During the past six months, the BlackBerry Research and Intelligence team have been monitoring a cyber-espionage campaign that is targeting disparate victims around the globe. The campaign, dubbed CostaRicto by BlackBerry, appears to be operated by “hackers-for-hire”, a group of APT mercenaries who possess bespoke malware tooling and complex VPN proxy and SSH tunneling capabilities.
Mercenary groups offering APT-style attacks are becoming more and more popular. Their tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) often resemble highly sophisticated state-sponsored campaigns, but the profiles and geography of their victims are far too diverse to be aligned with a single bad actor’s interests.
Although in theory the customers of a mercenary APT might include anyone who can afford it, the more sophisticated actors will naturally choose to work with patrons of the highest profile – be it large organizations, influential individuals, or even governments. Having a lot at stake, the cybercriminals must choose very carefully when selecting their commissions to avoid the risk of being exposed.
Outsourcing an espionage campaign, or part of it, to a mercenary group might be very compelling, especially to businesses and individuals who seek intelligence on their competition yet may not have the required tooling, infrastructure and experience to conduct an attack themselves. But even notorious adversaries experienced in cyber-espionage can benefit from adding a layer of indirection to their attacks. By using a mercenary as their proxy, the real attacker can better protect their identity and thwart attempts at attribution.
Read the BlackBerry ThreatVector blog “The CostaRicto Campaign: Cyber-Espionage Outsourced” to learn more.
Also, register now for the Massive Hacker-for-Hire Groups Uncovered webinar November 18th.