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The Hacker News - Cybersecurity News and Analysis: cyber espionage

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
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
Researchers Uncover Cyber Espionage Operation Aimed At Indian Army

Researchers Uncover Cyber Espionage Operation Aimed At Indian Army

September 28, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
Cybersecurity researchers uncovered fresh evidence of an ongoing cyberespionage campaign against Indian defense units and armed forces personnel at least since 2019 with an aim to steal sensitive information. Dubbed " Operation SideCopy " by Indian cybersecurity firm  Quick Heal , the attacks have been attributed to an advanced persistent threat (APT) group that has successfully managed to stay under the radar by "copying" the tactics of other threat actors such as the  SideWinder . Exploiting Microsoft Equation Editor Flaw The campaign's starting point is an email with an embedded malicious attachment — either in the form of a ZIP file containing an LNK file or a Microsoft Word document — that triggers an infection chain via a series of steps to download the final-stage payload. Aside from identifying three different infection chains, what's notable is the fact that one of them exploited template injection and Microsoft Equation Editor flaw ( CVE-2017
Iranian Hackers Pose as Journalists to Trick Victims Into Installing Malware

Iranian Hackers Pose as Journalists to Trick Victims Into Installing Malware

August 28, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
An Iranian cyberespionage group known for targeting government, defense technology, military, and diplomacy sectors is now impersonating journalists to approach targets via LinkedIn and WhatsApp and infect their devices with malware. Detailing the new tactics of the "Charming Kitten" APT group, Israeli firm Clearsky said, "starting July 2020, we have identified a new TTP of the group, impersonating 'Deutsche Welle' and the 'Jewish Journal' using emails alongside WhatsApp messages as their main platform to approach the target and convince them to open a malicious link." This development is the first time the threat actor is said to have carried out a watering hole attack through WhatsApp and LinkedIn, which also includes making phone calls to victims, Clearsky noted in a Thursday analysis. After the company alerted Deutsche Welle about the impersonation and the watering hole in their website, the German broadcaster confirmed, "the repor
Hackers Target Defense Contractors' Employees By Posing as Recruiters

Hackers Target Defense Contractors' Employees By Posing as Recruiters

August 20, 2020Mohit Kumar
The United States Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has published a new report warning companies about a new in-the-wild malware that North Korean hackers are reportedly using to spy on key employees at government contracting companies. Dubbed ' BLINDINGCAN ,' the advanced remote access trojan acts as a backdoor when installed on compromised computers. According to the FBI and CISA, North Korean state-sponsored hackers Lazarus Group , also known as Hidden Cobra , are spreading BLINDINGCAN to "gather intelligence surrounding key military and energy technologies." To achieve this, attackers first identify high-value targets, perform extensive research on their social and professional networks, and then pose as recruiters to send malicious documents loaded with the malware, masquerading as job advertisements and offerings. However, such employment scams and social engineering strategies are not new and were recently spotted being used in
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
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
Over 100 New Chrome Browser Extensions Caught Spying On Users

Over 100 New Chrome Browser Extensions Caught Spying On Users

June 22, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
Google recently removed 106 more extensions from its Chrome Web Store after they were found illegally collecting sensitive user data as part of a "massive global surveillance campaign" targeting oil and gas, finance, and healthcare sectors. Awake Security, which disclosed the findings late last week, said the malicious browser add-ons were tied back to a single internet domain registrar, GalComm. However, it's not immediately clear who is behind the spyware effort. "This campaign and the Chrome extensions involved performed operations such as taking screenshots of the victim device, loading malware, reading the clipboard, and actively harvesting tokens and user input," Awake Security said. The extensions in question posed as utilities offering capabilities to convert files from one format to the other, among other tools for secure browsing, while relying on thousands of fake reviews to trick unsuspecting users into installing them. Furthermore, the
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