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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 location of attacker domains

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Figure 2. Map displaying location of victim domains

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Figure 3. Distribution of attacker and 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 30 days. Information extrapolated from the Subject Line. Full Vessel Report Table September 2022

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Analysis

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

  • VSL: VM Accord, ORDER: TKHA-A88160011B
  • RE: MV BAKAN WILL LOAD FM DAMIETTA
  • Re: Destination CRF- KOREA Port RFQ_USD
  • Bill of Lading and Invoice for your shipment- Maersk
  • DHL Express Cargo

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There are several themes represented by the subject lines seen.  Specifically, we can see notices of port inquiries, bills of lading and invoices, load notifications, and cargo shipment notices.  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 DHL, supply chain organizations, steel traders, chemical suppliers, and freight carriers.

 

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:

 

  • Hongsheng 7 (pictured at the beginning of this report), which is a bulk carrier currently located in southeast Asia and sailing under the flag of Hong Kong.
  • Yangtze Classic (pictured above), which is a bulk carrier currently located in east Australia and is sailing under the flag of Hong Kong.

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:

  • Zmutzy.819 – Gdata
  • Win32:InjectorX-gen [Trj] – Avast
  • Rising - Trojan.Generic/MSIL@AI.100 (RDM.MSIL:lrntAdiZenrQzR9sued47A)
  • GenericKD.61424830 – FireEye
  • Html.Iframe.udgq - NANO-Antivirus

The Zmutzy family of trojans we have been seeing since late 2015, with their highest prevalence being between 2018 and 2019, with tens of thousands of logged email detections in our system.  The Win32:InjectorX-gen we have been seeing since mid 2019.  Its occurrence frequency has grown significantly since then, with the highest number of detections occurring in March 2021 and July 2022.  As far as Trojan.Generic/MSIL@AI.100 goes, we have only been seeing it since December of 2021.  To date, the highest number of detections occurred in July of 2022, with nearly triple the number of detections over June.  Trojan.GenericKD.61424830 is a newer detection, with detections occurring primarily during this last 30-day period.  Exploit.Html.Iframe.udgq we have been seeing since late 2015.  Its most prevalent period of detection was between January 2021 and April 2021.  The number of detections has been trending upward since January of 2022. 

For the most part, these detections are representative of generic trojans and exist to hinder a user’s operations, collect information, and potentially attempt to download other malware.  A Exploit.Html.Iframe.udgq detection relates to a malicious HTML file (or email message) containing code intending to exploit an Internet Explorer vulnerability in how it handles Iframes on pages.

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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