In the last few days, during monitoring activities, Yoroi CERT noticed a suspicious attack against an Italian organization. The malicious email contains a highly suspicious sample which triggered the ZLAB team to investigate its capabilities and its possible attribution, discovering a potential expansion of the TA505 operation. The threat group is also known for its recent attack campaign against Bank and Retail business sectors, but the latest evidence indicates a potential expansion of its criminal operation to other industries too.
|Brief Description||Excel file with malicious macro|
Table 1. Information about initial dropper
The intercepted attack starts with a spear-phishing email embedding a spreadsheet. The document is weaponized with malicious macro code triggered when the user opens the document to see the content under the obfuscated view.
To understand its capabilities, the macro code has been isolated and analyzed in detail. Part of the macro’s content is shown in the following figure.
Surprisingly, the source code is composed by more than 1600 lines of code and it is highly obfuscated. Paying more attention during the code analysis, we discovered that it is full of junk instructions used to declare and initialize variables never used, as shown in Figure 2. Only a small portion of this code is actually used to start the infection, the rest is just junk code.
Once the macro is executed, the malware downloads two files from “kentona[.su”, using an SSL encrypted communication, and stores them in “C:\Users\Public” path: “rtegre.exe” and “wprgxyeqd79.exe”.
|Brief Description||Trojan/Downloader (Executable file)|
Table 2. Information about “rtegre.exe” downloaded from “kentona[.su”
|Brief Description||SFX (self-extracting archive) (Executable file)|
Table 3. Information about “wprgxyeqd79.exe” (SFX) downloaded from “kentona[.su”
The “wprgxyeqd79.exe” sample actually is a Self Extracting Archive (SFX/SFA) containing four files designed to be extracted in the %TEMP% folder. After that, it executes “exit.exe” which launches the “i.cmd” batch script.
This new script performs a ping to “www[.cloudflare[.com” for three times with a delay of 3000ms, testing the connectivity of the victim machine. If the host is successfully reached, the script renames a file named “kernel.dll”, obviously not the real one, in “uninstall.exe”, another misleading name. Then it invokes the renamed executable and runs it passing a series of parameter: “uninstall.exe x -pQELRatcwbU2EJ5 -y”
These parameters are needed to self-decrypt the “uninstall.exe” file which is again another SFX archive. The “-p” parameter, indeed, specify the password of the archive to be extracted. The crucial file, at this point of the infection, is the SFX executable named “uninstall.exe”. It has a structure similar to previous “wprgxyeqd79.exe” file: two of their files have the same name, but the content of this new SFX is extracted in the “%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\Windows Anytime Upgrade” directory.
Another time, the execution flow moves from “exit.exe to “i.cmd”. The script is quite different from the previous one: it guarantees its persistence on the victim machine through the setting of “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run” registry key, creating a new entry named “Windows Anytime Upgrade” which points to “winserv.exe”, just stored into the same folder. Thus, the script provides to run “winserv.exe”.
An interesting part of the script is the continuous killing of every “rundll32.exe” process running into the victim machine, generates a huge amount of noise, as visible in the following process explorer view.
taskkill /f /im “rundll32.exe” || goto :Repeat
Anyway, just before the kill loop, the real malicious payload is executed: the “winserv.exe” file. Analyzing it in depth, we discover it actually is the RMS (Remote Manipulator System) client by TektonIT, encrypted using the MPress PE compressor utility, a legitimate tool, to avoid antivirus detection.
TektonIT RMS acts as a remote administration tool, allowing the attacker to gain complete access to the victim machine. Together with the RMS executable, there is another file named “settings.dat”containing the custom configuration prepared by the attacker. It contains information like:
All these information are automatically loaded by the RMS executable and firstly stored in the registry key “HKCU\Software\tektonik\Remote MANIPULATOR System\Host\parameters”. At the next startup, the software will directly load the configuration from the just created key.
The client establishes a new connection with the remote command and control server hosted on a Bulgarian remote host 18.104.22.168, part of a Virtual Dedicated Server subnet of the AS-21100, operated by ITL LLC.
The attack is composed by a complex flow we synthesize in the following scheme:
After the reconstruction of the full infection chain, we noticed strong similarities with a recent spear-phishing attack campaign against an unspecified US retail company. The attack, as stated by CyberInt, leveraged a command and control server located in Germany related to the TA505 actor: a very active group involved in cyber-criminal operation all around the world, threatening a wide range of high profile companies, active since 2014.
The comparison of the infection chains reveals in both cases the attacker used a couple of SFX stages to deploy the “RMS” software: a legitimate remote administration tool produced by the Russian company “TektonIT”. The tool is able to grant remote access and full, direct control of the infected machine to the group. Also, some code pieces are directly re-used in the analyzed campaigns, such as the “i.cmd” and “exit.exe” files, and, at the same time, some new components have been introduced, for instance the “rtegre.exe” and the “veter1605_MAPS_10cr0.exe” file.
During the analysis, we also noticed the “veter1605_MAPS_10cr0.exe” file slightly changed run after run, a few hours after the initial discovery the infection chain dropped it with different icons, different suffix, from “cr0” to “cr24”, and appendix from “veter1605_” to “veter2005_”. This may indicate the campaign is still ongoing.
The TA505 group is one of the most active threat groups operating since 2014, it has traditionally targeted Banking and Retail industries, as we recently documented during the analysis of the “Stealthy Email Stealer” part of their arsenal. The peculiarity of this recent attack wave is it actually hit a company not strictly in the Banking or Retail sector, as they recently did, suggesting the threat group could be potentially widening their current operations.
Technical details, including IoCs and Yara Rules, are available in the analysis published
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