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The Hacker News - Most Trusted Cyber Security and Computer Security Analysis: Cobalt Strike

New Malware Campaign Targeting Job Seekers with Cobalt Strike Beacons

New Malware Campaign Targeting Job Seekers with Cobalt Strike Beacons
September 30, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
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
August 26, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
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
August 18, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
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
August 02, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
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
July 06, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
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
June 27, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
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, 2022The Hacker News
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
March 28, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
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
February 23, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
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
February 22, 2022Ravie Lakshmanan
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

New BLISTER Malware Using Code Signing Certificates to Evade Detection

New BLISTER Malware Using Code Signing Certificates to Evade Detection
December 24, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Cybersecurity researchers have disclosed details of an evasive malware campaign that makes use of valid code signing certificates to sneak past security defenses and stay under the radar with the goal of deploying Cobalt Strike and BitRAT payloads on compromised systems. The binary, a loader, has been dubbed "Blister" by researchers from Elastic Security, with the malware samples having  negligible  to  zero  detections on VirusTotal. As of writing, the infection vector used to stage the attack, as well as the ultimate objectives of the intrusion, remains unknown. A notable aspect of the attacks is that they leverage a valid code signing certificate issued by  Sectigo . The malware has been observed signed with the certificate in question dating back to September 15, 2021. Elastic said it reached out to the company to ensure that the abused certificates are revoked. "Executables with valid code signing certificates are often scrutinized to a lesser degree than unsig

SolarWinds Hackers Targeting Government and Business Entities Worldwide

SolarWinds Hackers Targeting Government and Business Entities Worldwide
December 07, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Nobelium, the threat actor attributed to the massive SolarWinds supply chain compromise, has been once again linked to a series of attacks targeting multiple cloud solution providers, services, and reseller companies, as the hacking group continues to refine and retool its tactics at an alarming pace in response to public disclosures. The intrusions, which are being tracked by Mandiant under two different activity clusters UNC3004 and UNC2652, are both associated with UNC2452, an  uncategorized threat group  that has since been tied to the Russian intelligence service. UNC2652, in particular, has been observed targeting diplomatic entities with phishing emails containing HTML attachments with malicious JavaScript, ultimately dropping a Cobalt Strike Beacon onto the infected devices. "In most instances, post compromise activity included theft of data relevant to Russian interests," Mandiant researchers Luke Jenkins, Sarah Hawley, Parnian Najafi, and Doug Bienstock  said  in

BlackBerry Uncovers Initial Access Broker Linked to 3 Distinct Hacker Groups

BlackBerry Uncovers Initial Access Broker Linked to 3 Distinct Hacker Groups
November 08, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
A previously undocumented initial access broker has been unmasked as providing entry points to three different threat actors for mounting intrusions that range from financially motivated ransomware attacks to phishing campaigns. BlackBerry's research and intelligence team dubbed the entity " Zebra2104 ," with the group responsible for offering a means of a digital approach to ransomware syndicates such as MountLocker and Phobos, as well as the advanced persistent threat (APT) tracked under the moniker  StrongPity  (aka Promethium). The threat landscape as we know it has been increasingly dominated by a category of players known as the initial access brokers ( IABs ), who are known to provide other cyber-criminal groups, including ransomware affiliates, with a  foothold to an infinite pool of potential organizations  belonging to diverse geographies and sectors via persistent backdoors into the victim networks, effectively building a pricing model for remote access. &

Hackers Using Squirrelwaffle Loader to Deploy Qakbot and Cobalt Strike

Hackers Using Squirrelwaffle Loader to Deploy Qakbot and Cobalt Strike
October 27, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
A new spam email campaign has emerged as a conduit for a previously undocumented malware loader that enables the attackers to gain an initial foothold into enterprise networks and drop malicious payloads on compromised systems. "These infections are also used to facilitate the delivery of additional malware such as Qakbot and Cobalt Strike, two of the most common threats regularly observed targeting organizations around the world,"  said  researchers with Cisco Talos in a technical write-up. The malspam campaign is believed to have commenced in mid-September 2021 via laced Microsoft Office documents that, when opened, triggers an infection chain that leads to the machines getting infected with a malware dubbed SQUIRRELWAFFLE . Mirroring a technique that's consistent with other phishing attacks of this kind, the latest operation leverages stolen email threads to give it a veil of legitimacy and trick unsuspecting users into opening the attachments. What's more, t

Ransomware Group FIN12 Aggressively Going After Healthcare Targets

Ransomware Group FIN12 Aggressively Going After Healthcare Targets
October 08, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
An "aggressive" financially motivated threat actor has been identified as linked to a string of RYUK ransomware attacks since October 2018, while maintaining close partnerships with TrickBot-affiliated threat actors and using a publicly available arsenal of tools such as Cobalt Strike Beacon payloads to interact with victim networks. Cybersecurity firm Mandiant attributed the intrusions to a Russian-speaking hacker group rechristened as FIN12, and previously tracked under the name  UNC1878 , with a disproportionate focus on healthcare organizations with more than $300 million in revenue, among others, including education, financial, manufacturing, and technology sectors, located in North America, Europe, and the Asia Pacific. The designation marks the first time a ransomware affiliate group has been promoted to the status of a distinct threat actor. "FIN12 relies on partners to obtain initial access to victim environments," Mandiant researchers  said . "Not

Windows MSHTML 0-Day Exploited to Deploy Cobalt Strike Beacon in Targeted Attacks

Windows MSHTML 0-Day Exploited to Deploy Cobalt Strike Beacon in Targeted Attacks
September 16, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Microsoft on Wednesday disclosed details of a targeted phishing campaign that leveraged a now-patched zero-day flaw in its MSHTML platform using specially-crafted Office documents to deploy Cobalt Strike Beacon on compromised Windows systems. "These attacks used the vulnerability, tracked as  CVE-2021-40444 , as part of an initial access campaign that distributed custom Cobalt Strike Beacon loaders," Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center  said  in a technical write-up. "These loaders communicated with an infrastructure that Microsoft associates with multiple cybercriminal campaigns, including human-operated ransomware." Details about CVE-2021-40444 (CVSS score: 8.8) first  emerged  on September 7 after researchers from EXPMON alerted the Windows maker about a "highly sophisticated zero-day attack" aimed at Microsoft Office users by taking advantage of a remote code execution vulnerability in MSHTML (aka Trident), a proprietary browser engine for the now
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