Feeds

Pro-China hackers target Tibetan activists with malware

Spammers in the service of the People's Republic

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

Pro-China hackers have started spoofing security firm AlienVault's email address in spam messages in an attempt to infect pro-Tibetan recipients with malware.

The move follows days after the security tools firm warned that AlienVault about spear phishing attacks against a number of Tibetan organisations.

The spear-phishing messages relate to the Kalachakra Initiation, a Tibetan religious festival that took place in early January. The closely targeted messages – sent to organisations such as the Central Tibet Administration and International Campaign for Tibet – carry an infectious Office file attachment with a malware payload, a digitally signed variant of Gh0st RAT (remote access Trojan).

AlienVault reckons the attacks originate from the same group of Chinese hackers that launched the ‘Nitro’ attacks against chemical and defence companies late last year, which also featured the Gh0st Trojan.

Jamie Blasco, head of labs at AlienVault, a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools specialist, commented: "The fact that the pro-Chinese sympathisers have taken our research seriously enough to start trying to blacken our name indicates that our message about the Chinese cyber attackers has hit home – and the cybercriminal activists are not happy."

Pro-China supporters are attempting to tarnish AlienVault's reputation via the attack, which targets both Windows and Mac users, but Blasco points out that their actions are trivial compared to the magnitude of events in Tibet.

"We have seen Tibetan sympathisers turn to self-immolation in their quest to bring their plight to the attention of Western governments, so any effect on our reputation pales into significance alongside their sacrifices," he said.

In a possibly related developments, pro-China hackers are using automated bots to drown out discussions on Twitter about human rights in Tibet and related issues with a flood of meaningless tweets. Security blogger Brian Krebs reports that Tibetan activists have noticed that several Twitter hash tags related to the conflict – including #tibet and #freetibet – are now being inundated with junk tweets from automated Twitter accounts, which the Tibetan activists say are controlled by either the Chinese government or its supporters.

However the crude tactic may have misfired by refocusing the attention of sections of the global media on the plight of the native Tibetans, who have lived under Chinese rule since the annexation of their country in the 1950s.

The propaganda war between China and Tibet, which has been going on for decades, has spilled into cyberspace before, with alleged hack attacks against the Dalai Lama and targeted malware featuring in the mix. The latest skirmish in cyberspace can therefore be viewed as a flaring up of long-simmering tensions. ®

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

More from The Register

next story
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
Four fake Google haxbots hit YOUR WEBSITE every day
Goog the perfect ruse to slip into SEO orfice
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.