Inside the SOC

Breakdown of a multi-account compromise within Office 365

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May 2022
May 2022
This blog details how rapidly accounts can become compromised from an internal phishing campaign. It also highlights the actions that Darktrace/Apps can take to stop this type of attack in the future.

In February 2022, Darktrace detected the compromise of three SaaS accounts within a customer’s Office 365 environment. This incident provides an effective use case for highlighting how Darktrace/Apps and Darktrace/Email can work together to alert to unusual logins, app permission changes, new email rules and outbound spam. It also emphasizes an instance where Darktrace RESPOND/Apps could have been set to autonomous mode and stopped additional compromise.

Account Compromise Timeline

February 9 2022

Account A was logged into from a rare IP from Nigeria with the BAV2ROPC user agent which is commonly associated with SaaS account attacks. BAV2ROPC stands for ‘Basic Authentication Version 2 Resource Owner Password Credential’ and is commonly used by old email apps such as iOS Mail. It is often seen in SaaS/email account compromises where accounts have ‘legacy authentication’ enabled. This is because, even if multi-factor authentication (MFA) is activated, legacy protocols like IMAP/POP3 are not configured for MFA and so do not result in an MFA notification being sent.[1][2]

Account A then created a new email rule which was named as a single full stop. Attackers commonly create new email rules to give themselves persistent access by using the ability to forward certain emails to external email accounts they own. This means that even if the account’s password is changed or MFA is turned on, the attacker keeps getting the forwarded emails as long as the rule remains in place. In this case, the attacker configured the new email rule using the following fields and features:

  • AlwaysDeleteOutlookRulesBlob – hides any warning messages when using Outlook on the web or Powershell to edit inbox rules. It is likely that the attacker had a set list of commands to run and didn’t want to be slowed down in the exploitation of the account by having to click confirmation messages.
  • Force – hides warning or confirmation messages.
  • MoveToFolder – moves emails to a folder. This is often used to move bounced emails away from the inbox in order to hide the fact the account is being used to send emails by the attacker.
  • Name – specifies the name of the rule, in this case a single full stop.
  • SubjectOrBodyContainsWords – emails with key words are actioned.
  • StopProcessingRules – determines whether subsequent rules are processed if the conditions of this rule are met. It is likely in this case the attacker set this to false so that any subsequent rules would still be processed to avoid raising suspicion.

Account A was then observed giving permission to the email management app Spike. This was likely to allow the rapid automated exploitation of the compromised account. Attackers want to speed up this process to reduce the time between account compromise and malicious use of the account, thus reducing the time security teams have to respond.

Figure 1: Screenshot from SaaS console showing the timeline of giving consent to the email management application Spike and the creation of the new inbox rule

The account was then observed sending 794 emails over a 15 minute period to both internal and external recipients. These emails shared similar qualities including the same subject line and related phishing links. This mass spam was likely due to the attacker wanting to compromise as many accounts and credentials as possible within the shortest timeframe. The domain of the link sent in the emails was spikenow[.]com and was hidden by the text ‘View Shared Link’. This suggests that the attacker used Spike to send the emails and host the phishing link.

Figure 2: Screenshot of AGE UI showing the spike in outbound messages from the compromised account – the messages all appear to be the same format
Figure 3: Screenshot from Darktrace/Email of the link and text that masked the link: ‘View Shared File’

Within 15 minutes of this large volume of outbound email from Account A, Account B was accessed from the same rare IP located in Nigeria. Account B also created a new email rule which was named a single full stop. In addition to the previous rules, the following rules were observed:

  • From – specifies that emails from certain addresses will be processed by the rule.
  • MarkAsRead – specifies that emails are to be marked as read.

Due to the short timeframe between the phishing emails and the anomalous behavior from Account B, it is possible that Account B was an initial phishing victim.

Figure 4: Screenshot of the SaaS console showing Account B login failures, then successful login and inbox rule creation from the rare Nigerian IP

February 10 2022

The next day, a third account (Account C) was also accessed from the same rare IP. This occurred on two occasions, once with the user agent Mozilla/5.0 and once with BAV2ROPC. After the login at 13:08 with BAV2ROPC, the account gave the same permission as Account A to the email management app Spike. It then created what appears to be the same email rule, named a single full stop. As with Account B, it is possible that this account was compromised by one of the phishing emails sent by Account A.

Figure 5: Timeline of key incidents with Darktrace/Apps actions

Whilst the motive of the threat actor was unclear, this may have been the result of:

  • Credential harvesting for future use against the organization or to sell to a third party.
  • Possible impersonation of compromised users on professional websites (LinkedIn, Indeed) to phish further company accounts:
  • Fake accounts of one user were discovered on LinkedIn.
  • Emails registering for Indeed for this same user were seen during compromise.

How did the attack bypass the rest of the security stack?

  • Compromised Office 365 credentials, combined with the use of the user agent BAV2ROPC meant MFA could not stop the suspicious login.
  • RESPOND was in Human Confirmation Mode and was therefore not confirmed to take autonomous action, showing only the detections. Disabling Account A would likely have prevented the phishing emails and the subsequent compromise of Accounts B and C.
  • The organization was not signed up to Darktrace Proactive Threat Notifications or Ask The Expert services which could have allowed further triage from Darktrace SOC analysts.

Cyber AI Analyst Investigates

Darktrace’s Cyber AI Analyst automates investigations at speed and scale, prioritizing relevant incidents and creating actionable insights, allowing security teams to rapidly understand and act against a threat.

In this case, AI Analyst automatically investigated all three account compromises, saving time for the customer’s security team and allowing them to quickly investigate the incident themselves in more detail. The technology also highlighted some of the viewed files by the compromised accounts which was not immediately obvious from the model breaches alone.

Figure 6: Screenshot of AI Analyst for Account A
Figure 7: Screenshot of AI Analyst for Account B
Figure 8: Screenshot of AI Analyst for Account C

Darktrace RESPOND (Antigena) actions

The organization in question did not have RESPOND/Apps configured in Active Mode, and so it did not take any action in this case. The table below shows the critical defensive actions RESPOND would have taken.[3]

Nonetheless, we can see what actions RESPOND would have taken, and when, had the technology been enabled.

The above tables illustrate that all three users would have been disabled during the incident had RESPOND been active. The highlighted row shows that Account A would have been disabled when the internal phishing emails were sent and possibly then prevented the cascade of compromised email accounts (B and C).


SaaS accounts greatly increase a company’s attack surface. Not only is exploitation of compromised accounts quick, but a single compromised account can easily lead to further compromises via an internal phishing campaign. Together this reinforces the ongoing need for autonomous and proactive security to complement existing IT teams and reduce threats at the point of compromise. Whilst disabling ‘legacy authentication’ for all accounts and providing MFA would give some extra protection, Darktrace/Apps has the ability to block all further infection.

Credit to: Adam Stevens and Anthony Wong for their contributions.


List of Darktrace Model Detections

User A – February 9 2022

  • 04:55:51 UTC | SaaS / Access / Suspicious Login User-Agent
  • 04:55:51 UTC | SaaS / Access / Unusual External Source for SaaS Credential Use
  • 04:55:52 UTC | Antigena / SaaS / Antigena Suspicious SaaS and Email Activity Block
  • 04:55:52 UTC | Antigena / SaaS / Antigena Suspicious SaaS Activity Block
  • 14:16:48 UTC | SaaS / Compliance / New Email Rule
  • 14:16:48 UTC | SaaS / Compromise / Unusual Login and New Email Rule
  • 14:16:49 UTC | Antigena / SaaS / Antigena Significant Compliance Activity Block
  • 14:16:49 UTC | Antigena / SaaS / Antigena Suspicious SaaS Activity Block
  • 14:45:06 UTC | IaaS / Admin / Azure Application Administration Activities
  • 14:45:07 UTC | SaaS / Admin / OAuth Permission Grant
  • 14:45:07 UTC | Device / Multiple Model Breaches
  • 14:45:08 UTC | SaaS / Compliance / Multiple Unusual SaaS Activities
  • 15:03:25 UTC | SaaS / Email Nexus / Possible Outbound Email Spam
  • 15:03:25 UTC | SaaS / Compromise / Unusual Login and Outbound Email Spam

User B – February 9 2022

  • 15:18:21 UTC | SaaS / Compliance / New Email Rule
  • 15:18:21 UTC | SaaS / Compromise / Unusual Login and New Email Rule
  • 15:18:22 UTC | Antigena / SaaS / Antigena Significant Compliance Activity Block
  • 15:18:22 UTC | Antigena / SaaS / Antigena Suspicious SaaS Activity Block

User C – February 10 2022

  • 14:25:20 UTC | SaaS / Admin / OAuth Permission Grant
  • 14:38:09 UTC | SaaS / Compliance / New Email Rule
  • 14:38:09 UTC | SaaS / Compromise / Unusual Login and New Email Rule
  • 14:38:10 UTC | Antigena / SaaS / Antigena Significant Compliance Activity Block
  • 14:38:10 UTC | Antigena / SaaS / Antigena Suspicious SaaS Activity Block





Darktrace cyber analysts are world-class experts in threat intelligence, threat hunting and incident response, and provide 24/7 SOC support to thousands of Darktrace customers around the globe. Inside the SOC is exclusively authored by these experts, providing analysis of cyber incidents and threat trends, based on real-world experience in the field.
Laura Leyland
Cyber Analyst
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How to Protect your Organization Against Microsoft Teams Phishing Attacks

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May 2024

The problem: Microsoft Teams phishing attacks are on the rise

Around 83% of Fortune 500 companies rely on Microsoft Office products and services1, with Microsoft Teams and Microsoft SharePoint in particular emerging as critical platforms to the business operations of the everyday workplace. Researchers across the threat landscape have begun to observe these legitimate services being leveraged more and more by malicious actors as an initial access method.

As Teams becomes a more prominent feature of the workplace many employees rely on it for daily internal and external communication, even surpassing email usage in some organizations. As Microsoft2 states, "Teams changes your relationship with email. When your whole group is working in Teams, it means you'll all get fewer emails. And you'll spend less time in your inbox, because you'll use Teams for more of your conversations."

However, Teams can be exploited to send targeted phishing messages to individuals either internally or externally, while appearing legitimate and safe. Users might receive an external message request from a Teams account claiming to be an IT support service or otherwise affiliated with the organization. Once a user has accepted, the threat actor can launch a social engineering campaign or deliver a malicious payload. As a primarily internal tool there is naturally less training and security awareness around Teams – due to the nature of the channel it is assumed to be a trusted source, meaning that social engineering is already one step ahead.

Screenshot of a Microsoft Teams message request from a Midnight Blizzard-controlled account (courtesy of Microsoft)
Figure 1: Screenshot of a Microsoft Teams message request from a Midnight Blizzard-controlled account (courtesy of Microsoft)

Microsoft Teams Phishing Examples

Microsoft has identified several major phishing attacks using Teams within the past year.

In July 2023, Microsoft announced that the threat actor known as Midnight Blizzard – identified by the United States as a Russian state-sponsored group – had launched a series of phishing campaigns via Teams with the aim of stealing user credentials. These attacks used previously compromised Microsoft 365 accounts and set up new domain names that impersonated legitimate IT support organizations. The threat actors then used social engineering tactics to trick targeted users into sharing their credentials via Teams, enabling them to access sensitive data.  

At a similar time, threat actor Storm-0324 was observed sending phishing lures via Teams containing links to malicious SharePoint-hosted files. The group targeted organizations that allow Teams users to interact and share files externally. Storm-0324’s goal is to gain initial access to hand over to other threat actors to pursue more dangerous follow-on attacks like ransomware.

For a more in depth look at how Darktrace stops Microsoft Teams phishing read our blog: Don’t Take the Bait: How Darktrace Keeps Microsoft Teams Phishing Attacks at Bay

The market: Existing Microsoft Teams security solutions are insufficient

Microsoft’s native Teams security focuses on payloads, namely links and attachments, as the principal malicious component of any phishing. These payloads are relatively straightforward to detect with their experience in anti-virus, sandboxing, and IOCs. However, this approach is unable to intervene before the stage at which payloads are delivered, before the user even gets the chance to accept or deny an external message request. At the same time, it risks missing more subtle threats that don’t include attachments or links – like early stage phishing, which is pure social engineering – or completely new payloads.

Equally, the market offering for Teams security is limited. Security solutions available on the market are always payload-focused, rather than taking into account the content and context in which a link or attachment is sent. Answering questions like:

  • Does it make sense for these two accounts to speak to each other?
  • Are there any linguistic indicators of inducement?

Furthermore, they do not correlate with email to track threats across multiple communication environments which could signal a wider campaign. Effectively, other market solutions aren’t adding extra value – they are protecting against the same types of threats that Microsoft is already covering by default.

The other aspect of Teams security that native and market solutions fail to address is the account itself. As well as focusing on Teams threats, it’s important to analyze messages to understand the normal mode of communication for a user, and spot when a user’s Teams activity might signal account takeover.

The solution: How Darktrace protects Microsoft Teams against sophisticated threats

With its biggest update to Darktrace/Email ever, Darktrace now offers support for Microsoft Teams. With that, we are bringing the same AI philosophy that protects your email and accounts to your messaging environment.  

Our Self-Learning AI looks at content and context for every communication, whether that’s sent in an email or Teams message. It looks at actual user behavior, including language patterns, relationship history of sender and recipient, tone and payloads, to understand if a message poses a threat. This approach allows Darktrace to detect threats such as social engineering and payloadless attacks using visibility and forensic capabilities that Microsoft security doesn’t currently offer, as well as early symptoms of account compromise.  

Unlike market solutions, Darktrace doesn’t offer a siloed approach to Teams security. Data and signals from Teams are shared across email to inform detection, and also with the wider Darktrace ActiveAI security platform. By correlating information from email and Teams with network and apps security, Darktrace is able to better identify suspicious Teams activity and vice versa.  

Interested in the other ways Darktrace/Email augments threat detection? Read our latest blog on how improving the quality of end-user reporting can decrease the burden on the SOC. To find our more about Darktrace's enduring partnership with Microsoft, click here.


[1] Essential Microsoft Office Statistics in 2024

[2] Microsoft blog, Microsoft Teams and email, living in harmony, 2024

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About the author
Carlos Gray
Product Manager


Inside the SOC

Don’t Take the Bait: How Darktrace Keeps Microsoft Teams Phishing Attacks at Bay

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May 2024

Social Engineering in Phishing Attacks

Faced with increasingly cyber-aware endpoint users and vigilant security teams, more and more threat actors are forced to think psychologically about the individuals they are targeting with their phishing attacks. Social engineering methods like taking advantage of the human emotions of their would-be victims, pressuring them to open emails or follow links or face financial or legal repercussions, and impersonating known and trusted brands or services, have become common place in phishing campaigns in recent years.

Phishing with Microsoft Teams

The malicious use of the popular communications platform Microsoft Teams has become widely observed and discussed across the threat landscape, with many organizations adopting it as their primary means of business communication, and many threat actors using it as an attack vector. As Teams allows users to communicate with people outside of their organization by default [1], it becomes an easy entry point for potential attackers to use as a social engineering vector.

In early 2024, Darktrace/Apps™ identified two separate instances of malicious actors using Microsoft Teams to launch a phishing attack against Darktrace customers in the Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. Interestingly, in this case the attackers not only used a well-known legitimate service to carry out their phishing campaign, but they were also attempting to impersonate an international hotel chain.

Despite these attempts to evade endpoint users and traditional security measures, Darktrace’s anomaly detection enabled it to identify the suspicious phishing messages and bring them to the customer’s attention. Additionally, Darktrace’s autonomous response capability, was able to follow-up these detections with targeted actions to contain the suspicious activity in the first instance.

Darktrace Coverage of Microsoft Teams Phishing

Chats Sent by External User and Following Actions by Darktrace

On February 29, 2024, Darktrace detected the presence of a new external user on the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) environment of an EMEA customer for the first time. The user, “REDACTED@InternationalHotelChain[.]onmicrosoft[.]com” was only observed on this date and no further activities were detected from this user after February 29.

Later the same day, the unusual external user created its first chat on Microsoft Teams named “New Employee Loyalty Program”. Over the course of around 5 minutes, the user sent 63 messages across 21 different chats to unique internal users on the customer’s SaaS platform. All these chats included the ‘foreign tenant user’ and one of the customer’s internal users, likely in an attempt to remain undetected. Foreign tenant user, in this case, refers to users without access to typical internal software and privileges, indicating the presence of an external user.

Darktrace’s detection of unusual messages being sent by a suspicious external user via Microsoft Teams.
Figure 1: Darktrace’s detection of unusual messages being sent by a suspicious external user via Microsoft Teams.
Advanced Search results showing the presence of a foreign tenant user on the customer’s SaaS environment.
Figure 2: Advanced Search results showing the presence of a foreign tenant user on the customer’s SaaS environment.

Darktrace identified that the external user had connected from an unusual IP address located in Poland, 195.242.125[.]186. Darktrace understood that this was unexpected behavior for this user who had only previously been observed connecting from the United Kingdom; it further recognized that no other users within the customer’s environment had connected from this external source, thereby deeming it suspicious. Further investigation by Darktrace’s analyst team revealed that the endpoint had been flagged as malicious by several open-source intelligence (OSINT) vendors.

External Summary highlighting the rarity of the rare external source from which the Teams messages were sent.
Figure 3: External Summary highlighting the rarity of the rare external source from which the Teams messages were sent.

Following Darktrace’s initial detection of these suspicious Microsoft Teams messages, Darktrace's autonomous response was able to further support the customer by providing suggested mitigative actions that could be applied to stop the external user from sending any additional phishing messages.

Unfortunately, at the time of this attack Darktrace's autonomous response capability was configured in human confirmation mode, meaning any autonomous response actions had to be manually actioned by the customer. Had it been enabled in autonomous response mode, it would have been able promptly disrupt the attack, disabling the external user to prevent them from continuing their phishing attempts and securing precious time for the customer’s security team to begin their own remediation procedures.

Darktrace autonomous response actions that were suggested following the ’Large Volume of Messages Sent from New External User’ detection model alert.
Figure 4: Darktrace autonomous response actions that were suggested following the ’Large Volume of Messages Sent from New External User’ detection model alert.

External URL Sent within Teams Chats

Within the 21 Teams chats created by the threat actor, Darktrace identified 21 different external URLs being sent, all of which included the domain "cloud-sharcpoint[.]com”. Many of these URLs had been recently established and had been flagged as malicious by OSINT providers [3]. This was likely an attempt to impersonate “cloud-sharepoint[.]com”, the legitimate domain of Microsoft SharePoint, with the threat actor attempting to ‘typo-squat’ the URL to convince endpoint users to trust the legitimacy of the link. Typo-squatted domains are commonly misspelled URLs registered by opportunistic attackers in the hope of gaining the trust of unsuspecting targets. They are often used for nefarious purposes like dropping malicious files on devices or harvesting credentials.

Upon clicking this malicious link, users were directed to a similarly typo-squatted domain, “InternatlonalHotelChain[.]sharcpoInte-docs[.]com”. This domain was likely made to appear like the SharePoint URL used by the international hotel chain being impersonated.

Redirected link to a fake SharePoint page attempting to impersonate an international hotel chain.
Figure 5: Redirected link to a fake SharePoint page attempting to impersonate an international hotel chain.

This fake SharePoint page used the branding of the international hotel chain and contained a document named “New Employee Loyalty Program”; the same name given to the phishing messages sent by the attacker on Microsoft Teams. Upon accessing this file, users would be directed to a credential harvester, masquerading as a Microsoft login page, and prompted to enter their credentials. If successful, this would allow the attacker to gain unauthorized access to a user’s SaaS account, thereby compromising the account and enabling further escalation in the customer’s environment.

Figure 6: A fake Microsoft login page that popped-up when attempting to open the ’New Employee Loyalty Program’ document.

This is a clear example of an attacker attempting to leverage social engineering tactics to gain the trust of their targets and convince them to inadvertently compromise their account. Many corporate organizations partner with other companies and well-known brands to offer their employees loyalty programs as part of their employment benefits and perks. As such, it would not necessarily be unexpected for employees to receive such an offer from an international hotel chain. By impersonating an international hotel chain, threat actors would increase the probability of convincing their targets to trust and click their malicious messages and links, and unintentionally compromising their accounts.

In spite of the attacker’s attempts to impersonate reputable brands, platforms, Darktrace/Apps was able to successfully recognize the malicious intent behind this phishing campaign and suggest steps to contain the attack. Darktrace recognized that the user in question had deviated from its ‘learned’ pattern of behavior by connecting to the customer’s SaaS environment from an unusual external location, before proceeding to send an unusually large volume of messages via Teams, indicating that the SaaS account had been compromised.

A Wider Campaign?

Around a month later, in March 2024, Darktrace observed a similar incident of a malicious actor impersonating the same international hotel chain in a phishing attacking using Microsoft Teams, suggesting that this was part of a wider phishing campaign. Like the previous example, this customer was also based in the EMEA region.  

The attack tactics identified in this instance were very similar to the previously example, with a new external user identified within the network proceeding to create a series of Teams messages named “New Employee Loyalty Program” containing a typo-squatted external links.

There were a few differences with this second incident, however, with the attacker using the domain “@InternationalHotelChainExpeditions[.]onmicrosoft[.]com” to send their malicious Teams messages and using differently typo-squatted URLs to imitate Microsoft SharePoint.

As both customers targeted by this phishing campaign were subscribed to Darktrace’s Proactive Threat Notification (PTN) service, this suspicious SaaS activity was promptly escalated to the Darktrace Security Operations Center (SOC) for immediate triage and investigation. Following their investigation, the SOC team sent an alert to the customers informing them of the compromise and advising urgent follow-up.


While there are clear similarities between these Microsoft Teams-based phishing attacks, the attackers here have seemingly sought ways to refine their tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), leveraging new connection locations and creating new malicious URLs in an effort to outmaneuver human security teams and conventional security tools.

As cyber threats grow increasingly sophisticated and evasive, it is crucial for organizations to employ intelligent security solutions that can see through social engineering techniques and pinpoint suspicious activity early.

Darktrace’s Self-Learning AI understands customer environments and is able to recognize the subtle deviations in a device’s behavioral pattern, enabling it to effectively identify suspicious activity even when attackers adapt their strategies. In this instance, this allowed Darktrace to detect the phishing messages, and the malicious links contained within them, despite the seemingly trustworthy source and use of a reputable platform like Microsoft Teams.

Credit to Min Kim, Cyber Security Analyst, Raymond Norbert, Cyber Security Analyst and Ryan Traill, Threat Content Lead


Darktrace Model Detections

SaaS Model

Large Volume of Messages Sent from New External User

SaaS / Unusual Activity / Large Volume of Messages Sent from New External User

Indicators of Compromise (IoCs)

IoC – Type - Description

https://cloud-sharcpoint[.]com/[a-zA-Z0-9]{15} - Example hostname - Malicious phishing redirection link

InternatlonalHotelChain[.]sharcpolnte-docs[.]com – Hostname – Redirected Link

195.242.125[.]186 - External Source IP Address – Malicious Endpoint

MITRE Tactics

Tactic – Technique

Phishing – Initial Access (T1566)





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About the author
Min Kim
Cyber Security Analyst
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