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Hong Kong pro-democracy radio station website compromised to serve a Safari exploit that installed cyberespionage malware on site visitors’ Macs
On November 11th, Google TAG published a blogpost about watering-hole attacks leading to exploits for the Safari web browser running on macOS. ESET researchers had been investigating this campaign the week before that publication, uncovering additional details about the targets and malware used to compromise its victims. Here we provide a breakdown of the WebKit exploit used to compromise Mac users and an analysis of the payload, which is a new malware family targeting macOS. But first, let’s look at how victims came into contact with the malicious code in the first place.
It was reported by Felix Aimé from SEKOIA.IO that one of the websites used to propagate the exploits was a fake website targeting Hong Kong activists. We can read on its home page “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times”. The very recent registration date of the fightforhk[.]com domain, October 19th, 2021, and the fact that the website is no longer accessible, supports that idea. We could also confirm that the Internet Archive cached a copy of the web page on November 13th. This copy includes the malicious iframe, as seen in Figure 1.
ESET researchers found another website, this time legitimate but compromised, that also distributed the same exploit during the few months prior to the Google TAG publication: the online, Hong Kong, pro-democracy radio station D100. As seen in Figure 2, an iframe was injected into pages served by bc.d100[.]net – the section of the website used by subscribers – between September 30th and November 4th 2021.
Both distribution methods have something in common: they attract visitors from Hong Kong with pro-democracy sympathies. It seems that they were the primary target of this threat.
The exploit chain
As seen in Figure 3, the page…