Researchers spotted a new China-linked APT, tracked as FunnyDream that already infected more than 200 systems across Southeast Asia.

Security experts at BitDefender have uncovered a new China-linked cyber espionage group, tracked as FunnyDream that has already infected more than 200 systems across Southeast Asia over the past two years.

According to Kaspersky Lab, FunnyDream has been active at least since 2018 and targeted high-profile entities in Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines. Most of the victims were in Vietnam, the group focuses on foreign government organizations of countries in Southeast Asia. 

The group is still active and aims at ensure persistence in the victims’ network for as long as possible, to spy on victims’ activities and to exfiltrate sensitive documents, with a special interest in national security and industrial espionage.

“The attack has a complex and complete arsenal of droppers, backdoors and other tools involving Chinoxy backdoor, PCShare RAT and FunnyDream backdoor binaries, with forensic artefacts pointing towards a sophisticated Chineseactor.” reads the report published by BitDefender. “Some of these open source Remote Access Trojans (RATs) are known to be of Chinese origin, along with some other resources set to Chinese.”

The name of the group comes from a powerful backdoor employed in the attacks of the APT group.

The attacks analyzed by Bitdefender researchers employed three malware payloads tracked as Chinoxy, PCShare, and FunnyDream,

The attackers followed the same killchain in the attack that begins with the execution of the Chinoxy backdoor to gain persistence in the victim’s system after initial access.

The Chinoxy dropper uses a digitally signed binary (Logitech Blutooth Wizard Host Process) to evade detection and exploit a Side Loading attack to load the backdoor dll into the memory.

Then the backdoor deploys the open source Chinese RAT called PcShare, it was used for gathering intelligence from the infected hosts.

FunnyDream is a custom-made backdoor that supports advanced persistence and communication capabilities, it was used by the APT group to gathering intelligence and data exfiltration.

“The attackers used the backdoor prevalently as DLL files, but we observed an executable to be used as well.” continues the report. “The files we found implement many persistence mechanisms, their droppers and loaders use many different file names for the payload, all of that suggesting that the backdoor is custom made.”

The analysis of the tool usage timeline revealed that threat actors initially started by deploying a series of tools meant for quick and covert data exploration and exfiltration, and later developed its own killchain that employed the three malware.

funnydream timeline backdoors

The researchers were able to identify the C2 architecture because the domains or IP addresses of command and control servers are hardcoded in binary files. Most of the servers are located in Hong Kong, except for three ones that were in in Vietnam, China and South Korea respoectively.

“It’s likely that relying on a locally deployed C&C infrastructure would bring several advantages to the APT group. For instance, it could be easier to manage and control, while at the same time the C&C IPs wouldn’t be flagged as suspicious, as they would be part of the same regional internet infrastructure. Opting for a command and control infrastructure deployed anywhere else in the world would have potentially raised some security alarms.” concludes the report. “During this analysis, some forensic artefacts seem to suggest a Chinese-speaking APT group, as some of the resources found in several binaries had a language set to Chinese, and the Chinoxy backdoor used during the campaign is a Trojan known to have been used by Chinese-speaking threat actors. While we’re constantly monitoring for APT-like activity around the world, not all APT-style attacks can be attributed to a known APT group, mostly because some of the used the tools are sometimes share between multiple groups.”

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, FunnyDream)




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