Attacks/Breaches
8/13/2013
04:59 AM
Tim Wilson
Tim Wilson
Quick Hits
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Hackers Who Attacked New York Times Are At It Again, FireEye Says

China-based attackers named in Mandiant's "APT1" report now using retooled malware, report says

The China-based attackers who broke into systems at The New York Times and other media outlets earlier this year are at it again, according to a new report.

In a blog posted on Monday, researchers at FireEye say they have detected the first significant activity from the China-based hacking group since it was made infamous in Mandiant's "APT1" report early this year.

The group had been largely silent since the Mandiant report came out, according to FireEye, but is now actively conducting attacks again using retooled versions of Aumlib and Ixeshe, two previously known malware exploits that are used for targeted attacks.

Both of these malware families have been known for years, but the attackers appear to have rewritten them significantly, possibly in response to the APT1 report, FireEye says.

"We cannot say for sure whether the attackers were responding to the scrutiny they received in the wake of the [New York Times] episode," the blog states. "But we do know the change was sudden. Akin to turning a battleship, retooling TTPs [techniques, tactics and procedures] of large threat actors is formidable. Such a move requires recoding malware, updating infrastructure, and possibly retraining workers on new processes."

Some researchers said the retooled malware was predictable. "Since being exposed and subjected to wide-scale scrutiny and criticism of their operation from the security community, it should come as no surprise that these state-sponsored groups have upped their game," says Richard Henderson, security strategist for Fortinet's FortiGuard Labs.

"We often see variations in known malware in the field," says Jeremy Coons, senior manager of cybersecurity services at AccessData. "In fact, public release of reports such as the APT1 has actually increased that activity. It is a serious issue, as there is really no way to stay ahead of the curve."

Other security researchers confirmed that they are also detecting the revised malware, but were less inclined to connect it to the group that devised the attacks described in APT1.

"I don't think this code has anything to do with the APT1 report," says Adam Meyers, a researcher at security firm CrowdStrike. "I suspect after a number of years [the attackers] needed some upgraded functionality -- and, as FireEye states, because their traffic was readily identifiable, this lowered the effectiveness of their operations. But this actor is very different than the 'APT1' actor we call Comment Panda."

Some experts said the APT1 report may eventually make it more difficult to defend against sophisticated groups of attackers. "If you're playing poker and you discover your opponent has a 'tell,' you don't point it out to him," says John Prisco, CEO of security vendor Triumfant. "Malware authors are obviously going to be changing their tactics because the whole world already knows what tactics they were previously using -- thanks to the APT1 report that pointed out the tell."

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add a Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
jayevee
50%
50%
jayevee,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/15/2013 | 7:13:58 PM
re: Hackers Who Attacked New York Times Are At It Again, FireEye Says
I was just about the say the same thing.
Tartarus
50%
50%
Tartarus,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/13/2013 | 4:41:31 PM
re: Hackers Who Attacked New York Times Are At It Again, FireEye Says
There's some confusion here. The FireEye blog posting is about the Ixeshe group (APT 12). Not APT 1.
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Flash Poll
Current Issue
Cartoon
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-4725
Published: 2014-07-27
The MailPoet Newsletters (wysija-newsletters) plugin before 2.6.7 for WordPress allows remote attackers to bypass authentication and execute arbitrary PHP code by uploading a crafted theme using wp-admin/admin-post.php and accessing the theme in wp-content/uploads/wysija/themes/mailp/.

CVE-2014-4726
Published: 2014-07-27
Unspecified vulnerability in the MailPoet Newsletters (wysija-newsletters) plugin before 2.6.8 for WordPress has unspecified impact and attack vectors.

CVE-2014-2363
Published: 2014-07-26
Morpho Itemiser 3 8.17 has hardcoded administrative credentials, which makes it easier for remote attackers to obtain access via a login request.

CVE-2014-2625
Published: 2014-07-26
Directory traversal vulnerability in the storedNtxFile function in HP Network Virtualization 8.6 (aka Shunra Network Virtualization) allows remote attackers to read arbitrary files via crafted input, aka ZDI-CAN-2023.

CVE-2014-2626
Published: 2014-07-26
Directory traversal vulnerability in the toServerObject function in HP Network Virtualization 8.6 (aka Shunra Network Virtualization) allows remote attackers to create files, and consequently execute arbitrary code, via crafted input, aka ZDI-CAN-2024.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Sara Peters hosts a conversation on Botnets and those who fight them.