Telegram Hack – Possible Nation State Attack By Iran

The New Acunetix V12 Engine

So there’s been a lot of news lately about the Telegram hack and how 15 million accounts were compromised, which is not technically true. There’s 2 vectors of attack at play here, both of which regard Iranian users, but are not connected (other than the attackers probably being the same group).

Telegram Hacked - Possible Nation State Attack By Iran

So the two attacks were related to two totally different parts of the Telegram stack, one being targeted at a small number of user accounts via SMS 2FA and the other being a fairly basic API brute-force for information gathering purposes.

Amnesty International technologist and researcher Claudio Guarnieri and independent security researcher Collin Anderson traced recent Telegram account breaches in Iran to the SMS messages Telegram sends to people when they activate a new device. The texts contain a verification code that Telegram asks people to enter to complete a new device setup. A hacker with access to someone’s text messages can obtain these codes and enter them to add their own devices to the person’s account, thus gaining access to their data including chat histories.

The researchers think the Iranian hacking group Rocket Kitten is behind the Telegram breaches, based on similarities to the infrastructure of past phishing attacks attributed to the group. There is widespread speculation that Rocket Kitten has ties to the Iranian government. “Their focus generally revolves around those with an interest in Iran and defense issues, but their activity is absolutely global,” says John Hultquist, who manages the cyber espionage intelligence team at the security firm FireEye, of Rocket Kitten. In the case of the Telegram attacks, the researchers also suggested that SMS messages may have been compromised by Iranian cell phone companies themselves, an industry that also has potential ties to the government.

So the first part is quite serious, as it means the bad actors can totally hijack the accounts of certain users by receiving the new device activation code via SMS. There are links to the Iranian hacking group Rocket Kitten and also possibilities that the government gave access to these SMS messages.

The other option is the recently disclosed SS7 flaw that renders SMS as a 2FA method, pretty insecure.

That SMS is involved is no surprise. It has increasingly fallen out of favor as a “factor” in multi-factor authentication, because it can be compromised in a number of different ways. The National Institute of Standards and Technology even denounced SMS for two-factor in draft recommendations last week.

Telegram said in a statement to WIRED that it is “much like any SMS-based app. If someone has access to your SMS messages, they will get access to your account. If you have two-factor authentication enabled on Telegram, and they have access to your recovery email and SMS, they will get access to your account.”

In addition to concerns about SMS, the researchers also noted that the hackers were able to access 15 million phone number/account combos using Telegram’s public-facing application program interface.

The hackers brute-forced the API by entering millions of Iranian mobile phone numbers and collecting those that returned a user ID. “Since Telegram is based on phone contacts, any party can potentially check whether a phone number is registered in the system.

The second part, is much less exciting and basically involved the hackers brute forcing the Telegram API with Iranian format phone numbers to return all users with a user ID (15 Million phone numbers). Which they could then choose who to hijack using the SMS authentication message (only 12 users).

Which means the gravity of this hack in the media is often overstated.

Source: Wired

Posted in: Exploits/Vulnerabilities, Privacy

Latest Posts:

Acunetix Vulnerability Scanner For Linux Now Available Acunetix Vulnerability Scanner For Linux Now Available
Acunetix Vulnerability Scanner For Linux is now available, now you get all of the functionality of Acunetix, with all of the dependability of Linux.
Gerix WiFi Cracker - Wireless 802.11 Hacking Tool With GUI Gerix WiFi Cracker – Wireless 802.11 Hacking Tool With GUI
Gerix WiFi cracker is an easy to use Wireless 802.11 Hacking Tool with a GUI, it was originally made to run on BackTrack and this version has been updated for Kali (2018.1).
Malcom - Malware Communication Analyzer Malcom – Malware Communication Analyzer
Malcom is a Malware Communication Analyzer designed to analyze a system's network communication using graphical representations of network traffic.
WepAttack - WLAN 802.11 WEP Key Hacking Tool WepAttack – WLAN 802.11 WEP Key Hacking Tool
WepAttack is a WLAN open source Linux WEP key hacking tool for breaking 802.11 WEP keys using a wordlist based dictionary attack.
Eraser - Windows Secure Erase Hard Drive Wiper Eraser – Windows Secure Erase Hard Drive Wiper
Eraser is a hard drive wiper for Windows which allows you to run a secure erase and completely remove sensitive data from your hard drive by overwriting it several times with carefully selected patterns.
Insecure software versions are a problem Web Security Stats Show XSS & Outdated Software Are Major Problems
Netsparker just published some anonymized Web Security Stats about the security vulnerabilities their online solution identified on their users’ web applications and web services during the last 3 years.

Comments are closed.