It’s really OK to take a break sometimes, especially in security

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Threat Source newsletter.

You probably already know this by now, but May is Mental Health Awareness Month across the globe.

Many people will apply this time of reflection and education to their personal lives — it’s easy to discuss anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns when it comes to things like personal relationships, friendships, family and how you express yourself.

I think not enough of us are applying the discussions we have every May to work, though. After all, many of us spend more than half our day working, and probably even more than that, thinking about work. And yes, it’s important to maintain healthy relationships around you and share your feelings with loved ones openly, but I would like us all to start being more honest about how work can affect our mental health.

This is particularly a problem in the cybersecurity industry, where burnout is constantly a cloud hanging over the workforce. A study last year from email security company Mimecast found that 84 percent of cybersecurity professionals are experiencing some form of burnout and it’s impeding their motivation at work.

And the Australian non-profit Cybermindz also found cybersecurity workers ranked their “professional efficacy,” or how well they feel they’re performing in their current role, lower than the general population — this is a key metric used to measure burnout in each industry.

I feel this is a problem in cybersecurity for several reasons: it seems like defenders can never take a day (or even an hour) off without something “hitting the fan,” the work can often be incredibly high-stakes and there is the ghost of social media always hanging over our head to be the “first” to find something or always needing to add something witty or insightful to the conversation of the day.

I would certainly not call myself a cybersecurity practitioner, per se, so I don’t have much hands-on experience with this. But I know from talking to teammates as part of my Researcher Spotlight blog series how important it is to have other interests outside of work.

And while I can’t say I’m personally experiencing burnout at work, I have dealt with anxiety for pretty much my entire life and have attended talk therapy on and off over the past few years and currently take medication to manage my various mental health conditions. That makes me feel somewhat empowered to say: It’s OK to take a break.

This is something Talos VP Matt Watchinski said in a conversation with Hazel Burton and I this week that we recorded for an upcoming episode of Talos Takes. The work is always going to be there, whether you take a day or a week off. Unfortunately, the cybersecurity community at large is not going to stop cybercrime overnight. And the threat of state-sponsored actors is not going to be solved by a single botnet takedown.

I would encourage everyone to have harder barriers up around their work and personal lives. Take up a new hobby or find a way to get outside. For example, Azim Khodjibaev is a rowing coach. Giannis Tziakouris from Cisco Talos Incident Response scuba dives. Watchinski has shooting sports.

Find your thing that is not explicitly work — because the work will be there when you get back, I promise.

The one big thing

A new ransomware actor we’re calling “RA Group” has been active for about a month, already targeting organizations across multiple sectors in the U.S. and South Korea. Talos researchers believe with high confidence that the group is using altered leaked source code from the Babuk ransomware family. The group is launching double extortion attacks. Like other ransomware actors, RA Group also operates a data leak site in which they threaten to publish the data exfiltrated from victims who fail to contact them within a specified time or do not meet their ransom demands.

Why do I care?

The actor is swiftly expanding its operations. To date, the group has compromised three organizations in the U.S. and one in South Korea across several business verticals, including manufacturing, wealth management, insurance providers and pharmaceuticals. Since ransomware continues to be one of the top security threats all industries face, it’s always important to keep an eye out for new groups that pop up.

So now what?

The Talos blog outlines several ways that Cisco Secure products and Talos open-source software can detect and block RA Group’s activities.

Top security headlines of the week

Global governments are being urged to take a more aggressive stance on spyware regulation. The European Union has agreed to work on standards around the purchase and use of these types of tracking software, which often target vulnerable populations and industries like activists and journalists. A special European Parliament committee voted this week to ban the sale, acquisition, or use of spyware while the broader EU works on these new guidelines. In the U.S., some government agencies have still been attempting to use spyware, such as tools from the infamous NSO Group, despite bans on spyware from the Biden administration. Reporters from the New York Times found at least one government contract with Paragon, another Israeli software developer that makes spyware but is not as widely known as the NSO Group. (New York Times, The Guardian)

A recent ransomware attack against Micro-Star International (MSI), including the theft of UEFI signing keys, is already having wide-ranging effects across the security industry. MSI does not have a way to retract the keys after they were leaked onto the dark web, leading to fears of future supply chain attacks. Attackers could hypothetically inject malicious updates into legitimate software, using the MSI keys to sign them. MSI Keys are trusted by default by many end-user devices. Security researchers found that some of the keys work for the Intel BootGuard firmware-verification technology that runs on devices made by several different manufacturers. The Money Message ransomware group first claimed responsibility for the ransomware attack in April when it listed MSI as a new victim on its leak site and published screenshots purporting to show private encryption keys, source code and other data. (Decipher, Ars Technica)

Twitter announced it was rolling out end-of-end encryption for its direct messages, though several security holes remain. The company appears to not have actually completed a security audit of its DMs that it claimed it had, and the messages are still vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks. One security researcher also says it’s easy for Twitter employees to potentially hijack messages by adding their own keys to a list that are approved to read the messages. Encryption is also a paid feature — both users partaking in the messages must be either Twitter Blue subscribers or a verified organization on Twitter. Group conversations are also not included in this encryption process. Security and privacy experts say users who are looking for secure messaging should stick to encrypted apps like Telegram and Signal. (ZDNet, The Verge)

Can’t get enough Talos?

Talos Takes Ep. #138: What makes “Greatness” so great?
Beers with Talos Ep. #135: The XDR files
RA Group uses leaked Babuk code to attack companies in the US, South Korea
Cisco warns of new ‘Greatness’ phishing-as-a-service tool seen in the wild
New ‘Greatness’ service simplifies Microsoft 365 phishing attacks

Upcoming events where you can find Talos

BSidesFortWayne (May 20)

Fort Wayne, IN

Threat Modeling webinar: Applying a Threat Informed Defense (May 23)


Cisco Live U.S. (June 4 – 8)

Las Vegas, NV

Discover Cyber Workshop for Women (June 8)

Doha, Qatar

REcon (June 9 – 11)

Montreal, Canada

Most prevalent malware files from Talos telemetry over the past week

SHA 256: 59f1e69b68de4839c65b6e6d39ac7a272e2611ec1ed1bf73a4f455e2ca20eeaa
MD5: df11b3105df8d7c70e7b501e210e3cc3
Typical Filename: DOC001.exe
Claimed Product: N/A
Detection Name: Win.Worm.Coinminer::1201

SHA 256: 5616b94f1a40b49096e2f8f78d646891b45c649473a5b67b8beddac46ad398e1
MD5: 3e10a74a7613d1cae4b9749d7ec93515
Typical Filename: IMG001.exe
Claimed Product: N/A
Detection Name: Win.Dropper.Coinminer::1201

SHA 256: e4973db44081591e9bff5117946defbef6041397e56164f485cf8ec57b1d8934
MD5: 93fefc3e88ffb78abb36365fa5cf857c
Typical Filename: Wextract
Claimed Product: Internet Explorer
Detection Name:

SHA 256: 7c8e1dba5c1b84a08636d9e6f225e1e79bb346c176e0ee2ae1dfec18953a1ce2
MD5: 3e0fb82ed8ea6cd7d1f1bb9dca5f2bdc
Typical Filename: PDFShark.exe
Claimed Product: PDFShark
Detection Name:

SHA 256: e12b6641d7e7e4da97a0ff8e1a0d4840c882569d47b8fab8fb187ac2b475636c
MD5: a087b2e6ec57b08c0d0750c60f96a74c
Typical Filename: AAct.exe
Claimed Product: N/A
Detection Name: PUA.Win.Tool.Kmsauto::1201

Article Link: It’s really OK to take a break sometimes, especially in security

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