Chinese State-Sponsored Cyber Attacks

Chinese State-Sponsored Cyber Attacks

What Do Advanced Cyber Attacks Look Like?

Cybersecurity is an ever-evolving battlefield, with state-sponsored attacks becoming increasingly sophisticated. The Australian Cyber Security Centre in conjunction with it’s allies in the UK, New Zealand and USA have released details of recent attacks attributed to the PRC Ministry of State Security (MSS) – known as APT40. 

These attacks often start with the exploitation of vulnerabilities in internet-facing infrastructure before establishing persistence and moving further around in the target’s IT systems.  This highlights the importance of robust cyber defences at every layer. In this blog post, we’ll dissect the typical stages of the APT40 attacks and how FoxTech’s suite of services can help safeguard your assets.

Stages of an attack

Initial Infection

The first stage of a state-sponsored attack is gaining entry into the network. Attackers commonly exploit known vulnerabilities in internet-facing assets such as web applications, VPNs, and outdated servers. This is where FoxTech ASSURE comes into play. Our automated vulnerability scanning and detection service is designed to identify and report vulnerabilities swiftly, allowing your IT team to patch them before attackers can exploit them. Early detection is crucial, as APT 40 is known to start exploiting new vulnerabilities with hours or days of announcements.  So limiting the window of opportunity for attackers to breach your systems is critical.

For custom built web applications, FoxTech VERIFY will go beyond automated scans for an in-depth analysis of potential coding flaws and vulnerabilities that advanced threats may seek to discover and exploit.

Execution and Persistence

Once inside, attackers will attempt to execute malicious code and establish persistence within the network to maintain access even after initial entry points are secured. They might leverage scripts or binaries executed from temporary folders or use legitimate administrative tools in unauthorized ways. FoxTech DEFEND, our managed SIEM service with a UK-based SOC, excels in detecting such anomalous activities. By monitoring and analyzing for these suspicious actions within your network, Defend helps identify and contain threats before they escalate.

We keep an eye on advisories such as this, to continually update our rules to detect the latest techniques.

Command and Control (C&C)

With persistence secured, the next step for attackers is to establish a command and control channel to communicate with compromised systems, issue commands, and exfiltrate data. This communication often involves encrypting data to mask their activities from traditional detection tools.

FoxTech DEFEND’s threat intelligence capabilities are crucial here, as they help in identifying suspicious domains and IP addresses associated with C&C servers, ensuring that such communications are quickly spotted and blocked. Using telemetry from an organisations internal DNS, network devices and server logging provides an unmatched view across the environment which is difficult for attackers to evade.

Lateral Movement

Attackers will attempt to move laterally across the network to gain access to valuable data and systems. This stage is critical as the attacker seeks to maximize their access and control over the network. Identifying and responding to such movements quickly is key to preventing widespread damage.

FoxTech DEFEND’s ability to monitor internal traffic and recognize patterns associated with lateral movement plays a pivotal role in stopping attackers in their tracks.

Data Exfiltration

Finally, the goal of many advanced cyber attacks—data exfiltration. Sensitive data may be compressed, encrypted, and stealthily transmitted to an external location. Monitoring outgoing data streams for unusual sizes, destinations, or encryption is essential. 


Understanding the anatomy of sophisticated state-sponsored cyber attacks is crucial for developing effective defence strategies. By using services like FoxTech ASSURE and FoxTech DEFEND, businesses can significantly enhance their security posture against these advanced threats, knowing that we’re following advisories like this to.  Protecting your digital assets against such well-orchestrated attacks is not just about technology but about staying one step ahead in the cybersecurity game.

For a more in-depth analysis of Chinese state-sponsored cyber threats, you can refer to the original detailed research here. This source provides extensive insights into the methodologies employed by these advanced threat actors and further underscores the necessity for cutting-edge security solutions like those offered by FoxTech.

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