Japan’s infrastructure probed by cybergroup, security firm says

The group may have links to APT 1, believed to be part of China's army

A group of cyberattackers that emerged in 2010 and then went quiet has resurfaced and is targeting Japan's critical infrastructure, a security vendor said this week.

The attacks have targeted utilities and energy companies in Japan, as well as other companies in finance, transportation and construction, said Greg Fitzgerald, chief marketing officer at Cylance, which specializes in end-point protection.

The group appears to be based in Asia, and its methods and procedures suggest it may be linked to a nation state, Fitzgerald said.

Symantec detected signs of the group, which Cylance calls Operation Dust Storm, in 2010, Fitzgerald said. The group went quiet in March 2013, shortly after Mandiant -- the forenics investigative unit of FireEye -- published a lengthy report on APT 1, which the company believes to be an elite cyber unit of the Chinese army.

The attacks studied by Cylance were aimed exclusively at Japan, Fitzgerald said. The group has acquired upwards of 200 domain names for part of its command-and-control infrastructure, he said.

The aim doesn't appear to be to damage critical infrastructure along the lines of what recently happened in December to utilities in Ukraine. Cyberattacks knocked out power to tens of thousands of customers in incidents security experts have said highlight the vulnerability of Internet-connected critical infrastructure. 

Rather, the group is focused on reconnaissance and espionage and maintaining long-term access to networks, Fitzgerald said.

Cylance has reached out to Japan's Computer Emergency Response Team, the country's national cybersecurity coordinator, with its findings. It has also published a report with technical information, including domain names and hashes of malware, that could help companies figure out if they've been compromised.

Those infected are thought to have fallen victim to spear phishing emails, or targeted messages containing malware attachments. Another possibility is so-called watering-hole attacks, where victims are persuaded to click on a link or visit a website that has been compromised, delivering the attacker's malware.

In 2014 through last year, the attackers were installing a backdoor called Zlib.

"The backdoor provided the attacker with the ability to upload and download files, enumerate files and drives, enumerate system information, enumerate and manipulate Windows services, enumerate and impersonate logon sessions, mimic keystrokes and mouse input, capture screenshots and execute shell commands," according to Cylance's report.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy


First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni


For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell


The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi


The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott


My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?