Higher education institutions in the United States are being targeted in a phishing campaign that distributes a remote access trojan called Hupigon, a RAT that was first identified in 2010.
The Hupigon RAT has previously been used by advanced persistent threat groups (APT) from China, although this campaign is not believed to have been conducted by APT groups, instead the Hupigon RAT has been repurposed by cybercriminals. While several industries have been targeted in the campaign, almost half of attacks have been on colleges and universities.
The Hupigon RAT allows the operators to download other malware variants, steal passwords, and gain access to the microphone and webcam. Infection could see the attackers take full control of an infected device.
The campaign uses online dating lures to get users to install the Trojan. The emails show two dating profiles of supposed users of the platform, and the recipient is asked to select the one they find the most attractive. When the user makes their choice, they are directed to a website where an executable file is downloaded, which installs the Hupigon RAT.
The choice of lure for the campaign is no doubt influenced by the huge rise in popularity of dating apps during the COVID-19 pandemic. While there are not many actual dates taking place due to lockdown and social distancing measures now in place around the globe, the lockdowns have seen many people with a lot of time on their hands. That, coupled with social isolation for many singles, has actually led to an uptick in the use of online dating apps, with many users of the apps turning to Zoom and FaceTime to have virtual dates. Several popular dating apps have reported an increase in use during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, Tinder reports use has increased, with the platform having its busiest ever day, with more than 3 billion profiles swiped in a single day.
As we have already seen with COVID-19 lures in phishing attacks, which account for the majority of lures during the pandemic, when there is interest in a particular event or news story, cybercriminals will take advantage. With the popularity of dating apps soaring, we can expect to see an increase in the number of online dating -themed lures.
The advice for higher education institutions and businesses is to ensure that an advanced spam filtering solution is in place to block the malicious messages and ensure they do not reach end users’ inboxes. It is also important to ensure that security awareness training continues to be provided to staff, students, and remote employees to teach them how to recognize the signs of phishing and other email threats.
TitanHQ can help with the former. If you want to better protect staff, students, and employees and keep inboxes free of threats, give the TitanHQ team a call today. After signing up, you can be protecting your inboxes in a matter of minutes.