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Relapse of LAPSUS$: A Cyber Threat Intelligence Case Study

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

Originally published on 6/10/22 at Phishing For Answers.

Co-Written by Kate Esprit & Meghan Jacquot

Overview: LAPSUS$ Group

What does Microsoft, Samsung, T-Mobile, Okta, and the Brazilian Ministry of Health all have in common? All of these entities have fallen victim to cyberattacks by the LAPSUS$ hacking group. LAPSUS$ Group is an international hacking and extortion group that mainly comprises teenage members. The group heavily relies on the use of the social media platform Telegram and has used it to boast publicly about their achievements in a way that teenagers often express joy over big accomplishments. Members of LAPSUS$ seem to give little care about the group’s operational security, as many of them have doxxed (publicly released personal information) each other out of mere annoyance.

Despite their relative immaturity, LAPSUS$ has successfully managed to exfiltrate data from large companies through social engineering, exploiting software vulnerabilities, and purchasing stolen credentials on underground forums such as Genesis Store.

The Rise of LAPSUS$

LAPSUS$ Group first became subject to widespread media attention in December 2021, when they launched a ransomware attack against the Brazilian Ministry of Health (Ministério da Saúde). The attackers compromised several of the health ministry’s systems, exfiltrating internal vaccination data and ordering officials to contact LAPSUS$ in order to retrieve the stolen information.

LAPSUS$ defacement of Brazilian health ministry website. (Image Source: Unit 42)

It quickly became apparent that members of LAPSUS$ were just getting started. Following the attack in Brazil, the group executed additional cyberattacks against at least 8 major technology companies. With each campaign, the group’s members utilized Telegram to dump stolen data and recruit additional members. In just a few short months, LAPSUS$ had acquired 50,000 subscribers on their Telegram channel and leaked at least hundreds of gigabytes of sensitive information.

LAPSUS$ advertisement in Telegram recruiting employees to sell access to employers’ systems. (Image Source: Microsoft)

The Fall of LAPSUS$

However, the LAPSUS$ chapter closed almost as quickly as the group’s rise to prominence. In March 2022, the City of London Police arrested 7 suspected members of LAPSUS$. One of the most surprising revelations to arise from these arrests was that the hackers were between ages 16 and 21. This means that some of the world’s most powerful technology companies were digitally paralyzed by a bunch of teenagers.

Although LAPSUS$ operations have largely been dormant since the arrests, the cybersecurity community can still benefit greatly by studying this group in more detail. In the coming sections, LAPSUS$ will be used as a case study to demonstrate cyber threat intelligence frameworks.

Cyber Threat Intelligence (CTI) Frameworks 101

There are multiple threat intelligence models and frameworks which cybersecurity professionals use in order to examine and analyze events, threat actors, and more. This helps CTI analysts organize information and demonstrate visual patterns in behaviors. Three models or intelligence frameworks that are used frequently are: MITRE ATT&CK®, Lockheed Martin’s Cyber Kill Chain® , and the Diamond Model.

Diamond Model Case Study: LAPSUS$’ Overall Capabilities

As shown in the image below, the Diamond Model was used to conduct a more thorough investigation into LAPSUS$ and the group’s cyber techniques. Starting at the top, we can see that the adversary (LAPSUS$) has developed a number of capabilities using certain infrastructure to connect to and exploit victims. For a more specific example, we can see that LAPSUS$ has stolen credentials via open-source tools such as Mimikatz against victims in several industries. Depicting cyber threat actors in this organized and visualized way can help the community to better understand pattern of behavior.

Diamond Model portraying LAPSUS$’ general techniques

Diamond Model Case Study: 2022 LAPSUS$ Cyber Attack against Okta

In January 2022, the public security company Okta suffered a cyberattack by LAPSUS$. This incident shook the cybersecurity world, especially given the fact that Okta provides identity management and authentication services to over 15,000 organizations. LAPSUS$