How is the PlugX trojan spread using common web browsers by Chinese hackers?
Using HTML Smuggling methods, an unidentified hacker group thought to have ties to the Chinese Communist Party attacked foreign ministries and embassies in Europe and installed the PlugX Trojan on compromised systems.
Check Point, a cybersecurity company, reported this and dubbed this operation SmugX. The researchers claim that the malicious campaign began in December 2022.
According to a report from Check Point, "the campaign uses new delivery methods for PlugX, a spyware that is frequently linked to various Chinese threats."
Although the payload itself resembles that of earlier PlugX versions, the delivery methods offer a low level of detection, which, up until recently, helped the campaign go undetected, the experts continued.
Although it is not yet clear which group is behind this operation, the evidence suggests that it is the Mustang Panda group, which also shares members with the Earth Preta, Red Delta, and Camaro Dragon threat clusters, according to the Check Point classification.
Furthermore, the researchers claimed that there is currently "insufficient evidence" to definitively attribute this hacker collective.
When opened in a web browser, block or embedded payload data is decoded into a file object," Trustwave reported in February of this year.
An examination of the papers submitted to the VirusTotal malware database reveals that they are intended to target diplomats and government agencies in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, the United Kingdom, and, most likely, France and Sweden.
To decode and launch the ultimate payload, PlugX, the multi-stage infection procedure employs the already painfully familiar DLL Sideloading mechanism.
PlugX, on the other hand, is a spyware that first surfaced in 2008 and is a modular Trojan capable of supporting "a range of plug-ins with varying functions" that allows its operators to steal files, record the screen, log keystrokes, and execute instructions.
"During our study of the samples, the attacker submitted a batch script obtained from the C2 server, aimed to delete any signs of his activities," Check Point stated.
"This script eliminates the genuine executable, the PlugX loader DLL, and the registry key required for persistence before deleting itself." "This is most likely due to the attackers being aware that they were being watched," the researchers found.