Threat Research

DHS and FBI Joint Analysis Report Confirms FireEye’s Assessment that Russian Government Likely Sponsors APT28 and APT29

On Dec. 29, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released a Joint Analysis Report confirming FireEye’s long held public assessment that the Russian government likely sponsors the groups that we track as Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) 28 and APT29. We have tracked and profiled these groups through multiple investigations, endpoint and network detections, and continuous monitoring, allowing us to understand the groups’ malware, operational changes and motivations. This intelligence has been critical to protecting and informing our clients and exposing this threat.

FireEye first publicly announced that the Russian government likely sponsors APT28 in a report released in October 2014. APT28 has pursued military and political targets in the U.S. and globally, including U.S. political organizations, anti-doping agencies, NGOs, foreign and defense ministries, defense attaches, media outlets, and high profile government and private sector entities. Since at least 2007, APT28 has conducted operations using a sophisticated set of malware that employs a flexible, modular framework allowing APT28 to consistently evolve its toolset for future operations. APT28’s operations closely align with Russian military interests and the 2016 breaches, and pursuant public data leaks demonstrate the Russian government's wide-ranging approach to advancing its strategic political interests.

In July 2015, we released a report focusing on a tool used by APT29, malware that we call HAMMERTOSS. In detailing the sophistication and attention to obfuscation evident in HAMMERTOSS, we sought to explain how APT29’s tool development effort defined a clandestine, well-resourced and state-sponsored effort. Additionally, we have observed APT29 target and breach entities including government agencies, universities, law firms and private sector targets. APT29 remains one of the most capable groups that we track, and the group’s past and recent activity is consistent with state espionage.

The Joint Analysis Report also includes indicators for another group we (then iSIGHT Partners) profiled publicly in 2014: Sandworm Team. Since 2009, this group has targeted entities in the energy, transportation and financial services industries. They have deployed destructive malware that impacted the power grid in Ukraine in late 2015 and used related malware to affect a Ukrainian ministry and other financial entities in December 2016. Chiefly characterized by their use of the well-known Black Energy trojan, Sandworm Team has often retrofitted publicly available malware to further their offensive operations. Sandworm Team has exhibited considerable skill and used extensive resources to conduct offensive operations.