A New Threat on the Horizon: The Grayling APT Group | Cyware Hacker News

A previously unidentified APT group, known as Grayling, has been targeting a range of organizations spanning the manufacturing, IT, and biomedical sectors in Taiwan since February. The group’s reach has not been confined to Taiwan alone; a Pacific Islands’ government agency and entities in both Vietnam and the U.S. have also been targeted.

Diving into details

The Symantec Threat Hunter Team has spotlighted Grayling primarily because of its unique use of a DLL sideloading technique paired with a custom decryptor for payload deployment. 

  • Grayling’s modus operandi seems to revolve around exploiting public infrastructures for initial access. 
  • The attackers have been observed to deploy web shells on certain victim computers, even before the DLL sideloading took effect. 
  • Following this sideloading, a plethora of payloads such as Cobalt Strike, NetSpy, and the Havoc framework are loaded. Their operations post-gaining access encompass privilege escalation, network scans, and the employment of downloaders.
  • Apart from the tools mentioned above, grayling’s arsenal incorporates the  CVE-2019-0803 exploitation, Active Directory discovery, and Mimikatz.

Why this matters

Although no direct data exfiltration was observed, the strategies and tools used by Grayling unmistakably point towards intelligence gathering
  • The industries targeted, namely manufacturing, IT, biomedical, and governmental agencies, are more likely to be subjected to intelligence-driven cyberattacks rather than financially motivated ones.
  • By leveraging off-the-shelf tools, the attackers not only save on development time but also make attribution harder for cyber investigators. Their meticulous operations, such as process termination, further emphasize their intent to stay concealed.

The bottom line

While Grayling’s exact origin remains uncertain, the significant targeting of Taiwanese entities suggests its operation base might be in a region with vested strategic interests in Taiwan. For organizations aiming to defend against such threats, a keen eye on network anomalies and rigorous patch management, especially for known vulnerabilities like CVE-2019-0803, would be indispensable.