Security firm Palo Alto Networks has discovered a cluster of potentially state-sponsored security attacks that appear to be targeting government and military organisations across south east Asia.
'Operation Lotus Blossom' targets state information from Hong Kong, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan, the firm said.
No source for the attacks is named, but the suggestion is that it is another state in the area.
Palo Alto's Unit 42 division explained in a blog post that Lotus Blossom uses custom trojan software called Elise to send spearphishing attacks that can provide access to targeted systems, and that several variants of the software have been employed over a three-year period.
"Attacks by the Lotus Blossom group rely heavily on the use of spearphishing emails that use enticing subject lines and legitimate-looking decoy documents to trick users into opening a malware executable they think is a legitimate document. This document is usually a personnel roster for a specific military or government office," the post said.
"We believe that the Lotus Blossom group developed the Elise malware specifically to meet the needs of the attack campaigns.
"In this case, the pattern of behaviour suggests that the actors behind this group were nation-state sponsored, from a country with an interest in the government and military affairs of south east Asian nations."
Palo Alto said that the malware is not particularly sophisticated and relies on a tried and trusted flaw.
"The Trojan backdoor and vulnerability exploits used in Operation Lotus Blossom aren't cutting-edge by today's standards, but these types of attack can be detrimental if they are successful and give attackers access to sensitive data," said Ryan Olson, intelligence director at Palo Alto Unit 42.
"The fact that older vulnerabilities are still being used tells us that, until organisations adopt a prevention-based mindset and take steps to improve cyber hygiene, cyber attackers will continue to use legacy methods because they still work well."
State-sponsored hacks are a major concern to businesses and governments around the world at present, with numerous high-profile incidents hitting the headlines, including a major data breach affect US government workers.
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