April 17, 2012, 12:06 PM — Hackers are ramping up their attacks against Tibetan activists and are using increasingly sophisticated techniques to deliver malware, according to researchers from security firms FireEye and Trend Micro.
During the last couple of months, there have been reports from several security vendors about targeted attacks that distributed malware designed to steal confidential information from people or organizations supporting the Tibetan cause.
"No organized group receives targeted attacks with a higher volume or more regularity than Tibetan activists," FireEye senior systems engineer Alex Lanstein said in a blog post on Friday. "Not USG, not US DIB, not Taiwan ... Tibet."
"Everyone, from the personal envoys to the Dalai Lama to student activists in San Francisco, gets hammered day in and day out, often times with pretty high octane stuff," Lanstein said.
The social engineering techniques used in these attacks are increasingly sophisticated and the distributed malware is capable of infecting both Windows and Mac OS X computers.
Back in March, security researchers from AlienVault announced that one of its reports about attacks against Tibetan activists was being quoted in new malicious emails that targeted the same people.
The attackers used AlienVault's report to give their rogue emails more legitimacy and convince activists to open the booby-trapped Word documents attached to them.
A similar technique was used recently to trick Tibetan activists into opening malicious PDF email attachments, by quoting a legitimate email message sent by FireEye's Lanstein to people who submitted Tibet-related malware samples to the VirusTotal online antivirus scanning service.
In his original email, Lanstein asked recipients if they are willing to contribute to a blog entry about attacks against Tibetan activists that he planned on writing.
However, a couple of days later, the researcher was notified by several individuals and organizations that rogue emails, which included his original message and a PDF exploit, were being sent out to people from a Yahoo account. There were several hints in the rogue emails that pointed to a Chinese origin, Lanstein said.