Phishers are impersonating engineering license boards to target U.S. utility organizations with LookBack malware.

Between July 19–25, Proofpoint discovered the LookBack campaign when it came across some spear phishing emails purporting to be from the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). Each of these emails abused the NCEES logo, spoofed the sender address and reply-to fields, and included both member ID numbers and the signature block of a nonexistent NCEES employee.

Supported by these falsified details, the emails used the pretense of a failed examination to trick employees at U.S. utility organizations into opening a Microsoft Word document named Result Notice.doc. This document leveraged VBA macros to install LookBack malware.

Written in C++, the sample of LookBack analyzed by Proofpoint used a proxy communication tool to send data from the infected host to its command-and-control (C&C) server. This malware enabled digital attackers to delete files, execute commands, take screenshots and assume control of the device’s cursor. It also enabled threat actors to view system, process and file data, a capability they could have used to conduct reconnaissance of a targeted utility.

The Rise of ICS Threats

LookBack comes amid a steady rise of threats targeting organizations’ industrial control systems (ICSs). In October 2018, for instance, the critical water utility ONWASA suffered a ransomware attack that limited the functionality of its computer systems. Just a few months later, WIRED reported that researchers had observed a threat actor called XENOTIME probing the networks of at least 20 U.S. electric system targets. This arrived shortly before FireEye unearthed a phishing campaign that targeted organizations in the energy and utilities, government, and oil and gas sectors.

How to Defend Against LookBack Malware

Organizations can strengthen their defenses against malware like LookBack by integrating phishing intelligence with their security information and event management (SIEM) systems to visualize the entire hierarchy of an attack. Companies should also take a layered approach to email security by embracing SIEM, mail scanning tools, perimeter protection solutions and other utilities.

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