PyLocky Ransomware Source Code Leaked Online

PyLocky represents a new ransomware strain that was detected in the wild in late July 2018, and whose volume of infections increased throughout the month of August. The malware is usually distributed through malspam emails claiming to link to a fake payment invoice, and it features advanced anti-detection and anti-sandbox capabilities. Notably, infection telemetry data shows that PyLocky mainly targeted France and German cyberspace, but ransom notes also exist in Italian and Korean.

On September 11, 2018, we detected the leakage of PyLocky source code on Pastebin. Thus far, the incident has not received media attention. However, the paste was viewed by over 2,500 users. Therefore, our assessment is that this leakage might lower the barrier to entry for wannabe cybercriminals, possibly leading to an increase in malspam campaigns distributing this malware strain in the future. Continue reading “PyLocky Ransomware Source Code Leaked Online”

Source Code of Ratopak/Pegasus Spyware Targeting the Financial Sector Recently Leaked

On July 6, 2018, a post claiming to contain the source code of Carbanak group malware was published on a Russian-speaking underground forum. Soon after the sharing of the code on the Russian underground, it was uploaded by an unknown actor to the text-sharing platform Pastebin, making it accessible to all. At the same time, malware researchers analyzing the shared code discovered the malware is not one used by the Carbanak group, but rather, it is the Ratopak/Pegasus spyware, used in attacks against Russian banks in 2016. Continue reading “Source Code of Ratopak/Pegasus Spyware Targeting the Financial Sector Recently Leaked”

Massive Cyber Attack Causing Chaos as World Still Recovers from WannaCry

In the past few hours, multiple reports were published about a mass-scale cyber-attack taking place in Ukraine. The attack hit multiple government resources, as well as corporate, financial and critical infrastructure systems (Kyiv subway and airport, electricity and oil companies, etc). Continue reading “Massive Cyber Attack Causing Chaos as World Still Recovers from WannaCry”

Cerber Ransomware JavaScript Loader Goes Undetected

We have been closely monitoring Cerber ransomware since it first emerged on a Russian password-protected forum, offered as-a-service for members only.

At present, Cerber ransomware constitutes a sophisticated malware threat to organizations. (it was responsible for more than 25% of the total number of ransomware infections recorded worldwide in June 2016, according to Microsoft). Files encrypted by Cerber are currently non-decryptable.

On August 23, 2016, a member of the same closed forum where Cerber ransomware is traded posted a detailed analysis of the loader that the malware uses to install itself. According to his post, he did this after hearing that the loader is very useful and capable of installing any malware without detection. His conclusion was that the loader does not employ any extraordinary methods to install the ransomware, but its tremendous advantage of being fully undetectable by AV programs is due to the usage of several rare code functions that are difficult to emulate.

First, he posted the full obfuscated code of the loader, explaining parts of it:

  • Replacement of the Eval function, i.e. it receives a parameter that contains JavaScript code and executes it. Usually, AV programs emulate this function. Replacing the Eval function blocks this emulation.
  • Another part of the code creates a Desktop shortcut, probably also as an anti-emulator measure (the post writer comments that in his opinion AV would quickly detect it).
  • The next part of the code is obfuscated – a HEX code which is divided and deobfuscated using XOR.After deobfuscation, we can see that the code contains anti-emulation.
  • Then a random string is created and a path from %TEMP% environment obtained for it.
  • The next stage involves downloading the malicious file from an URL address and saving it in the system.
  • A parameter is added to the header to block AV bots and researchers: setRequestHeader(‘cerber’,’true’)
  • If the malicious payload was downloaded properly, it is executed.
  • Finally, the Eval alternative is launched.

Summarizing the analysis, the post author concludes that the advantages of the loader are a good implementation of the payload download and execution and errors control. The disadvantages he mentions are weak implementation of obfuscation and anti-emulation, and low level of usability functionality. He also attached an AV scanner report from August 23, showing a detection rate of 15/40.

Several days later, on August 27, 2016, the same forum member posted that he had analyzed the latest version of the loader and was surprised by the fact it is totally undetectable by AV programs. Moreover, this version is capable of installing payloads from several alternative URL addresses and it uses improved debugging. This version does not use anti-emulation at all, but employs a unique method that totally blocks the AV syntax emulation. 

Below is a description of the main techniques used by the loader to remain undetected:

  • Replacement of the Eval function (even though it is a simple technique, it is used extensively by JS packers and therefore cannot be detected by AV as malicious).
  • The part of the code that avoids emulation is an array that contains random data, with the first element being the important one. The functions Math.floor and Math.random always output only the first element in the array and AV cannot properly emulate them. Full undetectability is achieved by using these two functions.

The emulator will always output one single value and will never reach the part of the array when the right value is located. As a result, the emulator cannot perform the calculations, a critical error occurs and the AV programs are unable to identify the loader as a malicious file.

1
The message that analyzes what code feature allows the malware to avoid AV detection

The post author attached an AV scanner report showing a 0/35 detection rate (as of August 27, 2016).

2
The scan showing that the loader is not detected by AV engines

Handling a Ransomware Attack

A recent wave of ransomware attacks has hit countries around the world, with a large number of infections reported in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Israel. It appears that the attackers have no specific target, since the attacks have struck hospitals, financial institutions and private institutions, indicating that no specific industry has been targeted.

In Israel, two types of ransomware were identified in the most recent attacks: the familiar TeslaCrypt and the new ransomware, Locky.

The Evolution of Ransomware

The vigorous usage of ransomware tools by cybercriminals and their success in this area has led to the development of new ransomware and the constant upgrading of known models. During the past several months, researchers have reported on the development of ransomware that is capable of file encryption without Internet connection, i.e., they do not communicate with their C&C servers for the encryption process.

New ransomware tools that were reported are Locky ransomware, whose modus operandi resembles the Dridex banking Trojan, and a new version of CTB-Locker that attacks web servers.

Additionally, RaaS (Ransom-as-a-Service) offers are becoming popular on closed DeepWeb and Darknet forums. These services allow potential attackers to easily create ransomware stubs, paying with profits from future successful infections. Recently, we identified a new RaaS dubbed Cerber ransomware, which is offered on a Russian underground forum. Previously it was ORX-Locker, offered as a service via a platform hosted on an .onion server.

1
The ransom message presented by the Cerber ransomware

Ransomware Distribution

The majority of the distribution vectors of ransomware stubs involve some kind of social engineering trap, for example, email messages including malicious Office files, spam messages with nasty links or malvertising campaigns exploiting vulnerable WordPress or Joomla websites with an embedded malevolent code. The distribution also takes advantage of Macro commands and exploit kits, such as Nuclear or Angler. Sometimes browser vulnerabilities are exploited, as well as stolen digital certificates.

In November 2015, attempts to deliver ransomware to Israeli clients were identified. In this case, the attackers spoofed a corporate email address and tried to make recipients believe the email was sent from a company worker.

2
RaaS offered on a Darknet forum

Handling a Ransomware Attack

Please find below our suggestions for recommended action to avoid ransomware attacks on an organization, and how to deal with an attack after infection:

Defend Your Organization from Potential Threats

  • Train your employees – since the human link is the weakest link in the organizational cybersecurity and the majority of the cases involve social engineering on one of the employees, periodical employee briefing is extremely important. Specify the rules regarding using the company systems, and describe what phishing messages look like.
  • Raise awareness regarding accepting files that arrive via email messages – instruct your employees not to open suspicious files or files sent from unfamiliar senders. Consider implementing an organizational policy addressing such files. We recommend blocking or isolating files with the following extensions: js (JavaScript), jar (Java), bat (Batch file), exe (executable file), cpl (Control Panel), scr (Screensaver), com (COM file) and pif (Program Information file).
  • Disable running of Macro scripts on Office files sent via email – in recent months, many cases of ransomware attacks employing this vector were reported. Usually, Macro commands are disabled by default and we do not recommend enabling them. In addition, we suggest using Office Viewer software to open Word and Excel files.
  • Limit user privileges and constantly monitor the workstations – careful management of user privileges and limited administrator’s privileges may help in avoiding the spread of the ransomware in the organizational network. Moreover, monitoring the activity on workstations will be useful for early detection of any infection and blocking it from propagating to other systems and network resources.
  • Create rules that block programs from executing from AppData/LocalAppData folders. Many variants of the analyzed ransomware are executed from these directories, including CryptoLocker. Therefore, the creation of such rules may reduce the encryption risk significantly.
  • Install a Russian keyboard – while monitoring closed Russian forums where several ransomware families originated, we discovered that many of them will check if the infected computer is located in a post-Soviet country. Usually, this check is performed by detecting which keyboard layout is installed on the machine. If a Russian (or other post-Soviet language) keyboard layout is detected, the ransomware will not initiate the encryption process.
  • Keep your systems updated – in many cases, hackers take advantage of outdated systems to infiltrate the network. Therefore, frequent updates of the organizational systems and implementing the published security patch will significantly reduce the chances of infection.
  • Use third-party dedicated software to deal with the threat – many programs aimed at addressing specific ransomware threats are constantly being released. One is Windows AppLocker, which is included in the OS and assists in dealing with malware. We recommend contacting the organizational security vendor and considering the offered solutions.
  • Implement technical indicator and YARA rules in the company organizations. We provide our clients with intelligence items accompanied by technical indicators. Additionally, a dedicated repository that includes ransomware indicators was launched.
    3
    A closed forum member looks to blackmail companies using ransomware

    What if I am Already Infected?

  • Restore your files – some ransomware tools create a copy of the file, encrypt it and then erase the original file. If the deletion is performed via the OS erase feature, there is a chance to restore the files, since in majority of the cases, the OS does not immediately overwrite the deleted filed.
  • Decryption of the encrypted files – the decryption will be possible if you were infected by one of these three ransomware types: Bitcryptor, CoinVault or Linux.Encoder.1. Therefore, detecting the exact kind of ransomware that attacked the PC is crucial.
  • Back-up files on a separate storage device regularly – the best practice to avoid damage from a ransomware attack is to backup all your important files on a storage disconnected from the organizational network, since some ransomware variants are capable of encrypting files stored on connected devices. For example, researchers recently reported a ransomware that encrypted files stored on the Cloud Sync folder.
  • If ransomware is detected in the organization, immediately disconnect the infected machine from the network. Do not try to remove the malware or to reboot the system before identifying the ransomware. In some cases, performing one of these actions will make the decryption impossible, even after paying the ransom.

ORX-Locker – A Darknet Ransomware That Even Your Grandmother Can Use

Written by Ran L. and Mickael S.

The bar for becoming a cyber-criminal has never been so low. Whether buying off-the-shelf malware or writing your own, with a small investment, anyone can make a profit. Now it seems that the bar has been lowered even further with the creation of a new Darknet site that offers Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS), titled ORX-Locker.

Ransomware-as-a-Service enables a user with no knowledge or cash to create his own stubs and use them to infect systems. If the victim decides to pay, the ransom goes to the service provider, who takes a percent of the payment and forwards the rest to the user. For cyber-criminals, this is a win-win situation. The user who cannot afford to buy the ransomware or does not have the requisite knowledge can acquire it for free, and the creator gets his ransomware spread without any effort from his side.

This is not the first time we have seen this kind of service. McAfee previously (May, 2015) reported on Tox. While Tox was the first ransomware-as-a-service, it seems that ORX has taken the idea one step further, with AV evasion methods and complex communication techniques, and apparently also using universities and other platforms as its infrastructure.

In the “August 2015 IBM Security IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Quarterly, 3Q 2015,” published on Monday (August 24, 2015), IBM mentioned TOX while predicting: “This simplicity may spread rapidly to more sophisticated but less common ransomware attack paradigms and lead to off-the-shelf offerings in the cloud.” Just one day later, a post was published on a closed Darknet forum regarding the new ORX-Locker service.

ORX – First Appearance

On August 25, 2015, a user dubbed orxteam published a post regarding the new ransomware service. The message, which was part of his introduction post – a mandatory post every new user has to make to be accepted to the forum – described the new ORX-Locker ransomware as a service platform. In the introduction, the user presented himself as Team ORX, a group that provides private locker software (their name for ransomware) and also ransomware-as-a-service platform.

ORX team introduction post in a closed Darknet hacking forum.
ORX Team introduction post in a closed Darknet hacking forum.

ORX Locker Online Platform

Team ORX has built a Darknet website dedicated to the new public service. To enter the site, new users just need to register. No email or other identification details are required. Upon registration, users have the option to enter a referral username, which will earn them three percent from every payment made to the new user. After logging in, the user can move between five sections:

Home – the welcome screen where you users can see statistics on how much system has been locked by their ransom, how many victims decided to pay, how much they earned and their current balance.

Build EXE – Team ORX has made the process of creating a stub so simple that the only thing a user needs to do is to enter an ID number for his stub (5 digits max) and the ransom price (ORX put a minimum of $75). After that, the user clicks on the Build EXE button and the stub is created and presented in a table with all other stubs previously created by the user.

ORX-Locker Darknet platform, which enables every registered user to build his own ransomware stub.
ORX-Locker Darknet platform, which enables every registered user to build his own ransomware stub.

Stats – This section presents the user with information on systems infected with his stub, including the system OS, how many files have been encrypted, time and date of infection, how much profit has been generated by each system, etc.

Wallet – following a successful infection, the user can withdraw his earnings and transfer them to a Bitcoin address of his choosing.

Support – This section provides general information on the service, including more information on how to build the stub and a mail address (orxsupport@safe-mail[.]net) that users can contact if they require support.

Ransomware

When a user downloads the created stub, he gets a zip file containing the stub, in the form of an “.exe” file. Both the zip and the stub names consist of a random string, 20-characters long. Each file has a different name.

Once executed, the ransomware starts communicating with various IP addresses. The following is a sample from our analysis:

  1. 130[.]75[.]81[.]251 – Leibniz University of Hanover
  2. 130[.]149[.]200[.]12 – Technical University of Berlin
  3. 171[.]25[.]193[.]9 – DFRI (Swedish non-profit and non-party organization working for digital rights)
  4. 199[.]254[.]238[.]52 – Riseup (Riseup provides online communication tools for people and groups working on liberatory social change)

As you can see, some of the addresses are related to universities and others to organizations with various agendas.

Upon activation, the ransomware connects to the official TOR project website and downloads the TOR client. The malware then transmits data over this channel. Using hidden services for communication is a trend that has been adopted by most known ransomware tools in the last year, as was the case of Cryptowall 3.0. In our analysis, the communication was over the standard 9050 port and over 49201.

The final piece would be the encryption of files on the victim’s machine. Unlike other, more “target oriented” ransomware, this particular one locks all files, changing the file ending to .LOCKED and deletes the originals.

When the ransomware finishes encrypting the files, a message will popup announcing that all the files were encrypted, and a payment instruction file will be created on the desktop.

After the ransomware finishes encrypting the files, a message will popup announcing that all the files were encrypted
After the ransomware finishes encrypting the files, a message will popup announcing that all the files were encrypted

In the payment instruction file (.html), the victim receives a unique payment ID and a link to the payment website, located on the onion network (rkcgwcsfwhvuvgli[.]onion). After entering the site using the payment ID, the victim receives another set of instructions in order to complete the payment.

ORX-Locker payment platform which has a dedicated site located on the onion network.
ORX-Locker payment platform, which has a dedicated site located on the onion network.

Finally, although some basic persistence and anti-AV mechanisms are present, the malware still has room to “grow.” We are certain that as its popularity grows, more developments and enhancements will follow.

YARA rule:

rule ORXLocker
{
meta:
author = “SenseCy”
date = “30/08/15”
description = “ORXLocker_yara_rule”

strings:
$string0 = {43 61 6e 27 74 20 63 6f 6d 70 6c 65 74 65 20 53 4f 43 4b 53 34 20 63 6f 6e 6e 65 63 74 69 6f 6e 20 74 6f 20 25 64 2e 25 64 2e 25 64 2e 25 64 3a 25 64 2e 20 28 25 64 29 2c 20 72 65 71 75 65 73 74 20 72 65 6a 65 63 74 65 64 20 62 65 63 61 75 73 65 20 74 68 65 20 63 6c 69 65 6e 74 20 70 72 6f 67 72 61 6d 20 61 6e 64 20 69 64 65 6e 74 64 20 72 65 70 6f 72 74 20 64 69 66 66 65 72 65 6e 74 20 75 73 65 72 2d 69 64 73 2e}
$string1 = {43 61 6e 27 74 20 63 6f 6d 70 6c 65 74 65 20 53 4f 43 4b 53 35 20 63 6f 6e 6e 65 63 74 69 6f 6e 20 74 6f 20 25 30 32 78 25 30 32 78 3a 25 30 32 78 25 30 32 78 3a 25 30 32 78 25 30 32 78 3a 25 30 32 78 25 30 32 78 3a 25 30 32 78 25 30 32 78 3a 25 30 32 78 25 30 32 78 3a 25 30 32 78 25 30 32 78 3a 25 30 32 78 25 30 32 78 3a 25 64 2e 20 28 25 64 29}
$string2 = {53 4f 43 4b 53 35 3a 20 73 65 72 76 65 72 20 72 65 73 6f 6c 76 69 6e 67 20 64 69 73 61 62 6c 65 64 20 66 6f 72 20 68 6f 73 74 6e 61 6d 65 73 20 6f 66 20 6c 65 6e 67 74 68 20 3e 20 32 35 35 20 5b 61 63 74 75 61 6c 20 6c 65 6e 3d 25 7a 75 5d}
$string3 = {50 72 6f 78 79 20 43 4f 4e 4e 45 43 54 20 66 6f 6c 6c 6f 77 65 64 20 62 79 20 25 7a 64 20 62 79 74 65 73 20 6f 66 20 6f 70 61 71 75 65 20 64 61 74 61 2e 20 44 61 74 61 20 69 67 6e 6f 72 65 64 20 28 6b 6e 6f 77 6e 20 62 75 67 20 23 33 39 29}
$string4 = {3c 61 20 68 72 65 66 3d 68 74 74 70 73 3a 2f 2f 72 6b 63 67 77 63 73 66 77 68 76 75 76 67 6c 69 2e 74 6f 72 32 77 65 62 2e 6f 72 67 3e 68 74 74 70 73 3a 2f 2f 72 6b 63 67 77 63 73 66 77 68 76 75 76 67 6c 69 2e 74 6f 72 32 77 65 62 2e 6f 72 67 3c 2f 61 3e 3c 62 72 3e}
$string5 = {43 3a 5c 44 65 76 5c 46 69 6e 61 6c 5c 52 65 6c 65 61 73 65 5c 6d 61 69 6e 2e 70 64 62}
$string6 = {2e 3f 41 56 3f 24 62 61 73 69 63 5f 6f 66 73 74 72 65 61 6d 40 44 55 3f 24 63 68 61 72 5f 74 72 61 69 74 73 40 44 40 73 74 64 40 40 40 73 74 64 40 40}
$string7 = {2e 3f 41 56 3f 24 62 61 73 69 63 5f 69 6f 73 40 5f 57 55 3f 24 63 68 61 72 5f 74 72 61 69 74 73 40 5f 57 40 73 74 64 40 40 40 73 74 64 40 40}
$string8 = “ttp://4rhfxsrzmzilheyj.onion/get.php?a=” wide
$string9 = “\\Payment-Instructions.htm” wide

condition:
all of them
}

The Latest Trends in the Russian Underground – H1 2015 Summary

It is summer in Russia, and the time of the year when people head to the seaside on vacation for a couple of weeks’ break. The decline in activity can be clearly seen on the Russian-speaking forums and marketplaces dealing with cybercrime. Apparently, cybercriminals also take a rest from their online activities, just as they would from a regular full-time job. For us, it is the best time to perform a deep analysis of the main trends in the Russian underground boards during the first half of 2015. When preparing the insights from this analysis, our goal was to identify the main scope of interest on closed, Russian-speaking forums these days, as well as to pinpoint the shifts that have occurred in the last six months.

In order to draw conclusions, we analyzed the threads from the last six months from the four leading Russian forums. These forums mainly serve as a marketplace for attack tools and platforms, in addition to being a source of information and consultation for the forum members. Hereinafter, we tried to summarize the main topics of conversation on Russian marketplaces dedicated to cybercrime during the past six months:

Exploit Kits: In recent months, we have witnessed numerous attacks involving EK as the intrusion vector, including Angler, Neutrino, Nuclear, Magnitude and RIG. These EKs are constantly updated with new exploits.

While some EKs are offered for sale on trading boards, others are available exclusively to selected buyers via private sales, using the Jabber instant messaging system for example. For one case in point, RIG EK 3.0 is offered for a monthly rental fee of $700 on a closed Russian forum (this is considered an extremely low price). In comparison, Angler EK, AKA XXX is not advertised at all among Russian forum members on any of the closed forums.

RIG EK Statistics – screenshots published by the developer of the EK
RIG EK Statistics – screenshots published by the developer of the EK

Banking Trojans: During the last few months, we did not spot any new banking Trojans for sale on the Russian underground. The majority of recent attacks against the financial industry clients were perpetrated using DYRE or Dridex banking Trojans. Even though there is evidence that both were developed by Russian coders and are distributed among Russian-speaking criminals, we did not witness any commercial trading of these Trojans.

The two Trojans currently selling on Russian forums are Kronos, whose sales started back in the middle of 2014, and the new version of Tinba, which is based on source code leaked in the 2014 version.

Tinba banking Trojan offered for rent
Tinba banking Trojan offered for rent

Ransomware: Despite the fact that new campaigns distributing ransomware are uncovered on a regular basis, culminating in an FBI alert at the beginning of 2015, we did not see an elevated interest in this kind of malware on the Russian forums. The sales of CTB-Locker were ceased, at least publicly, probably because of the extensive media coverage. None of the ransomware tools that are widely used in the wild (TorrentLocker, Tesla Crypt, Cryptowall), are offered for sale on Russian marketplaces. The only two new ransomware tools offered during H1 2015 were GM Cryptolocker for Android-based devices and Azazel locker, for just $200. Both are relatively new and there has been no comprehensive feedback from buyers as yet.

The interface of GM Cryptolocker – ransomware for mobile platforms
The interface of GM Cryptolocker – ransomware for mobile platforms

RAT malware based on legitimate software – a clear new trend on the Russian underground is the development of malicious tools based on the source code of legitimate software for remote access (such as TeamViewer, AmmyAdmin, etc.). These tools are disguised as an update for the software or as a setup file. Additional tools traded on the forums exploit services and programs for remote control, such as RDS (Remote Desktop Services, RMS (Remote Manipulator System) and RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol).

To date, we have identified five different malicious tools of this kind for sale during the last six months. According to the sellers’ description, they are capable of bypassing defense mechanisms installed on the machine and gaining full access to it.

Screenshot from a video uploaded by the seller of TVSpy, a RAT based on TeamViewer software. The video presents the malware in action.
Screenshot from a video uploaded by the seller of TVSpy, a RAT based on TeamViewer software. The video presents the malware in action.

Loaders and Droppers – In recent months, we have identified a rise in this type of malware for sale on Russian underground forums. Generally, they it is spread via spam emails, and once installed on the system, serves as a tunnel for later installations of malicious programs. In this manner, defense mechanisms can be bypassed. One instance involving this malware was the infamous Andromeda, sold since 2011 to date for only $500. Andromeda was employed by the Carbanak group against financial targets. Aside from Andromeda, we also identified six new loaders and droppers offered for sale during the past six months.

Digital Certificates Trade – This phenomenon started as a sporadic sales thread, appearing occasionally on several forums during the last year. As demand expanded, trade in digital certificates evolved into a successful sub-category on Russian underground marketplaces. Recently, a dedicated online shop for trade in digital certificates was launched. The average price for one certificate is about 1.4 BTC.

The vigorous trade in these certificates demonstrates that they are quite useful for the purchasers, who use them to sign the malicious code they distribute and evade detection.

For obvious reasons, the sellers do not disclose the origin of the certificates, but claim they are authentic and were issued by a Certificate Authority (CA).

An online shop for digital certificates trade
An online shop for digital certificates trade

The Swine Flu Wants to Infect Your PC

Russian underground forums often serve as a marketplace for talented coders of sophisticated malware who develop attack tools to target the financial industry.

During routine monitoring of these forums, we came across a new type of malware loader called H1N1. Loaders are used as an initial intrusion vector, enabling an attacker to install malware on a workstation at a later time of his own choosing. They provide the attacker with both an initial foothold in the victim’s system and a future channel for delivering malicious programs at any time.

The new loader, which is named after the swine flu virus, was offered for sale in late April for $500 by a member of a Russian password-protected forum.

According to the sales thread, H1N1 is a non-resident loader. This means that it is executed in the system, installs the programs from its task list, and deletes itself after the computer is rebooted. (A resident loader, on the other hand, writes itself into the operating system and is not deleted after reboot. Since it receives commands from the C&C server, it can keep installing malicious software on the infected computer.)

H1N1 characteristics

  • Bypasses User Account Control (UAC) through a UAC whitelist, which allows it to run files with elevated privileges. This bypass does not require use of additional .dll libraries or Windows Sysprep. If the loader is unable to receive elevated privileges, it will run programs with user privileges.
  • Traffic in both directions is encrypted.
  • Installs .exe files on the infected computer using Windows Instrumentation Management (WMI). The .dll files are installed from memory.
  • Has an embedded security mechanism that recognizes when it is being executed in a virtual machine.
  • Can be injected into the address space of legitimate system processes (of the default browsers).
  • Bypasses AV and HIPS programs. With AV programs, it does this by identifying their running processes and paths, creating copies of the processes, injecting into the copied processes, and finally, disabling all threads of the AV software’s legitimate processes.
  • Elevates privileges from a low integrity level by using WMI and exploiting the CVE-2014-4113 vulnerability.
  • Identifies and neutralizes certain AV programs.
H1N1 administration panel
H1N1 administration panel

A number of forum members who claimed to have used the tool gave generally positive feedback but stated that it does not bypass all AV programs. According to the technical analysis (below), Kaspersky Internet Security identified the presence of the loader, while ESET NOD32 and Outpost Security Suite did not. Avira only identified the activity as malicious in some cases (depending on the crypt of the loader).

In a VirusTotal analysis of the loader’s files, the detection ratio was 41/57 for the dropper file (as of May 21, 2015) and 22/57 for the memory file (as of May 14, 2015).

Technical Analysis

It is common practice on closed Russian forums for veteran, trusted members to analyze and validate malware sold by newbies to prevent them from cheating and selling a low-quality product. It is harder to find buyers for non-validated malware, especially if the seller is new to the forum (for a review of different types of sellers, see our previous post on this subject). Since a major part of the underground ecosystem is based on reputation and the hierarchy on different underground forums, an impartial entity whose role is to validate new goods is extremely important.

Ares, the administrator of a well-known Russian forum, conducted a validation analysis to check whether H1N1 really possesses the capabilities claimed by the seller, including the ability to bypass security measures. He published an extensive review on his forum.

According to Ares, the code is written in Assembly language and was obfuscated (for security purposes). Once all the initial procedures are loaded (the code utilizes kernel32 and advapi32 during loading), the loader launches the Explorer process from syswow64 on x64 systems and system32 on x86 systems. The process is mapped with a rewritten shellcode entrypoint.

The shellcode receives all of the necessary APIs and reads a packed binary file (which it extracts).

The binary is a .dll file that scans for various important API elements and then checks the hash signature of the filename through which the process was started. If the file name is Explorer, it tries to elevate its privileges.

Initially the malicious .dll file copies itself and patches with the shellcode. Later it moves the copied file into the system32/setup folder. After that, H1N1 runs several checks (such as OS version) and tries to elevate its privileges from medium to high.

The loader uses various methods to inject malicious content into legitimate processes. For example, if injection into a default browser fails, it tries to inject the malicious content through svchost.

Lastly, the execution module kicks in where the loader will be executed. The malware conducts fake network tests (for example, pinging various websites), collects information about the infected machine, and then requests content from the C&C server. The HTTP requests are encrypted with RC4 and the data length is transferred in the HTTP header.

HTTP requests from the C&C server
HTTP requests from the C&C server

Following publication of the analysis by Ares and in response to critical feedback from forum members, the seller has been updating and improving H1N1. For example, he responded to criticism of the UAC bypass by announcing that he had changed the bypass method and that it was now similar to the method used by the Carberp Trojan.

In later tests performed by several authoritative forum members, privilege escalation and the UAC bypass had a relatively low success rate. However, since then, the author claims to have fixed the problems with the loader.

An Important Recommendation

H1N1 uses bthudtask.exe for its purposes. This executable is part of Microsoft Windows and is usually located under C:\Windows\system32. The file description is “Bluetooth Uninstall Device Task.” If you do not require Bluetooth devices, we would strongly recommend removing the file from your end-points.

Conclusion

H1N1 is a new type of malware loader and is not yet very sophisticated. However, it has attracted the attention of many high-ranking Russian underground forum members, who have analyzed it and written about its weak points. This seems to be encouraging the seller to improve and upgrade his product and fix the bugs.

Shell Profiles on the Russian Underground

Russian underground cyber-markets are known venues for purchasing high-quality hacking tools and services. Many such tools, popular worldwide, make their first appearances on closed Russian forums. There are two main types of sellers on these platforms: well-known members with seniority and strong reputations, who have already sold tools and received positive buyer feedback, and an emerging “shell profile” type of user. According to our recent analysis, such users typically register to a forum a few days before posting an advertisement for the tool. These new users often enlist the aid of forum administrators and more senior members, by providing them with a copy of the tool for their review, and thus gain the trust of potential buyers.

CTB-Locker

For example, CTB-Locker, a malware program, was first advertised on a Russian underground forum on June 10, 2014 by a user called Tapkin. This ransomware scans the computer for data files, encrypts them with a unique algorithm, and demands a ransom to release them. Tapkin registered on this forum on June 2, 2014, several days before posting the advertisement, and posted a total of five messages to the forum, all on the subject of CTB-Locker. Around this time, a user by the same name posted identical information on other forums.

Tapkin registered to another Russian underground forum on June 13, 2014, and three days later, he advertised the tool on the forum. This was the first and only thread that Tapkin started on this platform, and all of his posts were about this topic.

Tapkin stopped selling CTB-Locker on June 27, but on November 19, 2014, he posted another advertisement, this time for “serious” clients only. Tapkin last advertised the ransomware on a carding forum on December 8, 2014, after registering to this forum the same day.

Thus, in three cases, Tapkin registered to a forum a few days before posting an advertisement for the tool and did not participate in any other forum discussions. As a newly created profile, Tapkin lacked seniority and therefore had low credibility. However, our impression is that this user demonstrates knowledge regarding the tool, its capabilities and can answer questions regarding the technical component of the tool fluently. An analysis of Tapkin’s posts indicates that behind the shell profile is not one person, but rather a group of people who developed the tool together.

Forum comments indicating the presence of a team behind the username Tapkin
Forum comments indicating the presence of a team behind the username Tapkin

This username appears to have been created for the sole purpose of selling the ransomware, which was only advertised on Russian-speaking platforms. On May 19, 2015, a well-known forum user posted a message stating that his computer had been infected by CTB-Locker and asking for Tapkin. However, Tapkin had by then already disappeared.

Forum member post searching for Tapkin in correlation with CTB-Locker
Forum member post searching for Tapkin in correlation with CTB-Locker

Loki Bot

Another example of malware advertised by a new forum member is the Loki Bot password and coin wallet stealer. Loki Bot, written in C++, can steal passwords from browsers, FTP/SSH applications, email accounts, and poker clients. It has an option to configure C&C IP addresses or domains.

Bot-selling advertisement
Bot-selling advertisement

This bot, which works on Windows versions XP, Vista, 7, 8, and 8.1, is relatively new and is still under development. It was first advertised on a well-known Russian underground forum in early May 2015 by a new user with no reputation. A week later, a user by the same name registered on two other well-known underground forums attempted to boost his credibility by sending the forum administrator a test version of the malware. Similar to the previous example, we assume that a group of people is behind this user as well.

Forum administrator approves a new tool advertised by a “shell profile” user (May 18, 2015)
Forum administrator approves a new tool advertised by a “shell profile” user (May 18, 2015)

We can see that new users are registering on Russian underground forums for one purpose only, to sell a particular malware program, and their entire online presence is focused on this. They register to a forum a few days before posting an advertisement for the tool and do not participate in other forum discussions. Newly created profiles lack seniority and therefore have low credibility ratings. Sometimes such users attempt to improve their credibility by sending the forum administrator a test version of the malware. In some cases we can see that behind the shell profile there is a team, and not an individual. They appear suddenly and disappear just as suddenly after their business is completed.

SenseCy 2014 Annual Cyber Intelligence Report

Written and prepared by SenseCy’s Cyber Intelligence analysts.

Executive Summary

Clearly, 2014 was an important year in the cyber arena. The technical level of the attacks, the variety of tools and methods used and the destructive results achieved have proven, yet again, that cyber is a cross-border tool that is rapidly gaining momentum.

This year, we witnessed attacks on key vectors: cyber criminals setting their sights on targets in the private sector, hacktivists using cyber tools for their ideological struggles, state-sponsored campaigns to facilitate spying on high-profile targets, and cyber conflicts between countries.

The following is an excerpt from an annual report prepared by our Cyber Intelligence analysts. To receive a copy, please send a request to: info@sensecy.com

Insights

Below are several of our insights regarding cyber activity this past year:

  • The financial sector was and continues to be a key target for cyber criminals, with most of the corporations hacked this year in the U.S. being attacked through infection of Point-of-Sale (POS) systems. Despite the high level of awareness as to the vulnerability of these systems following the Target breach at the end of 2013, ever more organizations are continuing to fall victim to these types of attacks, as the cybercrime community develops and sells dedicated tools for these systems.
  • In 2014, we saw another step up in the use of cyber as a cross-border weapon, the use of which can be highly destructive. This was evidenced in the attack on JPMorgan, which according to reports was a response to sanctions imposed by the U.S. on Russia. The ensuing Sony breach and threats to peoples’ lives should the movie The Interview be screened exacerbated the state of asymmetrical war in cyber space, where on the one hand, we see countries attacking companies, and on the other, groups of hackers attacking countries. This trend becomes even more concerning following the reports of the deaths of three workers at a nuclear reactor in South Korea, after it became the target of a targeted cyber-attack, evidently by North Korean entities.
  • This past year was rife with campaigns by anti-Israel hacktivist campaigns, whose motivation for attacking Israel’s cyber networks was especially strong. Again, it was clearly demonstrated that the relationship between physical and virtual space is particularly strong, when alongside Operation Protective Edge (July-August 2014), we witnessed a targeted cyber campaign by hacktivist organizations from throughout the Muslim world (but not only) and by cyber terror groups, which in some cases were able to score significant successes. We believe that in 2015, attacks by hacktivist groups will become higher quality (DDoS attacks at high bandwidth, for example) and the use of vectors, which to date have been less common, such as attacks against mobile devices, will become increasingly frequent.
  • Involvement of the internal factor in cyber-attacks: According to some speculations published recently in the global media regarding the massive Sony breach, former company employees  may have abused their positions and status to steal confidential information and try to harm the organization. This underscores the importance of information security and internal compartmentalization in organizations with databases containing sensitive information.

The Past Year on the Russian Underground

In 2014, we saw active underground trading of malware and exploits, with some of them being used in attacks inside and outside Russia that gained widespread media coverage in sources dealing with information security.

The following is a list of categories of malware and the main services offered for sale in 2014 on the Russian-speaking underground forums. Note that in this analysis, we only included important tools that were well-received by the buyers, which indicates their reliability and level of professionalism. Additionally, only tools that were sold for over a month were included. Let us also note that the analysis does not include special PoS firmware, but only programs designed to facilitate remote information theft through takeover of the terminal.

Malware_Russian Underground

Prices

The average price of a tool offered for sale in 2014 was $1,500. Since 2013, the average price has increased by $500. The following graph lists the average price in each of the categories outlined above (in USD):

Average_Price_by_Category

Key Trends Observed on the Russian Underground this Past Year

Trojan Horses for the Financial Sector

Malware designed to target financial institutions is a highly sought-after product on the Russian underground, and this past year we observed the development of malware based on Kronos source code – Zeus, Chthonic (called Udacha by the seller) and Dyre malware. Additionally, the sale of tools designed to sell login details for banking sites via mobile devices were also observed.

In this context, it should be noted that the modular structure of many types of financial malware allows flexibility by both the seller and the buyer. Most financial malware is sold in this format – meaning, various modules responsible for the malware’s activity can be purchased separately: Formgrabber module, Web-Injections module and more.

MitM Attacks

This type of attack vector, known to cyber criminals as Web injections, is most common as a module in Trojan horses for the financial sector. Members of many forums offer their services as injection writers, referring to creation of malware designed to be integrated into a specific banking Trojan horse (generally based on Zeus), tailored to the specific bank, which imitates the design of its windows, etc. In 2014, we saw this field prosper, with at least seven similar services offered on the various forums.

Ransomware

This year we witnessed a not insignificant amount of ransomware for sale on Russian-speaking forums. It would appear that the forums see a strong potential for profit through this attack vector and therefore invest in the development of ransomware. Furthermore, note that some of the ransomware uses the Tor network to better conceal the command and control servers. Since CryptoLocker was discovered in September 2013, we have seen numerous attempts at developing similar malware both for PCs and laptops.

Additional trends and insights are detailed in the full report.