A newly discovered threat actor, known as ‘Sandman,’ has emerged, targeting telecommunication service providers in the Middle East, Western Europe, and South Asia.
Furthermore, this actor employs a modular info-stealing malware called ‘LuaDream.’ SentinelLabs, in collaboration with QGroup GmbH, uncovered this malicious activity in August 2023 and named both the threat actor and malware after the internal name of the backdoor, ‘DreamLand client.’
Sandman operates with a low profile, evading detection while maintaining long-term access to compromised systems, enhancing its cyberespionage capabilities. Its primary targets include telecommunication service providers in the Middle East, Western Europe, and South Asia, often gaining initial access through stolen administrative credentials.
Sandman employs “pass-the-hash” attacks to authenticate to remote servers and services by extracting and reusing NTLM hashes stored in memory, demonstrating a focus on privileged or confidential information.
Additionally, Sandman utilizes the ‘LuaDream’ malware, employing DLL hijacking techniques in targeted attacks. ‘LuaDream’ collects data and manages plugins that enhance its functionality, often received from a command and control server (C2) and executed locally. This malware’s development shows activity dating back to June 2022, utilizing a sophisticated in-memory process for staging, designed to evade detection.
Despite revealing some details about Sandman’s custom malware and C2 server infrastructure, the threat actor’s origins remain undisclosed. Sandman joins the ranks of advanced attackers targeting telecom companies, utilizing stealthy backdoors to execute challenging-to-detect cyberespionage operations, given the sensitivity of the data these providers handle.