Chinese Espionage Group TEMP.Periscope Targets Cambodia Ahead of July 2018 Elections and Reveals Broad Operations Globally

Introduction

FireEye has examined a range of TEMP.Periscope activity revealing
extensive interest in Cambodia’s politics, with active compromises of
multiple Cambodian entities related to the country’s electoral system.
This includes compromises of Cambodian government entities charged
with overseeing the elections, as well as the targeting of opposition
figures. This campaign occurs in the run up to the country’s July 29,
2018, general elections. TEMP.Periscope used the same infrastructure
for a range of activity against other more traditional targets,
including the defense industrial base in the United States and a
chemical company based in Europe. Our previous blog post focused on
the group’s targeting
of engineering and maritime entities
in the United States.

Overall, this activity indicates that the group maintains an
extensive intrusion architecture and wide array of malicious tools,
and targets a large victim set, which is in line with typical
Chinese-based APT efforts. We expect this activity to provide the
Chinese government with widespread visibility into Cambodian elections
and government operations. Additionally, this group is clearly able to
run several large-scale intrusions concurrently across a wide range of
victim types.

Our analysis also strengthened our overall attribution of this
group. We observed the toolsets we previously attributed to this
group, their observed targets are in line with past group efforts and
also highly similar to known Chinese APT efforts, and we identified an
IP address originating in Hainan, China that was used to remotely
access and administer a command and control (C2) server.

TEMP.Periscope Background

Active since at least 2013, TEMP.Periscope has primarily focused on
maritime-related targets across multiple verticals, including
engineering firms, shipping and transportation, manufacturing,
defense, government offices, and research universities (targeting is
summarized in Figure 1). The group has also targeted
professional/consulting services, high-tech industry, healthcare, and
media/publishing. TEMP.Periscope overlaps in targeting, as well as
tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), with TEMP.Jumper, a group
that also overlaps significantly with public reporting by Proofpoint
and F-Secure
on "NanHaiShu."



Figure 1: Summary of TEMP.Periscope activity

Incident Background

FireEye analyzed files on three open indexes believed to be
controlled by TEMP.Periscope, which yielded insight into the group’s
objectives, operational tactics, and a significant amount of technical
attribution/validation. These files were "open indexed" and
thus accessible to anyone on the public internet. This TEMP.Periscope
activity on these servers extends from at least April 2017 to the
present, with the most current operations focusing on Cambodia’s
government and elections.

  • Two servers,
    chemscalere[.]com and scsnewstoday[.]com, operate as typical C2
    servers and hosting sites, while the third, mlcdailynews[.]com,
    functions as an active SCANBOX server. The C2 servers contained both
    logs and malware.
  • Analysis of logs from the three servers
    revealed:

    • Potential actor logins from an IP address
      located in Hainan, China that was used to remotely access and
      administer the servers, and interact with malware deployed at
      victim organizations.
    • Malware command and control
      check-ins from victim organizations in the education, aviation,
      chemical, defense, government, maritime, and technology sectors
      across multiple regions. FireEye has notified all of the victims
      that we were able to identify.
  • The malware
    present on the servers included both new families (DADBOD, EVILTECH)
    and previously identified malware families (AIRBREAK, EVILTECH,
    HOMEFRY, MURKYTOP, HTRAN, and SCANBOX) .

Compromises of Cambodian Election Entities

Analysis of command and control logs on the servers revealed
compromises of multiple Cambodian entities, primarily those relating
to the upcoming July 2018 elections. In addition, a separate spear
phishing email analyzed by FireEye indicates concurrent targeting of
opposition figures within Cambodia by TEMP.Periscope.

Analysis indicated that the following Cambodian government
organizations and individuals were compromised by TEMP.Periscope:

  • National Election
    Commission, Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    and International Cooperation, Cambodian Senate, Ministry of
    Economics and Finance
  • Member of Parliament representing
    Cambodia National Rescue Party
  • Multiple Cambodians
    advocating human rights and democracy who have written critically of
    the current ruling party
  • Two Cambodian diplomats serving
    overseas
  • Multiple Cambodian media entities

TEMP.Periscope sent a spear phish with AIRBREAK malware to
Monovithya Kem, Deputy Director-General, Public Affairs, Cambodia
National Rescue Party (CNRP), and the daughter of (imprisoned)
Cambodian opposition party leader Kem Sokha (Figure 2). The decoy
document purports to come from LICADHO (a non-governmental
organization [NGO] in Cambodia established in 1992 to promote human
rights). This sample leveraged scsnewstoday[.]com for C2.



Figure 2: Human right protection survey lure

The decoy document "Interview Questions.docx" (MD5:
ba1e5b539c3ae21c756c48a8b5281b7e) is tied to AIRBREAK downloaders of
the same name. The questions reference the opposition Cambodian
National Rescue Party, human rights, and the election (Figure 3).



Figure 3: Interview questions decoy

Infrastructure Also Used for Operations Against Private Companies

The aforementioned malicious infrastructure was also used against
private companies in Asia, Europe and North America. These companies
are in a wide range of industries, including academics, aviation,
chemical, maritime, and technology. A MURKYTOP sample from 2017 and
data contained in a file linked to chemscalere[.]com suggest that a
corporation involved in the U.S. defense industrial base (DIB)
industry, possibly related to maritime research, was compromised. Many
of these compromises are in line with TEMP.Periscope’s previous
activity targeting maritime and defense industries. However, we also
uncovered the compromise of a European chemical company with a
presence in Asia, demonstrating that this group is a threat to
business worldwide, particularly those with ties to Asia.

AIRBREAK Downloaders and Droppers Reveal Lure Indicators

Filenames for AIRBREAK downloaders found on the open indexed sites
also suggest the ongoing targeting of interests associated with Asian
geopolitics. In addition, analysis of AIRBREAK downloader sites
revealed a related server that underscores TEMP.Periscope’s interest
in Cambodian politics.

The AIRBREAK downloaders in Table 1 redirect intended victims to the
indicated sites to display a legitimate decoy document while
downloading an AIRBREAK payload from one of the identified C2s. Of
note, the hosting site for the legitimate documents was not
compromised. An additional C2 domain, partyforumseasia[.]com, was
identified as the callback for an AIRBREAK downloader referencing the
Cambodian National Rescue Party.

Redirect Site (Not Malicious)

AIRBREAK Downloader

AIRBREAK C2

en.freshnewsasia.com/index.php/en/8623-2018-04-26-10-12-46.html

TOP_NEWS_Japan_to_Support_the_Election.js

(3c51c89078139337c2c92e084bb0904c) [Figure 4]

chemscalere[.]com

iric.gov.kh/LICADHO/Interview-Questions.pdf

[pdf]Interview-Questions.pdf.js

(e413b45a04bf5f812912772f4a14650f)

iric.gov.kh/LICADHO/Interview-Questions.pdf

[docx]Interview-Questions.docx.js

(cf027a4829c9364d40dcab3f14c1f6b7)

unknown

Interview_Questions.docx.js

(c8fdd2b2ddec970fa69272fdf5ee86cc)

scsnewstoday[.]com

atimes.com/article/philippines-draws-three-hard-new-lines-on-china/

Philippines-draws-three-hard-new-lines-on-china
.js

(5d6ad552f1d1b5cfe99ddb0e2bb51fd7)

mlcdailynews[.]com

facebook.com/CNR.Movement/videos/190313618267633/

CNR.Movement.mp4.js

(217d40ccd91160c152e5fce0143b16ef)

Partyforumseasia[.]com

 

Table 1: AIRBREAK downloaders



Figure 4: Decoy document associated with
AIRBREAK downloader file TOP_NEWS_Japan_to_Support_the_Election.js

SCANBOX Activity Gives Hints to Future Operations

The active SCANBOX server, mlcdailynews[.]com, is hosting articles
related to the current Cambodian campaign and broader operations.
Articles found on the server indicate targeting of those with
interests in U.S.-East Asia geopolitics, Russia and NATO affairs.
Victims are likely either brought to the SCANBOX server via strategic
website compromise or malicious links in targeted emails with the
article presented as decoy material. The articles come from
open-source reporting readily available online. Figure 5 is a SCANBOX
welcome page and Table 2 is a list of the articles found on the server.



Figure 5: SCANBOX welcome page

Copied Article Topic

Article Source (Not Compromised)

Leaders confident yet nervous

Khmer Times

Mahathir_ ‘We want to be friendly with
China

PM urges voters to support CPP for peace

CPP determined to maintain Kingdom’s peace and
development

Bun Chhay’s wife dies at 60

Crackdown planned on boycott callers

Further floods coming to Kingdom

Kem Sokha again denied bail

PM vows to stay on as premier to quash
traitors

Iran_ Don’t trust Trump

Fresh News

Kim-Trump summit_ Singapore’s role

Trump’s North Korea summit may bring peace
declaration – but at a cost

Reuters

U.S. pushes NATO to ready more forces to deter
Russian threat

us-nato-russia_us-pushes-nato-to-ready-more-forces-to-deter-russian-threat

Interior Minister Sar Kheng warns of dirty
tricks

Phnom Penh
Post

Another player to enter market for cashless
pay

Donald Trump says he has ‘absolute right’ to
pardon himself but he’s done nothing wrong – Donald Trump’s
America

ABC News

China-funded national road inaugurated in
Cambodia

The Cambodia Daily

Kim and Trump in first summit session in
Singapore

Asia Times

U.S. to suspend military exercises with South
Korea, Trump says

U.S. News

Rainsy defamed the King_ Hun Sen

BREAKING NEWS

cambodia-opposition-leader-denied-bail-again-in-treason-case

Associated Press

Table 2: SCANBOX articles copied to server

TEMP.Periscope Malware Suite

Analysis of the malware inventory contained on the three servers
found a classic suite of TEMP.Periscope payloads, including the
signature AIRBREAK, MURKYTOP, and HOMEFRY. In addition, FireEye’s
analysis identified new tools, EVILTECH and DADBOD (Table 3).

Malware

Function

Details

EVILTECH

Backdoor

  • EVILTECH is a
    JavaScript sample that implements a simple RAT with support
    for uploading, downloading, and running arbitrary
    JavaScript.
  • During the infection process, EVILTECH is
    run on the system, which then causes a redirect and possibly
    the download of additional malware or connection to another
    attacker-controlled system.

DADBOD

Credential
Theft

  • DADBOD is a tool
    used to steal user cookies.
  • Analysis of this
    malware is still ongoing.

Table 3: New additions to the TEMP.Periscope
malware suite

Data from Logs Strengthens Attribution to China

Our analysis of the servers and surrounding data in this latest
campaign bolsters our previous assessment that TEMP.Periscope is
likely Chinese in origin. Data from a control panel access log
indicates that operators are based in China and are operating on
computers with Chinese language settings.

A log on the server revealed IP addresses that had been used to log
in to the software used to communicate with malware on victim
machines. One of the IP addresses, 112.66.188.28, is located in
Hainan, China. Other addresses belong to virtual private servers, but
artifacts indicate that the computers used to log in all cases are
configured with Chinese language settings.

Outlook and Implications

The activity uncovered here offers new insight into TEMP.Periscope’s
activity. We were previously aware of this actor’s interest in
maritime affairs, but this compromise gives additional indications
that it will target the political system of strategically important
countries. Notably, Cambodia has served as a reliable supporter of
China’s South China Sea position in international forums such as ASEAN
and is an important partner. While Cambodia is rated as Authoritarian
by the Economist’s Democracy Index, the recent surprise upset of the
ruling party in Malaysia may motivate China to closely monitor
Cambodia’s July 29 elections.

The targeting of the election commission is particularly
significant, given the critical role it plays in facilitating voting.
There is not yet enough information to determine why the organization
was compromised – simply gathering intelligence or as part of a more
complex operation. Regardless, this incident is the most recent
example of aggressive nation-state intelligence collection on election
processes worldwide.

We expect TEMP.Periscope to continue targeting a wide range of
government and military agencies, international organizations, and
private industry. However focused this group may be on maritime
issues, several incidents underscore their broad reach, which has
included European firms doing business in Southeast Asia and the
internal affairs of littoral nations. FireEye expects TEMP.Periscope
will remain a virulent threat for those operating in the area for the
foreseeable future.



*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from Threat Research authored by Threat Research Blog. Read the original post at: http://www.fireeye.com/blog/threat-research/2018/07/chinese-espionage-group-targets-cambodia-ahead-of-elections.html