The China-linked Mustang Panda actor has been linked to a cyber assault focusing on a Philippines authorities entity amid rising tensions between the 2 international locations over the disputed South China Sea.
Palo Alto Networks Unit 42 attributed the adversarial collective to a few campaigns in August 2023, primarily singling out organizations within the South Pacific.
“The campaigns leveraged respectable software program together with Strong PDF Creator and SmadavProtect (an Indonesian-based antivirus resolution) to sideload malicious information,” the corporate stated.
“Risk authors additionally creatively configured the malware to impersonate respectable Microsoft visitors for command and management (C2) connections.”
Mustang Panda, additionally tracked beneath the names Bronze President, Camaro Dragon, Earth Preta, RedDelta, and Stately Taurus, is assessed to be a Chinese language superior persistent risk (APT) lively since at the very least 2012, orchestrating cyber espionage campaigns focusing on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and authorities our bodies throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.
In late September 2023, Unit 42 additionally implicated the risk actor to assaults geared toward an unnamed Southeast Asian authorities to distribute a variant of a backdoor referred to as TONESHELL.
The newest campaigns leverage spear-phishing emails to ship a malicious ZIP archive file that accommodates a rogue dynamic-link library (DLL) that is launched utilizing a way referred to as DLL side-loading. The DLL subsequently establishes contact with a distant server.
It is assessed that the Philippines authorities entity was seemingly compromised over a five-day interval between August 10 and 15, 2023.
“Stately Taurus continues to show its capacity to conduct persistent cyberespionage operations as probably the most lively Chinese language APTs,” the researchers stated.
“These operations goal quite a lot of entities globally that align with geopolitical subjects of curiosity to the Chinese language authorities.”
The disclosure comes as a South Korean APT actor named Higaisa has been uncovered focusing on Chinese language customers by phishing web sites mimicking well-known software program functions reminiscent of OpenVPN.
“As soon as executed, the installer drops and runs Rust-based malware on the system, subsequently triggering a shellcode,” Cyble stated late final month. “The shellcode performs anti-debugging and decryption operations. Afterward, it establishes encrypted command-and-control (C&C) communication with a distant Risk Actor (TA).”