Singapore Health Hackers Identified By Symantec
As cases of cyberattacks and data theft continue to rise, online security companies strive to evolve their software products and services to provide stronger protection.
In July 2018, a major cyberattack on Singapore’s government health database has stolen the personal information of about 1.5 million people, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the Government says.
The attack, which the Government called “the most serious breach of personal data” the country had experienced, comes as the highly-wired and digitalised state has made cyber security a top priority for the ASEAN bloc and for itself.
Singapore Health Hackers finally tracked down
Security specialist Symantec has identified the group behind the major cyberattack against the Singapore government in July last year.
The SingHealth attack, the worst cyber attack in that country’s history, resulted in the theft of the personal data belonging to 1.5 million people, including the medical records of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Weeks after the attack, the Singapore government said that it had determined the attack was the work of an ‘Advanced Persistent Threat’ group, which is typically state-linked.
Singapore’s minister for communications and information said last year:
“This (APT) refers to a class of sophisticated cyber attackers, typically state-linked, who conduct extended, carefully planned cyber campaigns, to steal information or disrupt operations,”
Singapore said at the time it would not disclose the attackers’ identity for security reasons. But now Symantec has said that it has identified the hacking group, which it is calling ‘Whitefly’.
Symantec said that it now appears the SingHealth breach was not a one-off attack, but part of a wider pattern of attacks by Whitefly against organisations in Asia.
Among those attacked by Whitefly include healthcare, media, telecommunications and engineering organisations.
It seems that Whitefly typically compromises its victims using custom malware alongside open-source hacking tools and Living off the Land (LotL) tactics, such as malicious PowerShell scripts.
Essentially, the group infects its victims using a dropper in the form of a malicious .exe or .dll file that is disguised as a document or image, such as a job opening. Symantec said that given the nature of disguise, it’s highly likely that they are sent to the victim using spear-phishing emails.
The group likes to remain undetected on infected networks for as long as possible, in order to obtain the most information.
In its blog, Symantec wrote:
“In July 2018, an attack on Singapore’s largest public health organisation, SingHealth, resulted in a reported 1.5 million patient records being stolen, …Until now, nothing was known about who was responsible for this attack.”
The security firm added:
“Symantec researchers have discovered that this attack group, which we call Whitefly, has been operating since at least 2017, has targeted organisations based mostly in Singapore across a wide variety of sectors, and is primarily interested in stealing large amounts of sensitive information,”
Symantec also seems to agree with the Singapore government assessment that a nation state was likely behind the group.
“Whitefly is a highly adept group with a large arsenal of tools at its disposal, capable of penetrating targeted organisations and maintaining a long-term presence on their networks,” said Symantec.
“Links with attacks in other regions also present the possibility that it may be part of a broader intelligence gathering operation,” it added.
Sources: ABC News,