The campaign is believed to be active covertly since fall 2017 but was spotted in March by security researchers from Kaspersky Labs, who have attributed these attacks to a Chinese-speaking threat actor group called LuckyMouse.

LuckyMouse, also known as Iron Tiger, EmissaryPanda, APT 27 and Threat Group-3390, is the same group of Chinese hackers who was found targeting Asian countries with Bitcoin mining malware early this year.

This time the group chose a national data center as its target from an unnamed country in Central Asia in an attempt to gain "access to a wide range of government resources at one fell swoop."

According to the researchers, the group injected malicious JavaScript code into the official government websites associated with the data center in order to conduct watering hole attacks.

chinese hackers watering hole attack

The initial attack vector used in the attack against the data center is unclear, but researchers believe LuckyMouse possibly had conducted watering hole or phishing attacks to compromise accounts belonging to employees at the national data center.

"There were traces of HyperBro in the infected data center from mid-November 2017. Shortly after that different users in the country started being redirected to the malicious domain update.iaacstudio[.]com as a result of the waterholing of government websites," the researchers said in a blog post published today.

"These events suggest that the data center infected with HyperBro and the waterholing campaign are connected."

The main command and control (C&C) server used in this attack is hosted on an IP address which belongs to a Ukrainian ISP, specifically to a MikroTik router running a firmware version released in March 2016.

Researchers believe the Mikrotik router was explicitly hacked for the campaign in order to process the HyperBro malware's HTTP requests without detection.

 

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