Threat Signal Report

APT10 (Cicada) Campaign Expands on Further Global Interests

description-logo Description

FortiGuard Labs is aware of a new campaign from the APT10/Cicada threat actors. Reported by researchers at Symantec, this latest campaign highlights the various tools and custom malware used by Cicada to perform espionage activity, which we covered in our blog post from 2019, which used different TTPs.

APT 10 is also referred to as:






Stone Panda

Red Apollo

This group focuses specifically on the following verticals:






Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

and targets multiple countries around the world, including in Europe, Asia, and North America. First seen attacking Japanese interests, Cicada has been observed targeting various managed service providers globally as well. Campaigns have been attributed to the government of China.

As part of our membership with the Cyber Threat Alliance, all indicators of compromise (IOCs) were provided to us in advance before publication to ensure Fortinet protections were in place during the time of announcement.

What are the Technical Details of Cicada?

Cicada has been observed to use a custom loader and malware to perform their attacks. Various activities observed included attacks on Microsoft Exchange Servers. The report suggested that potential zero day exploits were likely used to gain access. Once inside, the attackers would deploy a loader and a custom backdoor known as Sodamaster.

Sodamaster is fileless and evades sandbox detection, and enumerates various operating system parameters such as username, hostname, and OS of the targeted systems. It can also download and execute additional payloads. According to the report, the TTPs (Tactics, Techniques and Procedures) used by Cicada were in operation since 2020.

Various tools used by Cicada are Mimikatz, rar archiving (file compression), system/network discovery (to determine what systems and services are running) , WMIExec (cmd line to execute commands remotely), and NBTscan (open source for network reconnaissance) tools. Other observations were the usage of VLCplayer that was exploited to act as a custom loader, and WinVnc for remote control of compromised machines.

How Widespread is this?

This is limited to targeted attacks.

Who is Behind this Attack?

This has been attributed to APT10 and is state sponsored. For further details on APT10, please refer to "Two Chinese Hackers Associated With the Ministry of State Security Charged with Global Computer Intrusion Campaigns Targeting Intellectual Property and Confidential Business Information" in the APPENDIX.

What Operating Systems are Affected?

Windows Operating Systems.

What is the Status of Coverage?

FortiGuard Labs has coverage in place for publicly available samples as:




All network IOCs 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.