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Palo Alto uncovers new source of cyberthreats

Palo Alto Networks has revealed that cyber criminals in Nigeria have evolved common malware campaigns to infiltrate businesses that have not previously been their primary targets.

419 Evolution, a new report released today from Unit 42, the Palo Alto Networks threat intelligence team, explains how Nigeria-based scammers are now using the same tools more sophisticated criminal and espionage groups often deploy to steal business-critical data from enterprises world wide, including the Middle East.

Nigerian criminals are infamous for running easily-spotted “419” phishing scams that attempt to collect credit card details or personal information from individuals, but over the past few years have expanded their skills to target businesses using more advanced techniques. Palo Alto Networks researchers discovered these activities and techniques, code-named Silver Spaniel, using WildFire, which rapidly analyzes cyberthreats in a cloud-based, virtual sandbox environment.

Among other techniques, Nigerian criminals use Remote Administration Tools (RATs) available through underground forums, including commercial RATs such as NetWire, that provide complete control over infected systems. Attacks similar to Silver Spaniel in the past may have come from Eastern Europe or a hostile espionage group; businesses haven’t traditionally dedicated resources to these potentially impactful spammers from Nigeria.

“Every organization in the Middle East that holds valuable information on their servers is vulnerable today and should be aware of the latest attacks. You can reveal data stolen by Silver Spaniel attackers and protect yourself, so please download these tools that are free of charge.” – Saeed Agha, General Manager – Middle East, Palo Alto Networks.

To protect against the NetWire RAT, Palo Alto Networks has released a free tool to decrypt and decode command and control traffic and reveal data stolen by Silver Spaniel attackers, available at https://github.com/pan-unit42/public_tools.

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