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Meet Black Shadow, a hacking group that's claimed responsibility for a curious group of cyber incidents. An update from the Microsoft security team. And details on a virus-themed phishing lure. This is CyberScoop for December 7, 2021.

Just who is this hacking group targeting Israeli citizens?

Over the last year a mysterious group calling itself "Black Shadow" has pulled off several major hacks against Israeli targets, pilfering sensitive data and posting it online. The group's approach — stealing sensitive data on everyday Israelis and posting it online to wreak havoc — is especially concerning because the group is likely an Iranian government persona. Even taking into account its relative technical unsophistication, the group's hacks and leaks have garnered lots of attention and portend a worrying new phenomena in the way nations attack each other, experts say. AJ Vicens explains.

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This newsletter will pause publication after Dec. 7 for the following three days. We look forward to returning to your inbox on Monday, Dec. 13. Until then, catch up on the news here.

Microsoft depreciates Nickel hackers

A U.S. court on Monday gave Microsoft a chance to take a bite out of a long-running Chinese cyber espionage group. A Microsoft lawsuit netted it control of websites that the company said the hackers — known as Nickel, Ke3chang, APT15, Vixen Panda and other names — were using to attack government agencies, think tanks and human rights organizations in the U.S. and 28 other countries. It won't shut them down entirely, Microsoft acknowledges, but the company will be able to redirect traffic from those malicious websites — potentially protecting victims and would-be victims while gathering intel on the spies. Tim Starks takes a look.

Hackers attempting to steal university credentials by invoking omicron variant

A malicious actor is attempting to steal credentials from people at U.S. universities using phishing emails that invoke a newly identified strain of the virus that causes COVID-19, according to research published Tuesday by the security company Proofpoint. The emails reference the omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which the World Health Organization identified as a “variant of concern” on Nov. 26 and has already been detected in several dozen countries, including the United States. The messages have reached users at “dozens” of universities around the country, though Proofpoint’s research only named two: Vanderbilt University and the University of Central Missouri. Benjamin Freed has more at EdScoop.

Maryland probes security incident on state systems

The Maryland Department of Health over the weekend took many of its IT systems offline, including its main website, in response to a cyberattack, the agency said. An agency spokesperson told StateScoop that state officials are investigating alongside federal law enforcement. Officials have not specified what type of malicious activity caused the outage. “The Maryland Security Operations Center is investigating a network security incident involving the Maryland Department of Health,” the MDH spokesperson, Andy Owen, said in an emailed statement. Ben digs in at StateScoop.

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