CMIT495 Project 4: The cybersecurity Threat Landscape


I need to write 3 to 4 pages for Part 1 and part 2 of this project.7/12/2017
Cyber Espionage is Alive and Well: APT32 and the Threat to Global Corporations « Threat Research Blog | FireEye Inc

Cyber Espionage is Alive and Well: APT32 and the Threat to
Global Corporations
May 14, 2017 | by Nick Carr | Threat Research
Cyber espionage actors, now designated by FireEye as APT32 (OceanLotus Group), are carrying out intrusions into private sector companies
across multiple industries and have also targeted foreign governments, dissidents, and journalists. FireEye assesses that APT32 leverages a
unique suite of fully­featured malware, in conjunction with commercially­available tools, to conduct targeted operations that are aligned with
Vietnamese state interests.
APT32 and FireEye’s Community Response
In the course of investigations into intrusions at several corporations with business interests in Vietnam, FireEye’s Mandiant incident response
consultants uncovered activity and attacker­controlled infrastructure indicative of a significant intrusion campaign. In March 2017, in response
to active targeting of FireEye clients, the team launched a Community Protection Event (CPE) – a coordinated effort between Mandiant
incident responders, FireEye as a Service (FaaS), FireEye iSight Intelligence, and FireEye product engineering – to protect all clients from
APT32 activity.
In the following weeks, FireEye released threat intelligence products and updated malware profiles to customers while developing new
detection techniques for APT32’s tools and phishing lures. This focused intelligence and detection effort led to new external victim
identifications as well as providing sufficient technical evidence to link twelve prior intrusions, consolidating four previously unrelated clusters
of threat actor activity into FireEye’s newest named advanced persistent threat group: APT32.
APT32 Targeting of Private Sector Company Operations in Southeast Asia
Since at least 2014, FireEye has observed APT32 targeting foreign corporations with a vested interest in Vietnam’s manufacturing, consumer
products, and hospitality sectors. Furthermore, there are indications that APT32 actors are targeting peripheral network security and
technology infrastructure corporations.
Here is an overview of intrusions investigated by FireEye that are attributed to APT32:
In 2014, a European corporation was compromised prior to constructing a manufacturing facility in Vietnam.
In 2016, Vietnamese and foreign­owned corporations working in network security, technology infrastructure, banking, and media industries
were targeted.
In mid­2016, malware that FireEye believes to be unique to APT32 was detected on the networks of a global hospitality industry developer
with plans to expand operations into Vietnam.
From 2016 through 2017, two subsidiaries of U.S. and Philippine consumer products corporations, located inside Vietnam, were the target
of APT32 intrusion operations.
Table 1 shows a breakdown of APT32 activity, including the malware families used in each.
Network Security
Cyber Espionage is Alive and Well: APT32 and the Threat to Global Corporations « Threat Research Blog | FireEye Inc
Table 1: APT32 Private Sector Targeting Identified by FireEye
APT32 Interest in Political Influence and Foreign Governments
In addition to focused targeting of the private sector with ties to Vietnam, APT32 has also targeted foreign governments, as well as
Vietnamese dissidents and journalists since at least 2013. Here is an overview of this activity:
A public blog published by the Electronic Frontier Foundation indicated that journalists, activists, dissidents, and bloggers were targeted in
2013 by malware and tactics consistent with APT32 operations.
In 2014, APT32 leveraged a spear­phishing attachment titled “Plans to crackdown on protesters at the Embassy of Vietnam.exe,” which
targeted dissident activity among the Vietnamese diaspora in Southeast Asia. Also in 2014, APT32 carried out an intrusion against a
Western country’s national legislature.
In 2015, SkyEye Labs, the security research division of the Chinese firm Qihoo 360, released a report detailing threat actors that were
targeting Chinese public and private entities including government agencies, research institutes, maritime agencies, sea construction, and
shipping enterprises. The information included in the report indicated that the perpetrators used the same malware, overlapping
infrastructure, and similar targets as APT32.
In 2015 and 2016, two Vietnamese media outlets were targeted with malware that FireEye assesses to be unique to APT32.
In 2017, social engineering content in lures used by the actor provided evidence that they were likely used to target members of the
Vietnam diaspora in Australia as well as government employees in the Philippines.
APT32 Tactics
In their current campaign, APT32 has leveraged ActiveMime files that employ social engineering methods to entice the victim into enabling
macros. Upon execution, the initialized file downloads multiple malicious payloads from remote servers. APT32 actors continue to deliver the
malicious attachments via spear­phishing emails.
APT32 actors designed multilingual lure documents which were tailored to specific victims. Although the files had “.doc” file extensions, the
recovered phishing lures were ActiveMime “.mht” web page archives that contained text and images. These files were likely created by
exporting Word documents into single file web pages.
Table 2 contains a sample of recovered APT32 multilingual lure files.
ActiveMime Lure Files
(2017 Statistical Report on
Staff Salary and Allowances)

Cyber Espionage is Alive and Well: APT32 and the Threat to Global Corporations « Threat Research Blog | FireEye Inc
Thong tin.doc
Phan Vu Tutn CV.doc
Ke hoach cuu tro nam 2017.doc
(2017 Bailout Plan)
Instructions to GSIS.doc
Hoi thao truyen thong doc lap.doc
(Traditional Games)
Giấy yêu cầu bồi thường mới 2016 ­
(New 2016 Claim Form)
Hoa don chi tiet tien no.doc
(Debt Details)
Thu moi tham du Hoi luan.doc
(Collection of Participants)
Danh sach nhan vien vi pham ky
(List of Employee Violations)
(Internal Content Advertising)
HĐ DVPM­VTC 31.03.17.doc
Table 2: Sampling of APT32 Lure Files
The Base64 encoded ActiveMime data also contained an OLE file with malicious macros. When opened, many lure files displayed fake error
messages in an attempt to trick users into launching the malicious macros. Figure 1 shows a fake Gmail­theme paired with a hexadecimal
error code that encourages the recipient to enable content to resolve the error. Figure 2 displays another APT32 lure that used a convincing
image of a fake Windows error message instructing the recipient to enable content to properly display document font characters.
Figure 1: Example APT32 Phishing Lure – Fake Gmail Error Message
Cyber Espionage is Alive and Well: APT32 and the Threat to Global Corporations « Threat Research Blog | FireEye Inc
Figure 2: Example APT32 Phishing Lure – Fake Text Encoding Error Message
APT32 operators implemented several novel techniques to track the efficacy of their phishing, monitor the distribution of their malicious
documents, and establish persistence mechanisms to dynamically update backdoors injected into memory.
In order to track who opened the phishing emails, viewed the links, and downloaded the attachments in real­time, APT32 used cloud­based
email analytics software designed for sales organizations. In some instances, APT32 abandoned direct email attachments altogether and
relied exclusively on this tracking technique with links to their ActiveMime lures hosted externally on legitimate cloud storage services.
To enhance visibility into the further distribution of their phishing lures, APT32 utilized the native web page functionality of their ActiveMime
documents to link to external images hosted on APT32 monitored infrastructure.
Figure 3 contains an example phishing lure with HTML image tags used for additional tracking by APT32.
Figure 3: Phishing Lure Containing HTML Image Tags for Additional Tracking
When a document with this feature is opened, Microsoft Word will attempt to download the external image, even if macros were disabled. In all
phishing lures analyzed, the external images did not exist. Mandiant consultants suspect that APT32 was monitoring web logs to track the
public IP address used to request remote images. When combined with email tracking software, APT32 was able to closely track phishing
delivery, success rate, and conduct further analysis about victim organizations while monitoring the interest of security firms.
Cyber Espionage is Alive and Well: APT32 and the Threat to Global Corporations « Threat Research Blog | FireEye Inc
Once macros were enabled on the target system, the malicious macros created two named scheduled tasks as persistence mechanisms for
two backdoors on the infected system. The first named scheduled task launched an application whitelisting script protection bypass to execute
a COM scriptlet that dynamically downloaded the first backdoor from APT32’s infrastructure and injected it into memory. The second named
scheduled task, loaded as an XML file to falsify task attributes, ran a JavaScript code block that downloaded and launched a secondary
backdoor, delivered as a multi­stage PowerShell script. In most lures, one scheduled task persisted an APT32­specific backdoor and the other
scheduled task initialized a commercially­available backdoor as backup.
To illustrate the complexity of these lures, Figure 4 shows the creation of persistence mechanisms for recovered APT32 lure “2017
Figure 4: APT32 ActiveMime Lures Create Two Named Scheduled Tasks
In this example, a scheduled task named “Windows Scheduled Maintenance” was created to run Casey Smith’s “Squiblydoo” App Whitelisting
bypass every 30 minutes. While all payloads can be dynamically updated, at the time of delivery, this task launched a COM scriptlet (“.sct” file
extension) that downloaded and executed Meterpreter hosted on images.chinabytes[.]info. Meterpreter then loaded Cobalt Strike BEACON,
configured to communicate with 80.255.3[.]87 using the Safebrowsing malleable C2 profile to further blend in with network traffic. A second
scheduled task named “Scheduled Defrags” was created by loading the raw task XML with a backdated task creation timestamp of June 2,
2016. This second task ran “mshta.exe” every 50 minutes which launched an APT32­specific backdoor delivered as shellcode in a PowerShell
script, configured to communicate with the domains blog.panggin[.]org, share.codehao[.]net, and yii.yiihao126[.]net.
Figure 5 illustrates the chain of events for a single successful APT32 phishing lure that dynamically injects two multi­stage malware
frameworks into memory.
Cyber Espionage is Alive and Well: APT32 and the Threat to Global Corporations « Threat Research Blog | FireEye Inc
Figure 5: APT32 Phishing Chain of Events
The impressive APT32 operations did not stop after they established a foothold in victim environments. Several Mandiant investigations
revealed that, after gaining access, APT32 regularly cleared select event log entries and heavily obfuscated their PowerShell­based tools and
shellcode loaders with Daniel Bohannon’s Invoke­Obfuscation framework.
APT32 regularly used stealthy techniques to blend in with legitimate user activity:
During one investigation, APT32 was observed using a privilege escalation exploit (CVE­2016­7255) masquerading as a Windows hotfix.
In another investigation, APT32 compromised the McAfee ePO infrastructure to distribute their malware as a software deployment task in
which all systems pulled the payload from the ePO server using the proprietary SPIPE protocol.
APT32 also used hidden or non­printing characters to help visually camouflage their malware on a system. For example, APT32 installed
one backdoor as a persistent service with a legitimate service name that had a Unicode no­break space character appended to it. Another
backdoor used an otherwise legitimate DLL filename padded with a non­printing OS command control code.
APT32 Malware and Infrastructure
APT32 appears to have a well­resourced development capability and uses a custom suite of backdoors spanning multiple protocols. APT32
operations are characterized through deployment of signature malware payloads including WINDSHIELD, KOMPROGO, SOUNDBITE, and
PHOREAL. APT32 often deploys these backdoors along with the commercially­available Cobalt Strike BEACON backdoor. APT32 may also
possess backdoor development capabilities for macOS.
The capabilities for this unique suite of malware is shown in Table 3.
Command and control (C2) communications via
TCP raw sockets
Cyber Espionage is Alive and Well: APT32 and the Threat to Global Corporations « Threat Research Blog | FireEye Inc
Four configured C2s and six configured ports –
randomly­chosen C2/port for communications
Registry manipulation
Get the current module’s file name
Gather system information including registry
values, user name, computer name, and current
code page
File system interaction including directory
creation, file deletion, reading, and writing files
Load additional modules and execute code
Terminate processes
Fully­featured backdoor capable of process, file,
and registry management
Creating a reverse shell
File transfers
Running WMI queries
Retrieving information about the infected
C2 communications via DNS
Process creation
File upload
Shell command execution
File and directory enumeration/manipulation
Window enumeration
Registry manipulation
System information gathering
C2 communications via ICMP
Reverse shell creation
Filesystem manipulation
Registry manipulation
Process creation
File upload
Publicly available payload that can inject and
execute arbitrary code into processes
Impersonating the security context of users
Importing Kerberos tickets
Uploading and downloading files
BEACON (Cobalt
Executing shell commands
Configured with malleable C2 profiles to blend
in with normal network traffic
Co­deployment and interoperability with
Metasploit framework
SMB Named Pipe in­memory backdoor payload
that enables peer­to­peer C2 and pivoting over
Table 3: APT32 Malware and Capabilities
APT32 operators appear to be well­resourced and supported as they use a large set of domains and IP addresses as command and control
infrastructure. The FireEye iSIGHT Intelligence MySIGHT Portal contains additional information on these backdoor families based on
Cyber Espionage is Alive and Well: APT32 and the Threat to Global Corporations « Threat Research Blog | FireEye Inc
Mandiant investigations of APT32 intrusions.
Figure 6 provides a summary of APT32 tools and techniques mapped to each stage of the attack lifecycle.
Figure 6: APT32 Attack Lifecycle
Outlook and Implications
Based on incident response investigations, product detections, and intelligence observations along with additional publications on the same
operators, FireEye assesses that APT32 is a cyber espionage group aligned with Vietnamese government interests. The targeting of private
sector interests by APT32 is notable and FireEye believes the actor poses significant risk to companies doing business in, or preparing to
invest in, the country. While the motivation for each APT32 private sector compromise varied – and in some cases was unknown – the
unauthorized access could serve as a platform for law enforcement, intellectual property theft, or anticorruption measures that could ultimately
erode the competitive advantage of targeted organizations. Furthermore, APT32 continues to threaten political activism and free speech in
Southeast Asia and the public sector worldwide. Governments, journalists, and members of the Vietnam diaspora may continue to be
While actors from China, Iran, Russia, and North Korea remain the most active cyber espionage threats tracked and responded to by FireEye,
APT32 reflects a growing host of new countries that have adopted this dynamic capability. APT32 demonstrates how accessible and impactful
offensive capabilities can be with the proper investment and the flexibility to embrace newly­available tools and techniques. As more countries
utilize inexpensive and efficient cyber operations, there is a need for public awareness of these threats and renewed dialogue around
emerging nation­state intrusions that go beyond public sector and intelligence targets.
APT32 Detection
Figure 7 contains a Yara rule can be used to identify malicious macros associated with APT32’s phishing lures:
Cyber Espionage is Alive and Well: APT32 and the Threat to Global Corporations « Threat Research Blog | FireEye Inc
Figure 7: Yara Rule for APT32 Malicious Macros
Table 4 contains a sampling of the infrastructure that FireEye has associated with APT32 C2.
C2 Infrastructure
Cyber Espionage is Alive and Well: APT32 and the Threat to Global Corporations « Threat Research Blog | FireEye Inc
Table 4: Sampling of APT32 C2 Infrastructure
This entry was posted on Sun May 14 18:00:00 EDT 2017 and filed under APT, Attack, Blog, Homepage Carousel, Latest Blog Posts,
Malware, Nick Carr and Threat Research.
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The Cybersecurity Threat Landscape
Group Assignment
Part 1: Threat Landscape Analysis
Provide a detailed analysis of the threat landscape.
What has changed over the past year?
Describe common tactics, techniques, and procedures to include threat actor types.
What are the exploit vectors and vulnerabilities threat actors are predicted to take advantage
Part 2: APT Analysis
Provide a detailed analysis and description of the APT your group was assigned. Describe the
specific tactics used to gain access to the target(s).
Describe the tools used. Describe what the objective of the APT was/is. Was it successful?

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