Oceansalt Cyberattack Wave Linked To Defunct Chinese APT Comment Crew

News broke today that newly discovered first-stage implant targeting Korean-speaking victims borrows code from another reconnaissance tool linked to Comment Crew, a Chinese nation-state threat actor that was exposed in 2013 following cyber espionage campaigns against the United States. Dubbed Oceansalt, the threat has been spotted on machines in South Korea, the United States, and Canada. The adversary used spear phishing to lure victims into opening Microsoft Excel and Word documents with content in Korean, specially crafted to download the malware.

Ross Rustici, Senior Director for Intelligence Services at Cybereason:

“The warning about attribution is the most important part of this report. It is interesting that they appeared to have lifted from a very old and very well-known tool by a new actor, but the caution of what implications can be drawn from this is even more important. It is impossible for this to be APT1, as it was defined and attributed as the 3PLA which no longer exists. The odds of this being the new PLA units reusing old code is near zero given the vast array of capabilities they employed before the reorganization; it would be ludicrous to reuse the most well-known tools for some of the simplest aspects of an intrusion. It is far more likely that someone who was once part of that unit has separated from the military and is now freelancing or it is a false flag operation. The PLA’s cyber operations still pose a significant threat to global information systems. Unfortunately the private sector is right where China’s military wants us, attempting to rebuild an understanding of the threat they pose rather than in a position to track and mitigate known capabilities.”