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Chinese Espionage Hackers Target Tibetans Using New LOWZERO Backdoor

Chinese Espionage Hackers Target Tibetans Using New LOWZERO Backdoor

September 26, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
A China-aligned advanced persistent threat actor known as TA413 weaponized recently disclosed flaws in Sophos Firewall and Microsoft Office to deploy a never-before-seen backdoor called LOWZERO as part of an espionage campaign aimed at Tibetan entities. Targets primarily consisted of organizations associated with the Tibetan community, including enterprises associated with the Tibetan government-in-exile. The intrusions involved the exploitation of  CVE-2022-1040  and  CVE-2022-30190  (aka "Follina"), two remote code execution vulnerabilities in Sophos Firewall and Microsoft Office, respectively. "This willingness to rapidly incorporate new techniques and methods of initial access contrasts with the group's continued use of well known and reported capabilities, such as the Royal Road RTF weaponizer, and often lax infrastructure procurement tendencies," Recorded Future  said  in a new technical analysis. TA413, also known as LuckyCat, has been linked to rel
U.S. Adds 2 More Chinese Telecom Firms to National Security Threat List

U.S. Adds 2 More Chinese Telecom Firms to National Security Threat List

September 21, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has added Pacific Network Corp, along with its subsidiary ComNet (USA) LLC, and China Unicom (Americas) Operations Limited, to the list of communications equipment and services that have been deemed a threat to national security. The agency  said  the companies are subject to the Chinese government's exploitation, influence, and control, and could be forced to comply with requests for intercepting and misrouting communications, without the ability to challenge such requests. The Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau further noted that equipment and services from ComNet and China Unicom could present an opportunity for the Chinese government to carry out espionage operations and gather intelligence against the U.S. Alternatively, they could also provide the Chinese government with a strategic capability to "target, collect, alter, block, and reroute network traffic." China Unicom also earned a place on the list fo
China Accuses NSA's TAO Unit of Hacking its Military Research University

China Accuses NSA's TAO Unit of Hacking its Military Research University

September 12, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
China has accused the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) of conducting a string of cyberattacks aimed at aeronautical and military research-oriented Northwestern Polytechnical University in the city of Xi'an in June 2022. The National Computer Virus Emergency Response Centre (NCVERC) disclosed its findings last week, and accused the Office of Tailored Access Operations ( TAO ), a cyber-warfare intelligence-gathering unit of the National Security Agency (NSA), of orchestrating thousands of attacks against the entities located within the country. "The U.S. NSA's TAO has carried out tens of thousands of malicious cyber attacks on China's domestic network targets, controlled tens of thousands of network devices (network servers, Internet terminals, network switches, telephone exchanges, routers, firewalls, etc.), and stole more than 140GB of high-value data," the NCVERC  said . According to the U.S. Department of Justice ( DoJ ), Northwestern Polytechnical Unive
Chinese Hackers Used ScanBox Framework in Recent Cyber Espionage Attacks

Chinese Hackers Used ScanBox Framework in Recent Cyber Espionage Attacks

August 31, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
A months-long cyber espionage campaign undertaken by a Chinese nation-state group targeted several entities with reconnaissance malware so as to glean information about its victims and meet its strategic goals. "The targets of this recent campaign spanned Australia, Malaysia, and Europe, as well as entities that operate in the South China Sea," enterprise security firm Proofpoint  said  in a published in partnership with PwC. Targets encompass local and federal Australian Governmental agencies, Australian news media companies, and global heavy industry manufacturers which conduct maintenance of fleets of wind turbines in the South China Sea. Proofpoint and PwC attributed the intrusions with moderate confidence to a threat actor tracked by the two companies under the names TA423 and Red Ladon respectively, which is also known as APT40 and Leviathan. APT40 is the name designated to a China-based, espionage-motivated threat actor that's known to be active since 2013 and
China-backed APT41 Hackers Targeted 13 Organisations Worldwide Last Year

China-backed APT41 Hackers Targeted 13 Organisations Worldwide Last Year

August 18, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
The Chinese advanced persistent threat (APT) actor tracked as Winnti has targeted at least 13 organizations geographically spanning across the U.S, Taiwan, India, Vietnam, and China against the backdrop of four different campaigns in 2021. "The targeted industries included the public sector, manufacturing, healthcare, logistics, hospitality, education, as well as the media and aviation," cybersecurity firm Group-IB  said  in a report shared with The Hacker News. This also included the attack on Air India that came to light in June 2021 as part of a campaign codenamed  ColunmTK . The other three campaigns have been assigned the monikers DelayLinkTK, Mute-Pond, and Gentle-Voice based on the domain names used in the attacks. APT41, also known as Barium, Bronze Atlas, Double Dragon, Wicked Panda, or Winnti, is a  prolific   Chinese   cyber threat group  that's known to carry out state-sponsored espionage activity in parallel with financially motivated operations at least
Researchers Link Multi-Year Mass Credential Theft Campaign to Chinese Hackers

Researchers Link Multi-Year Mass Credential Theft Campaign to Chinese Hackers

August 17, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
A Chinese state-sponsored threat activity group named RedAlpha has been attributed to a multi-year mass credential theft campaign aimed at global humanitarian, think tank, and government organizations. "In this activity, RedAlpha very likely sought to gain access to email accounts and other online communications of targeted individuals and organizations," Recorded Future  disclosed  in a new report.  A lesser-known threat actor, RedAlpha was first  documented  by Citizen Lab in January 2018 and has a history of conducting cyber espionage and surveillance operations directed against the Tibetan community, some in India, to facilitate intelligence collection through the deployment of the NjRAT backdoor . "The campaigns [...] combine light reconnaissance, selective targeting, and diverse malicious tooling," Recorded Future  noted  at the time. Since then, malicious activities undertaken by the group have involved weaponizing as many as 350 domains that spoof leg
Chinese Hackers Targeted Dozens of Industrial Enterprises and Public Institutions

Chinese Hackers Targeted Dozens of Industrial Enterprises and Public Institutions

August 09, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
Over a dozen military-industrial complex enterprises and public institutions in Afghanistan and Europe have come under a wave of targeted attacks since January 2022 to steal confidential data by simultaneously making use of six different backdoors. Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky  attributed  the attacks "with a high degree of confidence" to a China-linked threat actor tracked by  Proofpoint  as  TA428 , citing overlaps in tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs).  TA428, also known by the names Bronze Dudley, Temp.Hex, and Vicious Panda, has a  history  of striking entities in Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, and Mongolia. It's believed to share connections with another hacking group called Mustang Panda (aka Bronze President). Targets of the latest cyber espionage campaign included industrial plants, design bureaus and research institutes, government agencies, ministries and departments in several East European countries and Afghanistan. Attack chains entail penet
Chinese Hackers Using New Manjusaka Hacking Framework Similar to Cobalt Strike

Chinese Hackers Using New Manjusaka Hacking Framework Similar to Cobalt Strike

August 02, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
Researchers have disclosed a new offensive framework referred to as Manjusaka that they call is a "Chinese sibling of Sliver and Cobalt Strike." "A fully functional version of the command-and-control (C2), written in Golang with a User Interface in Simplified Chinese, is freely available and can generate new implants with custom configurations with ease, increasing the likelihood of wider adoption of this framework by malicious actors," Cisco Talos  said  in a new report. Sliver  and  Cobalt Strike  are legitimate adversary emulation frameworks that have been repurposed by threat actors to carry out post-exploitation activities such as network reconnaissance, lateral movement, and facilitating the deployment of follow-on payloads. Written in Rust, Manjusaka -- meaning "cow flower" -- is advertised as an equivalent to the Cobalt Strike framework with capabilities to target both Windows and Linux operating systems. Its developer is believed to be located
State-Backed Hackers Targeting Journalists in Widespread Espionage Campaigns

State-Backed Hackers Targeting Journalists in Widespread Espionage Campaigns

July 14, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
Nation-state hacking groups aligned with China, Iran, North Korea, and Turkey have been targeting journalists to conduct espionage and spread malware as part of a series of campaigns since early 2021. "Most commonly, phishing attacks targeting journalists are used for espionage or to gain key insights into the inner workings of another government, company, or other area of state-designated import," Proofpoint  said  in a report shared with The Hacker News. The ultimate goal of the "sustained" intrusions, the enterprise security firm said, is to gain a competitive intelligence edge or spread disinformation and propaganda. Proofpoint said it identified two Chinese hacking groups, TA412 (aka  Zirconium  or Judgment Panda) and  TA459 , targeting media personnel with malicious emails containing web beacons and weaponized documents respectively that were used to amass information about the recipients' network environments and drop  Chinoxy  malware. In a simila
TikTok Postpones Privacy Policy Update in Europe After Italy Warns of GDPR Breach

TikTok Postpones Privacy Policy Update in Europe After Italy Warns of GDPR Breach

July 12, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
Popular video-sharing platform TikTok on Tuesday agreed to pause a controversial privacy policy update that could have allowed it to serve targeted ads based on users' activity on the social video platform without their permission to do so. The reversal, reported by  TechCrunch , comes a day after the Italian data protection authority — the Garante per la Protezione dei Dati Personali — warned the company against the change, citing violations of data protection laws. "The personal data stored in users' devices may not be used to profile those users and send personalized ads without their explicit consent," the Garante  said . The formal warning was in response to a privacy policy revision that noted the service had historically asked users' "consent" to their on-TikTok activity and off-TikTok activity to serve personalized ads and that, therefore, it intends to stop asking users for their permission to profile their behavior and process personal dat
Pro-China Group Uses Dragonbridge Campaign to Target Rare Earth Mining Companies

Pro-China Group Uses Dragonbridge Campaign to Target Rare Earth Mining Companies

July 05, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
A pro-China  influence campaign  singled out rare earth mining companies in Australia, Canada, and the U.S. with negative messaging in an unsuccessful attempt to manipulate public discourse to China's benefit. Targeted firms included Australia's Lynas Rare Earths Ltd, Canada's Appia Rare Earths & Uranium Corp, and the American company USA Rare Earth, threat intelligence firm Mandiant said in a report last week, calling the digital campaign  Dragonbridge . "It targeted an industry of strategic significance to the PRC, including specifically three commercial entities challenging the  PRC's global market dominance  in that industry," Mandiant  noted . The goal, the company noted, was to instigate environmental protests against the companies and propagate counter-narratives in response to potential or planned rare earths production activities involving the targets. This comprised a network of thousands of inauthentic accounts across numerous social medi
State-Backed Hackers Using Ransomware as a Decoy for Cyber Espionage Attacks

State-Backed Hackers Using Ransomware as a Decoy for Cyber Espionage Attacks

June 24, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
A China-based advanced persistent threat (APT) group is possibly deploying short-lived ransomware families as a decoy to cover up the true operational and tactical objectives behind its campaigns. The activity cluster, attributed to a hacking group dubbed  Bronze Starlight  by Secureworks, involves the deployment of post-intrusion ransomware such as LockFile, Atom Silo, Rook, Night Sky, Pandora, and LockBit 2.0. "The ransomware could distract incident responders from identifying the threat actors' true intent and reduce the likelihood of attributing the malicious activity to a government-sponsored Chinese threat group," the researchers  said  in a new report. "In each case, the ransomware targets a small number of victims over a relatively brief period of time before it ceases operations, apparently permanently." Bronze Starlight, active since mid-2021, is also tracked by Microsoft under the emerging threat cluster moniker DEV-0401, with the tech giant empha
Chinese Hackers Distributing SMS Bomber Tool with Malware Hidden Inside

Chinese Hackers Distributing SMS Bomber Tool with Malware Hidden Inside

June 23, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
A threat cluster with ties to a hacking group called Tropic Trooper has been spotted using a previously undocumented malware coded in Nim language to strike targets as part of a newly discovered campaign. The novel loader, dubbed Nimbda, is "bundled with a Chinese language greyware 'SMS Bomber' tool that is most likely illegally distributed in the Chinese-speaking web," Israeli cybersecurity company Check Point  said  in a report. "Whoever crafted the Nim loader took special care to give it the same executable icon as the SMS Bomber that it drops and executes," the researchers said. "Therefore the entire bundle works as a trojanized binary." SMS Bomber, as the name indicates, allows a user to input a phone number (not their own) so as to flood the victim's device with messages and potentially render it unusable in what's a denial-of-service (DoS) attack. The fact that the binary doubles up as SMS Bomber and a backdoor suggests that t
Chinese Hackers Exploited Sophos Firewall Zero-Day Flaw to Target South Asian Entity

Chinese Hackers Exploited Sophos Firewall Zero-Day Flaw to Target South Asian Entity

June 17, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
A sophisticated Chinese advanced persistent threat (APT) actor exploited a critical security vulnerability in Sophos' firewall product that came to light earlier this year to infiltrate an unnamed South Asian target as part of a highly-targeted attack. "The attacker implement[ed] an interesting web shell backdoor, create[d] a secondary form of persistence, and ultimately launch[ed] attacks against the customer's staff," Volexity  said  in a report. "These attacks aimed to further breach cloud-hosted web servers hosting the organization's public-facing websites." The zero-day flaw in question is tracked as  CVE-2022-1040  (CVSS score: 9.8), and concerns an authentication bypass vulnerability that can be weaponized to execute arbitrary code remotely. It affects Sophos Firewall versions 18.5 MR3 (18.5.3) and earlier. The cybersecurity firm, which issued a patch for the flaw on March 25, 2022, noted that it was abused to "target a small set of spec
Chinese Hackers Distribute Backdoored Web3 Wallets for iOS and Android Users

Chinese Hackers Distribute Backdoored Web3 Wallets for iOS and Android Users

June 13, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
A technically sophisticated threat actor known as  SeaFlower  has been targeting Android and iOS users as part of an extensive campaign that mimics official cryptocurrency wallet websites intending to distribute backdoored apps that drain victims' funds. Said to be first discovered in March 2022, the cluster of activity "hint[s] to a strong relationship with a Chinese-speaking entity yet to be uncovered," based on the macOS usernames, source code comments in the backdoor code, and its abuse of Alibaba's Content Delivery Network (CDN). "As of today, the main current objective of SeaFlower is to modify Web3 wallets with backdoor code that ultimately exfiltrates the seed phrase," Confiant's Taha Karim  said  in a technical deep-dive of the campaign. Targeted apps include Android and iOS versions of Coinbase Wallet, MetaMask, TokenPocket, and imToken. SeaFlower's modus operandi involves setting up cloned websites that act as a conduit to download
Chinese 'Gallium' Hackers Using New PingPull Malware in Cyberespionage Attacks

Chinese 'Gallium' Hackers Using New PingPull Malware in Cyberespionage Attacks

June 13, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
A Chinese advanced persistent threat (APT) known as Gallium has been observed using a previously undocumented remote access trojan in its espionage attacks targeting companies operating in Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa. Called  PingPull , the "difficult-to-detect" backdoor is notable for its use of the Internet Control Message Protocol ( ICMP ) for command-and-control (C2) communications, according to new research published by Palo Alto Networks Unit 42 today. Gallium is notorious for its attacks primarily aimed at telecom companies dating as far back as 2012. Also tracked under the name  Soft Cell  by Cybereason, the state-sponsored actor has been  connected  to a broader set of attacks targeting five major telecom companies located in Southeast Asian countries since 2017. Over the past year, however, the group is said to have expanded its victimology footprint to include financial institutions and government entities located in Afghanistan, Australia, Belgium, Cam
A Decade-Long Chinese Espionage Campaign Targets Southeast Asia and Australia

A Decade-Long Chinese Espionage Campaign Targets Southeast Asia and Australia

June 09, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
A previously undocumented Chinese-speaking advanced persistent threat (APT) actor dubbed  Aoqin Dragon  has been linked to a string of espionage-oriented attacks aimed at government, education, and telecom entities chiefly in Southeast Asia and Australia dating as far back as 2013. "Aoqin Dragon seeks initial access primarily through document exploits and the use of fake removable devices," SentinelOne researcher Joey Chen  said  in a report shared with The Hacker News. "Other techniques the attacker has been observed using include DLL hijacking,  Themida-packed files , and DNS tunneling to evade post-compromise detection." The group is said to have some level of tactical association with another threat actor known as  Naikon  (aka Override Panda), with the campaigns primarily directed against targets in Australia, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Vietnam. Infections chains mounted by Aoqin Dragon have banked on Asia-Pacific political affairs and pornographi
U.S. Agencies Warn About Chinese Hackers Targeting Telecoms and Network Service Providers

U.S. Agencies Warn About Chinese Hackers Targeting Telecoms and Network Service Providers

June 08, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
U.S. cybersecurity and intelligence agencies have  warned  about China-based state-sponsored cyber actors leveraging network vulnerabilities to exploit public and private sector organizations since at least 2020. The widespread intrusion campaigns aim to exploit publicly identified security flaws in network devices such as Small Office/Home Office (SOHO) routers and Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices with the goal of gaining deeper access to victim networks. In addition, the actors used these compromised devices as route command-and-control (C2) traffic to break into other targets at scale, the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)  said  in a joint advisory. The perpetrators, besides shifting their tactics in response to public disclosures, are known to employ a mix of open-source and custom tools for reconnaissance and vulnerability scanning as well as to obscure and ble
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