Google TAG researchers discovered that threat actors leveraged a zero-day vulnerability in macOS in a watering hole campaign aimed at delivering malware to users in Hong Kong. The attackers exploited a XNU privilege escalation vulnerability (CVE-2021-30869) unpatched in macOS Catalina

The watering hole campaign targeted websites of a media outlet and important pro-democracy labor and political group. The researchers discovered that attackers deployed on the sites hosted two iframes that were used to serve iOS and macOS exploits to the visitors.

The experts believe that the attack was orchestrated by a nation-state actor, but did not attribute the campaign to a specific APT group.

The attack was discovered in late August, the nature of the targets and the level of sophistication of the attack suggests the involvement of a China-linked threat actor.

“To protect our users, TAG routinely hunts for 0-day vulnerabilities exploited in-the-wild. In late August 2021, TAG discovered watering hole attacks targeting visitors to Hong Kong websites for a media outlet and a prominent pro-democracy labor and political group. The watering hole served an XNU privilege escalation vulnerability (CVE-2021-30869) unpatched in macOS Catalina, which led to the installation of a previously unreported backdoor.” reads the analysis published by Google. “As is our policy, we quickly reported this 0-day to the vendor (Apple) and a patch was released to protect users from these attacks.”

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