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The Hacker News - Cybersecurity News and Analysis: Chinese Hackers

Cyber espionage by Chinese hackers in neighbouring nations is on the rise

Cyber espionage by Chinese hackers in neighbouring nations is on the rise

June 18, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
A string of cyber espionage campaigns dating all the way back to 2014 and likely focused on gathering defense information from neighbouring countries have been linked to a Chinese military-intelligence apparatus. In a wide-ranging report published by Massachusetts-headquartered Recorded Future this week, the cybersecurity firm's Insikt Group said it identified ties between a group it tracks as " RedFoxtrot " to the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Unit 69010 operating out of Ürümqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the country. Previously called the Lanzhou Military Region's Second Technical Reconnaissance Bureau, Unit 69010 is a military cover for a Technical Reconnaissance Bureau (TRB) within China's Strategic Support Force (SSF) Network Systems Department ( NSD ). The connection to PLA Unit 69010 stems from what the researchers said were "lax operational security measures" adopted by an unnamed suspected RedFoxtrot threa
Experts Uncover Yet Another Chinese Spying Campaign Aimed at Southeast Asia

Experts Uncover Yet Another Chinese Spying Campaign Aimed at Southeast Asia

June 03, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
An ongoing cyber-espionage operation with suspected ties to China has been found targeting a Southeast Asian government to deploy spyware on Windows systems while staying under the radar for more than three years. "In this campaign, the attackers utilized the set of Microsoft Office exploits and loaders with anti-analysis and anti-debugging techniques to install a previously unknown backdoor on victim's machines," researchers from Check Point Research said in a report published today. The infection chain works by sending decoy documents, impersonating other entities within the government, to multiple members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which, when opened, retrieves a next-stage payload from the attacker's server that contains an encrypted downloader. The downloader, in turn, gathers and exfiltrates system information to a remote server that subsequently responds back with a shellcode loader. The use of weaponized copies of legitimate-looking official doc
Chinese Cyber Espionage Hackers Continue to Target Pulse Secure VPN Devices

Chinese Cyber Espionage Hackers Continue to Target Pulse Secure VPN Devices

May 28, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Cybersecurity researchers from FireEye unmasked additional tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) adopted by Chinese threat actors who were recently found abusing Pulse Secure VPN devices to drop malicious web shells and exfiltrate sensitive information from enterprise networks. FireEye's Mandiant threat intelligence team, which is tracking the cyber espionage activity under two activity clusters UNC2630 and UNC2717,  said  the intrusions line up with key Chinese government priorities, adding "many compromised organizations operate in verticals and industries aligned with Beijing's strategic objectives outlined in China's recent  14th Five Year Plan ." On April 20, the cybersecurity firm  disclosed  12 different malware families, including STEADYPULSE and LOCKPICK, that have been designed with the express intent to infect Pulse Secure VPN appliances and put to use by at least two cyber espionage groups believed to be affiliated with the Chinese government.
Hackers Using Fake Foundations to Target Uyghur Minority in China

Hackers Using Fake Foundations to Target Uyghur Minority in China

May 27, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
The Uyghur community located in China and Pakistan has been the subject of an ongoing espionage campaign aiming to trick the targets into downloading a Windows backdoor to amass sensitive information from their systems. "Considerable effort was put into disguising the payloads, whether by creating delivery documents that appear to be originating from the United Nations using up to date related themes, or by setting up websites for non-existing organizations claiming to fund charity groups," according to joint research published by Check Point Research and Kaspersky today. The Uyghurs are a Turkic ethnic minority group originating from Central and East Asia and are recognized as native to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in Northwest China. At least since 2015, government authorities have placed the region under tight surveillance, putting hundreds of thousands into prisons and internment camps that the government calls "Vocational Education and Training Centers.
New Chinese Malware Targeted Russia's Largest Nuclear Submarine Designer

New Chinese Malware Targeted Russia's Largest Nuclear Submarine Designer

May 03, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
A threat actor believed to be working on behalf of Chinese state-sponsored interests was recently observed targeting a Russia-based defense contractor involved in designing nuclear submarines for the naval arm of the Russian Armed Forces. The phishing attack, which singled out a general director working at the Rubin Design Bureau, leveraged the infamous "Royal Road" Rich Text Format (RTF) weaponizer to deliver a previously undocumented Windows backdoor dubbed " PortDoor ," according to Cybereason's Nocturnus threat intelligence team. "Portdoor has multiple functionalities, including the ability to do reconnaissance, target profiling, delivery of additional payloads, privilege escalation, process manipulation static detection antivirus evasion, one-byte XOR encryption, AES-encrypted data exfiltration and more," the researchers  said  in a write-up on Friday. Rubin Design Bureau is a submarine design center located in Saint Petersburg, accounting fo
Hackers From China Target Vietnamese Military and Government

Hackers From China Target Vietnamese Military and Government

April 06, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
A hacking group related to a Chinese-speaking threat actor has been linked to an advanced cyberespionage campaign targeting government and military organizations in Vietnam. The attacks have been attributed with low confidence to the advanced persistent threat (APT) called  Cycldek  (or Goblin Panda, Hellsing, APT 27, and Conimes), which is known for using spear-phishing techniques to compromise diplomatic targets in Southeast Asia, India, and the U.S. at least since 2013. According to researchers from Kaspersky, the offensive, which was observed between June 2020 and January 2021, leverages a method called DLL side-loading to execute shellcode that decrypts a final payload dubbed " FoundCore ." DLL side-loading  has been a tried-and-tested technique used by various threat actors as an obfuscation tactic to bypass antivirus defenses. By loading malicious DLLs into legitimate executables, the idea is to mask their malicious activity under a trusted system or software proc
Chinese Hackers Used Facebook to Hack Uighur Muslims Living Abroad

Chinese Hackers Used Facebook to Hack Uighur Muslims Living Abroad

March 25, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Facebook may be banned in China, but the company on Wednesday said it has disrupted a network of bad actors using its platform to target the Uyghur community and lure them into downloading malicious software that would allow surveillance of their devices. "They targeted activists, journalists and dissidents predominantly among Uyghurs from Xinjiang in China primarily living abroad in Turkey, Kazakhstan, the United States, Syria, Australia, Canada and other countries," Facebook's Head of Cyber Espionage Investigations, Mike Dvilyanski, and Head of Security Policy, Nathaniel Gleicher,  said . "This group used various cyber espionage tactics to identify its targets and infect their devices with malware to enable surveillance." The social media giant said the "well-resourced and persistent operation" aligned with a threat actor known as  Evil Eye  (or Earth Empusa), a China-based collective known for its history of espionage attacks against the Muslim m
Chinese Hackers Using Firefox Extension to Spy On Tibetan Organizations

Chinese Hackers Using Firefox Extension to Spy On Tibetan Organizations

February 25, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Cybersecurity researchers today unwrapped a new campaign aimed at spying on vulnerable Tibetan communities globally by deploying a malicious Firefox extension on target systems. "Threat actors aligned with the Chinese Communist Party's state interests delivered a customized malicious Mozilla Firefox browser extension that facilitated access and control of users' Gmail accounts," Proofpoint said in an analysis. The Sunnyvale-based enterprise security company pinned the phishing operation on a Chinese advanced persistent threat (APT) it tracks as  TA413 , which has been previously attributed to attacks against the Tibetan diaspora by leveraging  COVID-themed lures  to deliver the Sepulcher malware with the strategic goal of espionage and civil dissident surveillance. The researchers said the attacks were detected in January and February 2021, a pattern that has continued since March 2020. The infection chain begins with a phishing email impersonating the "Tib
Chinese Hackers Had Access to a U.S. Hacking Tool Years Before It Was Leaked Online

Chinese Hackers Had Access to a U.S. Hacking Tool Years Before It Was Leaked Online

February 22, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
On August 13, 2016, a hacking unit calling itself " The Shadow Brokers " announced that it had stolen malware tools and exploits used by the Equation Group, a sophisticated threat actor believed to be affiliated to the Tailored Access Operations (TAO) unit of the U.S.  National Security Agency  (NSA). Although  the group  has since signed off following the unprecedented disclosures, new "conclusive" evidence unearthed by Check Point Research shows that this was not an isolated incident, and that other threat actors may have had access to some of the same tools before they were published. The previously undocumented cyber-theft took place more than two years prior to the Shadow Brokers episode, the American-Israeli cybersecurity company said in an exhaustive report published today, resulting in U.S.-developed cyber tools reaching the hands of a Chinese advanced persistent threat which then repurposed them in order to strike American targets. "The caught-in-
Chinese APT Group Targets Media, Finance, and Electronics Sectors

Chinese APT Group Targets Media, Finance, and Electronics Sectors

September 30, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
Cybersecurity researchers on Tuesday uncovered a new espionage campaign targeting media, construction, engineering, electronics, and finance sectors in Japan, Taiwan, the U.S., and China. Linking the attacks to Palmerworm (aka BlackTech) — likely a  China-based  advanced persistent threat (APT) — Symantec's Threat Hunter Team  said  the first wave of activity associated with this campaign began last year in August 2019, although their ultimate motivations still remain unclear. "While we cannot see what Palmerworm is exfiltrating from these victims, the group is considered an espionage group and its likely motivation is considered to be stealing information from targeted companies," the cybersecurity firm said. Among the multiple victims infected by Palmerworm, the media, electronics, and finance companies were all based in Taiwan, while an engineering company in Japan and a construction firm in China were also targeted. In addition to using custom malware to compromi
FBI adds 5 Chinese APT41 hackers to its Cyber's Most Wanted List

FBI adds 5 Chinese APT41 hackers to its Cyber's Most Wanted List

September 16, 2020Mohit Kumar
The United States government today announced charges against 5 alleged members of a Chinese state-sponsored hacking group and 2 Malaysian hackers that are responsible for hacking more than 100 companies throughout the world. Named as APT41 and also known as 'Barium,' 'Winnti, 'Wicked Panda,' and 'Wicked Spider,' the cyber-espionage group has been operating since at least 2012 and is not just involved in strategic intelligence collection from valuable targets in many sectors, but also behind financially motivated attacks against online gaming industry. According to a press release published by the U.S. Justice Department, two of the five Chinese hackers—Zhang Haoran (张浩然) and Tan Dailin (谭戴林)—were charged back in August 2019, and the other three of them—Jiang Lizhi (蒋立志), Qian Chuan (钱川) and Fu Qiang (付强)—and two Malaysian co-conspirators were in separate indictments in August 2020. The later indicted three Chinese hackers are associated with a netw
CISA: Chinese Hackers Exploiting Unpatched Devices to Target U.S. Agencies

CISA: Chinese Hackers Exploiting Unpatched Devices to Target U.S. Agencies

September 15, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued a new advisory on Monday about a wave of cyberattacks carried by Chinese nation-state actors targeting US government agencies and private entities. "CISA has observed Chinese [Ministry of State Security]-affiliated cyber threat actors operating from the People's Republic of China using commercially available information sources and open-source exploitation tools to target US Government agency networks," the cybersecurity agency said. Over the past 12 months, the victims were identified through sources such as Shodan , the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposure ( CVE ) database, and the National Vulnerabilities Database (NVD), exploiting the public release of a vulnerability to pick vulnerable targets and further their motives. By compromising legitimate websites and leveraging spear-phishing emails with malicious links pointing to attacker-owned sites in order to gain initial access, the Chinese
US Government Warns of a New Strain of Chinese 'Taidoor' Virus

US Government Warns of a New Strain of Chinese 'Taidoor' Virus

August 04, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
Intelligence agencies in the US have released information about a new variant of 12-year-old computer virus used by China's state-sponsored hackers targeting governments, corporations, and think tanks. Named " Taidoor, " the malware has done an 'excellent' job of compromising systems as early as 2008 , with the actors deploying it on victim networks for stealthy remote access. "[The] FBI has high confidence that Chinese government actors are using malware variants in conjunction with proxy servers to maintain a presence on victim networks and to further network exploitation," the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Department of Defense (DoD) said in a joint advisory . The US Cyber Command has also uploaded four samples of the Taidoor RAT on the public malware repository VirusTotal to let 50+ Antivirus companies check the virus's involvement in other unattributed cam
EU sanctions hackers from China, Russia, North Korea who're wanted by the FBI

EU sanctions hackers from China, Russia, North Korea who're wanted by the FBI

July 31, 2020Swati Khandelwal
The Council of the European Union has imposed its first-ever sanctions against persons or entities involved in various cyber-attacks targeting European citizens, and its member states. The directive has been issued against six individuals and three entities responsible for or involved in various cyber-attacks, out of which some publicly known are ' WannaCry ', ' NotPetya ', and ' Operation Cloud Hopper ,' as well as an attempted cyber-attack against the organization for the prohibition of chemical weapons. Out of the six individuals sanctioned by the EU include two Chinese citizens and four Russian nationals. The companies involved in carrying out cyberattacks include an export firm based in North Korea, and technology companies from China and Russia. The sanctions imposed include a ban on persons traveling to any EU countries and a freeze of assets on persons and entities. Besides this, EU citizens and entities are also forbidden from doing any busin
US Charges 2 Chinese Hackers for Targeting COVID-19 Research and Trade Secrets

US Charges 2 Chinese Hackers for Targeting COVID-19 Research and Trade Secrets

July 22, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) yesterday revealed charges against two Chinese nationals for their alleged involvement in a decade-long hacking spree targeting dissidents, government agencies, and hundreds of organizations in as many as 11 countries. The 11-count indictment , which was unsealed on Tuesday, alleges LI Xiaoyu (李啸宇) and DONG Jiazhi (董家志) stole terabytes of sensitive data, including from companies developing COVID-19 vaccines, testing technology, and treatments while operating both for private financial gain and behalf of China's Ministry of State Security. "China has now taken its place, alongside Russia, Iran and North Korea, in that shameful club of nations that provide a safe haven for cyber criminals in exchange for those criminals being 'on call' to work for the benefit of the state, [and] to feed the Chinese Communist party's insatiable hunger for American and other non-Chinese companies' hard-earned intellectual property, includ
Chinese Hackers Escalate Attacks Against India and Hong Kong Amid Tensions

Chinese Hackers Escalate Attacks Against India and Hong Kong Amid Tensions

July 21, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
An emerging threat actor out of China has been traced to a new hacking campaign aimed at government agencies in India and residents of Hong Kong intending to steal sensitive information, cybersecurity firm Malwarebytes revealed in the latest report shared with The Hacker News. The attacks were observed during the first week of July, coinciding the passage of controversial security law in Hong Kong and India's ban of 59 China-made apps over privacy concerns, weeks after a violent skirmish along the Indo-China border. Attributing the attack with "moderate confidence" to a new Chinese APT group, Malwarebytes said they were able to track their activities based on the "unique phishing attempts" designed to compromise targets in India and Hong Kong. The operators of the APT group have leveraged at least three different Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs), using spear-phishing emails to drop variants of Cobalt Strike and MgBot malware, and bogus Andr
Chinese Researchers Disrupt Malware Attack That Infected Thousands of PCs

Chinese Researchers Disrupt Malware Attack That Infected Thousands of PCs

May 27, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
Chinese security firm Qihoo 360 Netlab said it partnered with tech giant Baidu to disrupt a malware botnet infecting over hundreds of thousands of systems. The botnet was traced back to a group it calls ShuangQiang (also called Double Gun ), which has been behind several attacks since 2017 aimed at compromising Windows computers with MBR and VBR bootkits , and installing malicious drivers for financial gain and hijack web traffic to e-commerce sites. In addition to using images uploaded to Baidu Tieba to distribute configuration files and malware — a technique called steganography — the group has begun using Alibaba Cloud storage to host configuration files and Baidu's analytics platform Tongji to manage the activity of its infected hosts, the researchers said. The initial compromise relies on luring unsuspecting users to install game launching software from sketchy game portals that contain malicious code under the guise of a patch. Once the user downloads and inst
This Asia-Pacific Cyber Espionage Campaign Went Undetected for 5 Years

This Asia-Pacific Cyber Espionage Campaign Went Undetected for 5 Years

May 07, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
An advanced group of Chinese hackers has recently been spotted to be behind a sustained cyber espionage campaign targeting government entities in Australia, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, and Brunei—which went undetected for at least five years and is still an ongoing threat. The group, named 'Naikon APT,' once known as one of the most active APTs in Asia until 2015, carried out a string of cyberattacks in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region in search of geopolitical intelligence. According to the latest investigation report Check Point researchers shared with The Hacker News, the Naikon APT group had not gone silent for the last 5 years, as initially suspected; instead, it was using a new backdoor, called " Aria-body ," to operate stealthily. "Given the characteristics of the victims and capabilities presented by the group, it is evident that the group's purpose is to gather intelligence and spy on the countries whose governments it
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