Suspected gov hackers behind ‘watering hole’ attacks in Hong Kong – Security

Nancy J. Delong

Google’s Threat Investigation Team (TAG) has discovered “watering hole” attacks with malware deployed on to Hong Kong websites, like a media outlet and a outstanding professional-democracy and political group.

The malware was found in August this 12 months and TAG found a root superuser privilege escalation exploit for the macOS Catalina functioning technique XNU kernel, which would try to obtain and put in a backdoor on targets’ personal computers.

Only Intel-dependent Macs running macOS Catalina had been served a complete exploit chain afterwards macOS variations these types of as Massive Sur brought about the exploit to crash thanks to Apple’s generic protection protections.

The code for the exploit is advanced, and very obfuscated to make evaluation a lot more challenging.

“We imagine this danger actor to be a properly-resourced group, possible condition backed, with obtain to their very own computer software engineering crew dependent on the excellent of the payload code,” Erye Hernandez from Google TAG wrote.

Google TAG did not right attribute the attacks to a particular state or hacking group.

TAG reported Apple’s mobile iOS functioning technique was also targeted by the attackers, working with the Ironsquirrel framework to supply encrypted exploits to victims’ browsers, a distinctive tactic when compared to macOS.

However, TAG was not able to capture a comprehensive iOS exploit chain, only a partial a single in which a bug from 2019 was employed for remote code execution in the Safari website browser.

Among the the characteristics in the backdoor had been target gadget fingerprinting, monitor capture, file transfers, terminal command execution, audio recording and keystroke logging.

Apple patched the vulnerability in September this 12 months.

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