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Kaspersky uncovers rare advanced threat campaign vs gov’t entities in Southeast Asia

Users in Southeast Asia, particularly in Myanmar and the Philippines, have been the targets of a rare, wide-scale advanced persistent threat (APT) campaign, according to cybersecurity solutions company Kaspersky. The company identified approximately 100 victims in Myanmar and 1,400 in the Philippines, some of which were government entities.

The actors use spear-phishing via email to spread the malware that is when downloaded, can spread to other hosts through USB or thumb drives.

What is interesting to note about the latest campaign Kaspersky uncovered is the number of targeted attacks. The company explained that APTs, being highly targeted, would involve “no more than a few dozen users are targeted, often with surgical-like precision.”

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This cluster of activity is now dubbed LuminousMoth was discovered to be targeting government entities since October 2020, which started in Myanmar then spread out to other countries including the Philippines.

“This new cluster of activity might once again point to a trend we’ve been witnessing over the course of this year: Chinese-speaking threat actors retooling and producing new and unknown malware implants,” said Mark Lechtik, senior security researcher with the Global Research and Analysis Team (GReAT).

LuminousMoth

“The attackers typically gain an initial foothold in the system through a spear-phishing email with a Dropbox download link. Once clicked, this link downloads a RAR archive disguised as a Word document that contains the malicious payload,” Kaspersky explained.

USB drives can easily spread the malware which created directories within the drive. It will then infect another device where the USB is used or inserted.

“The malware also has two post-exploitation tools that can, in turn, be used for lateral movement,” Kaspersky explained. One consists of a signed, fake version of Zoom and another steals cookies from the Chrome browser. Once on the device, LuminousMoth proceeds to exfiltrate data to the command and control (C2) server. For the targets in Myanmar, these C2 servers were often domains that impersonated known news outlets.

Kaspersky experts attribute LuminousMoth to the HoneyMyte threat group, a well-known, long-standing, Chinese-speaking threat actor, with medium to high confidence. HoneyMyte is primarily interested in gathering geopolitical and economic intelligence in Asia and Africa.

“We’re seeing increased activity by Chinese-speaking threat actors this past year, and this most likely won’t be the last of LuminousMoth. In addition, there’s a high chance the group will begin to further sharpen its toolset. We’ll be keeping an eye out for any future developments,” comments Paul Rascagneres, Senior Security Researcher with GReAT.

To stay safe from advanced threat campaigns like LuminousMoth, Kaspersky experts recommend:

  • Providing your staff with basic cybersecurity hygiene training, as many targeted attacks start with phishing or other social engineering techniques.
  • Carrying out a cybersecurity audit of your networks and remediate any weaknesses discovered in the perimeter or inside the network.
  • Installing anti-APT and EDR solutions, enabling threat discovery and detection, investigation and timely remediation of incidents capabilities. Provide your SOC team with access to the latest threat intelligence and regularly upskill them with professional training. All of the above is available within the Kaspersky Expert Security framework.

That along with proper endpoint protection, dedicated services can help against high-profile attacks. The Kaspersky Managed Detection and Response service can help identify and stop attacks in their early stages before the attackers achieve their goals.