Suspected attribution: China

Target sectors:

APT40 is a Chinese cyber espionage group that typically targets countries strategically important to the Belt and Road Initiative. Although the group targets global organizations — especially those with a focus on engineering and defense — it also historically conducted campaigns against regional entities in areas such as Southeast Asia. Since at least January 2013, the group has conducted campaigns against a range of verticals including maritime targets, defense, aviation, chemicals, research/education, government, and technology organizations.


FireEye Intelligence believes that APT40’s operations are a cyber counterpart to China’s efforts to modernize its naval capabilities; this is also manifested in targeting wide-scale research projects at universities and obtaining designs for marine equipment and vehicles. The group’s operations tend to target government-sponsored projects and take large amounts of information specific to such projects, including proposals, meetings, financial data, shipping information, plans and drawings, and raw data.

Associated malware:

APT40 has been observed using at least 51 different code families. Of these, 37 are non-public. At least seven of these non-public tools (BADSIGN, FIELDGOAL, FINDLOCK, PHOTO, SCANBOX, SOGU, and WIDETONE) are shared with other suspected China-nexus operators.

Attack vectors:

APT40 typically poses as a prominent individual who is probably of interest to a target to send spear-phishing emails. This includes pretending to be a journalist, an individual from a trade publication, or someone from a relevant military organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). In some instances, the group has leveraged previously compromised email addresses to send spear-phishing emails.

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