State-Sponsored Sidewinder Hacker Group’s Covert Assault Infrastructure Uncovered

Could 17, 2023Ravie LakshmananCyber Espionage / Risk Intel

Cybersecurity researchers have unearthed beforehand undocumented assault infrastructure utilized by the prolific state-sponsored group SideWinder to strike entities positioned in Pakistan and China.

This includes a community of 55 domains and IP addresses utilized by the risk actor, cybersecurity firms Group-IB and Bridewell mentioned in a joint report shared with The Hacker Information.

“The recognized phishing domains mimic numerous organizations within the information, authorities, telecommunications, and monetary sectors,” researchers Nikita Rostovtsev, Joshua Penny, and Yashraj Solanki said.

SideWinder has been identified to be lively since a minimum of 2012, with assault chains primarily leveraging spear-phishing as an intrusion mechanism to acquire a foothold into focused environments.

The goal vary of the group is extensively believed to be related to Indian espionage pursuits. Probably the most regularly attacked nations embrace Pakistan, China, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, the Philippines, Qatar, and Singapore.


Earlier this February, Group-IB delivered to gentle proof that SideWinder could have focused 61 authorities, navy, legislation enforcement, and different organizations throughout Asia between June and November 2021.

Extra just lately, the nation-state group was noticed leveraging a method generally known as server-based polymorphism in evasive assaults concentrating on Pakistani authorities organizations.

The newly found domains mimic authorities organizations in Pakistan, China, and India and are characterised by way of the identical values in WHOIS information and related registration data.

Hosted on a few of these domains are government-themed lure paperwork which can be designed to obtain an unknown next-stage payload.

A majority of those paperwork had been uploaded to VirusTotal in March 2023 from Pakistan. One amongst them is a Microsoft Phrase file purportedly from the Pakistan Navy Battle Faculty (PNWC), which was analyzed by each QiAnXin and BlackBerry in latest months.

Sidewinder Hacker

Additionally uncovered is a Home windows shortcut (LNK) file that was uploaded to VirusTotal from Beijing in late November 2022. The LNK file, for its half, is engineered to run an HTML software (HTA) file retrieved from a distant server that spoofs Tsinghua College’s e mail system (mailtsinghua.sinacn[.]co).

One other LNK file that was uploaded to VirusTotal across the similar time from Kathmandu employs an analogous methodology to fetch an HTA file from a website masquerading as a Nepalese authorities web site (mailv.mofs-gov[.]org).

Additional investigation into SideWinder’s infrastructure has led to the invention of a malicious Android APK file (226617) that was uploaded to VirusTotal from Sri Lanka in March 2023.


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The rogue Android app passes off as a “Ludo Recreation” and prompts customers to grant it entry to contacts, location, cellphone logs, SMS messages, and calendar, successfully functioning as spyware and adware able to harvesting delicate data.

Group-IB mentioned the app additionally displays similarities with the pretend Safe VPN app the corporate disclosed in June 2022 as being distributed to targets in Pakistan by way of a visitors path system (TDS) known as AntiBot.

In all, the domains level to SideWinder setting its sights on monetary, authorities, and legislation enforcement organizations, in addition to firms specializing in e-commerce and mass media in Pakistan and China.

“Like many different APT teams, SideWinder depends on focused spear-phishing because the preliminary vector,” the researchers mentioned. “It’s due to this fact necessary for organizations to deploy enterprise e mail safety options that detonate malicious content material.”

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