China-Linked DragonOK APT Group continues updating tools and tactics

Pierluigi Paganini January 07, 2017

The China-linked DragonOK continues updating tools and tactics and targeted entities in various countries, including Russia and Tibet.

It was September 2014, when security researchers at FireEye spotted for the first time the cyber espionage activities of a Chinese state-sponsored group dubbed DragonOK.

At the time, FireEye discovered two hacking campaigns conducted by distinct groups operating in separate regions of China that seem to work in parallel.

The first team of hackers named Moafee, targeted military and government organizations which were in some way involved in South China sea dispute. The attackers hit different organizations as explained by the researchers at FireEye in a blog post, and appears to operate from the Guangdong Province and hit entities working in the defense industry in the United States.

The second team, dubbed DragonOK, conducted corporate espionage operations on high-tech and manufacturing companies in Japan and Taiwan.

DragonOK is back and recently targeted Japanese organizations in several industries, including manufacturing, technology, energy, higher education and semiconductor.

While Japan is considered the main target of the APT, hackers also targeted individuals or organizations in Taiwan, Tibet, and Russia.

According to the experts at Palo Alto Networks, one of the malware used by the DragonOK APT was dubbed Sysget and was used to target entities in Taiwan.

The Sysget malware was delivered both directly via phishing emails, as well as in RTF documents triggering the CVE-2015-1641 flaw that in turn leveraged a unique shellcode. The experts observed three distinct new versions of Sysget malware that were improved to make harder the detection and the analysis by security solutions.

PaloAlto also observed DragonOK hackers using other two families malware, the IsSpace and TidePool.


“IsSpace” is an evolution of the NFlog backdoor used by both DragonOK and Moafee. The second malware TidePool was observed earlier this year in targeted attacks powered by a different Chinese APT group, dubbed Operation Ke3chang.

Back in 2013, the security researchers at FireEye spotted a group of China-Linked hackers that conducted an espionage campaign on foreign affairs ministries in Europe. The campaign was named ‘Operation Ke3chang,’ the same threat actors were spotted targeting personnel at Indian embassies across the world earlier this year.

DragonOK now used the TidePool malware in targeted attacks against organizations in Russia and Tibet.

The analysis published by Palo Alto Networks researchers included links between the C&C domains of the various malware used by the DragonOK (i.e. TidePool, IsSpace and Sysget), and other Indicators of Compromise.

“The DragonOK group are quite active and continue updating their tools and tactics. Their toolset is being actively developed to make detection and analysis more difficult. Additionally, they appear to be using additional malware toolsets such as TidePool.” states Palo Alto Networks. “While Japan is still the most-targeted region by this group, they look to be seeking out victims in other regions as well, such as Taiwan, Tibet, and Russia.” 

Enjoy the report!

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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – DragonOK, China)

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