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Storm-0558 UPSC NOTE

 

  • In July, Microsoft reported that a China-based hacking group named Storm-0558 had breached U.S. government-linked email accounts. 

  • The attack affected 25 organizations, including Western European government agencies and email accounts of top American officials.

  • The breach originated from the compromise of a Microsoft engineer's corporate account, allowing the hackers to extract a cryptographic key used to access email accounts.

  • Microsoft Threat Intelligence assessed Storm-0558 as a China-based threat actor engaged in espionage activities. 

  • The group operates independently, with working hours consistent with those in China.

  • Storm-0558 has historically targeted U.S. and European diplomatic, economic, and legislative bodies, as well as individuals associated with Taiwan and Uyghur geopolitical interests.

  • The group has been targeting Microsoft accounts since August 2021, using phishing campaigns and exploiting vulnerabilities in public-facing applications for initial access.

Breach of Microsoft's Security:

  • Storm-0558 compromised Microsoft's cloud security systems by acquiring an MSA key, which was used to forge tokens for access to Outlook Web Access (OWA), Microsoft's web-based mail client.

  • MSA keys are token signing keys used for authentication, and the acquired key was used to impersonate Azure AD users and gain access to enterprise email.

Cryptographic Key Explanation:

  • A cryptographic key is a character string used in encryption algorithms to encrypt and decrypt data. 

  • It ensures that data is secure and can only be accessed by those with the correct key.

  • There are two types of encryption: symmetric and asymmetric

  • Symmetric encryption uses the same key for both encryption and decryption, while asymmetric encryption uses different keys, with the private key kept secret.

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