Close Allies Warn of APT40 Targeting End-of-Life Devices in Australia

by | Jul 11, 2024


1. Close allies of the United States have issued a joint advisory warning about Chinese threat group APT40 targeting end-of-life devices in Australia.

2. APT40 is known for rapidly exploiting newly public vulnerabilities, often within hours or days of their release.

3. The advisory was issued by several international security agencies, including the United States’ CISA, FBI, and NSA.

4. APT40 prefers to exploit vulnerable, public-facing infrastructure rather than use phishing campaigns.

5. Experts emphasize the importance of rapid patching, multi-factor authentication, and regular audits to counter APT40’s tactics.

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When I sat down with cybersecurity analyst Rachel Thompson, I knew we were about to delve into a pressing issue that has left many security professionals on edge. Rachel, who has spent over a decade in the field, has recently been focusing on the threats posed by APT40, a Chinese state-sponsored hacking group known for its aggressive tactics. In our interview, she detailed the latest advisory issued by close allies of the United States, warning about APT40’s focus on targeting end-of-life devices in Australia.

“APT40 has been a significant threat for several years now, but their recent focus on end-of-life devices is particularly concerning,” Rachel began, her tone calm yet urgent. “These devices, often no longer supported by their manufacturers, become easy targets for APT40 to exploit. The advisory issued on July 8 by multiple international security agencies highlights just how critical this issue has become.”

Rachel explained that the advisory was not just a call to action for Australian agencies but a global alert involving the United States, Canada, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. “The collaboration between these countries underscores the severity of the threat. It’s a united front against a common adversary,” she noted.

One of the most alarming aspects of APT40’s strategy is their ability to rapidly transform and exploit proof-of-concepts (POCs) of new vulnerabilities. “They’ve been doing this since at least 2017,” Rachel pointed out. “As soon as a new vulnerability is made public, APT40 is quick to weaponize it. This puts immense pressure on security teams to patch these vulnerabilities almost immediately.”

Rachel highlighted some well-known vulnerabilities that APT40 has exploited, including those in widely used software such as Log4j, Atlassian Confluence, and Microsoft Exchange. “These are not obscure systems,” she said. “They are critical components of many organizations’ IT infrastructure. The fact that APT40 can exploit these vulnerabilities so fast is a game-changer.”

When I asked Rachel about APT40’s preferred methods, she explained that the group tends to focus on public-facing infrastructure rather than user-interaction techniques like phishing. “It’s a matter of efficiency for them,” she said. “Why go through the hassle of tricking users when you can directly exploit exposed vulnerabilities? This approach is much quicker and often more effective.”

The advisory and experts like Tal Mandel Bar from DoControl emphasize the importance of rapid patching. “For security teams, this really means you can’t afford to drag your feet,” Rachel echoed. “APT40 could be exploiting a new vulnerability within hours. That’s why rapid patching, especially for internet-facing systems, is crucial.”

Rachel also stressed the importance of multi-factor authentication and regular audits of privileged accounts, as highlighted by Darren Guccione from Keeper Security. “Compromised credentials are a major focus for APT40,” she said. “By implementing multi-factor authentication and conducting regular audits, organizations can make it much harder for APT40 to gain access.”

Network segmentation and continuous monitoring also play a vital role. “These measures help catch intrusions early,” Rachel advised. “Having a solid incident response plan and running regular drills can keep teams prepared for cyber threats.”

In our discussion, Rachel underscored the importance of updating software and applying patches as soon as vulnerabilities are made public. “Devices that are no longer maintained or cannot be patched quickly should be taken offline,” she warned. “It’s imperative to regularly update your systems to protect against groups like APT40.”

As our conversation drew to a close, Rachel left me with a sobering thought. “The threat landscape is constantly evolving,” she reflected. “APT40’s tactics are a stark reminder that we must remain vigilant and proactive. The joint advisory serves as a critical wake-up call for organizations worldwide. We must act swiftly to protect our digital infrastructure.”

Walking away from our interview, I couldn’t help but feel the weight of the challenges ahead. But with experts like Rachel Thompson leading the charge, there’s hope that we can stay one step ahead of groups like APT40.

Marcia Anderson