Russian Turla Hackers Target Polish NGOs with New TinyTurla-NG Backdoor

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Feb 15, 2024NewsroomMalware / Cyber Espionage

The Russia-linked threat actor known as Turla has been observed using a new backdoor called TinyTurla-NG as part of a three-month-long campaign targeting Polish non-governmental organizations in December 2023.

“TinyTurla-NG, just like TinyTurla, is a small ‘last chance’ backdoor that is left behind to be used when all other unauthorized access/backdoor mechanisms have failed or been detected on the infected systems,” Cisco Talos said in a technical report published today.

TinyTurla-NG is so named for exhibiting similarities with TinyTurla, another implant used by the adversarial collective in intrusions aimed at the U.S., Germany, and Afghanistan since at least 2020. TinyTurla was first documented by the cybersecurity company in September 2021.

Cybersecurity

Turla, also known by the names Iron Hunter, Pensive Ursa, Secret Blizzard (formerly Krypton), Snake, Uroburos, and Venomous Bear, is a Russian state-affiliated threat actor linked to the Federal Security Service (FSB).

In recent months, the threat actor has singled out the defense sector in Ukraine and Eastern Europe with a novel .NET-based backdoor called DeliveryCheck, while also upgrading its staple second-stage implant referred to as Kazuar, which it has put to use as early as 2017.

The latest campaign involving TinyTurla-NG dates back to December 18, 2023, and is said to have been ongoing up until January 27, 2024. However, it’s suspected that the activity may have actually commenced in November 2023 based on the malware compilation dates.

It’s currently not known how the backdoor is distributed to victim environments, but it has been found to employ compromised WordPress-based websites as command-and-control (C2) endpoints to fetch and execute instructions, enabling it to run commands via PowerShell or Command Prompt (cmd.exe) as well as download/upload files.

Cybersecurity

TinyTurla-NG also acts as a conduit to deliver PowerShell scripts dubbed TurlaPower-NG that are designed to exfiltrate key material used to secure the password databases of popular password management software in the form of a ZIP archive.

The disclosure comes as Microsoft and OpenAI revealed that nation-state actors from Russia are exploring generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools, including large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT, to understand satellite communication protocols, radar imaging technologies, and seek support with scripting tasks.

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