DHARAMSHALA, September 16: Security software company AlienVault has made rare revelations linking the long-running malware assault on Tibetan groups with a Chinese programmer connected to the Chinese government.
Although Tibetan groups have long been the target of highly sophisticated and well-funded cyber attacks, security firms and researchers have until now stopped short of naming Chinese firms or hackers in China for the relentless assaults.
However, AlienVault, while researching PlugX RAT Trojan’s binaries, started noticing similarities in some of the software’s debug paths with a programme distributed by a Chinese company based in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province.
The firm traced the PlugX’s ‘whg’ subfolder to a programme called SockMon distributed from a named domain connected to a company, Chinansl.com Technology Ltd that had published security vulnerabilities in the past.
Further research revealed that ‘Whg’ worked for the company with references to which described him as “Virus expert. Pro?cient in assembly.”
If sources are to be believed, China’s People’s Liberation Army is the sponsor of the WHG’s company.
“At this point you can be thinking we cannot accuse whg of being related to the Xplug RAT and the targeted campaigns just for a couple of debug paths inside the binary, can we?,” AlienVault said.
“With the information we have, we can say that this guy is behind the active development of the Xplug RAT and he probably has some inside on the operations since this path.”
Last week, security software maker Symantec had said that groups involved with the issue of Tibet were amongst the top targets of a hacker group that attacked Google in 2009 and has launched hundreds of other cyber assaults since then.
Eric Chien, a manager in Symantec's research group said the same group of hackers, over the past year, have focussed “almost exclusively on stealing data from companies that supply parts to big defense contractors, rather than targeting the firms themselves.”
“The second most common group of targets was non-government organisations involved in Tibetan human rights issues,” Symantec said while hinting at the involvement of a nation-state in the large network of hackers.