Ministry of Defence of the Netherlands Uncovers COATHANGER, a Stealth Chinese Fortigate RAT

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) of the Kingdom of the Netherlands was impacted in 2023 by an intrusion into one of its networks. The effects of the intrusion were limited because the victim network was segmented from the wider MOD networks.
During an incident response case, the Netherlands’ MIVD found a Remote Access Trojan (RAT) present on the FortiGate device that had been used for initial access.
The victim network had fewer than 50 users. Its purpose was research and development (R&D) of unclassified projects and collaboration with two third-party research institutes. These organizations have been notified of the incident.
MIVD & AIVD assess with high confidence that the intrusion at the MOD, as well as the development of the malware described in this report, was conducted by a state-sponsored actor from the People’s Republic of China.
MIVD & AIVD emphasize that this incident does not stand on its own, but is part of a wider trend of Chinese political espionage against the Netherlands and its allies.
The COATHANGER malware provides access to compromised FortiGate devices after installation. The implant connects back periodically to a Command & Control server over SSL, providing a BusyBox reverse shell.

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