FireEye has recently released an intelligence report that assesses that a financially motivated advanced threat group has been carrying out ongoing attacks against publicly traded companies in an attempt to play the stock market.
The report entitled Hacking The Street? FIN4 Likely Playing the Market, details the work of a team of native English-speaking operators with extensive knowledge of the nuances in industries they targeted as well as financial practices. Designated by FireEye as FIN4, the group has been observed collecting information from nearly 100 publicly traded companies or their advisory firms, all parties who handle insider information that give a clear trading advantage to the attacker.
Dan McWhorter, VP, Threat Intelligence, FireEye, said, “Advanced threat actors conducting attacks to play the stock market to their advantage has long been a worry but never truly seen in action. FIN4 is the first time we are seeing a group of very sophisticated attackers actually systematically acquire information that only has true value to a criminal when used in relation to the stock market.”
Unlike the often nation-state backed Advanced Persistent Threat groups originating from China and Eastern Europe tracked by FireEye, FIN4 carries out its attacks in a unique manner never seen before. The group does not utilise malware, instead relying on highly-targeted social engineering tactics and deep subject-matter expertise to deliver weaponised versions of legitimate corporate files. Specifically, FireEye found that since at least mid-2013, FIN4 has made product development, M&A strategies, legal issues, and purchasing processes of companies its target data points.
While FIN4’s unique methodology of not using malware allows them to evade traditional detection and attribution, the report provides analysis of the social engineering and document weaponisation the group employs as identified through FireEye investigations and detections. With a strong command of English colloquialisms, regulatory and compliance standards, and industry knowledge, FireEye researchers believe FIN4 to be US-based or, possibly, Western European.
FireEye researchers also found that while FIN4 has highly advanced techniques for breaking into an organisation, they have security practices on the data they transmit. Stolen login credentials were shown to be transferred to FIN4 servers in plain text while the operators themselves use TOR to mask their locations and identities.