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Senior Staff Writer

Group behind attack on New York Times linked to G20 phishing attack

Aug 26, 20132 mins
Advanced Persistent ThreatsCybercrimeData and Information Security

Multiple groups are leveraging the upcoming G20 summit to launch Spear Phishing attacks, including the group responsible for attacking the New York Times

Over the last two weeks, there has been a spike in the level of Phishing attacks using the upcoming G-20 summit as bait. One of the groups involved in these recent attacks is Calc Team (APT-12), best known for their attack on the New York Times earlier this year.

Claudio Guarnieri, security researcher for Rapid7, has investigated these recent attacks, and discovered that in addition to APT-12, there are multiple intrusion groups taking advantage of the upcoming G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia in order to compromise an untold number of victims.

The involvement of Calc Team is noteworthy, as the group is believed to have strong ties to China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Earlier this month, Calc Team seemed to return to the public after a period of inactivity following their attack on the New York Times.

Their return, as initially reported by FireEye researchers, was marked with new attacks and updated tools.

The connection between these latest G-20 themed Spear Phishing attacks and Calc Team is the use of a previously known domain — *, as well as the malware used during the attacks.

The malware in each campaign, at least five variants so far, contains instructions to connect to a single server maintained by Ubiquity Server Solutions in Chicago, Illinois. CSO reached out to Ubiquity for comment, but was unable to contact anyone in their press office by the time this article went to print.

“Assuming that the chain of attribution to Calc is correct, it’s interesting to observe that despite major international exposure after the New York Times incident, the intrusion group(s) behind these attacks is still operational,” Guarnieri wrote.

“Unfortunately we have no visibility into the result of the attacks and whether the operators managed to be successful, but it’s remarkable that despite the high profile of the average target of these espionage operations, the tactics and tools adopted are not as sophisticated as one would expect.”

The full details on Guarnieri’s findings are available here, in the coming days he plans to post details on additional G-20-themed attacks.