A known threat actor has launched what appears to be the first Chinese hacking attempts targeting Ukraine digital assets since the Russian invasion a month ago.
The suspected activity was first detailed in a short summary published by Ukraine CERT (Computer Emergency Response Team) earlier this week and confirmed by SentinelLabs on Thursday to be connected to the Chinese threat actor known as ‘Scarab’.
Active since at least 2012, Scarab was previously observed targeting individuals worldwide, including people in the United States, Russia, and elsewhere.
The threat actor is mainly known for the use of the custom backdoor Scieron, which is believed to be the predecessor of the HeaderTip malware family used in the recent Ukrainian campaign.
The malware appears mainly designed to function as a first stager, likely meant to deploy a more advanced second stage payload.
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Featuring a Russian invasion-linked theme, the newly observed attack uses a RAR file archive containing an executable file designed to open a lure document and deploy HeaderTip in the form of a DLL file.
Mimicking the National Police of Ukraine, the lure document is themed around preserving video evidence of Russian military crimes.
SentinelLabs says it is highly confident that UAC-0026 is the Scarab APT, based on evidence such as malware design, associated loaders, and the reuse of actor-unique infrastructure.
The SentinelLabs researchers says that Scarab is likely “operating under geopolitical intelligence collection purposes.” Recently, the group was seen targeting European diplomats during the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Across various campaigns associated with Scarab, security researchers noticed that the employed lure documents were created on a Windows system with Chinese language settings.
“The UAC-0026 activity is the first public example of a Chinese threat actor targeting Ukraine since the invasion began. While there has been a marked increase in publicly reported attacks against Ukraine over the last week or so, these and all prior attacks have otherwise originated from Russian-backed threat actors,” SentinelLabs says.
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