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Chinese Cyber Espionage APT Group ‘Emissary Panda’ Activity Update

August 20, 2015 - 2 min read


Last week we shared research on the Chinese cyber espionage APT group ‘Emissary Panda’ and how the group is for the first time leveraging Hacking Team’s leaked exploits to target a multinational financial services firm. Upon further analysis we have identified multiple other industry verticals that were also targeted by this group in the last month. The ‘Emissary Panda’ APT group has been known to target the government and technology sectors with the intent to monitor and steal intellectual property data.

There were multiple global clients targeted in the last month that belong to following industry verticals:
  • Financial Services
  • Energy
  • Pharmaceutical

Attack Chain

As noted before, this was the first instance of the ‘Emissary Panda’ group weaponizing malware payloads using the 0-day exploits found in the leaked Hacking Team archives. We were able to confirm usage of Adobe Flash exploits CVE-2015-5119 and CVE-2015-5123 in these attacks.
In the attack against a Pharmaceutical firm, we observed the use of a compromised Government site to redirect the victim to a server hosting the Hacking Team’s 0-day Flash exploit. This technique is known as Strategic Web Compromise (SWC) or a Watering Hole attack, wherein a legitimate trusted website known to be visited by the target group is compromised in order to redirect them to the attacker controlled server. The attacker controlled server will serve and execute browser based exploits to install a RAT on the target machine.
APT Attack chain targeting a multinational Pharmaceutical company
In this attack, we were able to prevent the download and installation of the RAT payload.
In another instance, spearphishing e-mail was used to target an organization in energy sector that resulted in installation of HttpBrowser RAT. The attacks against these organizations were largely unsuccessful as the Zscaler security platform blocked either the exploitation attempt or the Command & Control communication attempt.
Emissary Panda APT attacks seen in last month
We are still investigating some of these attack chains and will share additional details when they become available.


It is alarming to see an uptick in the activity from this group targeting multiple verticals with organizations located in United States, Europe, Middle East, and Asia. In order to protect themselves, it is extremely important for organizations to have SSL security inspection enabled as well as a Sandbox environment to detonate and block the 0-day exploits involved in such targeted attacks.
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