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U.S. Govt Advisory on how Iranian APT Group Obtained Voter Registration

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The latest advisory issued by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) along with the FBI, states that they are aware of an Iranian Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) actor targeting US websites, including election websites.

It is believed that a group of hackers have accessed the voter data and have sent out thousands of threatening emails, reading “You will vote for Trump on Election Date or we will come after you”.

Some reports believe that this could be the work of the American far-right group known as the Proud Boys, though the group has strongly refuted these allegations.

The report confirms that the voter registration data has been successfully obtained in at least one state, though the identity of the state remains a mystery.

The access of the data seems to involve the “abuse of website misconfigurations and a scripted process using the cURL tool to iterate through voter records”.

Analysis by the CISA and FBI reveal that this actor scanned state websites with the Acunetix vulnerability scanner, a hugely popular web scanner.

It is highly advisable that those who do not use Acunetix on a regular basis closely monitor their logs for any activities originating from the list of IP addresses published by the CISA in Alert (AA20-304A).

In an attempt to further their efforts to survey and exploit the state election websites, the FBI believes that the actor researched the following information as well:

  • YOURLS exploit
  • Bypassing ModSecurity Web Application Firewall
  • Detecting Web Application Firewalls
  • SQLmap tool

It has been identified that multiple entities were subject to scanning by the Acutenix Web Vulnerability platform between September 20 and September 28, 2020. As seen from the timeline below, the activity was carried out in a meticulously planned and phased manner over a prolonged period of time.

The Iranian government has shot down any affiliations to such activities in a series of tweets, while the US secretary Mike Pompeo, on his official twitter handle tweeted regarding the issuing of sanctions to multiple Iranian entities.

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