Phishing scammers have impersonated AlienVault researchers in fake emails sent to Tibetan organisations.
The initial detection by Alienvault of spearphishing attacks from China was announced two weeks ago. Those attacks saw emails sent with malicious PDFs that contained a variant of Gh0st RAT (a remote-access trojan), exploiting a known Microsoft vulnerability.
But the attack was a "case of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery", according to AlienVault's chief researcher Jamie Blasco.
“The fact that the pro-Chinese sympathisers have taken our research seriously enough to start trying to blacken our name indicates that our message about the Chinese cyber attackers has hit home, and the cyber criminal activists are not happy," he said.
The emails were sent from ‘firstname.lastname@example.org' with a subject line of "Targeted attacks against Tibet organisations" and contain a malicious payload that loads a Java applet, which exploits CVE-2011-3544.
“Our research suggests that the attacks we have been tracking over the past month are linked to the Kalachakra Initiation, a Tibetan religious festival that took place in early January. The spearphishing emails are quite sophisticated and feature an attachment that exploits a stack overflow vulnerability dating back to last September.
“Yes, AlienVault has effectively been drawn into the cyber conflict itself, but we plan on continuing to report on this humanitarian cause for as long as it takes. Our email spoofing problems are nothing compared with the problems that Tibetans are facing.”
Blasco also said that automated bots were used to spam Twitter users with hashtags including #tibet and #freetibet. He said the junk tweets were from automated Twitter accounts controlled by the Chinese Government or its sympathisers.