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  • Group-IB spoke about government SideWinder hackers from India

    Cybersecurity researchers at cybersecurity company Group-IB have uncovered previously undisclosed phishing campaigns attributed to the SideWinder group, which is believed to have ties to Indian nationalists.

    Since 2020, SideWinder has carried out a streak of 1,000 attacks using increasingly sophisticated cyber attack methods. In 2022, Kaspersky Lab spoke about SideWinder's targets - the military and law enforcement agencies of Pakistan, Bangladesh and other South Asian countries. The group is believed to be linked to the Indian government.

    According to the report, the attacks targeted government, military and legal institutions across Asia. Group-IB tracked SideWinder, also known as Hardcore Nationalist (HN2), which attacked 61 organizations in Afghanistan, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka in 2021.

    The main casualties were government agencies - 44 of them were allocated, while almost half of all attacks were directed at targets in Nepal, which has a land border with India. The second place in terms of the number of phishing attacks (13) was concentrated in Afghanistan, which is separated from India by Pakistan.

    Group-IB added that SideWinder is distinguished by its ability to carry out hundreds of espionage operations in a short period of time.

    In addition, Group-IB observed how SideWinder uses Telegram to receive and process data from target systems. Group-IB also noticed that SideWinder is updating its toolkit. One of them is a Python infostealer called "SideWinder.StealerPy".

    StealerPy can:

    • extract the history of the Google Chrome browser;
    • credentials stored in the browser;
    • list of folders in the directory;
    • metadata and content of "docx", "pdf" and "txt" files.

    Some of the group's phishing campaigns targeted government agencies in Southeast Asia and contained fake websites imitating Myanmar's Central Bank.

    Group-IB was unable to determine whether any of the campaigns were successful, but the firm noted that the campaigns involved hackers impersonating cryptocurrency companies. According to experts, this may be due to recent attempts to regulate the crypto market in India.

    Group-IB believes that SideWinder used malicious links in the emails to gain remote access and hijack the target machine or conduct spying operations by deploying the infostealer. The suspected group is considered one of the oldest government groups and has been active since at least 2012.

    Group-IB has only released the results of the investigation now because it says one of the company's main goals is to inventory the entire SideWinder arsenal, extract all information from backups, and reverse engineer the tools to determine an accurate campaign schedule.

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