Hackers with ties to the Chinese government have been exposed to being involved in a potentially months-long espionage campaign that has targeted various entities and governments across the globe. Surprisingly, one of the tools they use for their operation is the VLC Media Player, which is so popular because, well, it’s free and can almost play any video or audio file users throw at it.
It’s that immense popularity that motivated the attackers to utilize it in their campaign known as Cicada, along with other legitimate software normally used in archiving, networking, and remote desktop control. The hackers use a technique called DLL side-loading to load a malware-laden DLL file into a clean copy of VLC and perform illegal activities on compromised systems without detection.
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Experts at Symantec believe the targeted victims so far include both government and non-government organizations in various industries, such as education, religion, and telecommunication, in multiple countries such as Canada, Japan, India and the US.