September 26, 2023

Malware hunters at Google continue to call attention to a sophisticated APT group that burned through at least 11 zero-days exploits in less than a year to conduct mass spying across a range of platforms and devices using watering hole attack

The cross-platform capabilities and the willingness to use almost a dozen zero-days in less than a year signals a well-resourced actor with the ability to access hacking tools and exploits from related teams.

“Once the analysis began, researcher discovered links to a second exploit server on the same website. After initial fingerprinting , an iframe was injected into the website pointing to one of the two exploit servers.

The first exploit server initially responded only to Apple iOS and Microsoft Windows user-agents and was active for at least a week after Google’s researchers started retrieving the hacking tools. This server included exploits for a remote code execution bug in the Google Chrome rendering engine and a v8 zero-day after the initial bug was patched.

Google also flagged a second exploit server that responded to Android user-agents and remained alive for at least 36 hours. This server contained malware cocktails exploiting zero-days in the Chrome and Samsung browsers on Android devices.

The attackers used a unique obfuscation and anti-analysis check on iOS devices where those exploits were encrypted with ephemeral keys, “meaning that the exploits couldn’t be recovered from the packet dump alone, instead requiring an active MITM on our side to rewrite the exploit on-the-fly.”

“Both exploit servers used the Chrome Freetype RCE (CVE-2020-15999) as the renderer exploit for Windows (exploit server #1) and Android (exploit server #2), but the code that surrounded these exploits was quite different. The fact that the two servers went down at different times also lends us to believe that there were two distinct operators,” .

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