Chinese Naikon APT Group Compromises Government Servers to Evade Detection and to Launch other Attacks

A Chinese based Naikon APT group discovered attacking several national government entities in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region.

The ongoing cyber-espionage campaign discovered by Checkpoint researchers that persistently targeting the same region since 2015.

Naikon APT Group

The campaign actively targets entities such as foreign affairs, science, and technology ministries, as well as government-owned companies.

Researchers believe that this group is to “gather intelligence and spy on the countries whose Governments it has targeted.”

The group aimed to extract information from computers and networks within government departments. removable drives, taking screenshots, and keylogging.

It was observed that the APT group compromises the government entity and use the compromised entity to attack another government entity.

Attackers use several infection chains to deliver the Aria-body backdoor to establish a persistent presence on the target’s network.

Researchers observed that “Aria-body backdoor variants being compiled as early as 2018, we have observed Aria-body’s loaders going back to 2017.” The functionality of the loader was not changed since 2017, but attackers made changes with its implementation methods.

The next stage of the loader is the RAT dubbed Aria-body, that includes various modules such as USB data gathering, Keylogger module, Reverse socks proxy module, and Loading extensions module.

APT Group Infrastructure

The attacker group uses GoDaddy as the registrar and Alibaba for hosting the infrastructure, here is the complete infrastructure overview.

Attackers also used hacked government infrastructure as C&C servers, “researchers IP which belongs to the Philippines department of science and technology used for backup C&C server.”

Infrastructre

The communication between the C&C server handled by either HTTP or TCP protocols, the data to the C&C server sent along with the XORed password, and the XOR key.

C&C Communication

“We were able to attribute our campaign to the Naikon APT group using several similarities we observed to the previously disclosed information about Naikon’s activity by Kaspersky in 2015,” researchers said.

Both the Aria-body backdoor and XsFunction backdoor found to be identical and they also found to be using the same Infrastructure.

Naikon APT group flying under the radar for more than five-years by utilizing new server infrastructure, ever-changing loader variants, in-memory fileless loading, as well as a new backdoor.

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