Story image

Microsoft uncovers how cybercrime gang uses Intel tech for stealth

13 Jun 2017

Microsoft has uncovered more about the PLATINUM cybercrime group's workings, which have been targeting South and Southeast Asia through silent code injection and 'hot patching'.

According to Microsoft's 2016 case study on the PLATINUM group, the group has been active since the early 2000s, with attacks starting around 2009.

The group uses geopolitical seasons to target its attacks, with the main aim of stealing sensitive data around government interests, defence and diplomatic agencies and telecommunications providers in Southeast Asia.

Its original methods for attack include spear phishing attacks and zero-day exploit. This combination, Microsoft says, makes for a 'highly resilient' threat portfolio.

Last week, Microsoft said in a blog that the PLATINUM group has evolved its file transfer tool to leverage Intel Active Management Technology (AMT) Serial-over-Lan (SOL) channel for communication.

"This channel works independently of the operating system (OS), rendering any communication over it invisible to firewall and network monitoring applications running on the host device. Until this incident, no malware had been discovered misusing the AMT SOL feature for communication," the company says in a blog.

While the tool hasn't spread far yet - it has been spotted on a few computers in organisational networks in Southeast Asia - Microsoft says it wanted to find out more about how it has been used.

Microsoft partnered with Intel and discovered that the tool doesn't expose management technology vulnerabilities. Its purpose seems to use AMT SOL in compromised networks to hide communications and dodge security applications.

Microsoft says that the AMT SOL feature is switched on by default - administrators must grand priviliges for it to work on computers.

"It is currently unknown if PLATINUM was able to provision workstations to use the feature or piggyback on a previously enabled workstation management feature. In either case, PLATINUM would need to have gained administrative privileges on targeted systems prior to the feature’s misuse," the blog says.

"Microsoft reiterates that the PLATINUM tool does not expose flaws in Intel Active Management Technology (AMT), but uses the technology within an already compromised network to evade security monitoring tools."

IoT and DDoS attacks: A match made in heaven
A10 Network’s Adrian Taylor uses findings from a number of reports to illustrate his point that advances in technology are facilitating cybercrime.
ForgeRock launches Sandbox-as-a-Service to facilitate compliance
The cloud-based testing environment for APIs enables banks to accelerate compliance with Open Banking and PSD2 deadlines.
Cloud application attacks in Q1 up by 65% - Proofpoint
Proofpoint found that the education sector was the most targeted of both brute-force and sophisticated phishing attempts.
Singapore firm to launch borderless open data sharing platform
Singapore-based Ocean Protocol, a decentralised data exchange that promotes data sharing, has revealed details of what could be the kickstart to a global and borderless data economy.
Huawei picks up accolades for software-defined camera ecosystem
"The company's software defined capabilities enable it to future-proof its camera ecosystem and greatly lower the total cost of ownership (TCO), as its single camera system is applicable to a variety of application use cases."
Barracuda expands MSP security offerings with RMM acquisition
Managed Workplace delivers an RMM platform with security tools and services, such as site security assessments, Office 365 account management, and integrated third-party antivirus.
Flashpoint: APAC companies must factor geopolitics in cyber strategies
The diverse geopolitical and economic interests of the states in the region play a significant role in driving and shaping cyber threat activity against entities operating in APAC.
Expert offers password tips to aid a stress-free sleep
For many cybersecurity professionals, the worries of the day often crawl into night-time routines - LogMeIn says better password practices can help.