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Leak Reveals Spyware Created by Chinese Government Contractor

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Chinese Government Leak

On 16th February 2024, an unknown user uploaded supposedly sensitive Chinese Government documents to the file repository website, Github. The repository on Github is titled “I-S00N” and contains information relating to the offensive cyber security capabilities of APT41 (also known as Double Dragon, TG-2633 and Wicked Spider).

An X thread by the user, @AzakaSekai_ summarises the tools and capabilities within the repository, mainly consisting of spyware developed by a Chinese government contractor named “iSOON or Anxun Information”. Some of these tools include:

  • An X (previously Twitter) exploit allowing obtaining access to X accounts, real-time monitoring and publishing tweets on a user’s behalf.
  • A custom Remote Access Trojan (RAT) for Microsoft Windows x64/x86 systems.
  • An Apple macOS variant of the custom RAT.
  • A Linux variant of the custom RAT named “TreadStone”.
  • An Apple iOS variant of the custom RAT that does not require a jailbreak.
  • An Android variant of the custom RAT that has the ability to dump messages from popular Chinese social media apps including WeChat and QQ.
  • Schematics of a device enabling a Wi-Fi Near Field Attack.
  • A dedicated device for setting up peer-to-peer networks, similar to TOR.
  • A custom “Microsoft email secrets platform” to exfiltrate Microsoft Outlook and Exchange data and create phishing emails.
  • Further tooling used to spy on users of Chinese social media including Weibo and Baidu.
@AzakaSekai_ summarises 'iSOON/Anxun Information's' spyware tools for Windows. (Source)
@AzakaSekai_ explains a Tor-based device for agents to switch endpoints abroad. Source

Additionally, the leaks contain information on government targets infiltrated by the contractor, mainly involving countries from Asia and Europe.

About APT41

Based on research by Mandiant, while APT41 appears to be highly financially motivated, targeting video game developers and media organisations, their activities have included espionage and information gathering from targets in the healthcare, telecommunications and education industry. APT41 have conducted operations in at least 14 countries including the US, UK and India. Similar to other Chinese espionage operators, APT41 has moved towards a more strategic set of targets since 2015, suggesting more alignment with Chinese state-sponsored motivations.

In 2019 and 2020, a US federal grand jury in Washington D.C., indicted 5 Chinese nationals attributed to APT41 for computer intrusion campaigns against more than 100 victims globally. Regardless of this indictment, APT41 was observed conducting malicious campaigns in 2021 including attacks on government targets.

FBI's wanted list for APT41: Chinese nationals indicted for widespread cyberattacks.

Significance of this leak

A leak of this magnitude on Chinese state-sponsored cyber activity has not occurred until now, giving the cybersecurity community real insight on how Chinese state-sponsored attacks are orchestrated, who their targets are and their offensive capabilities, based of real evidence rather than speculation.

Neil Matani

Neil Matani is a cyber incident response manager at Gridware with a focus on digital forensic investigations, breach assessments, and root cause analysis for cyber incidents ranging from ransomware, business email compromise, and data breaches

Ahmed Khanji

Ahmed Khanji

Ahmed Khanji is the CEO of Gridware, a leading cybersecurity consultancy based in Sydney, Australia. An emerging thought leader in cybersecurity, Ahmed is an Adjunct Professor at Western Sydney University and regularly contributes to cybersecurity conversations in Australia. As well as his extensive background as a security advisor to large Australian Enterprises, he is a regular keynote speaker and guest lecturer on offensive cybersecurity topics and blockchain.

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