Asian political activists whacked in Mac backdoor hack attack

What's up .doc? Oh, too late

26 Reg comments Got Tips?

A security hole in Microsoft Office for Mac OS X is being exploited to hack and spy on Asian activists at odds with the Chinese government.

In the past few days, spear-phishing emails - highly targeted booby-trapped messages - were sent to Apple users in the Uyghur community, which is an ethnic group of people mostly (but not exclusively) living in Eastern and Central Asia. The community has long desired independence from Chinese rule.

The emails contained .doc files that exploit the MS09-027 vulnerability in Microsoft Office for Mac. That security hole allows miscreants to execute malicious code on the victim's unpatched machine if the document is opened.

Ironically, one of the files reports the “rise in possible state-sponsored hacking”. Others bear filenames including "Concerns over Uyghur People", "Uyghur Political Prisoner" and "Deported Uyghurs". If successful, the attack installs a backdoor on the compromised Apple Mac, allowing hackers to remotely control the computer and spy on its user's activities.

Last June, a batch of infected emails sent to Uyghur activists, and intercepted by security researchers at Kaspersky Lab, used a ZIP file containing a JPEG and a Mac OS X app that contained a Trojan. But the latest spear-phishing campaign attempts to exploit a Microsoft Office vulnerability that was fixed more than three years ago.

The latest attacks are explained in much more detail by Kaspersky Lab here and security tools firm AlienVault here.

Similar attacks have been hurled at other politically sensitive ethnic groups, such as the Tibetan people, and human-rights organisations for several years. ®

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR WEEKLY TECH NEWSLETTER


Keep Reading

Azure DevOps Services reminds users that, yes, it really is time to pull the plug on Internet Explorer 11

Ignite Sure, it's still wedged in the OS, but maybe you'd prefer something shiny and Chromier?

We've come to wish you an unhappy birthday: Microsoft to yank services from Internet Explorer, kill off Legacy Edge by 2021

You need to give that plate back to us after you've finished your cake. Yes the fork too. We'll get your coat

In a world where up is down, it's heartwarming to know Internet Explorer still tops list of web dev pain points

Incompatibilities and inconsistent standards support among browsers ensure an ongoing source of headaches

If you never thought you'd hear a Microsoftie tell you to stop using Internet Explorer, lap it up: 'I beg you, let it retire to great bitbucket in the sky'

We say take off and nuke the entire codebase from orbit. It's the only way to be sure

China's internet watchdog freezes 10 too-trashy online video services before they undermine socialism

Scantily-clad presenters and vulgar language 'corrupt the social atmosphere' and 'endanger the healthy growth of young people'

Disabled by default: Microsoft ups the ante in its war against VBScript on Internet Explorer

Will the last IE 11 user please turn out the lights?

China to slice internet connection costs for locals as part of plan to rebound from recent unpleasantness

More 5G. More e-commerce. More IoT. But no growth target for the first time in ages

Edge, Internet Explorer users Czech their settings after MSN 'forgot' their language

Surfers faced with challenging feeds on a new tab

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020