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KeyBoy Abuses Popular Office Exploits for Malware Delivery

A group of hackers believed to be operating out of China was observed using popular Microsoft Office exploits for the delivery of malware.

A group of hackers believed to be operating out of China was observed using popular Microsoft Office exploits for the delivery of malware.

The actor, known as KeyBoy, was first identified in 2013 and has been observed mainly targeting governments and other organizations in South East Asia. The group continues to be active, although it has expanded the targets list, and even hit the energy sector.

Recently, the group was seen abusing an open source version of the popular CVE-2017-0199 exploit to target India’s Ambassador to Ethiopia. The actor used a phishing email with an attached document that would download and execute a script to install the final payload.

According to AlienVault, which has been tracking KeyBoy’s whereabouts, the group has been also testing the use of another exploit generator. Because the actor didn’t change the default settings in the tool, the document meta-data included obvious hints that the document was malicious.

In this case, however, the data hinted at another Office exploit that was previously abused in attacks, namely CVE-2017-8570.

The attacks, AlienVault says, were meant to drop the malware family known as TSSL to the victims’ computers. The malware had been associated with the group last year, and was present in more recent attacks as well.

In August 2018, Citizen Lab detailed a campaign targeting Tibetan activists, journalists, members of the Tibetan Parliament in exile, and the Central Tibetan Administration, where TSSL was also used. They linked the campaign to a larger operation called Tropic Trooper, which was ousted in 2016.

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The group also continued delivering the Android malware family known as Titan, AlienVault’s security researchers reveal. While the infections continue, however, only older sources of the files have been identified.

The files were traced back to a user posting malicious APKs on a Taiwanese site ( for downloading Android applications. However, the individual stopped posting several years ago, and the researchers couldn’t identify a new source of Titan samples.

Related: Cyberspies Target Taiwan Government, Energy Sector

Related: Researchers Link Several State-Sponsored Chinese Spy Groups

Written By

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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