APT41

Posted: October 22, 2019

APT41 Description

APT41 is a China-based threat actor that conducts both espionage and for-profit hacking campaigns. Examples of threats that it could deploy include password-collecting spyware, backdoor Trojans, and MBR-compromising bootkits. Users should track potential vulnerabilities such as e-mail attachments and network credentials while having anti-malware services for removing APT41's tools routinely.

Hackers with Their Minds on Two Goals at Once

Out of the various threat actors with estimated state-sponsored structures, APT41 is one of the very few, which engages in the mercenary concept of cyber-campaigns for profit. Even more significantly, the threat actor is deploying custom, in-house Trojans, and other threats willingly in search of money through compromising various targets, such as gaming industry companies. Sadly for any victims, malware experts aren't finding that this dual-focused approach is harming APT41's professionalism in the slightest.

APT41 uses over forty, broad families of threatening software for their campaigns, which appear, at times, to be at the behest of the Chinese government. Their threats include spyware (programs that collect information, such as passwords), backdoor Trojans (programs that give a remote hacker a 'backdoor' connection into the PC), rootkits (root kernel-compromising programs), and even bootkits. Bootkits are a sub-type of rootkit that targets the Master Boot Record or MBR and are a part of Chinese hackers' toolkits rarely.

Concerning its infiltration methods, malware researchers find that many APT41 attacks are using e-mail and accompanying phishing content, such as fake articles or notification attachments. However, APT41's lateral traversal capabilities are worth emphasizing, as well. The threat actor can spread throughout vulnerable networks rapidly and shows for a willingness for traveling over hundreds of intermediary 'stepping stone' systems before finding their intended, and deliberately-concealed, target.

Even Illicit Businesses Have Schedules

APT41 is responsive to self-defensive behavior by their targets exceptionally, including taking steps for reinfecting systems within hours, if necessary. However, the long-term tracking statistics for APT41's attacks are suggestive of the group's preferring deployment in traditional 'working hours' for China. This pattern includes their for-profit attacks, which malware researchers find most typically targeting the gaming industry. Also, at least two members, Wolfzhi and Zhang Xuguang, offer 'moonlighting' hacking services on Chinese Web forums.

The threat-updating behavior of this group means that symptoms and indicators of compromise are likely to be in flux between attacks, let alone campaigns. Network administrators should disable RDP if possible, limit admin privileges to accounts requiring them, and monitor e-mail interactions involving HTML files. These precautions are pertinent for both Windows and Linux systems since APT41 may travel laterally through both. While APT41 concerns gaming companies in China, especially, its operations are global and multifaceted. When entities as different as hotels, software developers, and pharmaceutical companies are at risk from network-traversing spies, there's little to do but harden one's defenses beforehand.

Use SpyHunter to Detect and Remove PC Threats

If you are concerned that malware or PC threats similar to APT41 may have infected your computer, we recommend you start an in-depth system scan with SpyHunter. SpyHunter is an advanced malware protection and remediation application that offers subscribers a comprehensive method for protecting PCs from malware, in addition to providing one-on-one technical support service.

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Why can't I open any program including SpyHunter? You may have a malware file running in memory that kills any programs that you try to launch on your PC. Tip: Download SpyHunter from a clean computer, copy it to a USB thumb drive, DVD or CD, then install it on the infected PC and run SpyHunter's malware scanner.

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