TA416, which is also known as “Mustang Panda” and “RedDelta,” was spotted in recent campaigns targeting entities associated with diplomatic relations between the Vatican and the Chinese Communist Party, as well as entities in Myanmar. The group was also spotted recently targeting organizations conducting diplomacy in Africa. These more recent spear-phishing attempts included a (continued) utilization of social-engineering lures that allude to the provisional agreement recently renewed between the Vatican Holy See and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The initial delivery of the malware was done by using Google Drive and Dropbox URLs within phishing emails that deliver archives containing PlugX malware and related components. One file was found to be a self-extracting RAR archive. Once the RAR archive is extracted four files are installed on the host and the portable executable (PE) Adobelm.exe is executed. Adobelm.exe is a legitimate Adobe executable that is used for the dynamic link library (DLL) side-loading of hex.dll. It calls an export function of hex.dll, called CEFProcessForkHandlerEx.
The file reads, loads, decrypts and executes the PlugX malware payload. The PlugX malware then ultimately calls out to the command and control (C2) server IP, 45.248.87[.]162.