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Chinese hackers targeting Linux servers

by on10 April 2020

Penguin makes a change from bat

BlackBerry researchers found five Chinese hacker groups which have systematically targeted mostly Linux servers while remaining undetected for a decade.

The BlackBerry report, titled Decade of the RATs: Cross-Platform APT Espionage Attacks Targeting Linux, Windows and Android, examines how APTs have used the “always on, always available” nature of Linux servers to establish a “beachhead” for operations.

Given the profile of the five APT groups involved and the duration of the attacks, it is likely the number of impacted organisations is significant.

The tools identified in these ongoing attack campaigns are already in place to take advantage of the new batch of work-from-home employees, and the diminished number of personnel onsite to maintain security of these critical systems compounds the risks.

The report said that while much of the workforce has left the office as part of containment efforts in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, intellectual property remains in enterprise data centres, most of which run on Linux.

Most large organisations rely on Linux to run websites, proxy network traffic and store valuable data. While Linux may not have the visibility that other front-office operating systems have, it is arguably the most critical where the security of critical networks is concerned. Linux runs all of the top one million websites, 75 percent of all web servers, 98 per cent of the world’s supercomputers and 75 percent of major cloud service providers/

Eric Cornelius, Chief Product Architect at BlackBerry said: “Linux is not typically user-facing, and most security companies focus their engineering and marketing attention on products designed for the front office instead of the server rack, so coverage for Linux is sparse. These hacker groups have zeroed in on that gap in security and leveraged it for their strategic advantage to steal intellectual property from targeted sectors for years without anyone noticing.”

The groups examined in this report were comprised of civilian contractors working in the interest of the Chinese government who readily share tools, techniques, infrastructure, and targeting information with one another and their government counterparts.

The groups have traditionally pursued different objectives and focused on a wide array of targets; however, it was observed that there is a significant degree of coordination between these groups, particularly where targeting of Linux platforms is concerned.

The research identifies two new examples of Android malware, continuing a trend seen in a previous report from BlackBerry researchers, titled Mobile Malware and APT Espionage: Prolific, Pervasive, and Cross-Platform, which examined how APT groups have been leveraging mobile malware in combination with traditional desktop malware in ongoing cross-platform surveillance and espionage campaigns.

Last modified on 10 April 2020
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