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Pak-based cyber attackers targeted Indian sites: Security company

17 March 2016

Security company FireEye Inc said a cyber espionage group, possibly based in Pakistan, had been targeting Indian government, military personnel and Pakistani dissidents since at least 2013.

The group, which carried out the operation, probably sent phishing e-mails armed with malicious software code to its targets, the company said. The lures used in the e-mails were related to regional military and defence issues, and often involved India-Pakistan relations, according to Bryce Boland, FireEye's chief technology officer for Asia Pacific.

''The line between real world conflict and cyber conflict continues to blur,'' Reuters quoted Boland as saying. ''Wherever you see geopolitical tensions, you are likely to find cyber campaigns beneath the surface.''

The report was prepared by the company for the Indian government, but it did not share the findings in full with the media. The use of Pakistani infrastructure to send the messages and the themes used to lure targets suggested that the cyber group was funded in Pakistan, according to Patrick Neighorn, FireEye's Asia Pacific communications manager.

According to FireEye, images of women were also used to lure targets, and one such image was taken at a party at the Ashoka Hotel in New Delhi, while another was of a Pakistani actress and model whom FireEye declined to identify.

"The threat group behind the operation likely reached its targets by sending spear phishing emails with malware attachments. The lures used in the email were related to regional military and defence issues, often involving India-Pakistan relations and current events," it said.

"Robust surveillance malware Seedoor was likely distributed via spear phishing emails about current events, defence issues and women," the report said.

On the basis of the themes used in the emails and decoy documents, it was likely the threat actor intended to target Indian government and military personnel, as also political dissidents in Pakistan in order to collect intelligence, it added.

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