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Gootkit Malware Continues to Evolve with New Components and Obfuscations

Gootkit Malware Continues to Evolve with New Components and Obfuscations
Jan 29, 2023 Cyber Threat / Malware
The threat actors associated with the Gootkit malware have made "notable changes" to their toolset, adding new components and obfuscations to their infection chains. Google-owned Mandiant is  monitoring  the activity cluster under the moniker  UNC2565 , noting that the usage of the malware is "exclusive to this group." Gootkit , also called Gootloader, is spread through compromised websites that victims are tricked into visiting when searching for business-related documents like agreements and contracts via a technique called search engine optimization (SEO) poisoning. The purported documents take the form of ZIP archives that harbor the JavaScript malware, which, when launched, paves the way for additional payloads such as  Cobalt Strike Beacon , FONELAUNCH, and SNOWCONE. FONELAUNCH is a .NET-based loader designed to load an encoded payload into memory, whereas SNOWCONE is a downloader that's tasked with retrieving next-stage payloads, typically  IcedID ,

Threat Actors Turn to Sliver as Open Source Alternative to Popular C2 Frameworks

Threat Actors Turn to Sliver as Open Source Alternative to Popular C2 Frameworks
Jan 23, 2023 Threat Detection / Infosec
The legitimate command-and-control (C2) framework known as Sliver is  gaining   more traction  from threat actors as it emerges as an open source alternative to  Cobalt Strike  and Metasploit. The findings come from Cybereason, which  detailed  its inner workings in an exhaustive analysis last week. Sliver, developed by cybersecurity company BishopFox, is a Golang-based cross-platform post-exploitation framework that's designed to be used by security professionals in their red team operations. Its myriad features for adversary simulation – including dynamic code generation, in-memory payload execution, and process injection – have also made it an appealing tool for threat actors looking to gain elevated access to the target system upon gaining an initial foothold. In other words, the software is used as a second-stage to conduct next steps of the attack chain after already compromising a machine using one of the initial intrusion vectors such as spear-phishing or exploitatio

Nighthawk Likely to Become Hackers' New Post-Exploitation Tool After Cobalt Strike

Nighthawk Likely to Become Hackers' New Post-Exploitation Tool After Cobalt Strike
Nov 23, 2022
A nascent and legitimate penetration testing framework known as Nighthawk is likely to gain threat actors' attention for its Cobalt Strike-like capabilities. Enterprise security firm Proofpoint said it detected the use of the software in mid-September 2022 by a red team with a number of test emails sent using generic subject lines such as "Just checking in" and "Hope this works2." However, there are no indications that a leaked or cracked version of Nighthawk is being weaponized by threat actors in the wild, Proofpoint researcher Alexander Rausch  said  in a write-up. Nighthawk, launched in December 2021 by a company called MDSec, is analogous to its counterparts  Cobalt Strike ,  Sliver , and  Brute Ratel , offering a red team toolset for adversary threat simulation. It's licensed for £7,500 (or $10,000) per user for a year. "Nighthawk is the most advanced and evasive command-and-control framework available on the market," MDSec  notes . &qu

Google Identifies 34 Cracked Versions of Popular Cobalt Strike Hacking Toolkit in the Wild

Google Identifies 34 Cracked Versions of Popular Cobalt Strike Hacking Toolkit in the Wild
Nov 21, 2022
Google Cloud last week disclosed that it identified 34 different hacked release versions of the Cobalt Strike tool in the wild, the earliest of which  shipped  in November 2012. The versions, spanning 1.44 to 4.7, add up to a total of 275 unique JAR files, according to findings from the Google Cloud Threat Intelligence (GCTI) team. The  latest version  of Cobalt Strike is version 4.7.2. Cobalt Strike, developed by  Fortra  (née HelpSystems), is a popular adversarial framework used by red teams to simulate attack scenarios and test the resilience of their cyber defenses. It comprises a Team Server that acts as the command-and-control (C2) hub to remotely commandeer infected devices and a stager that's designed to deliver a next-stage payload called the Beacon, a fully-featured implant that reports back to the C2 server. Given its wide-ranging suite of features, unauthorized versions of the software have been  increasingly   weaponized  by  many  a  threat   actor  to  advance

Critical RCE Vulnerability Discovered in Popular Cobalt Strike Hacking Software

Critical RCE Vulnerability Discovered in Popular Cobalt Strike Hacking Software
Oct 18, 2022
HelpSystems, the company behind the Cobalt Strike software platform, has released an out-of-band security update to address a remote code execution vulnerability that could allow an attacker to take control of targeted systems. Cobalt Strike is a commercial red-team framework that's mainly used for adversary simulation, but cracked versions of the software have been  actively   abused  by ransomware operators and espionage-focused advanced persistent threat (APT) groups alike. The  post-exploitation tool  consists of a team server, which functions as a command-and-control (C2) component, and a beacon, the default malware used to create a connection to the team server and drop next-stage payloads. The issue, tracked as  CVE-2022-42948 , affects Cobalt Strike version 4.7.1, and stems from an incomplete patch released on September 20, 2022, to rectify a cross-site scripting ( XSS ) vulnerability ( CVE-2022-39197 ) that could lead to remote code execution. "The XSS vulnerabi

Black Basta Ransomware Hackers Infiltrate Networks via Qakbot to Deploy Brute Ratel C4

Black Basta Ransomware Hackers Infiltrate Networks via Qakbot to Deploy Brute Ratel C4
Oct 17, 2022
The threat actors behind the  Black Basta   ransomware family  have been observed using the Qakbot trojan to deploy the Brute Ratel C4 framework as a second-stage payload in recent attacks. The development marks the first time the  nascent adversary simulation software  is being delivered via a Qakbot infection, cybersecurity firm Trend Micro  said  in a technical analysis released last week. The intrusion, achieved using a phishing email containing a weaponized link pointing to a ZIP archive, further entailed the use of Cobalt Strike for lateral movement. While these legitimate utilities are designed for conducting penetration testing activities, their ability to offer remote access has made them a lucrative tool in the hands of attackers looking to stealthily probe the compromised environment without attracting attention for extended periods of time. This has been compounded by the fact that a  cracked version  of Brute Ratel C4 (BRc4 v1.2.2) began circulating last month across

New Malware Campaign Targeting Job Seekers with Cobalt Strike Beacons

New Malware Campaign Targeting Job Seekers with Cobalt Strike Beacons
Sep 30, 2022
A social engineering campaign leveraging job-themed lures is weaponizing a years-old remote code execution flaw in Microsoft Office to deploy Cobalt Strike beacons on compromised hosts. "The payload discovered is a leaked version of a Cobalt Strike beacon," Cisco Talos researchers Chetan Raghuprasad and Vanja Svajcer  said  in a new analysis published Wednesday. "The beacon configuration contains commands to perform targeted process injection of arbitrary binaries and has a high reputation domain configured, exhibiting the redirection technique to masquerade the beacon's traffic." The malicious activity, discovered in August 2022, attempts to exploit the vulnerability  CVE-2017-0199 , a remote code execution issue in Microsoft Office, that allows an attacker to take control of an affected system. The entry vector for the attack is a phishing email containing a Microsoft Word attachment that employs job-themed lures for roles in the U.S. government and Publ

Cybercrime Groups Increasingly Adopting Sliver Command-and-Control Framework

Cybercrime Groups Increasingly Adopting Sliver Command-and-Control Framework
Aug 26, 2022
Nation-state threat actors are  increasingly adopting  and integrating the Sliver command-and-control (C2) framework in their intrusion campaigns as a replacement for Cobalt Strike. "Given Cobalt Strike's popularity as an attack tool, defenses against it have also improved over time," Microsoft security experts  said . "Sliver thus presents an attractive alternative for actors looking for a lesser-known toolset with a low barrier for entry." Sliver, first made public in late 2019 by cybersecurity company BishopFox, is a Go-based  open source C2 platform  that supports user-developed extensions, custom implant generation, and other commandeering options. "A C2 framework usually includes a server that accepts connections from implants on a compromised system, and a client application that allows the C2 operators to interact with the implants and launch malicious commands," Microsoft said. Besides facilitating long-term access to infected hosts, the cross-platform kit is also known

Researchers Detail Evasive DarkTortilla Crypter Used to Deliver Malware

Researchers Detail Evasive DarkTortilla Crypter Used to Deliver Malware
Aug 18, 2022
A .NET-based evasive crypter named  DarkTortilla  has been used by threat actors to distribute a broad array of commodity malware as well as targeted payloads like Cobalt Strike and Metasploit, likely  since 2015 . "It can also deliver 'add-on packages' such as additional malicious payloads, benign decoy documents, and executables," cybersecurity firm Secureworks  said  in a Wednesday report. "It features robust anti-analysis and anti-tamper controls that can make detection, analysis, and eradication challenging." Malware delivered by the crypter includes information steakers and remote access trojans (RATs) such as Agent Tesla, AsyncRat, NanoCore, and RedLine Stealer. "DarkTortilla has versatility that similar malware does not," the researchers noted. Crypters are  software tools  that use a  combination  of encryption, obfuscation, and code manipulation of malware so as to  bypass detection  by security solutions. The delivery of DarkTortil

Chinese Hackers Using New Manjusaka Hacking Framework Similar to Cobalt Strike

Chinese Hackers Using New Manjusaka Hacking Framework Similar to Cobalt Strike
Aug 02, 2022
Researchers have disclosed a new offensive framework referred to as Manjusaka that they call is a "Chinese sibling of Sliver and Cobalt Strike." "A fully functional version of the command-and-control (C2), written in Golang with a User Interface in Simplified Chinese, is freely available and can generate new implants with custom configurations with ease, increasing the likelihood of wider adoption of this framework by malicious actors," Cisco Talos  said  in a new report. Sliver  and  Cobalt Strike  are legitimate adversary emulation frameworks that have been repurposed by threat actors to carry out post-exploitation activities such as network reconnaissance, lateral movement, and facilitating the deployment of follow-on payloads. Written in Rust, Manjusaka -- meaning "cow flower" -- is advertised as an equivalent to the Cobalt Strike framework with capabilities to target both Windows and Linux operating systems. Its developer is believed to be located

Hackers Abusing BRc4 Red Team Penetration Tool in Attacks to Evade Detection

Hackers Abusing BRc4 Red Team Penetration Tool in Attacks to Evade Detection
Jul 06, 2022
Malicious actors have been observed abusing legitimate adversary simulation software in their attacks in an attempt to stay under the radar and evade detection. Palo Alto Networks Unit 42 said a  malware sample  uploaded to the VirusTotal database on May 19, 2022, contained a payload associated with Brute Ratel C4, a relatively new sophisticated toolkit "designed to avoid detection by endpoint detection and response (EDR) and antivirus (AV) capabilities." Authored by an Indian security researcher named  Chetan Nayak , Brute Ratel (BRc4) is analogous to Cobalt Strike and is  described  as a "customized command-and-control center for red team and adversary simulation." The commercial software was first released in late 2020 and has since gained over 480 licenses across 350 customers. Each license is offered at $2,500 per user for a year, after which it can be renewed for the same duration at the cost of $2,250. BRc4 is equipped with a wide variety of features,

Researchers Warn of 'Matanbuchus' Malware Campaign Dropping Cobalt Strike Beacons

Researchers Warn of 'Matanbuchus' Malware Campaign Dropping Cobalt Strike Beacons
Jun 27, 2022
A malware-as-a-service (Maas) dubbed  Matanbuchus  has been observed spreading through phishing campaigns, ultimately dropping the Cobalt Strike post-exploitation framework on compromised machines. Matanbuchus, like other  malware loaders  such as  BazarLoader ,  Bumblebee , and  Colibri , is engineered to download and execute second-stage executables from command-and-control (C&C) servers on infected systems without detection. Available on Russian-speaking cybercrime forums for a price of $2,500 since February 2021, the malware is equipped with capabilities to launch .EXE and .DLL files in memory and run arbitrary PowerShell commands. The findings, released by threat intelligence firm Cyble last week, document the latest infection chain associated with the loader, which is linked to a threat actor who goes by the online moniker BelialDemon. "If we look historically, BelialDemon has been involved in the development of malware loaders," Unit 42 researchers Jeff White

Malware Analysis: Trickbot

Malware Analysis: Trickbot
May 24, 2022
In this day and age, we are not dealing with roughly pieced together, homebrew type of viruses anymore. Malware is an industry, and professional developers are found to exchange, be it by stealing one's code or deliberate collaboration. Attacks are multi-layer these days, with diverse sophisticated software apps taking over different jobs along the attack-chain from initial compromise to ultimate data exfiltration or encryption. The specific tools for each stage are highly specialized and can often be rented as a service, including customer support and subscription models for professional (ab)use. Obviously, this has largely increased both the availability and the potential effectiveness and impact of malware. Sound scary?  Well, it does, but the apparent professionalization actually does have some good sides too. One factor is that certain reused modules commonly found in malware can be used to identify, track, and analyze professional attack software. Ultimately this means that

Hackers Hijack Email Reply Chains on Unpatched Exchange Servers to Spread Malware

Hackers Hijack Email Reply Chains on Unpatched Exchange Servers to Spread Malware
Mar 28, 2022
A new email phishing campaign has been spotted leveraging the tactic of conversation hijacking to deliver the IcedID info-stealing malware onto infected machines by making use of unpatched and publicly-exposed Microsoft Exchange servers. "The emails use a social engineering technique of conversation hijacking (also known as thread hijacking)," Israeli company Intezer said in a report shared with The Hacker News. "A forged reply to a previous stolen email is being used as a way to convince the recipient to open the attachment. This is notable because it increases the credibility of the phishing email and may cause a high infection rate." The latest wave of attacks, detected in mid-March 2022, is said to have targeted organizations within energy, healthcare, law, and pharmaceutical sectors. IcedID, aka BokBot, like its counterparts TrickBot and  Emotet , is a  banking trojan  that has evolved to become an entry point for more sophisticated threats, including hu

Dridex Malware Deploying Entropy Ransomware on Hacked Computers

Dridex Malware Deploying Entropy Ransomware on Hacked Computers
Feb 23, 2022
Similarities have been unearthed between the Dridex general-purpose malware and a little-known ransomware strain called Entropy , suggesting that the operators are continuing to rebrand their extortion operations under a different name. "The similarities are in the software packer used to conceal the ransomware code, in the malware subroutines designed to find and obfuscate commands (API calls), and in the subroutines used to decrypt encrypted text," cybersecurity firm Sophos  said  in a report shared with The Hacker News. The commonalities were uncovered following two unrelated incidents targeting an unnamed media company and a regional government agency. In both cases, the deployment of Entropy was preceded by infecting the target networks with Cobalt Strike Beacons and Dridex, granting the attackers remote access. Despite consistency in some aspects of the twin attacks, they also varied significantly with regards to the initial access vector used to worm their way ins

Hackers Backdoor Unpatched Microsoft SQL Database Servers with Cobalt Strike

Hackers Backdoor Unpatched Microsoft SQL Database Servers with Cobalt Strike
Feb 22, 2022
Vulnerable internet-facing Microsoft SQL (MS SQL) Servers are being targeted by threat actors as part of a new campaign to deploy the Cobalt Strike adversary simulation tool on compromised hosts. "Attacks that target MS SQL servers include attacks to the environment where its vulnerability has not been patched, brute forcing, and  dictionary attack  against poorly managed servers," South Korean cybersecurity company AhnLab Security Emergency Response Center (ASEC)  said  in a report published Monday. Cobalt Strike is a commercial, full-featured  penetration testing framework  that allows an attacker to deploy an agent named "Beacon" on the victim machine, granting the operator remote access to the system. Although billed as a red team threat simulation platform,  cracked versions  of the software have been  actively used  by a wide range of threat actors. Intrusions observed by ASEC involve the unidentified actor scanning port 1433 to check for exposed MS SQL s
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