Morse Code is Now a Trending Encoding Technique for Hackers
Remember the History classes in high school where we learned that World War II warships used Morse code to communicate with each other? Morse code was a critical medium to send messages without using alphabets or numbers to hide them from third parties. Textually it can be defined as an encoding technique that only uses dots and dashes to transmit messages using sound waves, electric current, radio waves, or visible light. Cybersecurity technology is advancing daily, and so are the hackers upgrading their attacking tactics.
Using morse code in modern attack campaigns
If you were to ask if Morse code would be a trending topic today, I would have said absolutely not. However, hackers are using it in their new phishing campaigns. Recently, Microsoft confirmed that attackers are supplementing phishing attacks by sending detection evading and sophisticated emails to victims encoded in Morse code. Through these campaigns, the attackers’ goal is to acquire sensitive information like usernames, passwords, payment details, etc. Other data like location details and IP addresses facilitate the hackers for entering and exfiltrating the critical data. This attack pattern is unique and is considered equivalent to a jigsaw puzzle.
Decoding the attack
We have all encountered our share of phishing emails in our internet lives. Email security companies have been doing their best to prevent such mail from entering our inboxes. But no one could ever imagine or be prepared for all the varying, creative methods threat actors create to bypass the email filters. As long as there is email, they’ll keep at it. It’s easy to avoid phishing emails with the proper awareness, but the worrying thing is that highly equipped email security couldn’t readily recognize the threat in this case.
The good news
No matter how a phishing email evades security and lands in your inbox, and regardless of how many droppers and actions the embedded scripts can execute in memory while the user is logged on, eventually, the attack must call home to a C2 server. At the outermost layer of your enterprise or corporate network, packets with origination and destination information are transiting this layer as the attacker’s scripts or malware attempt to build that communications path. Interested in learning more about this path? Talk to one of our experts.
Jeenali Kothari is a former technical writer and current Security Threat Researcher with INTRUSION. She holds a Master’s degree in Digital Forensics from Rashtriya Raksha University, India and is CEH certified.
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