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Tuesday, 05 March 2019 19:40

FireEye details operations of suspected Chinese APT

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FireEye details operations of suspected Chinese APT Image by Cimberley on Pixabay

Security outfit FireEye has detailed the operations of a cyber espionage campaign it claims to be of Chinese origin, targeting countries that are strategically important to Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative: Cambodia, Belgium, Germany, Hong Kong, Philippines, Malaysia, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, the US and the UK.

In research presented at the ongoing RSA security conference, FireEye researchers Fred Plan, Nalani Fraser, Jacqueline O’Leary, Vincent Cannon and Ben Read said they could say with a moderate level of confidence that the group behind the operation was APT40.

A report from the threat intelligence firm Recorded Future in November outlined similar activities by a group it did not name, this time targeting an engineering company based in Britain.

FireEye said China had seized a US Navy unmanned underwater vehicle in December 2016 and within months APT 40 was observed to be masquerading as a UUV manufacturer and targeting universities engaged in naval research.

"That incident was one of many carried out to acquire advanced technology to support the development of Chinese naval capabilities," the researchers wrote. "We believe APT40’s emphasis on maritime issues and naval technology ultimately support China’s ambition to establish a blue-water navy."

They said their reasoning for attribution was that APT40;s targeting was consistent with China's state interests and multiple technical artefacts indicated that the actor was based in China.

Analysis of the times when the group was operational indicated that it was at China Standard Time (UTC +8).

"In addition, multiple APT40 command and control domains were initially registered by China-based domain resellers and had Whois records with Chinese location information, suggesting a China based infrastructure procurement process," the researchers said.

Additionally, they pointed out that APT40 had used multiple IP addresses located in China to conduct its operations.

"In one instance, a log file recovered from an open indexed server revealed that an IP address (112.66.188.28) located in Hainan, China, had been used to administer the command and control node that was communicating with malware on victim machines. All of the logins to this C2 were from computers configured with Chinese language settings."

FireEye has a write-up of its findings here.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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