Cybercriminalsare using insiders to gain access to telecommunications networks and subscriber data, recruiting disaffected employees through underground channels or blackmailing staff using compromising information gathered from open sources - according to a Kaspersky Lab intelligence report into security threats facing the telecommunications industry.
Telecommunications providers are a top target for cyber-attack. They operate and manage the world’s networks, voice and data transmissions and store vast amounts of sensitive data. This makes them highly attractive to cybercriminals in search of financial gain, as well as nation-state sponsored actors launching targeted attacks, and even competitors.
To achieve their goals, cybercriminals often use insiders as part of their malicious ‘toolset’, to help them breach the perimeter of a telecommunications company and perpetrate their crimes. New research by Kaspersky Lab and B2B International1 reveals that 28% of all cyber-attacks, and 38% of targeted attacks now involve malicious activity by insiders. The intelligence report examines popular ways of involving insiders in telecoms-related criminal schemes and gives examples of the things insiders are used for.
According to the Kaspersky Lab researchers, attackers engage or entrap telecoms employees in the following ways:
The blackmailing approach has grown in popularity following online data breaches such as the Ashley Madison leak, as these provide attackers with material they can use to threaten or embarrass individuals. In fact, data-leak related extortion has now become so widespread that the FBI issued a Public Service Announcement on 1 June warning consumers of the risk and its potential impact.
According to the Kaspersky Lab researchers, if an attack on a cellular service provider is planned, criminals will seek out employees who can provide fast track access to subscriber and company data or SIM card duplication/illegal reissuing. If the target is an Internet service provider, the attackers will try to identify those who can enable network mapping and man-in-the-middle attacks.
However, insider threats can take all forms. The Kaspersky Lab researchers noted two non-typical examples, one of which involved a rogue telecoms employee leaking 70 million prison inmate calls, many of which breached client-attorney privilege. In another example, an SMS center support engineer was spotted on a popular DarkNet forum advertising their ability to intercept messages containing OTP (One-Time Passwords) for the two-step authentication required to login to customer accounts at a popular fintech company.
“The human factor is often the weakest link in corporate IT security. Technology alone is rarely enough to completely protect the organization in world where attackers don’t hesitate to exploit insider vulnerability. Companies can start by looking at themselves the way an attacker would. If vacancies carrying your company name, or some of your data, start appearing on underground message boards, then somebody, somewhere has you in their sights. And the sooner you know about it the better you can prepare,” – said Denis Gorchakov, security expert, Kaspersky Lab.
In order to protect the organization from insider threat, Kaspersky Lab advises the following:
Read more about insiders and other typical cyber-threats facing telecommunications companies on Securelist.
1 Corporate IT Security Risks Survey, 2016, Kaspersky Lab and B2B International