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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at a meeting in Armenia in early October. Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images

U.S. and U.K. intelligence agencies confirmed Monday that the Russian espionage hacker group Turla used tools and infrastructure from Iranian espionage group OilRig, likely without the Iranian group's knowledge.

Why it matters: Moves like this can sometimes confound efforts to understand who exactly has spied on what. And, by monitoring malware implanted by Iran, Turla saved itself the effort of hacking targets directly.

  • The backdrop: OilRig traditionally spies on Middle Eastern targets. Turla, whose operations are more global in nature, is only known by the NSA and NCSC to have used OilRig malware when spying on Middle Eastern targets.

Details: An investigation by the NSA and the U.K.'s lead cybersecurity intelligence agency details that malware that Turla has used since at least 2017 was "very likely Iranian in origin," according to a report released by the U.K.'s National Cyber Security Centre.

  • OilRig was "almost certainly not aware of, or complicit with, Turla’s use of their implants," according to the report.
  • More than just re-appropriating malware, it appears Turla piggy-backed on OilRig's control infrastructure and even used the malware implanted by the OilRig hackers to do its own espionage.
  • Turla's use of OilRig hacking infrastructure was first reported by Symantec in June.
  • The NSA and NCSC are the first to note that the malware tools Nautilus and Neuron, once thought to be from Turla, are actually from Iran.

The bottom line: In one fell swoop, the Western allies have left egg on the faces of both Iran and Russia, two key rivals in the cyber domain.

Go deeper

Updated 49 mins ago - Politics & Policy

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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Fall and winter COVID surge "unlikely" if people get vaccinated.
  2. Politics: School boards are the next political battleground.
  3. Vaccines: Pfizer begins application for full FDA vaccine approval — Moderna says its COVID booster shot shows promise against variants.
  4. Economy: U.S. adds just 266,000 jobs in April, far below expectations.
  5. World: Asia faces massive new COVID surgeIndia records its deadliest day of the pandemic.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Kevin McCarthy officially endorses Elise Stefanik to replace Liz Cheney

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) officially endorsed Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) to become the GOP's next House Republican conference chair during a Fox News appearance Sunday.

Why it matters: The GOP has been feuding internally over the fate of the current chair, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), because of her criticisms of former President Donald Trump, and her vote to impeach him for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Fauci: Vaccines could turn COVID-19 "surges" into "blips"

NIAID director Anthony Fauci told "Meet the Press" Sunday that if more Americans get vaccinated in accordance with the Biden administration's goals, COVID-19 surges may be replaced by "blips."

State of play: Last week President Joe Biden announced his goal to get 160 million Americans fully vaccinated by July 4, with at least 70% of Americans having at least one shot.

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