Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Attacks/Breaches

6/24/2013
09:48 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

South Korean Universities Targeted By Chinese-Speaking Hackers

'PinkStats' malware has been used for hacking nation-state targets for four years

A newly discovered attack tool used by multiple groups of Chinese-speaking attackers has infected more than 1,000 machines in South Korea -- mainly universities and other academic institutions.

The so-called PinkStats malware family has been in use over the past four years, targeting various nation-states and organizations around the globe, according to Aviv Raff, CTO at Seculert, which studied the malware and posted its findings today.

"This is the first proof that there are Chinese-speaking attackers targeting [South Korea] entities," says Raff, who stopped short at confirming the attackers were from China. Even so, he says it's likely that they are Chinese: "These type of custom-made tools are usually created by the people speaking the language used in the tool, [such as where] Mahdi used Farsi strings," he says.

There's no evidence, either, to confirm that PinkStats was also used in the attacks earlier this year on South Korean banks, media networks, and an ISP that wiped hard drives and attached drives of infected machines. They also crippled targeted organizations for hours, and the machines weren't able to reboot. There was speculation of a North Korea or China connection to the attacks.

[Researchers confirm data-destroying malware that hit South Korean media and banks doesn't completely erase data. See Data Can Be Recovered From South Korea Data-Wiping Attacks. ]

PinkStats is a Trojan downloader that can install additional malware components. It camouflages itself by posing as a Web statistics or counter service in its communications to the command-and-control server and in the attacker's administrative panel login window.

In the South Korean attack, PinkStats also downloaded a typical Chinese hacking tool called zxarps that acts as a worm to spread in the victim's local network, via address resolution protocol (ARP) poisoning. The malicious iFrame it injects includes an ActiveX file digitally signed by Thwate. Seculert says the signature was valid as of May 8 and uses "Microsoft Corporation" as the product name and "Liaocheng YuanEr Technology CO., ltd.," as the publisher name -- a phony South Korean company.

PinkStats also installs a DDoS malware tool that goes by "Win8.exe" and poses as South Korean antivirus company AhnLab's V3 Light Framework software. "Up until now, the adversary did not seem to send any specific instructions to the installed DDoS malware. However, with the recent incidents of DDoS attacks against South Korean infrastructure, it is reasonable to assume that this state could change anytime soon," Seculert said in its blog post.

Seculert's Raff says the attackers were trying to amass as much computing power as possible from the South Korean universities. They deployed an additional worm tool that spreads the PinkStats malware within the local university network," he says, probably in order to use the machines for DDoS attacks.

Raff says his firm discovered the PinkStats malware while analyzing one of its customer's logs. That analysis led to Seculert finding evidence of the South Korean attacks. What makes PinkStats unique is that it's a downloader posing as a legitimate Web statistics service. "So even if someone will try to investigate the URL of the malware communication and [get] to the login page, he will see a page saying that is a login for 'statistics administration,'" he says.

Other attacks using PinkStats have downloaded information-stealing Trojans as well, he says.

"It really depends on the group using this tool, and the intent of their current operation and phase," Raff says.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
Edge-DRsplash-10-edge-articles
7 Old IT Things Every New InfoSec Pro Should Know
Joan Goodchild, Staff Editor,  4/20/2021
News
Cloud-Native Businesses Struggle With Security
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  5/6/2021
Commentary
Defending Against Web Scraping Attacks
Rob Simon, Principal Security Consultant at TrustedSec,  5/7/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: Take me to your BISO 
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-20538
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-10
IBM Cloud Pak for Security (CP4S) 1.5.0.0 and 1.5.0.1 could allow a user to obtain sensitive information or perform actions they should not have access to due to incorrect authorization mechanisms. IBM X-Force ID: 198919.
CVE-2021-20559
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-10
IBM Control Desk 7.6.1.2 and 7.6.1.3 is vulnerable to cross-site scripting. This vulnerability allows users to embed arbitrary JavaScript code in the Web UI thus altering the intended functionality potentially leading to credentials disclosure within a trusted session. IBM X-Force ID: 199228.
CVE-2021-20577
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-10
IBM Cloud Pak for Security (CP4S) 1.5.0.0 and 1.5.0.1 is vulnerable to cross-site scripting. This vulnerability allows users to embed arbitrary JavaScript code in the Web UI thus altering the intended functionality potentially leading to credentials disclosure within a trusted session. IBM X-Force I...
CVE-2021-29501
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-10
Ticketer is a command based ticket system cog (plugin) for the red discord bot. A vulnerability allowing discord users to expose sensitive information has been found in the Ticketer cog. Please upgrade to version 1.0.1 as soon as possible. As a workaround users may unload the ticketer cog to disable...
CVE-2020-13529
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-10
An exploitable denial-of-service vulnerability exists in Systemd 245. A specially crafted DHCP FORCERENEW packet can cause a server running the DHCP client to be vulnerable to a DHCP ACK spoofing attack. An attacker can forge a pair of FORCERENEW and DCHP ACK packets to reconfigure the server.