Threat Signal Report

ACTINIUM - Targeting Interests in the Ukraine

description-logo Description

FortiGuard Labs is aware of various campaigns targeting Ukraine by threat actors known as ACTINIUM/Gamaredon/DEV-0157. ACTINIUM's modus operandi targets various verticals to conduct cyber espionage, including but not limited to governmental, NGO, law enforcement and nonprofit organizations. This latest campaign targeting Ukraine was observed by security analysts at Microsoft.

Observed TTPs of ACTINIUM include spearphishing emails using specially crafted Microsoft Word documents that contain malicious macros. Other observed tactics use image files in the emails that are very tiny in scale and report back to the hosting server so that the attacker can check to see if the email was viewed or not. Of course, this depends on whether the recipient chooses to download images or not.

Previous analysis on Gamaredon (another name for ACTINIUM) conducted by FortiGuard Labs can be found here. FortiGuard Labs also documented attacks against Ukraine here.

What are the Technical Details of the Attack?

ACTINIUM uses multiple stage processes that contain payloads that download and execute further additional payloads. Observed staging techniques contain highly obfuscated VBScripts, PowerShells, self-extracting archives, LNK files, etc. To remain persistent, ACTINIUM relies on scheduled tasks. To evade detection and analysis, the usage of randomly generated dictionary words from a predefined word list were used to assign subdomains, scheduled tasks and file names to further confuse analysts. Other observations seen are the usage of DNS records that are frequently changed and contain unique domain names using multiple IP addresses attributed to them.

Three malware families were documented in the report, and they are:

PowerPunch - Downloader and droppers using PowerShell

Pterodo - Malware that uses various hashing algorithms and on-demand schemes for decrypting data while freeing allocated heaps space to evade detection and thwart analysis. The malware is evolving, with the usage of various strings to POST content using forged user agents and various commands and scheduled tasks.

QuietSieve - These are heavily obfuscated .NET binaries that act primarily as an infostealer.

Who/What is Behind this Attack?

According to Microsoft, this latest attack is attributed to the Russian FSB. This is per previous reports by the Ukrainian government linking Gamaredon actors to the FSB.

Is this a Widespread Attack?

No. According to Microsoft, attacks are limited to targeted attacks in the Ukraine.

What is the Status of Coverage?

Fortinet customers running the latest definitions are protected by the following AV signatures:





















All network IOC's are blocked by the WebFiltering client.

Any Other Suggested Mitigation?

As ACTINIUM uses spearphishing techniques as an entry point, organizations are encouraged to conduct ongoing training sessions to educate and inform personnel about the latest phishing/spearphishing attacks. They also need to encourage employees to never open attachments from someone they don't know, and to always treat emails from unrecognized/untrusted senders with caution. Since it has been reported that various phishing and spearphishing attacks have been delivered via social engineering distribution mechanisms, it is crucial that end users within an organization be made aware of the various types of attacks being delivered. This can be accomplished through regular training sessions and impromptu tests using predetermined templates by an organizations' internal security department. Simple user awareness training on how to spot emails with malicious attachments or links could also help prevent initial access into the network.

Due to the ease of disruption and potential for damage to daily operations, reputation, and unwanted release of personally identifiable information (PII), etc., it is important to keep all AV and IPS signatures up to date. It is also important to ensure that all known vendor vulnerabilities within an organization are addressed, and updated to protect against attackers establishing a foothold within a network.


Traffic Light Protocol

Color When Should it Be used? How may it be shared?


Not for disclosure, restricted to participants only.
Sources may use TLP:RED when information cannot be effectively acted upon by additional parties, and could lead to impacts on a party's privacy, reputation, or operations if misused. Recipients may not share TLP:RED information with any parties outside of the specific exchange, meeting, or conversation in which it was originally disclosed. In the context of a meeting, for example, TLP:RED information is limited to those present at the meeting. In most circumstances, TLP:RED should be exchanged verbally or in person.


Limited disclosure, restricted to participants’ organizations.
Sources may use TLP:AMBER when information requires support to be effectively acted upon, yet carries risks to privacy, reputation, or operations if shared outside of the organizations involved. Recipients may only share TLP:AMBER information with members of their own organization, and with clients or customers who need to know the information to protect themselves or prevent further harm. Sources are at liberty to specify additional intended limits of the sharing: these must be adhered to.


Limited disclosure, restricted to the community.
Sources may use TLP:GREEN when information is useful for the awareness of all participating organizations as well as with peers within the broader community or sector. Recipients may share TLP:GREEN information with peers and partner organizations within their sector or community, but not via publicly accessible channels. Information in this category can be circulated widely within a particular community. TLP:GREEN information may not be released outside of the community.


Disclosure is not limited.
Sources may use TLP:WHITE when information carries minimal or no foreseeable risk of misuse, in accordance with applicable rules and procedures for public release. Subject to standard copyright rules, TLP:WHITE information may be distributed without restriction.