These cybercriminals plant legal evidence on human legal rights defender, law firm equipment

Cybercriminals are hijacking the products of civil rights activists and planting “incriminating evidence” in covert cyberattacks, scientists alert.

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According to SentinelLabs, an state-of-the-art persistent threat (APT) group dubbed ModifiedElephant has been dependable for prevalent assaults focusing on human legal rights activists and defenders, teachers, journalists, and attorneys across India. 

The APT is considered to have been in operation due to the fact at minimum 2012, and more than the previous ten years, ModifiedElephant has constantly and persistently focused precise, superior-profile folks of fascination. 

Having said that, relatively than concentrating on facts theft, the APT’s actions are much more sinister: the moment inside of a victim’s machine, the group conducts surveillance and may possibly plant incriminating documents later on applied to prosecute folks.

“The goal of ModifiedElephant is lengthy-time period surveillance that at occasions concludes with the supply of ‘evidence’ — documents that incriminate the target in particular crimes — prior to conveniently coordinated arrests,” the scientists say.

SentinelLabs has recognized “hundreds of groups and persons” targeted by the APT.

ModifiedElephant starts off an an infection chain with spear-phishing e-mails. These email messages comprise documents laden with malware, such as the NetWire and DarkComet remote obtain trojans (RATs), as properly as keyloggers and an Android Trojan. 

SentinelLabs has related the dots involving previously unattributable attacks and says that although ModifiedElephant has operated less than the radar for so extended, there is an “observable correlation among ModifiedElephant assaults and the arrests of persons in controversial, politically-charged instances.”

Though the malware applied by the menace actors is thought of “mundane” and not especially innovative, a variety of the APT’s victims have also been qualified with NSO Group’s Pegasus surveillanceware, the topic of an explosive investigation by Amnesty Intercontinental, Forbidden Stories, and many media stores in 2021.

Though attribution is just not concrete, the team states that ModifiedElephant action “aligns sharply with Indian condition passions.” 

“Lots of concerns about this danger actor and their operations continue to be however, 1 detail is obvious: Critics of authoritarian governments about the earth need to diligently fully grasp the complex capabilities of people who would seek to silence them,” SentinelLabs cautioned. “A risk actor willing to frame and incarcerate vulnerable opponents is a critically underreported dimension of the cyber risk landscape that provides up uncomfortable questions about the integrity of gadgets released as proof.”

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