Some proof suggests the 2021 India-focused hacking marketing campaign and the brand new energy grid breach recognized by Symantec had been each carried out by the identical crew of hackers with hyperlinks to the broad umbrella group of Chinese language state-sponsored spies often known as APT41, which is usually referred to as Depraved Panda or Barium. Symantec notes that the hackers whose grid-hacking intrusion it tracked used a chunk of malware often known as ShadowPad, which was deployed by an APT41 subgroup in 2017 to contaminate machines in a provide chain assault that corrupted code distributed by networking software program agency NetSarang and in a number of incidents since then. In 2020, 5 alleged members of APT41 had been indicted and identified as working for a contractor for China’s Ministry of State Safety often known as Chengdu 404. However even simply final yr, the US Secret Service warned that hackers inside APT41 had stolen millions in US Covid-19 relief funds, a uncommon occasion of state-sponsored cybercrime focusing on one other authorities.
Though Symantec did not hyperlink the grid-hacking group it is calling RedFly to any particular subgroup of APT41, researchers at cybersecurity agency Mandiant level out that each the RedFly breach and the years-earlier Indian grid-hacking marketing campaign used the identical area as a command-and-control server for his or her malware: Websencl.com. That implies the RedFly group might the truth is be tied to each circumstances of grid hacking, says John Hultquist, who leads risk intelligence at Mandiant. (On condition that Symantec would not identify the Asian nation whose grid RedFly focused, Hultquist provides that it might the truth is be India once more.)
Extra broadly, Hultquist sees the RedFly breach as a troubling signal that China is shifting its focus towards extra aggressive focusing on of crucial infrastructure like energy grids. For years, China largely targeted its state-sponsored hacking on espionage, whilst different nations like Russia and Iran have tried to breach electrical utilities in obvious makes an attempt to plant malware able to triggering tactical blackouts. The Russian navy intelligence group Sandworm, for instance, has tried to trigger three blackouts in Ukraine—two of which succeeded. One other Russian group tied to its FSB intelligence company often known as Berserk Bear has repeatedly breached the US energy grid to achieve the same functionality, but without ever attempting to cause a disruption.
Given this most up-to-date Chinese language grid breach, Hultquist argues it is now starting to seem that some Chinese language hacker groups might have the same mission to that Berserk Bear group: to keep up entry, plant the malware mandatory for sabotage, and await the order to ship the payload of that cyberattack at a strategic second. And that mission means the hackers Symantec caught contained in the unnamed Asian nation’s grid will virtually definitely return, he says.
“They’ve to keep up entry, which implies they’re most likely going to go proper again in there. They get caught, they retool, and so they present up once more,” says Hultquist. “The foremost issue right here is their potential to simply keep heading in the right direction—till it is time to pull the set off.”