Symantec Threat Intelligence: West African Financial Institutions Hit by Wave of Attacks
Symantec researchers have uncovered attacks on banks and other financial institutions in several West African countries
by cyber criminals employing a range of commodity malware – readily available in the cyber underground – and living off
the land tools that allow them to hide in a sea of legitimate processes. Until now, Symantec has seen relatively little
evidence of these kinds of attacks against the financial sector in West Africa, but it now appears there is at least one
group (and quite possibly more groups) actively targeting banks in the region.
The attacks have been underway since mid-2017 and have affected organisations in Cameroon, The Democratic Republic of
the Congo, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea, and Ivory Coast. It is unknown who is behind these attacks which could be the work
of a single group or, more likely, several different groups employing similar tactics to potentially perform financial
fraud, steal network credentials and/or create remote access capability.
Figure 1: Countries where financial institutions have been attacked
Symantec observed distinct attack campaigns directed against financial targets in Africa that share commonalities in the
tools and tactics employed. Off-the-shelf, commodity malware was used, adding a level of anonymity to attacks and making
it harder to link attacks together or attribute them to any one group of attackers. Additionally, most of the attacks
leveraged living off the land tactics, making use of legitimate tools such as PowerShell, PsExec, and RDP.
These attack campaigns were discovered through alerts generated by Symantec’s Targeted Attack Analytics which uses
advanced AI to spot patterns associated with targeted attacks.