Hackers Continue to Exploit the COVID-19 Pandemic in Malicious Campaigns

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As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to spread throughout the world, a growing number of malicious campaigns were identified, attempting to exploit the constant search for information and updates on the virus, in order to spread various types of malware.

In this blog post we share our analysis of one of the major Coronavirus related malicious campaigns and provide an overview of other campaigns. In addition, for your convenience, you will find at the end of the post a list of IoCs to implement in your security systems.

The COVID-19 Interactive Map – The Malicious Version

Security researchers have identified Russian cybercriminals selling malicious versions of the highly popular interactive map of COVID-19 cases around the world, created by Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. In fact, these versions include infostealer malware, intended on stealing information from its victims’ computers.

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John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center

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Sales Offer of Malicious Map in Russian Dark Web Forum
Source: Verint LUMINAR

In addition, a new malicious domain was discovered, coronavirusapp[.]site, which is offering to download an Android app that tracks the spread of the virus and also includes statistical data. However, the application is actually poisoned with CovidLock, a ransomware that changes the password used to unlock the device, thus denying the victims access to their phones. The victims are required to pay a ransom fee of US$100 in Bitcoin, or else, according to the ransom note, their contacts, pictures, videos and device’s memory will all be erased.

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The Coronavirusapp[.]site domain.
Source: Domain Tools

Attack Methods

Security researchers have also discovered a new backdoor distributed in RAR format. The file includes an executable masquerading as a Microsoft Word file with information on COVID-19, intended to install the rest of the malware on the victim’s computer. The researchers estimate that file is being distributed via phishing emails.

A new ransomware called CoronaVirus was recently identified while being distributed through a fake website of WiseCleaner, a service offering system utilities for Windows OS. Download files on this malicious site act as downloaders for both the CoronaVirus ransomware and a stealer called Kpot. Additional campaigns utilize phishing emails with malicious attachments that supposedly include information and updates on Coronavirus, but in fact download different malware to the victims’ computers, including a banking Trojan called TrickBot, a Stealer called LokiBot and a Stealer called FormBook.

State-Sponsored Threat Actors Are Also Involved

Security researchers have also identified state-sponsored threat actors exploiting the COVID-19 panic to promote their interests and carry out attack campaigns.

  • In early March 2020, researchers discovered a campaign launched by a Chinese APT group against targets in Vietnam.
  • Another Chinese APT group attacked targets in Mongolia’s government using malicious documents that supposedly contain new information on the virus.
  • An APT group originating from North Korea has sent phishing messages to South Korean officials that ostensibly included a document detailing the reaction of the country to the pandemic.
  • Russian APT Group had sent malicious files, seemingly including updates on Coronavirus, in order to distribute a backdoor malware to targets in Ukraine.

We see that cybercriminals and state-sponsored threat actors are using the panic resulting from the Coronavirus pandemic, for phishing purposes and malware distribution. As the virus continues to spread across the world, preoccupying the global agenda, it can be estimated we will witness more campaigns exploiting the crisis.

To read the detailed analysis click here

For a list of IOCs click here

Suspicious Domains Selling Tickets to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

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As a cloud of uncertainty still hangs over the opening of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics due to the Coronavirus pandemic, cyber criminals are still working (remotely) on finding ways to maliciously profit from the event.

Events at the center of global attention such as major sports events and tournaments are often used by attackers to trick users into phishing scams, malware campaigns and the theft of personal and payment details.

We have been monitoring potential threats to the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympics for our customers and we recently discovered two suspicious domains allegedly selling tickets for the Games. In both cases, further investigation led us to find additional suspicious domains allegedly selling tickets to the Euro 2020 tournament. In this blog post you can find a summary of our findings.

tickets-tokyo2020[.]com

The domain tickets-tokyo2020[.]com was created on February 11, 2020 by a private registrant at the NICENIC INTERNATIONAL GROUP domain registrar.

When accessing the domain, the user is presented with a page in Russian where the official logo of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics appears. It is also stated that this website is an “authorized Ticket Reseller” for the Olympics. However, we could not find this domain in the list of authorized resellers on the official website of the 2020 Olympics. The user can change the language of the website to English and the website contains search fields, where the user can search for a specific event in the Olympics, for which they are looking to purchase tickets. At the time of publishing this post, the search option does not appear to function, thus, it is possible the website is still under development. There is also a “cart” banner where the user is supposed to be able to view the selected tickets and pay for them.

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tickets-tokyo2020[.]com

This domain is hosted on the 5.45.72[.]40 IP address, together with only two more domains: ticket-mafia[.]com and euro-2020-tickets[.]com. The ticket-mafia[.]com domain was created on November 2016, and until December 20, 2019, it was registered by a private registrant at the GoDaddy domain registrar. However, on December 20, 2019, its registry was updated by a private registrant and was registered at the same domain registrar as the tickets-tokyo2020[.]com domain, NICENIC INTERNATIONAL GROUP.

The ticket-mafia[.]com domain displays a login page in Russian. It is worth mentioning that when inserting HTTPS:// before the tickets-tokyo2020[.]com domain, we were presented with the same login page of ticket-mafia[.]com. There is no option to sign up and therefore we believe it is designed for a user with preset login credentials, presumably the admin of the websites. We estimate the login page leads to a backend dashboard of some kind, although it remains unknown whether it is used for legitimate purposes or not.

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Login Window

The euro-2020-tickets[.]com domain was created on January 6, 2020, by a private registrant and is also registered at the NICENIC INTERNATIONAL GROUP domain registrar. This website resembles the tickets-tokyo2020[.]com: it is also presented in Russian and uses the official UEFA Euro 2020 logo, it enables the user to switch the language to English and it allows users to search for a specific match. However, in this case, the search function does work. Upon selecting a match and a seat, the user can select the “order” function and enter his name, phone number and email address and move on to the payment, yet the “Go to the payment” button does not work, as of the time of publishing this post. Of note, the official UEFA Euro 2020 website specifically states that “Third-party ticketing websites and secondary ticketing platforms are not authorized to sell tickets for UEFA EURO 2020”. Thus, it appears this website is not an official Euro 2020 tickets reseller and is not authorized to offer tickets for the tournament for sale.

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euro-2020-tickets[.]com

In light of these findings, we estimate that the above domains were created by the same actor. Our investigation did not reveal any malicious activity associated with these domains. However, it appears that these are not official resellers of tickets for the two events. In addition, as the search function in the Tokyo 2020 domain and the payment function in the Euro 2020 domain do not work, it appears that these domains are still under development, and thus could materialize into a more serious threat in the future.

olympic2020tickets[.]com

The code of a malicious HTML file recently uploaded to the VirusTotal platform, contained a link to the olympic2020tickets[.]com domain. This domain does not appear in the official website of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as an official and authorized reseller. The website offers users to buy or sell tickets to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The website also displays the logos of some of the Olympics’ official sponsors, such as Toyota, Panasonic, Visa, Alibaba Group, and more. The use of the logos of the sponsors can increase the credibility of the website in the eyes of visitors, and trick them into thinking the website is a legitimate and official ticket reseller for the Games.

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olympic2020tickets[.]com

Using an HTML interpreter, we discovered that the above-mentioned malicious file uploaded to VirusTotal, contains the HTML code of the main page of olympic2020tickets[.]com. In addition, the olympic2020tickets[.]com domain itself is identified as malicious by three different anti-virus engines. Our technical analysis of the website’s code did not reveal any use of a malicious JavaScript. The website provides the following phone number for contact: +4402074425560. We identified two additional similar domains, eurosportstickets[.]com and ticketsmarketplace.co[.]uk, which provide the same phone number for contact, and are also dedicated to selling tickets to various sports events and games. As can be seen in the screenshots below, the three domains resemble each other in their structure and design. In addition, eurosportstickets[.]com is identified as a phishing website by two anti-virus engines.

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eurosportstickets[.]com

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ticketsmarketplace[.]co.uk

None of the Whois details of the three domains, reveal the identity of the registrant. However, we noticed that two of the domains, olympic2020tickets[.]com and ticketsmarketplace[.]co.uk, are hosted on the same IP address, 77.72.1.20, while eurosportstickets[.]com is hosted on the approximate 77.72.1.21 IP address.

Using the graph function of VirusTotal, we managed to establish connections between the three domains and the IP addresses they are hosted on, as can be seen below. The graph also shows how this infrastructure is related to malicious activity, and how both IP addresses are used for downloading malware, such as the Tofsee backdoor, the Artemis malware or the QRat.

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Connections Between the Domains and Their Surrounding Malicious Infrastructure