Twisted Panda: Chinese APT espionage operation against Russia

CPR unveils a targeted campaign against at least two research institutes in Russia, whose primary expertise is the research and development of highly technological defense solutions.
Research suggests that another target in Belarus, likely also related to the research field, received a similar spear-phishing email claiming that the US is allegedly spreading a biological weapon.

The defense research institutes that we identified as targets of this attack belong to a holding company within the Russian state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec Corporation.
It is Russia’s largest holding company in the radio-electronics industry and the specific targeted research institutes’ primary focus is the development and manufacturing of electronic warfare systems, military-specialized onboard radio-electronic equipment, air-based radar stations and means of state identification.

This activity was attributed with high confidence to a Chinese threat actor, with possible connections to Stone Panda (aka APT10), a sophisticated and experienced nation-state-backed actor, and Mustang Panda, another proficient China-based cyber espionage threat actor.
CPR named this campaign Twisted Panda to reflect the sophistication of the tools observed and the attribution to China.
The hackers use new tools, which have not previously been described: a sophisticated multi-layered loader and a backdoor dubbed SPINNER.
These tools are in development since at least March 2021 and use advanced evasion and anti-analysis techniques such as multi-layer in-memory loaders and compiler-level obfuscations.

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