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The Hacker News - Cybersecurity News and Analysis: cyber espionage

Chinese Hackers Caught Exploiting Popular Antivirus Products to Target Telecom Sector

Chinese Hackers Caught Exploiting Popular Antivirus Products to Target Telecom Sector

May 02, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
A Chinese-aligned cyberespionage group has been observed striking the telecommunication sector in Central Asia with versions of malware such as ShadowPad and PlugX. Cybersecurity firm SentinelOne tied the intrusions to an actor it tracks under the name "Moshen Dragon," with tactical overlaps between the collective and another threat group referred to as Nomad Panda (aka  RedFoxtrot ). "PlugX and ShadowPad have a well-established history of use among Chinese-speaking threat actors primarily for espionage activity," SentinelOne's Joey Chen  said . "Those tools have flexible, modular functionality and are compiled via shellcode to easily bypass traditional endpoint protection products." ShadowPad , labeled a "masterpiece of privately sold malware in Chinese espionage," emerged as a successor to PlugX in 2015, even as variants of the latter have continually popped up as part of different campaigns associated with Chinese threat actors. Alth
New Hacker Group Pursuing Corporate Employees Focused on Mergers and Acquisitions

New Hacker Group Pursuing Corporate Employees Focused on Mergers and Acquisitions

May 02, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
A newly discovered suspected espionage threat actor has been targeting employees focusing on mergers and acquisitions as well as large corporate transactions to facilitate bulk email collection from victim environments. Mandiant is tracking the activity cluster under the uncategorized moniker UNC3524, citing a lack of evidence linking it to an existing group. However, some of the intrusions are said to mirror techniques used by different Russia-based hacking crews like  APT28  and  APT29 .  "The high level of operational security, low malware footprint, adept evasive skills, and a large Internet of Things (IoT) device botnet set this group apart and emphasize the 'advanced' in Advanced Persistent Threat," the threat intelligence firm  said  in a Monday report. The initial access route is unknown but upon gaining a foothold, attack chains involving UNC3524 culminate in the deployment of a novel backdoor called QUIETEXIT for persistent remote access for as long as
Chinese "Override Panda" Hackers Resurface With New Espionage Attacks

Chinese "Override Panda" Hackers Resurface With New Espionage Attacks

May 02, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
A Chinese state-sponsored espionage group known as Override Panda has resurfaced in recent weeks with a new phishing attack with the goal of stealing sensitive information. "The Chinese APT used a spear-phishing email to deliver a beacon of a Red Team framework known as 'Viper,'" Cluster25  said  in a report published last week. "The target of this attack is currently unknown but with high probability, given the previous history of the attack perpetrated by the group, it might be a government institution from a South Asian country." Override Panda, also called  Naikon , Hellsing, and Bronze Geneva, is known to operate on behalf of Chinese interests since at least 2005 to conduct intelligence-gathering operations targeting  ASEAN countries . Attack chains unleashed by the threat actor have involved the use of decoy documents attached to spear-phishing emails that are designed to entice the intended victims to open and compromise themselves with malware
China-linked Daxin Malware Targeted Multiple Governments in Espionage Attacks

China-linked Daxin Malware Targeted Multiple Governments in Espionage Attacks

March 01, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
A previously undocumented espionage tool has been deployed against selected governments and other critical infrastructure targets as part of a long-running espionage campaign orchestrated by China-linked threat actors since at least 2013. Broadcom's Symantec Threat Hunter team characterized the backdoor, named  Daxin , as a technologically advanced malware, allowing the attackers to carry out a variety of communications and information-gathering operations aimed at entities in the telecom, transportation, and manufacturing sectors that are of strategic interest to China. "Daxin malware is a highly sophisticated rootkit backdoor with complex, stealthy command-and-control (C2) functionality that enables remote actors to communicate with secured devices not connected directly to the internet," the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)  said  in an independent advisory. The implant takes the form of a Windows kernel driver that implements an elabor
Moses Staff Hackers Targeting Israeli Organizations for Cyber Espionage

Moses Staff Hackers Targeting Israeli Organizations for Cyber Espionage

February 16, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
The politically motivated Moses Staff hacker group has been observed using a custom multi-component toolset with the goal of carrying out espionage against its targets as part of a new campaign that exclusively singles out Israeli organizations. First  publicly documented  in late 2021, Moses Staff is believed to be sponsored by the Iranian government, with attacks reported against entities in Israel, Italy, India, Germany, Chile, Turkey, the U.A.E., and the U.S. Earlier this month, the hacker collective was observed incorporating a previously undocumented remote access trojan (RAT) called " StrifeWater " that masquerades as the Windows Calculator app to evade detection. "Close examination reveals that the group has been active for over a year, much earlier than the group's first official public exposure, managing to stay under the radar with an extremely low detection rate," findings from FortiGuard Labs show . The latest threat activity involves an atta
New CapraRAT Android Malware Targets Indian Government and Military Personnel

New CapraRAT Android Malware Targets Indian Government and Military Personnel

February 07, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
A politically motivated advanced persistent threat (APT) group has expanded its malware arsenal to include a new remote access trojan (RAT) in its espionage attacks aimed at Indian military and diplomatic entities. Called  CapraRAT  by Trend Micro, the implant is an Android RAT that exhibits a high "degree of crossover" with another Windows malware known as CrimsonRAT that's associated with Earth Karkaddan, a threat actor that's also tracked under the monikers APT36, Operation C-Major, PROJECTM, Mythic Leopard, and Transparent Tribe. The first concrete signs of APT36's existence  appeared  in  2016  as the group began distributing information-stealing malware through phishing emails with malicious PDF attachments targeting Indian military and government personnel. The group is believed to be of  Pakistani origin  and operational since at least 2013. The threat actor is also known to be consistent in its modus operandi, with the attacks predominantly banking o
Chinese Hackers Target Taiwanese Financial Institutions with a new Stealthy Backdoor

Chinese Hackers Target Taiwanese Financial Institutions with a new Stealthy Backdoor

February 06, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
A Chinese advanced persistent threat (APT) group has been targeting Taiwanese financial institutions as part of a "persistent campaign" that lasted for at least 18 months. The intrusions, whose primary intent was espionage, resulted in the deployment of a backdoor called xPack , granting the adversary extensive control over compromised machines, Broadcom-owned Symantec said in a  report  published last week. What's notable about this campaign is the amount of time the threat actor lurked on victim networks, affording the operators ample opportunity for detailed reconnaissance and exfiltrate potentially sensitive information pertaining to business contacts and investments without raising any red flags. In one of the unnamed financial organizations, the attackers spent close to 250 days between December 2020 and August 2021, while a manufacturing entity had its network under their watch for roughly 175 days. Although the initial access vector used to the breach the ta
Ukraine Continues to Face Cyber Espionage Attacks from Russian Hackers

Ukraine Continues to Face Cyber Espionage Attacks from Russian Hackers

February 01, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
Cybersecurity researchers on Monday said they uncovered evidence of attempted attacks by a Russia-linked hacking operation targeting a Ukrainian entity in July 2021. Broadcom-owned Symantec, in a new report published Monday, attributed the attacks to an actor tracked as Gamaredon (aka Shuckworm or Armageddon), a cyber-espionage collective known to be active since at least 2013. In November 2021, Ukrainian intelligence agencies  branded  the group as a "special project" of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), in addition to pointing fingers at it for carrying out over 5,000 cyberattacks against public authorities and critical infrastructure located in the country. Gamaredon attacks typically originate with phishing emails that trick the recipients into installing a custom remote access trojan called Pterodo. Symantec disclosed that, between July 14, 2021 and August 18, 2021, the actor installed several variants of the backdoor as well as deployed additional scripts
Hackers Exploited MSHTML Flaw to Spy on Government and Defense Targets

Hackers Exploited MSHTML Flaw to Spy on Government and Defense Targets

January 25, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
Cybersecurity researchers on Tuesday took the wraps off a multi-stage espionage campaign targeting high-ranking government officials overseeing national security policy and individuals in the defense industry in Western Asia. The attack is unique as it leverages Microsoft OneDrive as a command-and-control (C2) server and is split into as many as six stages to stay as hidden as possible, Trellix — a new company created following the merger of security firms McAfee Enterprise and FireEye — said in a report shared with The Hacker News. "This type of communication allows the malware to go unnoticed in the victims' systems since it will only connect to legitimate Microsoft domains and won't show any suspicious network traffic," Trellix explained. First signs of activity associated with the covert operation are said to have commenced as early as June 18, 2021, with two victims reported on September 21 and 29, followed by 17 more in a short span of three days between Oct
ShadowPad Malware is Becoming a Favorite Choice of Chinese Espionage Groups

ShadowPad Malware is Becoming a Favorite Choice of Chinese Espionage Groups

August 20, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
ShadowPad, an infamous Windows backdoor that allows attackers to download further malicious modules or steal data, has been put to use by five different Chinese threat clusters since 2017. "The adoption of ShadowPad significantly reduces the costs of development and maintenance for threat actors," SentinelOne researchers Yi-Jhen Hsieh and Joey Chen  said  in a detailed overview of the malware, adding "some threat groups stopped developing their own backdoors after they gained access to ShadowPad." The American cybersecurity firm dubbed ShadowPad a "masterpiece of privately sold malware in Chinese espionage." A successor to PlugX and a modular malware platform since 2015,  ShadowPad  catapulted to widespread attention in the wake of supply chain incidents targeting  NetSarang ,  CCleaner , and  ASUS , leading the operators to shift tactics and update their defensive measures with advanced anti-detection and persistence techniques. More recently, atta
Experts Believe Chinese Hackers Are Behind Several Attacks Targeting Israel

Experts Believe Chinese Hackers Are Behind Several Attacks Targeting Israel

August 10, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
A Chinese cyber espionage group has been linked to a string of intrusion activities targeting Israeli government institutions, IT providers, and telecommunications companies at least since 2019, with the hackers masquerading themselves as Iranian actors to mislead forensic analysis. FireEye's Mandiant threat intelligence arm attributed the campaign to an operator it tracks as "UNC215", a Chinese espionage operation that's believed to have singled out organizations around the world dating back as far as 2014, linking the group with "low confidence" to an advanced persistent threat (APT) widely known as  APT27 , Emissary Panda, or Iron Tiger. "UNC215 has compromised organizations in the government, technology, telecommunications, defense, finance, entertainment, and health care sectors," FireEye's Israel and U.S. threat intel teams  said  in a report published today. "The group targets data and organizations which are of great interest
A New Spyware is Targeting Telegram and Psiphon VPN Users in Iran

A New Spyware is Targeting Telegram and Psiphon VPN Users in Iran

June 17, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Threat actors with suspected ties to Iran have been found to leverage instant messaging and VPN apps like Telegram and Psiphon to install a Windows remote access trojan (RAT) capable of stealing sensitive information from targets' devices since at least 2015. Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky, which pieced together the activity, attributed the campaign to an advanced persistent threat (APT) group it tracks as Ferocious Kitten, a group that has singled out Persian-speaking individuals allegedly based in the country while successfully operating under the radar. "The targeting of Psiphon and Telegram, both of which are quite popular services in Iran, underlines the fact that the payloads were developed with the purpose of targeting Iranian users in mind," Kaspersky's Global Research and Analysis Team (GReAT)  said . "Moreover, the decoy content displayed by the malicious files often made use of political themes and involved images or videos of resistance bas
Malware Attack on South Korean Entities Was Work of Andariel Group

Malware Attack on South Korean Entities Was Work of Andariel Group

June 16, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
A malware campaign targeting South Korean entities that came to light earlier this year has been attributed to a North Korean nation-state hacking group called Andariel, once again indicating that  Lazarus  attackers are following the trends and their  arsenal  is in  constant development . "The way Windows commands and their options were used in this campaign is almost identical to previous Andariel activity," Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky  said  in a deep-dive published Tuesday. Victims of the attack are in the manufacturing, home network service, media, and construction sectors. Designated as part of the Lazarus constellation, Andariel is known for unleashing attacks on South Korean organizations and businesses using specifically tailored methods created for maximum effectivity. In September 2019, the sub-group, along with Lazarus and Bluenoroff, was  sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department  for their malicious cyber activity on critical infrastructure. Anda
New Cyber Espionage Group Targeting Ministries of Foreign Affairs

New Cyber Espionage Group Targeting Ministries of Foreign Affairs

June 11, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Cybersecurity researchers on Thursday took the wraps off a new cyber espionage group that has been behind a series of targeted attacks against diplomatic entities and telecommunication companies in Africa and the Middle East since at least 2017. Dubbed " BackdoorDiplomacy ," the campaign involves targeting weak points in internet-exposed devices such as web servers to perform a panoply of cyber hacking activities, including laterally moving across the network to deploy a custom implant called Turian that's capable of exfiltrating sensitive data stored in removable media. "BackdoorDiplomacy shares tactics, techniques, and procedures with other Asia-based groups. Turian likely represents a next stage evolution of  Quarian , the backdoor last observed in use in 2013 against diplomatic targets in Syria and the U.S," said Jean-Ian Boutin, head of threat research at Slovak cybersecurity firm ESET. Engineered to target both Windows and Linux operating systems, th
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.
Pakistan-Linked Hackers Added New Windows Malware to Its Arsenal

Pakistan-Linked Hackers Added New Windows Malware to Its Arsenal

May 14, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Cybercriminals with suspected ties to Pakistan continue to rely on social engineering as a crucial component of its operations as part of an evolving espionage campaign against Indian targets, according to new research. The attacks have been linked to a group called  Transparent Tribe , also known as Operation C-Major, APT36, and Mythic Leopard, which has created fraudulent domains mimicking legitimate Indian military and defense organizations, and other fake domains posing as file-sharing sites to host malicious artifacts. "While military and defense personnel continue to be the group's primary targets, Transparent Tribe is increasingly targeting diplomatic entities, defense contractors, research organizations and conference attendees, indicating that the group is expanding its targeting," researchers from Cisco Talos  said  on Thursday. These domains are used to deliver maldocs distributing  CrimsonRAT , and ObliqueRAT, with the group incorporating new phishing, lu
Warning — 5 New Trojanized Android Apps Spying On Users In Pakistan

Warning — 5 New Trojanized Android Apps Spying On Users In Pakistan

January 12, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Cybersecurity researchers took the wraps off a new spyware operation targeting users in Pakistan that leverages trojanized versions of legitimate Android apps to carry out covert surveillance and espionage. Designed to masquerade apps such as the Pakistan Citizen Porta l, a Muslim prayer-clock app called Pakistan Salat Time , Mobile Packages Pakistan , Registered SIMs Checker , and TPL Insurance , the malicious variants have been found to obfuscate their operations to stealthily download a payload in the form of an Android Dalvik executable (DEX) file. "The DEX payload contains most of the malicious features, which include the ability to covertly exfiltrate sensitive data like the user's contact list and the full contents of SMS messages," Sophos threat researchers Pankaj Kohli and Andrew Brandt said. "The app then sends this information to one of a small number of command-and-control websites hosted on servers located in eastern Europe." Interestingly, t
Microsoft Warns CrowdStrike of Hackers Targeting Azure Cloud Customers

Microsoft Warns CrowdStrike of Hackers Targeting Azure Cloud Customers

December 25, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
New evidence amidst the ongoing probe into the  espionage campaign  targeting SolarWinds has uncovered an unsuccessful attempt to compromise cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike and access the company's email. The hacking endeavor was reported to the company by Microsoft's Threat Intelligence Center on December 15, which identified a third-party reseller's Microsoft Azure account to be making "abnormal calls" to Microsoft cloud APIs during a 17-hour period several months ago. The undisclosed affected reseller's Azure account handles Microsoft Office licensing for its Azure customers, including CrowdStrike. Although there was an attempt by unidentified threat actors to read the emails, it was ultimately foiled as the firm does not use Microsoft's Office 365 email service, CrowdStrike  said . The incident comes in the wake of the  supply chain attack  of SolarWinds revealed earlier this month, resulting in the deployment of a covert backdoor (aka "Sunbu
Nation-State Hackers Caught Hiding Espionage Activities Behind Crypto Miners

Nation-State Hackers Caught Hiding Espionage Activities Behind Crypto Miners

December 01, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
A nation-state actor known for its cyber espionage campaigns since 2012 is now using coin miner techniques to stay under the radar and establish persistence on victim systems, according to new research. Attributing the shift to a threat actor tracked as Bismuth, Microsoft's Microsoft 365 Defender Threat Intelligence Team said the group deployed Monero coin miners in attacks that targeted both the private sector and government institutions in France and Vietnam between July and August earlier this year. "The coin miners also allowed Bismuth to hide its more nefarious activities behind threats that may be perceived to be less alarming because they're 'commodity' malware," the researchers  said  in an analysis published yesterday. The primary victims of the attack have been traced to state-owned enterprises in Vietnam and entities with ties to a Vietnamese government agency. The Windows maker likened Bismuth to  OceanLotus  (or APT32), linking it to spyware
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