Mandiant reveals how China is using USB devices for spying

2 months ago · 0 comments
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This campaign showed how China is using cyberspace to its advantage.

A Chinese-linked group has been carrying out a series of spy attacks in the Philippines using USB devices as an initial infection vector, according to a new report by Mandiant.

Mandiant monitors a cluster of threats under its unclassified name UNC4191. Based on an analysis of artifacts used in the invasions, the campaign took place in September 2021.

The attacks affected a number of public and private sector organizations, primarily in Southeast Asia, but also in the United States, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. However, even when the target organizations were located elsewhere, certain systems targeted by UNC4191 were also physically located in the Philippines.

According to experts, the attacks have led to the deployment of new families of malware called MISTCLOAK, DARKDEW, BLUEHAZE, as well as Ncat, a command-line network utility that is used to create a reverse shell on the victim's system.

When a user plugs a compromised USB device into the computer, MISTCLOAK is activated, acting as a launchpad for the DARKDEW encrypted payload. DARKDEW, in turn, infects removable drives, spreads to additional systems and collects data from Air Gap systems (air gap).

In addition, DARKDEW is also designed to run an executable (“DateCheck.exe”), a renamed version of the legitimate “Razer Chromium Render Process” application that deploys the BLUEHAZE malware. BLUEHAZE launches a copy of Ncat to create a reverse shell at a hard-coded command and control (C&C) server address.

The researchers believe that this campaign demonstrates China's actions to gain and maintain access to public and private organizations in order to collect intelligence related to the country's political and commercial interests.

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