According to researchers at Cyber Squared, the group APT1, as named by Mandiant earlier this year, is up to their same old tricks. Despite being outed after attacks against the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, they have not changed tactics.
Two months ago, the APT1 group (a.k.a. “Comment Crew”) was the center of attention after being named in a Mandiant report. The intelligence firm was called in to investigate the security incidents the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and in a report said that APT1 was the “…2nd Bureau of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General staff Department’s (GSD) 3rd Department, commonly known by its Military unit Cover Designator (MUCD) as Unit 61398.”
According to their report, Mandiant said that they were able to confirm 937 C&C servers, running on more than 800 distinct IP addresses. Further, the firm said that APT1 has had more than 2,500 domains attributed to them in the last several years.
“Our research and observations indicate that the Communist Party of China is tasking the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to commit systematic cyber espionage and data theft against organizations around the world,” Mandiant’s report alleged.
In the aftermath of that news cycle, it was expected that APT1 would disappear, or at the least they would shift gears and change their tactics, tools, and procedures (TPPs). As it turns out, that isn’t the case.
“As of late April 2013, Chinese cyber espionage threat groups have clearly continued their activity. In the example given below, we will highlight that “Comment Crew” is still conducting exploitation operations. In fact, there has been little change,” a blog post by Cyber Squared explains.
While it is possible that the group is also using newer capabilities, the post explains, that they haven’t stopped using the methods they’re known for is concerning. Cyber Squared postulated that the group may have achieved “a satisfactory balance of conducting successful exploitation operations” with their existing infrastructure and methods, while implementing additional evasion techniques.
“The totality of evidence leads us to believe that that “Comment Crew” is still in the game and up to their old tricks, using familiar tactics to target their victims. The February disclosure appears to have done little to stem the onslaught of cyber espionage from this or other Chinese threat groups,” the post concluded.
Additional details and the full report can be seen here.
Related: Lessons from Mandiant’s APT1 Report