7328954885?profile=RESIZE_400xThree US agencies published a joint warning alert for private companies about new versions of Taidoor, a malware family previously associated with Chinese state-sponsored hackers.

The alert is from the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (DHS CISA), the Department of Defense's Cyber Command (CyberCom), and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).  The three US government agencies report they have observed Taidoor being used in new attacks.  The new Taidoor samples have versions for 32- and 64-bit systems and are usually installed on a victim's systems as a service dynamic link library (DLL), according to the joint alert.

The three agencies have recently begun collaborating on releasing joint reports about new malware threats.  The first joint alert was sent earlier this year, in February 2020, when the three agencies warned about six new malware strains developed by North Korea's state-sponsored hackers.

This recent alert, however, warns about new Chinese malware.  Intelligence agencies in the US have released information about a new variant of 12-year-old computer virus used by China's state-sponsored hackers targeting governments, corporations, and think tanks.

Taidoor malware is 'excellent' at compromising systems as early as 2008, with the actors deploying it on victim networks for a stealth remote access.

"[The] FBI has high confidence that Chinese government actors are using malware variants in conjunction with proxy servers to maintain a presence on victim networks and to further network exploitation," the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Department of Defense (DoD) said in a joint advisory.

The US Cyber Command has also uploaded four samples of the Taidoor RAT on the public malware repository VirusTotal to let 50+ Antivirus companies check the virus's involvement in other unattributed campaigns.

The malware itself is not new.  In an analysis by Trend Micro researchers in 2012, the actors behind Taidoor were found to leverage socially engineered emails with malicious PDF attachments to target the Taiwanese government.  Calling it a "constantly evolving, persistent threat," investigators noted significant changes in its tactics in 2013, wherein "the malicious email attachments did not drop the Taidoor malware directly, but instead dropped a 'downloader' that then grabbed the traditional Taidoor malware from the Internet."

In 2019, NTT Security uncovered evidence of a backdoor being used against Japanese organizations via Microsoft Word documents.  When opened, it executes the malware to establish communication with an attacker-controlled server and run arbitrary commands.

According to the latest advisory, this technique of using decoy documents containing malicious content attached to spear-phishing emails has not changed.  "Taidoor is installed on a target's system as a service dynamic link library (DLL) and is comprised of two files," the agencies said.  "The first file is a loader, which is started as a service. The loader (ml.dll) decrypts the second file (svchost.dll), and executes it in memory, which is the main Remote Access Trojan (RAT)."  In addition to executing remote commands, Taidoor comes with features that allow it to collect file system data, capture screenshots, and carry out file operations necessary to exfiltrate the gathered information.

Red Sky Alliance has been has analyzing and documenting cyber threats for 8 years and maintains a resource library of malware and cyber actor reports. 

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What can you do to better protect your organization today?

  • All data in transmission and at rest should be encrypted.
  • Proper data back-up and off-site storage policies should be adopted and followed.
  • Join and become active in your local Infragard chapter, there is no charge for membership. infragard.org
  • Update disaster recovery plans and emergency procedures with cyber threat recovery procedures. And test them.
  • Institute cyber threat and phishing training for all employees, with testing and updating.
  • Recommend/require cyber security software, services and devices to be used by all at home working employees and consultants.
  • Review and update your cyber threat and information security policies and procedures. Make them a part of all emergency planning and training.
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