Threat Signal Report

APT 41 - Indictments of Nation State Actors Involved in a Global Hacking Campaign

description-logo Description

This week, the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) indicted five Chinese nationals for hacking into the networks of over 100 companies in a global cyber crime campaign. According to the press release, the industries attacked included software development companies, computer hardware manufacturers, telecommunications providers, social media companies, video game companies, non-profit organizations, universities, think tanks, and foreign governments. In addition, pro-democracy politicians and activists in Hong Kong were also targeted.

The group (known as APT41, Barium Winnti, Wicked Panda and Wicked Spider) is responsible for the theft of source code, code signing certificates, customer account data as well as and other intellectual property related to business operations.

On September 14th, two men were arrested in the province of Sitiawan, Malaysia after arrest warrants were issued by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Five more men are wanted and remain at large in China. Indicators of compromise IOCs) were exchanged through FortiGuard Labs' intelligence sharing partnerships - and through our membership in the Cyber Threat Alliance (CTA) - to ensure we could provide coverage for the identified IOCs.

Why is this Significant?

APT41 has been in operation since 2011. It has been linked to supply chain compromises and for hacking into popular software vendors. Well known software titles with significant installation bases were compromised with malware. The modus operandi of this group was to compromise developer workstations that had access to source code repositories and then install backdoors and other malware into legitimate software. The intrusions also facilitated the installation of ransomware and crypto jacking schemes, where victim computer resources were used to mine cryptocurrency. This group is also linked to the use of PlugX/Fast/Korplug/ and Winnti/Pasteboy and Shadowpad malware, with the Korplug and Winnti being prominent malware families since 2012. To maintain persistence, the group has been observed to perform DLL side loading techniques to launch malware such as HK Door, Crosswalk, and others.

Other vendors lump APT41 as one group. However, Symantec (a fellow CTA member) states in their blog about how they have discovered two distinct but related operations working for the nation state. They are referred to as Blackfly and Grayfly. Blackfly's focus is primarily on cybercrime, while Grayfly's focus is on cyberespionage.

What is the Severity of Impact?

The severity should be regarded as MEDIUM, due to the fact that these campaigns have been observed in limited, targeted attacks.

What is the status of AV and IPS coverage?

Customers running the latest definitions are protected by the following AV signatures':

Korplug Signatures

Plug X Signatures

Motnug Signatures

ShadowPad Signatures

Customers running the latest definitions are protected by the following IPS signatures:




Citrix.Application.Delivery.Controller.VPNs.Directory.Traversal (CVE-2019-19781)

Pulse.Secure.SSL.VPN.HTML5.Information.Disclosure (CVE-2019-11510)

D-Link.DIR866L.PingTest.Remote.Code.Execution (CVE-2019-16920)

Nostromo.nhttpd.http_verify.Directory.Traversalv (CVE-2019-16278)

Cisco.RV320.Routers.Command.Injection (CVE-2019-1652)

Cisco.RV320.Routers.Information.Disclosure (CVE-2019-1653)

Zoho.ManageEngine.DC.getChartImage.Remote.Code.Execution (CVE-2020-10189)

All network IOC's related to this event are blocked by the WebFiltering client.


Traffic Light Protocol

Color When Should it Be used? How may it be shared?


Not for disclosure, restricted to participants only.
Sources may use TLP:RED when information cannot be effectively acted upon by additional parties, and could lead to impacts on a party's privacy, reputation, or operations if misused. Recipients may not share TLP:RED information with any parties outside of the specific exchange, meeting, or conversation in which it was originally disclosed. In the context of a meeting, for example, TLP:RED information is limited to those present at the meeting. In most circumstances, TLP:RED should be exchanged verbally or in person.


Limited disclosure, restricted to participants’ organizations.
Sources may use TLP:AMBER when information requires support to be effectively acted upon, yet carries risks to privacy, reputation, or operations if shared outside of the organizations involved. Recipients may only share TLP:AMBER information with members of their own organization, and with clients or customers who need to know the information to protect themselves or prevent further harm. Sources are at liberty to specify additional intended limits of the sharing: these must be adhered to.


Limited disclosure, restricted to the community.
Sources may use TLP:GREEN when information is useful for the awareness of all participating organizations as well as with peers within the broader community or sector. Recipients may share TLP:GREEN information with peers and partner organizations within their sector or community, but not via publicly accessible channels. Information in this category can be circulated widely within a particular community. TLP:GREEN information may not be released outside of the community.


Disclosure is not limited.
Sources may use TLP:WHITE when information carries minimal or no foreseeable risk of misuse, in accordance with applicable rules and procedures for public release. Subject to standard copyright rules, TLP:WHITE information may be distributed without restriction.