Cyber Security

Cybersecurity Agencies Warn of China-linked APT40’s Rapid Exploit Adaptation

Jul 09, 2024NewsroomCyber Espionage / Threat Intelligence

Cybersecurity agencies from Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, the U.K., and the U.S. have released a joint advisory about a China-linked cyber espionage group called APT40, warning about its ability to co-opt exploits for newly disclosed security flaws within hours or days of public release.

“APT40 has previously targeted organizations in various countries, including Australia and the United States,” the agencies said. “Notably, APT40 possesses the ability to quickly transform and adapt vulnerability proofs-of-concept (PoCs) for targeting, reconnaissance, and exploitation operations.”

The adversarial collective, also known as Bronze Mohawk, Gingham Typhoon (formerly Gadolinium), ISLANDDREAMS, Kryptonite Panda, Leviathan, Red Ladon, TA423, and TEMP.Periscope, is known to be active since at least 2013, carrying out cyber attacks targeting entities in the Asia-Pacific region. It’s assessed to be based in Haikou.

Cybersecurity

In July 2021, the U.S. and its allies officially attributed the group as affiliated with China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS), indicting several members of the hacking crew for orchestrating a multiyear campaign aimed at different sectors to facilitate the theft of trade secrets, intellectual property, and high-value information.

Over the past few years, APT40 has been linked to intrusion waves delivering the ScanBox reconnaissance framework as well as the exploitation of a security flaw in WinRAR (CVE-2023-38831, CVSS score: 7.8) as part of a phishing campaign targeting Papua New Guinea to deliver a backdoor dubbed BOXRAT.

Then earlier this March, the New Zealand government implicated the threat actor to the compromise of the Parliamentary Counsel Office and the Parliamentary Service in 2021.

China-linked APT40

“APT40 identifies new exploits within widely used public software such as Log4j, Atlassian Confluence, and Microsoft Exchange to target the infrastructure of the associated vulnerability,” the authoring agencies said.

“APT40 regularly conducts reconnaissance against networks of interest, including networks in the authoring agencies’ countries, looking for opportunities to compromise its targets. This regular reconnaissance postures the group to identify vulnerable, end-of-life or no longer maintained devices on networks of interest, and to rapidly deploy exploits.”

Notable among the tradecraft employed by the state-sponsored hacking crew is the deployment of web shells to establish persistence and maintain access to the victim’s environment, as well as its use of Australian websites for command-and-control (C2) purposes.

Cybersecurity

It has also been observed incorporating out-of-date or unpatched devices, including small-office/home-office (SOHO) routers, as part of its attack infrastructure in an attempt to reroute malicious traffic and evade detection, an operational style that is akin to that used by other China-based groups like Volt Typhoon.

According to Google-owned Mandiant, this is part of a broader transition in cyber espionage activity originating from China that aims to put stealth front and center by increasingly weaponizing network edge devices, operational relay box (ORB) networks, and living-off-the-land (LotL) techniques to fly under the radar.

Attack chains further involve carrying out reconnaissance, privilege escalation, and lateral movement activities using the remote desktop protocol (RDP) to steal credentials and exfiltrate information of interest.

To mitigate the risks posed by such threats, organizations are recommended to maintain adequate logging mechanisms, enforce multi-factor authentication (MFA), implement a robust patch management system, replace end-of-life equipment, disable unused services, ports, and protocols, and segment networks to prevent access to sensitive data.

Found this article interesting? Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn to read more exclusive content we post.

Articles You May Like

Stolen crypto doubled to $1.38 billion in the first half of 2024, research firm says
Google, Apple Partner to Bring New Tool That Allows for Easy Media Transfer Across Devices
Critical Unpatched Flaws Disclosed in Popular Gogs Open-Source Git Service
Lava Blaze X 5G With MediaTek Dimensity 6300 SoC, 5,000mAh Battery Launched in India: Price, Specifications
Realme Buds Air 6 Pro Review: Good ANC, Robust Sound