Security experts are warning of yet another targeted malware campaign using socially engineered emails to infiltrate pro-Tibet organisations in a bid to covertly nab sensitive files.
Trend Micro threat research manager Ivan Macalintal explained in a blog post that the attacks are linked to the same command and control server used in the Gh0st RAT (remote access Trojan) campaign most recently observed at the end of March.
The Gh0st Trojan has been used by suspected Chinese hackers in several advanced persistent threat (APT) style attacks, most notably the ‘Nitro’ attacks against energy firms in 2011.
Following the classic modus operandi for such attacks, the threat arrives as an innocuous looking email socially engineered to encourage the recipient to click on an embedded malicious link – in this instance it is an invitation to a Tibetan film festival.
Macalintal explained that the user is then taken to a site which determines whether they are on a Mac or Windows system before loading a Java applet designed to exploit a vulnerability in the Java Runtime Environment.
If successful, the exploit will then install a SASFIS backdoor for Windows or an OLYX backdoor for Mac OSX.
Both backdoors report back to the same C&C server, which is the same as that used in Gh0st RAT attacks and the attacks uncovered by AlienVault recently.
“Moreover, both backdoors have functionalities that include features to allow them to upload and download files and navigate through files and directories in the affected system, providing them further means for their lateral movement and data exfiltration activities,” explained Macalintal.
The covert hacking of pro-Tibetan organisations is nothing new, given Communist China’s strained relationship with the country which it has asserted power over since the 1950s.
However, this latest discovery goes some way further to uncovering the true scale and sophistication of such attacks and creating a clearer picture of the actors behind Gh0st RAT. ®