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The secretive Platinum group — hackers known for advanced tools and thought to be state sponsored — has resurfaced, according to Kaspersky.

Why it matters: Platinum is a formidable group. When Microsoft first profiled them in 2016, it was for malware that the group had used undetected for at least seven years — an eternity in hacker time and evidence of how talented the group is.

  • The Kaspersky discovery, too, has been used for at least seven years.

Background: Little is known about Platinum. What is known is pretty formidable.

  • Platinum burst on to the scene with malware taking advantage of Windows "hotfixing," a feature that allowed computers to be updated without rebooting. That malware used four previously unseen security bugs. Most malware don't use any due to the extremely high cost for each one.
  • In 2017, Platinum hackers took advantage of Intel's management engine, a second processor in Intel CPUs intended to be used by network administrators.

Details: The new Platinum discovery also has some unique features, especially in how the command-and-control server sent commands to the malware hidden in the HTML code of a website that appeared to be a domain for sale.

  • HTML ignores tabs and spaces in the code. It also ignores the order of certain formatting commands. For example, if you say text should be at the center of a page and colored white, it is the same as saying text should be white and at the center of a page.
  • Commands were encoded into the webpage in the form of ordered commands, spaces and tabs.
  • Kaspersky notes in a press release that would make commands "almost impossible" to detect in network traffic.

Victims: Kaspersky caught the new malware targeting south and southeast Asian "diplomatic, government and military entities." That's in line with what Microsoft reported in 2016.

Go deeper

Congress plots COVID pandemic-era office upgrades

oving crates outside Rep. Elise Stefanik's old office Tuesday. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The House plans to renovate members' suites even though staff are worried about an influx of contractors and D.C. is tightening restrictions on large gatherings, some staffers told Axios.

Why it matters: The Capitol has been closed to public tours since March. Work over the holiday season comes as U.S. coronavirus cases spike, Americans beg for more pandemic assistance and food lines grow.

Trump pressures Barr to release so-called Durham report

Bill Barr. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump and his allies are piling extreme pressure on Attorney General Bill Barr to release a report that Trump believes could hurt perceived Obama-era enemies — and view Barr's designation of John Durham as special counsel as a stall tactic, sources familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Speculation over Barr's fate grew on Tuesday, with just 49 days remaining in Trump's presidency, after Barr gave an interview to the Associated Press in which he said the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread fraud that could change the election's outcome.

CDC to cut guidance on quarantine period for coronavirus exposure

A health care worker oversees cars as people arrive to get tested for coronavirus at a testing site in Arlington, Virginia, on Tuesday. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

The CDC will soon shorten its guidance for quarantine periods following exposure to COVID-19, AP reported Tuesday and Axios can confirm.

Why it matters: Quarantine helps prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which can occur before a person knows they're sick or if they're infected without feeling any symptoms. The current recommended period to stay home if exposed to the virus is 14 days. The CDC plans to amend this to 10 days or seven with a negative test, an official told Axios.

  • The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.