Threat actors around the globe are in no mood to hold their horses back. They have been using all the tricks they have up their sleeves. From loopholes in modern technology to emotional persuasion, they try everything to break into someone’s bank account. Slightest negligence and BOOM- these fraudsters will gain access to your most sensitive details!

In one such incident, the threat actors did not hesitate to leverage the wine-tasting culture of the European nations. The shrewd cybercriminals managed to tempt some European Union diplomats by sending them fake invitations for an imaginary wine-tasting event. The ongoing investigation suggests that the primary goal of the threat actors behind this sensational scam was to exploit the geopolitical relations between the European Nations and India



This staggering cybercrime involves an email scam, which made the most out of the wine-tasting culture of Europeans. The malicious emails were presented as irresistible e-invites to the European diplomats for a premium wine-tasting event at the residence of the Indian ambassador

The mastermind behind this ultra-smart phishing activity is dubbed “SPIKEDWINE.” The threat actor managed to send out these fraudulent emails and designed them as official invitations for the wine-tasting event to be held on the 2nd of February. He attached a PDF file to all these emails. The PDF consisted of a malicious link to a false questionnaire.

It further redirected the unsuspecting users to a compromised website. As soon as the naive diplomats clicked on the link, the malware called WineLoader was downloaded onto their computers.


High Profile Phishing Scam Backed By Intricate and Sophisticated!

The malware that made its way into the computer systems of the Brussels-based European Diplomats is termed WineLoader. The malware is designed with the ultimate intent to evade security detection. It did so by slyly encrypting some sensitive details in the computer memory. The unsuspicious installation of this malware further opened up a sort of “backdoor” into the impacted computers, thereby enabling the cybercriminals to break into the system without raising any alarm.


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Here are a few characteristics of fraudulent activity that add to its efficacy and gullibility:

Compromised infrastructural setup

SPIKEDWINE leveraged multiple compromised websites at different stages to break into the diplomats’ computers.


Low-volume, razor-focused attack

The attack was planned on a small scale, keeping in mind the target audience. The attacker proceeded with fool-proof planning to attack only those European Diplomats who have a close tie with India.


Multi-level cyberattack

SPIKEDWINE managed to launch a multi-level attack, that too, into the system of European diplomats. First the PDF file, then the malicious link and kastly the malware download- the complication at every level ensured that the naive diplomats proceed without the slightest suspicion


Advanced, modular backdoor for smooth hacking

The backdoor has a sophisticated, modular design, adding to the urbanity of the technology. It consists of multiple modules. Each of these modules consists of an RC4 key, configuration data, encrypted strings and lastly, the module code. 

Not to forget, the modules were of two types– a persistence module and a core module.


Evasive technology

The backdoor employs high-end tactics, such as re-encryption and elimination of memory buffers, which enables the threat actor to ditch forensic solutions.


Highly skilled threat actors

The intricacy and sophistication of the phishing campaign made it evident that the threat actor (or actors) involved in this scam are actually highly trained. They are well aware of the human psyche, the latest technology, and the underlying loopholes. Not only did they manage to stay away from the radar, but they also successfully attacked high-profile European diplomats to break into their confidential data.



Why European Diplomats Only?

First, their computers are a treasure trove of data of international significance. Two, their cultural ethos made them an easy target. Three, they have been targetted for cyber-espionage attempts multiple times in the past, which makes them an easy and preferable target for this phishing campaign as well.

Lastly, creating chaos in the geopolitical arena can also be a major purpose of the threat actor.


Where Did the SPIKEDWINE Emerge From?

Was it an old enemy of India and Europe? Is it someone new in the block?

No one is actually sure about this!

As of now, the origin of SPIKEDWINE remains a mystery. Although authorities are doing their best to come up with details that lead them to the threat actor, the perpetrator manages to stay out of reach.

Such polished and advanced cyberattacks are hard to trace and serve as a reminder that only digital awareness and complete vigilance can stop similar cyber invasions. Threat actors are already moving a step ahead, and they have started leveraging factors other than technology. Cybersecurity specialists, government authorities, and users must work together with utmost focus to prevent any such cyberattack in the future.


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Investing in advanced phishing protection solutions can provide robust security measures, helping to detect and mitigate phishing threats. Additionally, providing phishing awareness training to users can significantly reduce the risk of successful cyber attacks by enhancing their ability to identify and respond correctly to phishing attempts.