Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


Malware & Threats

Hacking Team Flash Player Exploit Used to Target Japanese Organizations

On the day Adobe patched two of the Flash Player zero-day vulnerabilities uncovered following the Hacking Team breach, FireEye researchers noticed that one of the flaws had been used in an attack aimed at organizations in Japan.

On the day Adobe patched two of the Flash Player zero-day vulnerabilities uncovered following the Hacking Team breach, FireEye researchers noticed that one of the flaws had been used in an attack aimed at organizations in Japan.

Italy-based surveillance software company Hacking Team has suffered a data breach and hackers leaked a total of 400GB of data stolen from the spyware maker’s systems. Researchers discovered exploits for several unpatched vulnerabilities after analyzing the Hacking Team leak, including Windows kernel, Microsoft Office, and Adobe Flash Player exploits.

Malicious actors started exploiting the first Flash Player zero-day (CVE-2015-5119) before Adobe managed to roll out a patch. This bug was leveraged by both cybercriminals and advanced persistent threat (APT) actors. Trend Micro reported that this particular flaw had been exploited in attacks against users in Korea and Japan even before the Hacking Team breach came to light.

The other two Flash Player bugs found in the Hacking Team leak are CVE-2015-5122 and CVE-2015-5123. Cybercrooks started integrating CVE-2015-5122 into exploit kits shortly after its existence was revealed.

On July 14, the day on which Adobe released security updates to patch the two vulnerabilities, researchers at FireEye spotted a campaign targeting Japanese organizations. The attackers launched a watering hole attack involving at least two legitimate Japanese websites that they had compromised.

The attackers hijacked the websites of Japan’s International Hospitality and Conference Service Association (IHCSA) and cosmetics company Cosmetech. Exploits planted on these sites delivered a piece of malware known as SOGU to visitors running vulnerable versions of Flash Player.

SOGU is a backdoor often used by Chinese threat actors in their operations. The sample used in the attacks observed by FireEye had been compiled on July 13 and its binary was designed to look like a legitimate file from security firm Trend Micro.

“The threat group likely used Trend Micro, a security software company headquartered in Japan, as the basis for the fake file version information deliberately, given the focus of this campaign on Japanese organizations,” FireEye explained in a blog post.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

According to researchers, the campaign made at least two victims over a two-day period. It’s unclear how the victims were lured to the watering hole websites, but FireEye believes phishing emails might have been used.

The use of SOGU malware and the dissemination method has led experts to believe that a Chinese APT group is behind the operation. However, FireEye has been unable to determine which group is responsible.

“The Japanese economy’s technological innovation and strengths in high-tech and precision goods have attracted the interest of multiple Chinese APT groups, who almost certainly view Japanese companies as a rich source of intellectual property and competitive intelligence,” FireEye said. “The Japanese government and military organizations are also frequent targets of cyber espionage. Japan’s economic influence, alliance with the United States, regional disputes, and evolving defense policies make the Japanese government a dedicated target of foreign intelligence.”

Written By

Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a managing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.

Click to comment


Daily Briefing Newsletter

Subscribe to the SecurityWeek Email Briefing to stay informed on the latest threats, trends, and technology, along with insightful columns from industry experts.

Learn about active threats targeting common cloud deployments and what security teams can do to mitigate them.


Join us for an in depth exploration of the critical nature of software and vendor supply chain security issues with a focus on understanding how attacks against identity infrastructure come with major cascading effects.


Expert Insights

Related Content


The changing nature of what we still generally call ransomware will continue through 2023, driven by three primary conditions.


A recently disclosed vBulletin vulnerability, which had a zero-day status for roughly two days last week, was exploited in a hacker attack targeting the...

Malware & Threats

The NSA and FBI warn that a Chinese state-sponsored APT called BlackTech is hacking into network edge devices and using firmware implants to silently...

Application Security

Virtualization technology giant VMware on Tuesday shipped urgent updates to fix a trio of security problems in multiple software products, including a virtual machine...

Malware & Threats

Unpatched and unprotected VMware ESXi servers worldwide have been targeted in a ransomware attack exploiting a vulnerability patched in 2021.


No one combatting cybercrime knows everything, but everyone in the battle has some intelligence to contribute to the larger knowledge base.


The recent ransomware attack targeting Rackspace was conducted by a cybercrime group named Play using a new exploitation method, the cloud company revealed this...

Malware & Threats

Threat actors are increasingly abusing Microsoft OneNote documents to deliver malware in both targeted and spray-and-pray campaigns.