REFINED KITTEN may also be identified by the following pseudonyms:
REFINED KITTEN’s Origins
REFINED KITTEN is a nation-state-based threat actor whose actions are likely tied to the objectives of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The adversary has been involved in conducting primarily espionage-oriented operations since at least 2013. Although intelligence gathering is REFINED KITTEN’s main focus, there have been suspected links between this adversary and the destructive Shamoon malware attacks.
Historically, REFINED KITTEN has employed both custom-made and open-source remote access tools (RATs) to acquire intelligence from its victims. More recently, however, REFINED KITTEN has increasingly relied on mainstream open-source malware frameworks, such as PoshC2 and PowerShell Empire.
REFINED KITTEN’s Targets
REFINED KITTEN’s ’s complete victim scope is unknown, but its activities tend to concentrate on a specific set of nations and industries – likely reflecting its changing intelligence requirements at any given time.
REFINED KITTEN’s targeting typically concentrates on entities in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States; all of these countries are related to standing interests of the IRGC.
Most recently, heightened tension between the U.S. and Iran during the summer of 2019 was likely a catalyst of the uptick in activities targeting financial and government organizations in the U.S.
While this adversary is unlikely to shy away from any particular industry, REFINED KITTEN’s efforts are most prevalent in the following industries:
- Oil and Gas
Recently, it appears this adversary has set its sights on the defense industry, as REFINED KITTEN has been observed spoofing job postings for defense contractors.
REFINED KITTEN’s Methods
REFINED KITTEN heavily relies on spear-phishing as its method of malware delivery. Victims are likely sent an email that contains a Hypertext Application File (HTA) which is typically used to display spoofed domains hosting a variety of job-themed content. Recently, these spoof domains and their hosted content have defense contractor themes and invite a victim to complete a decoy job application.
In this recent activity, victims are prompted to complete a decoy job application by first taking an action (e.g. complete a CAPTCHA) that downloads additional PowerShell commands from command-and-control (C2) URLs. These additional PowerShell commands have been observed delivering open-source post-exploitation frameworks as payloads (e.g., PoshCh2, Koadic).
Other Known “ADVERSARIES”
REFINED KITTEN is just one of many adversaries tracked by CrowdStrike® Intelligence. Some of the other threat actors that CrowdStrike monitors include the following:
Learn More About the Cyber Threat Landscape
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