Chinese hackers infect Dutch military network with malware

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A Chinese cyber-espionage group breached nan Dutch Ministry of Defence past twelvemonth and deployed malware connected compromised devices, according to nan Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) of nan Netherlands.

However, contempt backdooring nan hacked systems, nan harm from nan breach was constricted owed to web segmentation.

"The effects of nan intrusion were constricted because nan unfortunate web was segmented from nan wider MOD networks," said MIVD and the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) in a associated report.

"The unfortunate web had less than 50 users. Its intent was investigation and improvement (R&D) of unclassified projects and collaboration pinch 2 third-party investigation institutes. These organizations person been notified of nan incident."

RAT malware survives firmware upgrades

During nan follow-up investigation, a antecedently chartless malware strain named Coathanger, a distant entree trojan (RAT) designed to infect Fortigate web information appliances, was besides discovered connected nan breached network. 

"Notably, nan COATHANGER implant is persistent, recovering aft each reboot by injecting a backup of itself successful nan process responsible for rebooting nan system. Moreover, nan infection survives firmware upgrades," nan 2 Dutch agencies warned.

"Even afloat patched FortiGate devices whitethorn truthful beryllium infected, if they were compromised earlier nan latest spot was applied."

The malware operates stealthily and persistently, hiding itself by intercepting strategy calls to debar revealing its presence. It besides persists done strategy reboots and firmware upgrades.

While nan attacks weren't attributed to a circumstantial threat group, MIVD linked this incident pinch precocious assurance to a Chinese state-sponsored hacking group and added that this malicious activity is portion of a broader shape of Chinese governmental espionage targeting nan Netherlands and its allies.

FortiGate firewalls nether attack

The Chinese hackers deployed nan Coathanger malware for cyber espionage purposes connected susceptible FortiGate firewalls they compromised by exploiting nan CVE-2022-42475 FortiOS SSL-VPN vulnerability.

CVE-2022-42475 was also exploited arsenic a zero-day in attacks targeting authorities organizations and related targets, arsenic Fortinet disclosed successful January 2023.

These attacks besides stock galore similarities pinch different Chinese hacking run that targeted unpatched SonicWall Secure Mobile Access (SMA) appliances pinch cyber-espionage malware besides designed to past firmware upgrades.

Organizations are urged to promptly use information patches from vendors for each internet-facing (edge) devices arsenic soon arsenic they go disposable to forestall akin onslaught attempts.

"For nan first time, nan MIVD has chosen to make nationalist a method study connected nan moving methods of Chinese hackers. It is important to property specified espionage activities by China," said Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren.

"In this way, we summation world resilience against this type of cyber espionage."