China government-backed hackers, previously observed targeting the Tibetan government-in-exile based in Dharamshala, are actively exploiting a bug in Microsoft Office to steal and delete users’ data.
According to cyber-security firm Proofpoint, the newly-discovered vulnerability titled ‘Follina’ in Microsoft Office is being exploited by advanced persistent threat (APT) group ‘TA413’ linked to the Chinese government.
“TA413 CN APT spotted ITW exploiting the #Follina #0Day using URLs to deliver Zip Archives which contain Word Documents that use the technique. Campaigns impersonate the “Women Empowerments Desk” of the Central Tibetan Administration,” Proofpoint said in a tweet.
Chinese hackers have a long history of using software security flaws to target Tibetans.
Microsoft has acknowledged the vulnerability, officially titled CVE-2022-30190 regarding the Microsoft Support Diagnostic Tool (MSDT) in Windows vulnerability, but was yet to issue a security patch.
“An attacker who successfully exploits this vulnerability can run arbitrary code with the privileges of the calling application. The attacker can then install programmes, view, change, or delete data, or create new accounts in the context allowed by the user’s rights,” Microsoft said in an update.
In a blog post, cyber-security researcher Kevin Beaumont also detailed the new vulnerability.
According to the Verge, current analysis suggests that ‘Follina’ affects Microsoft Office 2013, 2016, 2019, 2021, Office ProPlus, and Office 365.
The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has also asked system administrators to implement Microsoft’s guidance for mitigating exploitation.
“Customers with Microsoft Defender Antivirus should turn-on cloud-delivered protection and automatic sample submission. These capabilities use artificial intelligence and machine learning to quickly identify and stop new and unknown threats,” said Microsoft.