xorl %eax, %eax

EU Cyber Operations Groups

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And after Russia, US, China and DPRK (North Korea), here is the one for APT groups associated with European Union (EU) nation-states. A big disclaimer here that I know that many more nation-states might be operating offensive cyber operations groups, but I only included those for which there has been some publicly known reporting associated with them.

If you think I got something wrong or there are more groups that I’m missing, please let me know and I’ll update the diagram as soon as possible.

Just like in the previous cases, the sources and changes log are available under the diagram.

Last update: 28 April 2021



  • Version 1.0 (28 April 2021): First publication.
  • Version 1.5 (28 April 2021): Update DGSE/STR name based on the 2012 legislation (credits: @Horgh_rce)

Written by xorl

April 28, 2021 at 16:51

OSAC NL Chapter: Cyber Threat Briefing

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Recently (February 2021) a colleague of mine and the Diplomatic Security Service with U.S. Embassy of the Hague gave me the opportunity to present at the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), Netherlands chapter. My presentation was titled “Cyber Threat Briefing: A look at 2020 and assessing the near future” and although I cannot share the slides of my talk, I’ll do my best to go through the experience of presenting at OSAC.

First of all, the OSAC-NL/U.S. Embassy of the Hague team were incredible and I want to thank them for all their feedback, help, and support. Having said that, my presentation was structured as follows:

  • Cyber domain trends
  • Cyber-actors activities related to EU and the Netherlands
    • Hacktivism
    • Cyber-crime
    • Cyber-espionage
  • Case studies from 2020
  • Cyber threat forecast for 2021

I really enjoyed the engagement with the participants of the event but more importantly, the openness even for controversial subjects to be heard in a U.S. government sponsored event such as how specific cyber operations of the the U.S. government and/or the FIVE EYES can have negative impact (e.g. collateral damage, retaliation) to private sector entities.

Overall, it was an event where I got the vibe that all participants deeply cared on how to protect their organizations, with all the potential political aspects completely removed. It was a great event and an honor to be part of it. I hope to be able to participate in more of them in the future.

Written by xorl

April 27, 2021 at 11:01

North Korea (DPRK) Cyber Operations Groups

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After Russia, US and China, here is my mapping of known APT groups with (offensive) cyber operations capabilities from DPRK (commonly referred to as North Korea). As always, please let me know if you notice any mistakes, errors, or missing information since this is supposed to be a live document, updated as soon as new information becomes available.

The sources used are listed below the diagram, similarly to the other cases.

Last update: 28 April 2021



  • Version 1.0 (24 April 2021): First publication.
  • Version 1.5 (28 April 2021): Added Bureau 325. (credits: @SwitHak)

Written by xorl

April 24, 2021 at 13:39

Analysis of the CardingMafia March 2021 data breach

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One relatively large carding forum, the CardingMafia, was breached and their data were shared in darkweb channels in late March 2021. I got a hold of this data set and found some interesting information. Of course, I cannot share PII or other sensitive material in a public blog post, but I can share some of the more generic analysis to hopefully provide better insights in this underground carding community, and the overall darkweb carding communities.

First of all, CardingMafia was both a “shopp” and an English-speaking forum. This means CardingMafia members were able to have forum discussions on topics of interest but there was also a section of the website where members could buy and/or sell stolen digital goods (compromised accounts, cardholder data, etc.)

The data leak that happened in March 2021 was from the “user” table of the SQL server of the forum. In total, there were 297,076 accounts with various details such as username, IP address, creation time, hashed password, email, status, likes, etc. This is the dataset I’m using for this blog post.

As always, this is a personal research. I’m neither a lawyer nor I’m talking on behalf of my employer. This is 100% personal threat research to enrich some of my personal threat intelligence cases and projects.

The top 100 IP addresses with the highest amount of user accounts in CardingMafia are shown below. Each of those IP addresses had anything from 180 to over 13,000 unique forum accounts associated with it.

Although some were automated accounts (probably from darkweb scraping bots), it appears that many legitimate users were also using those services to hide their real IP addresses (proxies, VPNs, hosted jumphosts, etc.)

From those top 100 IP addresses you can see that the vast majority were coming from the US (29%), France (14%) and Ukraine (12%). Again, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the forum users were actually from these countries, but that they were using services from those countries to access the forum.

To have a more holistic view, the following geo-heatmap is based on all of the 297,076 IP addresses. It’s worth noting here that in reality there were only 56,685 unique IP addresses that were used to open CardingMafia forum accounts.

With this bigger picture view, we get a better understanding of likely the real countries of the forum members since many of them were connecting directly from ISPs. The United States is probably skewed due to the amount of cloud services and proxies, but the rest should be closer to reality.

To make this clearer, below you can find the top 20 countries along with the amount of CardingMafia accounts based on geolocation data of the IP addresses recorded with each of the CardingMafia forum accounts.

  1. USA (19393 accounts)
  2. Germany (2553 accounts)
  3. United Kingdom (2479 accounts)
  4. Russia (1841 accounts)
  5. China (1781 accounts)
  6. France (1632 accounts)
  7. Indonesia (1559 accounts)
  8. Netherlands (1458 accounts)
  9. Canada (1410 accounts)
  10. Ghana (1384 accounts)
  11. Australia (1138 accounts)
  12. India (1042 accounts)
  13. Ukraine (1016 accounts)
  14. Nigeria (992 accounts)
  15. Brazil (705 accounts)
  16. Spain (663 accounts)
  17. Japan (647 accounts)
  18. Hong Kong (586 accounts)
  19. Vietnam (572 accounts)
  20. Singapore (560 accounts)

Since the United States is the top one in all of the above statistics (although it’s mainly due to the amount of cloud and proxy services based in the US), here is a similar geo-heatmap per US state.

And the top 5 states with the highest amount of CardingMafia accounts created from IP addresses geolocated in there were the following:

  1. California (3189 accounts)
  2. New York (1771 accounts)
  3. Florida (1721 accounts)
  4. Texas (1302 accounts)
  5. Illinois (823 accounts)

The email addresses used by the CardingMafia members also provide some interesting insights. For example, there were 294,887 unique email addresses. To avoid clutter, I picked the top 20 email service providers used for those accounts and you can see them here. Unsurprisingly, GMail.com is the top one with 51.7%, followed by Yahoo.com (13.4%) and Hotmail.com (6.3%).

There is something else which is interesting though. There were some email addresses from corporate accounts which again, could be benign but it it could also be an insider threat. I will not list those here but it was everything from small businesses to large multi-national corporations across various industries.

Something else which is notable is that only a tiny percentage of the forum members were using privacy-focused email service providers. For example, using the top 5 list from CyberNews we have:

  1. ProtonMail: 3155 accounts (1.07% of the total accounts)
  2. Tutanota: 375 accounts (0.13% of the total accounts)
  3. Zoho Mail: 60 accounts (0.02% of the total accounts)
  4. Thexyz: 0 accounts
  5. Startmail: 4 accounts (0.000014% of the total accounts)

I want to highlight this since we keep on hearing how cyber-criminals are very privacy-/anonymous-aware by many government officials, but the above is a clear indication that the vast majority (over 97%) of the members of a relatively large cyber-criminal forum were using unencrypted email providers.

The above is also supported by breaking down the type of connections used for the creation of each of those accounts. Based on the enriched IP addresses described earlier, here are the connectivity types.

Suggestions for threat intelligence production

I didn’t want this blog post to be just a selection of statistics for a carding forum, so here are some suggestions for turning this data breach into actionable intelligence. There are other use cases too in the more generic threat research space, but I tried to keep it limited to actionable threat intelligence suggestions.

  • Check if any accounts where created with your domain name(s) as it could be benign (curious employees, threat researchers, etc.) but it could also be an insider threat.
  • If you are an email service provider, use the dataset to find out which of your users have been using your services to host and/or access cyber-criminal content. Again, it could be benign (threat research, law enforcement, etc.) but it could also lead you to some real cyber-criminals.
  • If you are a hosting provider, use the IP dataset to find out which of your customers have been using your services to host and/or access cyber-criminal content. Again, it could be benign (threat research, law enforcement, etc.) but it could also lead you to some real cyber-criminals.
  • If you are a national CERT (or similar entity) use this dataset filtering on your ASNs and TLDs to better understand the threat landscape of your country and potentially even uncover some cyber-criminal activity.
  • If you are working on de-anonymization or tracking of a cyber-criminal use this dataset for enrichment and pivot searching (e.g. emails, hashed passwords, IP addresses).
  • Check if any accounts were created from your IP address ranges (there are some originating from corporate networks). That could be anything from a curious individual, to a threat researcher or even an insider threat.
  • You can use the email addresses of the CardingMafia members to identify and profile high-risk individuals/customers you might have. For example, if you are a payments platform and you have CardingMafia members with accounts on your platform it might worth some proactive fraud investigation.

Written by xorl

April 23, 2021 at 18:17

BSidesBUD 2020: A gentle introduction to building a threat intelligence team

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I just I realized that I never shared any summary of that conference talk I did in 2020, so here it is… This is a talk I gave at BSides Budapest in Hungary (AKA BSidesBUD). My talk was titled “A gentle introduction to building a threat intelligence team” and you can find the slides here.

The event had some really great talks and it was an honor to be part of it. The talks weren’t recorded but you can get an idea from the agenda. They were covering a wide spectrum of topics. Unfortunately, the slides without the context aren’t that useful, but it’s better than nothing. So, please check them out and reach out if you have any feedback.

Typically, when I build threat intelligence training programs the content I covered in those slides is broken down to 1-2 full days to go through them in sufficient depth. However, in this event the aim was to give a quick overview of what are the necessary building blocks and some theory required to build an effective threat intelligence team.

Big thanks to the BSidesBUD team!

Written by xorl

April 22, 2021 at 21:48