Iranian Hacking Group targets Telecos, ISPs and Ministry of foreign Affairs (MFA) with Upgraded Malware

Systems Networks Mobile Networks and Telephones
Advisory ID:
November 12, 2021


An Iranian threat group known as Lyceum (aka Hexane, Siamesekitten, or Spirlin) has been reported to be targeting Telcoms, ISPs and Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in Africa in a recent politically motivated attacks with an active focus on cyberespionage. This group is known to be focused on infiltrating the networks of telecoms companies and internet service providers (ISPs). Between July and October, Lyceum was spotted in attacks against ISPs and telecoms organizations across Israel, Morocco, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia.  The advanced persistent threat (APT) group has been linked to campaigns striking Middle Eastern oil and gas companies in the past and now appears to have expanded its focus to include the technology sector. In addition, the APT is responsible for a campaign against an unnamed African ministry of foreign affairs.

Description & Consequence

Lyceum's initial attack vectors include credential stuffing attacks and brute-force attacks. So, once a victim’s system is compromised, the attackers conduct surveillance on specific targets. In this attack, Lyceum will attempt to deploy two different kinds of malware: Shark and Milan (known together as James). Both are backdoors; Shark, a 32-bit executable written in C# and .NET, generates a configuration file for DNS tunneling or HTTP C2 communications, whereas Milan - a 32-bit Remote Access Trojan (RAT) retrieves data. Both are able to communicate with the groups' command-and-control (C2) servers. The APT maintains a C2 server network that connects to the group's backdoors, consisting of over 20 domains, including six that were previously not associated with the threat actors.

According to reports, individual accounts at companies of interest are usually targeted, and then once these accounts are breached, they are used as a springboard to launch spear-phishing attacks against high-profile executives in an organization. The report suggests that not only do these attackers seek out data on subscribers and connected third-party companies, but once compromised, threat actors or their sponsors can also use these industries to surveil individuals of interest.


To guard against this kind of threats, multiple layers of security in addition to constant network monitoring is required.

  1. Ensure the consistent use of firewalls (software, hardware and cloud firewalls).
  2. Enable a Web Application Firewall to help detect and prevent attacks coming from web applications by inspecting HTTP traffic.
  3. Install Up-to-date antivirus programs to help detect and prevent a wide range of malware, trojans, and viruses, which APT hackers will use to exploit your system.
  4. Implement the use of Intrusion Prevention Systems that monitors your network.
  5. Create a secure sandboxing environment that allows you to open and run untrusted programs or codes without risking harm to your operating system.
  6. Ensure the use of virtual private network (VPN) to prevent an easy opportunity for APT hackers to gain initial access to your company’s network.
  7. Enable spam and malware protection for your email applications, and educate your employees on how to identify potentially malicious emails.
  8. For further technical assistance, contact ngCERT on




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