How Adversaries Use Politics for Compromise

This blog post was authored by Nick Biasini and Edmund Brumaghin of Cisco Talos.

Executive Summary

With the U.S. presidential primaries just around the corner, even malware authors can’t help but get behind the frenzy. Cisco Talos recently discovered several malware distribution campaigns where the adversaries were utilizing the names and likenesses of several prominent political figures, chief among them U.S. President Donald Trump. We discovered a series of ransomware, screenlockers, remote access trojans (RATs) and other malicious applications that play off of Trump’s likeness, as well as former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Some of the applications are designed to coerce victims into paying ransom demands, while others could be used to gain backdoor access to systems and provide attackers the ability to operate within organizational networks. In many cases, it is clear that the authors of these applications were motivated by their political beliefs, which were reflected in the software that they created. In this post, we’ll analyze several of these examples and provide a look at the types of malware they deployed.

There is a wide array of threats that adversaries are willing to deliver through any means necessary, including leveraging political themes and overtones. This is one of the reasons why organizations need to be diligent in protecting their environments through various technologies, applying best practices, and taking a thorough defense-in-depth approach when implementing various security controls. Additionally, ensure you have an employee information security education program that exposes users to the variety of lures that can be leveraged by adversaries to deliver these threats.

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