Threat Intelligence
3/1/2016
04:21 AM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Chinese Threat Intel Start-up Finds DarkHotel Exploiting Chinese Telecom

New China-based threat intelligence company ThreatBook wants to be the 'trusted contact in China.'

SAN FRANCISCO, RSA Conference -- The DarkHotel threat group is targeting executives at telecommunications companies in North Korea and China, already compromising at least one, according to researchers at Beijing-based threat intelligence start-up ThreatBook.

In operation since 2007, DarkHotel is named for their habit of exploiting executives while they were using unsecured hotel WiFi networks, a behavior the group has since abandoned. In this campaign, which ThreatBook refers to as DarkHotel Operation 8651, the group is using spearphishing messages with malicious documents attached -- specifically, a crafted SWF file embedded as a downloadable link in a Word document.

The SWF file exploits Adobe Flash vulnerability CVE-2015-8651. According to ThreatBook, the earliest infections associated with that bug and this campaign are Dec. 24. Adobe released an out-of-band patch for it Dec. 28.

The payload, update.exe, is a Trojan downloader, disguised as a component of OpenSSL. It then uses a variety of anti-detection measures, including anti-sandbox, and anti-anti-virus, as well as just-in-time decryption.

Feng Xue and Hong Jia, friends from their days working at Microsoft, first had the idea to start ThreatBook in May. After a hurried meeting at the Beijing airport Starbucks during Jia's two-hour layover en route to Redmond, Wash., the two quit their jobs -- Jia as principal anti-virus research manager at Microsoft and Feng as CISO of Amazon.cn -- and launched ThreatBook in June.

"I never thought I would leave [Microsoft]," says Jia. "The career path was quite good and I love Microsoft."

"I got excited and I could not sleep," says Xue.

The idea that hooked Xue and Jia was realizing that there was no threat intelligence market in China, but the need for one was great.

"Threat intelligence is not just a tool, it's a new wave. A trend," says Xue.

ThreatBook uncovered information about the identity and intentions of the XCodeGhost authors in October. This week they are exhibiting at RSA, introducing their security threat analysis platform and Threat Intelligence Center.

Xue says that at previous positions he's held there was a lack of understanding of China's unique landscape. He'd have to spend some of time at old jobs educating colleagues about, for example, enormous cybersecurity incidents in China that are so underreported in the West that they aren't even mentioned in yearly wrap-ups of top global attacks. "I feel sometimes frustrated," Xue says.

Jia says this is one of the things she wants ThreatBook to be able to fix. She says their focus is China-focused threat intelligence, and they're very open to exchanging information with other companies and other organizations.

"Our company is a bridge," she says. "We want to be the trusted contact in China."

Related Content:

 

Interop 2016 Las Vegas

Find out more about security threats at Interop 2016, May 2-6, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, Las Vegas. Register today and receive an early bird discount of $200.

Sara Peters is Senior Editor at Dark Reading and formerly the editor-in-chief of Enterprise Efficiency. Prior that she was senior editor for the Computer Security Institute, writing and speaking about virtualization, identity management, cybersecurity law, and a myriad ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: just wondering...Thanx
Current Issue
Security Operations and IT Operations: Finding the Path to Collaboration
A wide gulf has emerged between SOC and NOC teams that's keeping both of them from assuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of IT systems. Here's how experts think it should be bridged.
Flash Poll
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2017-0290
Published: 2017-05-09
NScript in mpengine in Microsoft Malware Protection Engine with Engine Version before 1.1.13704.0, as used in Windows Defender and other products, allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (type confusion and application crash) via crafted JavaScript code within ...

CVE-2016-10369
Published: 2017-05-08
unixsocket.c in lxterminal through 0.3.0 insecurely uses /tmp for a socket file, allowing a local user to cause a denial of service (preventing terminal launch), or possibly have other impact (bypassing terminal access control).

CVE-2016-8202
Published: 2017-05-08
A privilege escalation vulnerability in Brocade Fibre Channel SAN products running Brocade Fabric OS (FOS) releases earlier than v7.4.1d and v8.0.1b could allow an authenticated attacker to elevate the privileges of user accounts accessing the system via command line interface. With affected version...

CVE-2016-8209
Published: 2017-05-08
Improper checks for unusual or exceptional conditions in Brocade NetIron 05.8.00 and later releases up to and including 06.1.00, when the Management Module is continuously scanned on port 22, may allow attackers to cause a denial of service (crash and reload) of the management module.

CVE-2017-0890
Published: 2017-05-08
Nextcloud Server before 11.0.3 is vulnerable to an inadequate escaping leading to a XSS vulnerability in the search module. To be exploitable a user has to write or paste malicious content into the search dialogue.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
In past years, security researchers have discovered ways to hack cars, medical devices, automated teller machines, and many other targets. Dark Reading Executive Editor Kelly Jackson Higgins hosts researcher Samy Kamkar and Levi Gundert, vice president of threat intelligence at Recorded Future, to discuss some of 2016's most unusual and creative hacks by white hats, and what these new vulnerabilities might mean for the coming year.