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Threat Group Cards: A Threat Actor Encyclopedia

Permanent link Tool: China Chopper

NamesChina Chopper
Description(Talos) China Chopper is a tool that allows attackers to remotely control the target system that needs to be running a web server application before it can be targeted by the tool. The web shell works on different platforms, but in this case, we focused only on compromised Windows hosts. China Chopper is a tool that has been used by some state-sponsored actors such as Leviathan and Threat Group-3390, but during our investigation we've seen actors with varying skill levels.

In our research, we discovered both Internet Information Services (IIS) and Apache web servers compromised with China Chopper web shells. We do not have additional data about how the web shell was installed, but there are several web application frameworks such as older versions of Oracle WebLogic or WordPress that may have been targeted with known remote code execution or file inclusion exploits.

China Chopper provides the actor with a simple GUI that allows them to configure servers to connect to and generate server-side code that must be added to the targeted website code in order to communicate.

The server-side code is extremely simple and contains, depending on the application platform, just a single line of code. The backdoor supports .NET Active Server Pages or PHP.

We cannot be sure if the simplicity of the server code was a deliberate decision on the part of the China Chopper developers to make detection more difficult, but using pattern matching on such as short snippet may produce some false positive detections.

The China Chopper client communicates with affected servers using HTTP POST requests. The only function of the server-side code is to evaluate the request parameter specified during the configuration of the server code in the client GUI. In our example, the expected parameter name is 'test.' The communication over HTTP can be easily spotted in the network packet captures.

China Chopper contains a remote shell (Virtual Terminal) function that has a first suggested command of 'netstat an|find 'ESTABLISHED.'' and it is very likely that this command will be seen in process creation logs on affected systems.

Last change to this tool card: 13 May 2020

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All groups using tool China Chopper


APT groups

 APT 31, Judgment Panda, ZirconiumChina2016-Feb 2022 
XAPT 41China2012-Aug 2022X
XEmissary Panda, APT 27, LuckyMouse, Bronze UnionChina2010-Aug 2022 
 GalliumChina2018-Jun 2022 
 Hurricane PandaChina2013-Mar 2014 
 IridiumIran2018-Dec 2018 
 Leviathan, APT 40, TEMP.PeriscopeChina2013-Jul 2021X
XMustang Panda, Bronze PresidentChina2014-Jun 2022 
XStone Panda, APT 10, menuPassChina2006-Feb 2022X

13 groups listed (13 APT, 0 other, 0 unknown)

Digital Service Security Center
Electronic Transactions Development Agency

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