNS and SSL Certificate data. In most instances, the attackers targeted an organisation for only a short period, allowing their
phishing pages to be up for just one or two days after they sent out their malicious emails," the pair said. "After this time, the server stopped responding for the phishing hostnames, and we no longer observed DNS resolutions for them."
Eight companies in retail, digital marketing and marketing automation, employee rewards providers, customer loyalty and recognition, gift card provider and IT were hit during the first campaign that lasted four months.
A second campaign ran from February to March 2017 and targeted gift card providers, employee rewards providers and customer loyalty and recognition outlets. A third campaign took place in November the same year and a fourth began in February 2018 and last until May.
The fifth and final campaign tracked by RiskIQ occurred from January this year until May and 24 organisations, seven of them previous targets, were hit. This time, payment transfer services, point-of-sale, pre-paid services and money transfer outlets and travel platforms were also among the victims.
The attackers were said to have used a phishing software package known as Lucy to automate this part of their work. The package has numerous default templates and one was used during most of the phishing campaigns, including that against Wipro.
Klijnsma and Ginty said the group used Sunnyvision, Solar Communications and King Servers as hosting providers. Some of the domains used by the attackers did not have privacy protection enabled, and RiskIQ was able to determine the names of some domains that had been used.