Asian nations increasingly hit by espionage groups

Multiple groups of attackers are focusing on government and military targets in Asia and the Pacific region, researchers fine

Multiple cyberespionage groups are specifically targeting government and military organizations from countries in Asia and the Pacific region with the goal of gathering geo-political intelligence, according to new security research.

Some of the groups have been active for years, but the extent of their operations are only now coming to light.

One Chinese-speaking group, dubbed Naikon, has been operating for five years and has had a "high volume, high profile, geo-political attack activity," researchers from Kaspersky Lab said Thursday in a report.

The group has targeted top-level government, military and civilian organizations from the Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar (Burma), Singapore, Nepal, Thailand, Laos and China.

It is highly organized, with individual operators assigned their own set of targets, and has a high success rate for penetrating organizations and gathering geo-political intelligence, the researchers said.

The group's preferred attacks are spear-phishing emails with malicious documents that appear to contain information of interest for the intended victims. For example, a large campaign launched in March took advantage of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

The bait documents crafted by the group exploit a vulnerability in Microsoft Office known as CVE-2012-0158 that was fixed three years ago. If successful, the exploit injects malicious code into the browser process and downloads a remote administration tool from a command-and-control server.

That backdoor utility supports more than 48 commands and gives attackers full control over infected computers, including the ability to download and execute additional files.

Naikon recently collided with another cyberespionage group operating in the region. Kaspersky calls the second group Hellsing, and it has compromised government networks in Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia and India. After being targeted by Naikon, the Hellsing group responded back with its own spear-phishing emails and backdoor.

The activities of a third cyberespionage group that has been active since at least 2012 were documented Wednesday by antivirus firm Trend Micro. The group has been dubbed Tropic Trooper and predominantly targets organizations from Taiwan and the Philippines.

It's not clear if Tropic Trooper is related to Naikon, but some similarities exist in their attack methods. For example, they both leverage CVE-2012-0158, though this might be a coincidence because this particular vulnerability has been popular with attackers.

With attackers using a three-year-old flaw to compromise high-profile government and military targets, it shows poor patching practices in the region and highlights an urgent need for those organizations to address their security shortcomings.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags malwarespywaretrend microintrusionkaspersky labExploits / vulnerabilities

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Lucian Constantin

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Bang and Olufsen Beosound Stage - Dolby Atmos Soundbar

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

ASUS ROG, ACRONYM partner for Special Edition Zephyrus G14

Learn more >

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Nakamichi Delta 100 3-Way Hi Fi Speaker System

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch

Learn more >

Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean 9000 Toothbrush

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

SunnyBunny Snowflakes 20 LED Solar Powered Fairy String

Learn more >

Teac 7 inch Swivel Screen Portable DVD Player

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?