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Permanent link APT group: Winnti Group, Blackfly, Wicked Panda

NamesWinnti Group (Kaspersky)
Blackfly (Symantec)
Wicked Panda (CrowdStrike)
CountryChina China
MotivationInformation theft and espionage
First seen2010
DescriptionWinnti Group is a threat group with Chinese origins that has been active since at least 2010. The group has heavily targeted the gaming industry, but it has also expanded the scope of its targeting. Some reporting suggests a number of other groups, including APT 41, Axiom, Group 72, APT 17, Deputy Dog, Elderwood, Sneaky Panda, and Ke3chang, Vixen Panda, APT 15, GREF, Playful Dragon, are closely linked to or overlap with Winnti Group.

(Trend Micro) The group behind the Winnti malware (which we will call the Winnti group for brevity) sprung up as a band of traditional cyber crooks, comprising black hats whose technical skills were employed to perpetrate financial fraud. Based on the use of domain names they registered, the group started out in the business of fake/rogue anti-virus products in 2007. In 2009, the Winnti group shifted to targeting gaming companies in South Korea using a self-named data- and file-stealing malware.

The group, which was primarily motivated by profit, is noted for utilizing self-developed technically-proficient tools for their attacks. They once attacked a game server to illicitly farm in-game currency (“gaming gold”, which also has real-world value) and stole source codes of online game projects. The group also engaged in the theft of digital certificates which they then used to sign their malware to make them stealthier. The Winnti group diversified its targets to include enterprises such as those in pharmaceutics and telecommunications. The group has since earned infamy for being involved in malicious activities associated with targeted attacks, such as deploying spear-phishing campaigns and building a backdoor.
ObservedSectors: Online video game companies, Pharmaceutical, Telecommunications.
Countries: Belarus, Brazil, China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Peru, Philippines, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, USA, Vietnam.
Tools usedCobalt Strike, Winnti.
Operations performed2010HBGary investigated an information security incident at an American video game company.
2011In the autumn of 2011, a Trojan was detected on a huge number of computers – all of them linked by the fact that they were used by players of a popular online game. It emerged that the piece of malware landed on users’ computers as part of a regular update from the game’s official update server. Some even suspected that the publisher itself was spying on players. However, it later became clear that the malicious program ended up on the users’ computers by mistake: the cybercriminals were in fact targeting the companies that develop and release computer games.
2011For example, by 2011, one of their victims was Gameforge, a company that offers so-called freemium games: while playing the games is free, it is possible to buy virtual items/money with real money.The Winnti hackers were able to directly access Gameforge’s databases and modify accounts to become ‘virtually’ richer.
Summer 2014The Winnti hackers broke into Henkel’s network in 2014. We have three files showing that this happened.
Aug 2014This time the operators put such tag in the configuration and it turned out to be the name of the well-known global pharmaceutical company headquartered in Europe.
2015The hackers behind Winnti have also set their sights on Japan’s biggest chemical company, Shin-Etsu Chemical. We have in our hands several varieties of the 2015 malware which was most likely used for the attack.
Jul 2015A BASF spokeswoman tells us in an email that in July 2015, hackers had successfully overcome “the first levels” of defense.
Oct 2015Breach of a Vietnamese gaming company
During the investigation, a Linux version of Winnti was found.
Feb 2016Breach of German Steelmaker ThyssenKrupp
Jun 2016According to Siemens, they were penetrated by the hackers in June 2016.
Summer 2016In the case of another Japanese company, Sumitomo Electric, Winnti apparently penetrated their networks during the summer of 2016.
Mar 2017Recently, the Winnti group, a threat actor with a past of traditional cybercrime –particularly with financial fraud, has been seen abusing GitHub by turning it into a conduit for the command and control (C&C) communications of their seemingly new backdoor (detected by Trend Micro as BKDR64_WINNTI.ONM).
Apr 2018Breach of German chemicals giant Bayer
Nov 2018Breach of Swiss drug maker Roche
Early 2019Covestro is regarded as Germany’s most successful spin-off in the recent past. Up until June 2019, they had at least two systems on which the Winnti malware had been installed.
Early 2019Another manufacturer of adhesives, Bostik of France, was infected with Winnti in early 2019.
2019Lion Air, Marriott and Valve declined to comment or were not immediately available for comment
Late 2019Breach of German chemicals company Lanxess
Feb 2020Based on previous knowledge and targeting of the Winnti Group, we assess that this sample was likely used to target Gravity Co., Ltd., a South Korean video game company. The company is known for its Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) Ragnarok Online, which is also offered as a mobile application.

Last change to this card: 22 April 2020

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