Hacker group targets video game companies to steal source code

The group has ties to the Chinese hacker underground and uses custom tools to attack companies, researchers from Dell SecureWorks said

A group of attackers with links to the Chinese hacking underground has been targeting companies from the entertainment and video game industries for years with the goal of stealing source code.

The stolen intellectual property is used to "crack" games so they can be used for free, to create game cheating tools or to develop competing products, security researchers from Dell SecureWorks said in an analysis of the group's activities.

Dell SecureWorks tracks the hacker group as Threat Group-3279 (TG-3279) and believes it has been active since at least 2009.

Information gathered by the company's researchers while investigating compromises at affected firms suggests that the attack group uses a variety of tools for reconnaissance and persistent access on systems, some of which were developed by members of the group. These tools include an extensible remote access Trojan (RAT) program called Conpee and a rootkit called Etso for hiding network and file activity.

Other custom tools and scripts that can indicate a TG-3279 compromise, according to Dell SecureWorks, include: a system profiling tool called gsi.exe; a tool for loading PE (portable executable) files called Runxx; a SYN port scanner called "s;" a PHP SQL injection script called sqlin.php; a script for enumerating DNS entries called dnsenum.py; a RDP (remote desktop protocol) brute-force tool called rdp_crk; and a reverse shell for Windows systems called icmp_shell.

Some of the programs installed on compromised systems are signed with a digital certificate, likely stolen, that was issued to a Chinese technology company. The certificate was revoked in August 2012, but systems that don't have an updated certificate revocation list (CRL) might still see it as valid.

The TG-3279 attackers research their targets in advance using publicly available sources of information and through network scans. The Dell SecureWorks researchers don't have evidence to suggest that the group is using automated exploits packaged with malware and believe that the attackers rely primarily on manual, "hands-on-keyboard" exploitation.

After penetrating an organization's defenses, the attackers attempt to compromise computers and credentials used by network and system administrators in order to gain extensive access to the organization's network and file repositories.

Dell SecureWorks has identified two malware developers using the online personas Sincoder and Laurentiu Moon, who are believed to be associated with TG-3279. Both of them are also members of the China Cracking Group, an online community of hackers that work to bypass software digital rights management (DRM) mechanisms and have a focus on video games.

There is also strong, but not definitive, evidence to suggest a link between TG-3279 and Winnti, another hacker group with Chinese origins that has been known to target the online video game industry. The Winnti group's attacks were documented by researchers from Kaspersky Lab in April 2013.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags intrusionDell SecureWorkssecurityspywaremalwarekaspersky lab

More about DellKasperskyKasperskySecureWorks

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Lucian Constantin

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts