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Red Sky Alliance regularly queries our backend databases, identifying all new data containing Motor Vessel (MV) and Motor Tanker (MT) in the subject line of malicious emails.  Malicious actors use emails with Motor Vessel (MV) or Motor Tanker (MT) in the subject line as a lure to entice users in the maritime industry to open emails containing malicious attachments.  Red Sky Alliance is providing this list of Motor Vessels in which we directly observed the vessel being impersonated, with associated malicious emails.  The identified emails attempted to deliver malware or phishing links to compromise the vessels, parent companies, and ports.  Users should be aware of the subject lines used and the email addresses that are attempting to deliver the messages.

 

 

Significant Vessel Keys Words:

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Figure 1. Map displaying locations of attacker domains.

 

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Figure 2. Map displaying locations of target domains.

 

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Figure 3. Distribution of attacker/target domains.

 

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Table 1. List of dates, subject lines, malware detections, and sender data seen in Red Sky Alliance’s malicious email collection from last 60 days. Information extrapolated from the Subject Line.  Full Vessell Report August 2022.pdf

 

Analysis

The five most common subject lines seen in our recent query are as follows:

  • HW - Arrival of Container OOLU3955325 (PTS)
  • RE:MV SCSC FORTUNE// FERTILIZER IN BULK AROUND 9600MT LDG //PORT INQUIRY
  • Re: MV OCEAN DRAGON - DISCHARGE IRON ORE / AGENCY APPOINTMENT
  • Port Info & PDA Inquiry - Fertilizer - DAP
  • PDA FOR loading of Clinker abt 39500 mt

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There are several themes represented by the subject lines seen.  Specifically, we can see notices of container arrivals, cargo arrivals and discharges, scheduling requests and other port inquiries, order notifications, and Pro-forma Disbursement Account Requests (PDA).  These emails are seen to utilize common terminology in order to establish credibility.  This credibility can make for a solid lure.  In terms of the sending emails themselves, we can see impersonations of companies in many industries.  Notably, we see impersonations of food suppliers, shipping and supply companies, furniture warehouse companies, and even the Russian Ministry of Health

 

 

In addition to impersonating these companies and various types of communication, these emails are also seen to be impersonating specific vessels.  Some of the vessels being impersonated by these emails include the following:

  • Pioneer Irene, which is currently at the port of Singapore and is sailing under the flag of Tuvalu
  • KM Singapore (pictured at the beginning of this report), which is currently at the port of Tianjin Xingang and is sailing under the flag of Liberia
  • New Liberty, which is currently at the port of Massawa (Mitsiwa) and is sailing under the flag of Belize
  • SCSC Fotune (pictured above), which is currently located off the coast of China and is sailing under the flag of Hong Kong
  • Star Monica, which recently departed the port of Sriracha and is sailing under the flag of Liberia

As one might expect, fabricating a vessel name is not difficult, but using a real ship’s name does not take much effort and could result in an increase of credibility.

The top five most prevalent malware detections associated with these emails are as follows:

  • CVE-2017-0199.02.Gen - BitDefender
  • MSExcel/CVE_2017_11882!exploit - Fortinet
  • Win32:InjectorX-gen [Trj] - Avast
  • UDS:DangerousObject.Multi.Generic - Kaspersky
  • Trojan-Downloader.Office.Crypt - Ikarus

CVE-2017-0199 is a remote code execution vulnerability in older versions of Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office.  This vulnerability allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via crafted documents that victims open using Microsoft Office products or Word Pad.  Somewhat related is CVE-2017-11882, which is another remote code execution vulnerability that also exists in older versions of Microsoft Office.  This vulnerability allows an attacker to run arbitrary code as the current user by way of manipulating and corrupting memory used by Microsoft Office.  As illustrated by the list above, there were also a number of known trojans associated with these recent emails.  Some of these trojans are of the generic variety and exist to hinder a user’s operations, collect information, and potentially attempt to download other malware.  Others, such as W32/Heuristic-200!Eldorado, which we have been seeing since late 2019, are more targeted and focus on tasks like establishing remote access and disabling Windows update.

These analytical results illustrate how a recipient could be fooled into opening an infected email and what sorts of dangers can accompany these emails.  It is common for attackers to specifically target pieces of a company’s supply chain to build up to cyber-attacks on the larger companies.   Doing so could cause the recipient to become an infected member of the maritime supply chain and thus possibly infect victim vessels, port facilities and/or shore companies in the marine, agricultural, and other industries with additional malware.

Fraudulent emails designed to make recipients hand over sensitive information, extort money, or trigger malware installation on shore-based or vessel IT networks remains one of the biggest day-to-day cyber threats facing the maritime industry and associated transportation supply line.   These threats often carry a financial liability to one or all those involved in the maritime transportation supply chain.  Preventative cyber protection offers a strong first-line defense by preventing deceptive messages from ever reaching staff inboxes, but malicious hackers are developing new techniques to evade current detection daily.  

The more convincing an email appears, the greater the chance employees will fall for a scam.   To address this residual risk, software-based protection should be treated as one constituent of a wider strategy that also encompasses the human-element as well as organizational workflows and procedures.

It is important to:

  • Train all levels of the marine supply chain to realize they are under constant cyber-attack.
  • Emphasize maintaining constant attention to real-world cyber consequences of careless cyber practices or general inattentiveness.
  • Provide practical guidance on how to identify a potential phishing attempt.
  • Use direct communication to verify emails and supply chain email communication.

 

About Red Sky Alliance

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 Red Sky Alliance strongly recommends ongoing monitoring from both internal and external perspectives.  Internal monitoring is common practice.  However, external threats are often overlooked and can represent an early warning of impending cyber-attacks.  Red Sky Alliance can provide both internal monitoring in tandem with RedXray notifications on external threats to include, botnet activity, public data breaches, phishing, fraud, and general targeting.

Red Sky Alliance is in New Boston, NH USA. We are a Cyber Threat Analysis and Intelligence Service organization.  For questions, comments or assistance, please contact the lab directly at 1-844-492-7225, or feedback@wapacklabs.com

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