FireEye, a cybersecurity firm based in California, claims it was the victim of a nation-state attack that could access a substantial amount of hacking tools, referred to as Red Team tools, and data having to do with government clients.
The cybersecurity firm revealed the seeming tailor-made attack on Thursday, December 10, claiming a "highly sophisticated state-sponsored adversary executed it."
What is the Red Team?
A Red Team is a group of security professionals authorized and capable of imitating a potential threat's attacking and/or exploitation techniques against a company or organization's security infrastructure and protocol.
FireEye uses these Red Team tools to detect and fix weaknesses in computer systems, with the goal of better defense and protection.
While Apple was not directly affected by this attack, FireEye has worked with the tech giant in the past to identify vulnerabilities and exploits within the company's devices. Apple has also relied on FireEye to develop tools and software for its macOS and additional platforms.
About the Cyber Attack on FireEye
In this specific incident, the attack targeted the data of government-related customers who were not necessarily US-based, as reported by The Washington Post.
Kevin Mandia, the CEO, has gone on to state that at the moment, it does not look like data was removed from systems that store customer information. Sources have told The Washington Post that these attackers likely have links to Russian intelligence.
Mandia believes the attack was tailor-made for FireEye due to aspects of the breach using methods that easily countered the firm's tools and were not easily identifiable during forensic examinations. It was something never experienced by FireEye in the past.
More details about the attack include a large number of the company's Red Team tools being affected. These Red Team tools are utilized in penetration tests to pinpoint their client's cyber defenses' weak spots.
The cybersecurity firm has emphasized that zero-day exploits. The exploits, or recent vulnerabilities, are unknown by the victim and only aware of by the attacker, which was not the case in this incident. Moreover, the attack was conducted on FireEye's known vulnerabilities.
Some of the attackers' tactics were via existing scripts that were slightly tweaked to avoid detection, with others being developed in-house by FireEye's Red Team.
At this point, FireEye is unsure whether the tools were stolen to expose their contents publicly or to use for the attackers themselves. FireEye has seen no evidence that the tools have been used anywhere in the world, yet.
The firm is responding to the attack by providing over 300 countermeasures to its customers, with the hope of helping to defend them from a similar attack. To access a complete list of these measures, click here.
These countermeasures are integrated into FireEye's products and have since been shared with partners and government agencies. This will also allow lessening of the impact from the breach on the Red Team tools.
For the time being, the FBI is investigating the attack, while FireEye is performing its own investigation as well, with Microsoft's help.
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