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A malicious campaign targeting the Middle East is likely linked to BackdoorDiplomacy, an advanced persistent threat (APT) group with ties to China.

The espionage activity, directed against a telecom company in the region, is said to have commenced on August 19, 2021 through the successful exploitation of ProxyShell flaws in the Microsoft Exchange Server.

Initial compromise leveraged binaries vulnerable to side-loading techniques, followed by using a mix of legitimate and bespoke tools to conduct reconnaissance, harvest data, move laterally across the environment, and evade detection.

“File attributes of the malicious tools showed that the first tools deployed by the threat actors were the NPS proxy tool and IRAFAU backdoor,” Bitdefender researchers Victor Vrabie and Adrian Schipor said in a report shared with The Hacker News.

“Starting in February 2022, the threat actors used another tool – [the] Quarian backdoor, along with many other scanners and proxy/tunneling tools.”

images from Hacker News