Cybersecurity researchers today uncovered a new critical vulnerability affecting the Server Message Block (SMB) protocol that could allow attackers to leak kernel memory remotely, and when combined with a previously disclosed “wormable” bug, the flaw can be exploited to achieve remote code execution attacks.

Dubbed “SMBleed” (CVE-2020-1206) by cybersecurity firm ZecOps, the flaw resides in SMB’s decompression function — the same function as with SMBGhost or EternalDarkness bug (CVE-2020-0796), which came to light three months ago, potentially opening vulnerable Windows systems to malware attacks that can propagate across networks.

The newly discovered vulnerability impacts Windows 10 versions 1903 and 1909, for which Microsoft today released security patches as part of its monthly Patch Tuesday updates for June.

The development comes as the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued an advisory last week warning Windows 10 users to update their machines after exploit code for SMBGhost bug was published online last week.

SMBGhost was deemed so serious that it received a maximum severity rating score of 10.

SMBleed vulnerability

“Although Microsoft disclosed and provided updates for this vulnerability in March 2020, malicious cyber actors are targeting unpatched systems with the new PoC, according to recent open-source reports,” CISA said.

SMB, which runs over TCP port 445, is a network protocol that provides the basis for file sharing, network browsing, printing services, and interprocess communication over a network.

According to ZecOps researchers, the flaw stems from the way the decompression function in question (“Srv2DecompressData“) handles specially crafted message requests (e.g., SMB2 WRITE) sent to a targeted SMBv3 Server, allowing an attacker to read uninitialized kernel memory and make modifications to the compression function.

“The message structure contains fields such as the amount of bytes to write and flags, followed by a variable-length buffer,” the researchers said. “That’s perfect for exploiting the bug since we can craft a message such that we specify the header, but the variable-length buffer contains uninitialized data.”

“An attacker who successfully exploited the vulnerability could obtain information to further compromise the user’s system. To exploit the vulnerability against a server, an unauthenticated attacker could send a specially crafted packet to a targeted SMBv3 server,” Microsoft said in its advisory.

“To exploit the vulnerability against a client, an unauthenticated attacker would need to configure a malicious SMBv3 server and convince a user to connect to it,” Microsoft added.

smbleed

Worse, SMBleed can be chained with SMBGhost on unpatched Windows 10 systems to achieve remote code execution. The firm has also released a proof-of-concept exploit code demonstrating the flaws.

windows security

To mitigate the vulnerability, it’s recommended that home and business users install the latest Windows updates as soon as possible.

For systems where the patch is not applicable, it’s advised to block port 445 to prevent lateral movement and remote exploitation.

Microsoft’s security guidance addressing SMBleed and SMBGhost in Windows 10 version 1909 and 1903 and Server Core for the same versions can be found here and here.

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Microsoft today released software patches to plug at least 129 security holes in its Windows operating systems and supported software, by some accounts a record number of fixes in one go for the software giant. None of the bugs addressed this month are known to have been exploited or detailed prior to today, but there are a few vulnerabilities that deserve special attention — particularly for enterprises and employees working remotely.

June marks the fourth month in a row that Microsoft has issued fixes to address more than 100 security flaws in its products. Eleven of the updates address problems Microsoft deems “critical,” meaning they could be exploited by malware or malcontents to seize complete, remote control over vulnerable systems without any help from users.

A chief concern among the panoply of patches is a trio of vulnerabilities in the Windows file-sharing technology (a.k.a. Microsoft Server Message Block or “SMB” service). Perhaps most troubling of these (CVE-2020-1301) is a remote code execution bug in SMB capabilities built into Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 systems — both operating systems that Microsoft stopped supporting with security updates in January 2020. One mitigating factor with this flaw is that an attacker would need to be already authenticated on the network to exploit it, according to security experts at Tenable.

The SMB fixes follow closely on news that proof-of-concept code was published this week that would allow anyone to exploit a critical SMB flaw Microsoft patched for Windows 10 systems in March (CVE-2020-0796). Unlike this month’s critical SMB bugs, CVE-2020-0796 does not require the attacker to be authenticated to the target’s network. And with countless company employees now working remotely, Windows 10 users who have not yet applied updates from March or later could be dangerously exposed right now.

Microsoft Office and Excel get several updates this month. Two different flaws in Excel (CVE-2020-1225 and CVE-2020-1226) could be used to remotely commandeer a computer running Office just by getting a user to open a booby-trapped document. Another weakness (CVE-2020-1229) in most versions of Office may be exploited to bypass security features in Office simply by previewing a malicious document in the preview pane. This flaw also impacts Office for Mac, although updates are not yet available for that platform.

After months of giving us a welcome break from patching, Adobe has issued an update for its Flash Player program that fixes a single, albeit critical security problem. Adobe says it is not aware of any active exploits against the Flash flaw. Mercifully, Chrome and Firefox both now disable Flash by default, and Chrome and IE/Edge auto-update the program when new security updates are available. Adobe is slated to retire Flash Player later this year. Adobe also released security updates for its Experience Manager and Framemaker products.

Windows 7 users should be aware by now that while a fair number of flaws addressed this month by Microsoft affect Windows 7 systems, this operating system is no longer being supported with security updates (unless you’re an enterprise taking advantage of Microsoft’s paid extended security updates program, which is available to Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 enterprise users).

Before you update with this month’s patch batch, please make sure you have backed up your system and/or important files. It’s not uncommon for a wonky Windows update to hose one’s system or prevent it from booting properly, and some updates even have known to erase or corrupt files. So do yourself a favor and backup before installing any patches. Windows 10 even has some built-in tools to help you do that, either on a per-file/folder basis or by making a complete and bootable copy of your hard drive all at once.

And if you wish to ensure Windows has been set to pause updating so you can back up your files and/or system before the operating system decides to reboot and install patches on its own schedule, see this guide.

As always, if you experience glitches or problems installing any of these patches this month, please consider leaving a comment about it below; there’s a better-than-even chance other readers have experienced the same and may chime in here with some helpful tips.

Further reading:

AskWoody and Martin Brinkmann on Patch Tuesday fixes and potential pitfalls

Trend Micro’s Zero Day Initiative June 2020 patch lowdown

U.S-CERT on Active Exploitation of CVE-2020-0796

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hire-for-hacker

A team of cybersecurity researchers today outed a little-known Indian IT firm that has secretly been operating as a global hackers-for-hire service or hacking-as-a-service platform.

Based in Delhi, BellTroX InfoTech allegedly targeted thousands of high-profile individuals and hundreds of organizations across six continents in the last seven years.

Hack-for-hire services do not operate as a state-sponsored group but likely as a hack-for-hire company that conducts commercial cyberespionage against given targets on behalf of private investigators and their clients.

According to the latest report published by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, BellTroX—dubbed ‘Dark Basin‘ as a hacking group—targeted advocacy groups, senior politicians, government officials, CEOs, journalists, and human rights defenders.

“Over the course of our multi-year investigation, we found that Dark Basin likely conducted commercial espionage on behalf of their clients against opponents involved in high profile public events, criminal cases, financial transactions, news stories, and advocacy,” the report reads.

Citizen Lab started its investigation into the ‘Dark Basin’ group in 2017 after it was contacted by a journalist targeted with phishing pages that were served via the self-hosted open-source Phurl URL shortener.

phishing-page

Researchers found that attackers used the same URL shortener to disguise at least 27,591 other phishing links containing the targets’ email addresses.

“Because the shorteners created URLs with sequential shortcodes, we were able to enumerate them and identify almost 28,000 additional URLs containing email addresses of targets.”

Initially suspected to be state-sponsored, the hacking group was later identified as a hack-for-hire scheme, given the variety of targets.

phishing-page

Interestingly, Sumit Gupta, the owner of BellTroX company, was once indicted in California in 2015 for his role in a similar hack-for-hire scheme, along with two private investigators who admitted to paying him to hack the accounts of marketing executives.

“Dark Basin left copies of their phishing kit source code available openly online, as well as log files” that “recorded every interaction with the credential phishing website, including testing activity carried out by Dark Basin operators,” Citizen Lab said.

“We were able to identify several BellTroX employees whose activities overlapped with Dark Basin because they used personal documents, including a CV, as bait content when testing their URL shorteners.”

“They also made social media posts describing and taking credit for attack techniques containing screenshots of links to Dark Basin infrastructure.”

Citizen Lab notified hundreds of individuals and institutions targeted by BellTroX and shared their findings with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) on the request of several targets.

“Dark Basin has a remarkable portfolio of targets, from senior government officials and candidates in multiple countries to financial services firms such as hedge funds and banks to pharmaceutical companies.”

“Many of Dark Basin’s targets have a strong but unconfirmed sense that the targeting is linked to a dispute or conflict with a particular party whom they know.”

Cybersecurity company NortonLifeLock also conducting a parallel investigation into Dark Basin’s operations, dubbed as “Mercenary.Amanda” and released a list of Indicators of Compromise (IoC).

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In late May, KrebsOnSecurity alerted numerous officials in Florence, Ala. that their information technology systems had been infiltrated by hackers who specialize in deploying ransomware. Nevertheless, on Friday, June 5, the intruders sprang their attack, deploying ransomware and demanding nearly $300,000 worth of bitcoin. City officials now say they plan to pay the ransom demand, in hopes of keeping the personal data of their citizens off of the Internet.

Nestled in the northwest corner of Alabama, Florence is home to roughly 40,000 residents. It is part of a quad-city metropolitan area perhaps best known for the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio that recorded the dulcet tones of many big-name music acts in the 1960s and 70s.

Image: Florenceal.org

On May 26, acting on a tip from Milwaukee, Wisc.-based cybersecurity firm Hold Security, KrebsOnSecurity contacted the office of Florence’s mayor to alert them that a Windows 10 system in their IT environment had been commandeered by a ransomware gang.

Comparing the information shared by Hold Security dark web specialist Yuliana Bellini with the employee directory on the Florence website indicated the username for the computer that attackers had used to gain a foothold in the network on May 6 belonged to the city’s manager of information systems.

My call was transferred to no fewer than three different people, none of whom seemed eager to act on the information. Eventually, I was routed to the non-emergency line for the Florence police department. When that call went straight to voicemail, I left a message and called the city’s emergency response team.

That last effort prompted a gracious return call the following day from a system administrator for the city, who thanked me for the heads up and said he and his colleagues had isolated the computer and Windows network account Hold Security flagged as hacked.

“I can’t tell you how grateful we are that you helped us dodge this bullet,” the technician said in a voicemail message for this author. “We got everything taken care of now, and some different protocols are in place. Hopefully we won’t have another near scare like we did, and hopefully we won’t have to talk to each other again.”

But on Friday, Florence Mayor Steve Holt confirmed that a cyberattack had shut down the city’s email system. Holt told local news outlets at the time there wasn’t any indication that ransomware was involved.

However, in an interview with KrebsOnSecurity Tuesday, Holt acknowledged the city was being extorted by DoppelPaymer, a ransomware gang with a reputation for negotiating some of the highest extortion payments across dozens of known ransomware families.

The average ransomware payment by ransomware strain. Source: Chainalysis.

Holt said the same gang appears to have simultaneously compromised networks belonging to four other victims within an hour of Florence, including another municipality that he declined to name. Holt said the extortionists initially demanded 39 bitcoin (~USD $378,000), but that an outside security firm hired by the city had negotiated the price down to 30 bitcoin (~USD $291,000).

Like many other cybercrime gangs operating these days, DoppelPaymer will steal reams of data from victims prior to launching the ransomware, and then threaten to publish or sell the data unless a ransom demand is paid.

Holt told KrebsOnSecurity the city can’t afford to see its citizens’ personal and financial data jeopardized by not paying.

“Do they have our stuff? We don’t know, but that’s the roll of the dice,” Holt said.

Steve Price, the Florence IT manager whose Microsoft Windows credentials were stolen on May 6 by a DHL-themed phishing attack and used to further compromise the city’s network, explained that following my notification on May 26 the city immediately took a number of preventative measures to stave off a potential ransomware incident. Price said that when the ransomware hit, they were in the middle of trying to get city leaders to approve funds for a more thorough investigation and remediation.

“We were trying to get another [cybersecurity] response company involved, and that’s what we were trying to get through the city council on Friday when we got hit,” Price said. “We feel like we can build our network back, but we can’t undo things if peoples’ personal information is released.”

A DoppelPaymer ransom note. Image: Crowdstrike.

Fabian Wosar, chief technology officer at Emsisoft, said organizations need to understand that the only step which guarantees a malware infestation won’t turn into a full-on ransomware attack is completely rebuilding the compromised network — including email systems.

“There is a misguided belief that if you were compromised you can get away with anything but a complete rebuild of the affected networks and infrastructure,” Wosar said, noting that it’s not uncommon for threat actors to maintain control even as a ransomware victim organization is restoring their systems from backups.

“They often even demonstrate that they still ‘own’ the network by publishing screenshots of messages talking about the incident,” Wosar said.

Hold Security founder Alex Holden said Florence’s situation is all too common, and that very often ransomware purveyors are inside a victim’s network for weeks or months before launching their malware.

“We often get glimpses of the bad guys beginning their assaults against computer networks and we do our best to let the victims know about the attack,” Holden said. “Since we can’t see every aspect of the attack we advise victims to conduct a full investigation of the events, based on the evidence collected. But when we deal with sensitive situations like ransomware, timing and precision are critical. If the victim will listen and seek out expert opinions, they have a great chance of successfully stopping the breach before it turns into ransom.”

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Web Application Firewall bypass – part 3


From: Red Timmy Security <publications () redtimmy com>
Date: Sun, 07 Jun 2020 20:16:46 +0200


Hi

we have published the part 3 of "How to hack a company by circumventing its WAF for fun and profit". We basically show how the usage of a single character can be abused to skip common checks performed at layer 7 by network devices and security appliances.

 

Also another case where F5 Big-IP WAF is bypassed by means of SSRF is shown.

 Full story here:
https://www.redtimmy.com/web-application-hacking/how-to-hack-a-company-by-circumventing-its-waf-for-fun-and-profit-part-3/ Regards
RedTimmy Security _______________________________________________
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Pydio cells – New advisory publication


From: Pablo Zurro via Fulldisclosure <fulldisclosure () seclists org>
Date: Mon, 8 Jun 2020 07:38:50 +0000


https://www.coresecurity.com/core-labs/advisories/pydio-cells-204-multiple-vulnerabilities _______________________________________________
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Ciphermail – New advisory publlication


From: Pablo Zurro via Fulldisclosure <fulldisclosure () seclists org>
Date: Mon, 8 Jun 2020 07:38:12 +0000


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Today, we are announcing the release of KTAE, the Kaspersky Threat Attribution Engine. This code attribution technology, developed initially for internal use by the Kaspersky Global Research and Analysis Team, is now being made available to a wider audience. You can read more about KTAE in our official press release, or go directly to its info page on the Kaspersky Enterprise site. From an internal tool, to prototype and product, this is a road which took about 3 years. We tell the story of this trip below, while throwing in a few code examples as well. However, before diving into KTAE, it’s important to talk about how it all started, on a sunny day, approximately three years ago.

May 12, 2017, a Friday, started in a very similar fashion to many other Fridays: I woke up, made coffee, showered and drove to work. As I was reading e-mails, one message from a colleague in Spain caught my attention. Its subject said “Crisis … (and more)”. Now, crisis (and more!) is not something that people appreciate on a Friday, and it wasn’t April 1st either. Going through the e-mail from my colleague, it became obvious something was going on in several companies around the world. The e-mail even had an attachment with a photo, which is now world famous:

Soon after that, Spain’s Computer Emergency Response Team CCN-CERT, posted an alert on their site about a massive ransomware attack affecting several Spanish organizations. The alert recommended the installation of updates in the Microsoft March 2017 Security Bulletin as a means of stopping the spread of the attack. Meanwhile, the National Health Service (NHS) in the U.K. also issued an alert and confirmed infections at 16 medical institutions.

As we dug into the attack, we confirmed additional infections in several additional countries, including Russia, Ukraine, and India.

Quite essential in stopping these attacks was the Kaspersky System Watcher component. The System Watcher component has the ability to rollback the changes done by ransomware in the event that a malicious sample manages to bypass other defenses. This is extremely useful in case a ransomware sample slips past defenses and attempts to encrypt the data on the disk.

As we kept analysing the attack, we started learning more things; for instance, the infection relied on a famous exploit, (codenamed “EternalBlue”), that has been made available on the internet through the Shadowbrokers dump on April 14th, 2017 and patched by Microsoft on March 14. Despite the fact the patch has been available for two months, it appeared that many companies didn’t patch. We put together a couple of blogs, updated our technical support pages and made sure all samples were detected and blocked even on systems that were vulnerable to the EternalBlue exploit.

Meanwhile, as everyone was trying to research the samples, we were scouting for any possible links to known criminal or APT groups, trying to determine how a newcomer malware was able to cause such a pandemic in just a few days. The explanation here is simple – for ransomware, it is not very often that we get to see completely new, built from scratch, pandemic-level samples. In most cases, ransomware attacks make use of some popular malware that is sold by criminals on underground forums or, “as a service”.

And yet, we couldn’t spot any links with known ransomware variants. Things became a bit clearer on Monday evening, when Neel Mehta, a researcher at Google, posted a mysterious message on Twitter with the #WannaCryptAttribution hashtag:

The cryptic message in fact referred to a similarity between two samples that have shared code. The two samples Neel refers to in the post were:

  • A WannaCry sample from February 2017 which looks like a very early variant
  • A Lazarus APT group sample from February 2015

The similarity can be observed in the screenshot below, taken between the two samples, with the shared code highlighted:

Although some people doubted the link, we immediately realized that Neel Mehta was right. We put together a blog diving into this similarity, “WannaCry and Lazarus Group – the missing link?”. The discovery of this code overlap was obviously not a random hit. For years, Google integrated the technology they acquired from Zynamics into their analysis tools making it possible to cluster together malware samples based on shared code. Obviously, the technology seemed to work rather nicely. Interestingly, one month later, an article was published suggesting the NSA also reportedly believed in this link.

Thinking about the story, the overlap between WannaCry and Lazarus, we put a plan together – what if we built a technology that can quickly identify code reuse between malware attacks and pinpoint the likely culprits in future cases? The goal would be to make this technology available in a larger fashion to assist threat hunters, SOCs and CERTs speed up incident response or malware triage. The first prototype for this new technology was available internally June 2017, and we continued to work on it, fine-tuning it, over the next months.

In principle, the problem of code similarity is relatively easy. Several approaches have been tested and discussed in the past, including:

  • Calculating checksums for subs and comparing them against a database
  • Reconstructing the code flow and creating a graph from it; comparing graphs for similar structures
  • Extracting n-grams and comparing them against a database
  • Using fuzzy hashes on the whole file or parts of it
  • Using metadata, such as the rich header, exports or other parts of the file; although this isn’t code similarity, it can still yield some very good results

To find the common code between two malware samples, one can, for instance, extract all 8-16 byte strings, then check for overlaps. There’s two main problems to that though:

  • Our malware collection is too big; if we want to do this for all the files we have, we’d need a large computing cluster (read: thousands of machines) and lots of storage (read: Petabytes)
  • Capex too small

Additionally, doing this massive code extraction, profiling and storage, not to mention searching, in an efficient way that we can provide as a stand-alone box, VM or appliance is another level of complexity.

To refine it, we started experimenting with code-based Yara rules. The idea was also simple and beautiful: create a Yara rule from the unique code found in a sample, then use our existing systems to scan the malware collection with that Yara rule.

Here’s one such example, inspired by WannaCry:

This innocent looking Yara rule above catches BlueNoroff (malware used in the Bangladesh Bank Heist), ManusCrypt (a more complex malware used by the Lazarus APT, also known as FALLCHILL) and Decafett, a keylogger that we previously couldn’t associate with any known APT.

A breakthrough in terms of identifying shared code came in Sep 2017, when for the first time we were able to associate a new, “unknown” malware with a known entity or set of tools. This happened during the #CCleaner incident, which was initially spotted by Morphisec and Cisco Talos.

In particular, our technology spotted a fragment of code, part of a custom base64 encoding subroutine, in the Cbkrdr shellcode loader that was identical to one seen in a previous malware sample named Missl, allegedly used by APT17:

Digging deeper, we identified at least three malware families that shared this code: Missl, Zoxpng/Gresim and Hikit, as shown below in the Yara hits:

In particular, the hits above are the results of running a custom Yara rule, based on what we call “genotypes” – unique fragments of code, extracted from a malware sample, that do not appear in any clean sample and are specific to that malware family (as opposed to being a known piece of library code, such as zlib for instance).

As a side note, Kris McConkey from PwC delivered a wonderful dive into Axiom’s tools during his talk “Following APT OpSec failures” at SAS 2015 – highly recommended if you’re interested in  learning more about this APT super-group.

Soon, the Kaspersky Threat Attribution Engine – “KTAE” – also nicknamed internally “Yana”, became one of the most important tools in our analysis cycle.

Digging deeper, or more case studies

The United States Cyber Command, or in short, “USCYBERCOM”, began posting samples to VirusTotal in November 2018, an excellent move in our opinion. The only drawback for these uploads was the lack of any context, such as the malware family, if it’s APT or criminal, which group uses them and whether they were found in the wild, or scooped from certain places. Although the first upload, a repurposed Absolute Computrace loader, wasn’t much of an issue to recognize, an upload from May 2019 was a bit more tricky to identify. This was immediately flagged as Sofacy by our technology, in particular, as similar to known XTunnel samples, a backdoor used by the group. Here’s how the KTAE report looks like for the sample in question:

Analysis for d51d485f98810ab1278df4e41b692761

In February 2020, USCYBERCOM posted another batch of samples that we quickly checked with KTAE. The results indicated a pack of different malware families, used by several APT groups, including Lazarus, with their BlueNoroff subgroup, Andariel, HollyCheng, with shared code fragments stretching back to the DarkSeoul attack, Operation Blockbuster and the SPE Hack.

Going further, USCYBERCOM posted another batch of samples in May 2020, for which KTAE revealed a similar pattern.

Of course, one might wonder, what else can KTAE do except help with the identification of VT dumps from USCYBERCOM?

For a more practical check, we looked at the samples from the 2018 SingHealth data breach that, according to Wikipedia, was initiated by unidentified state actors. Although most samples used in the attack are rather custom and do not show any similarity with previous attacks, two of them have rather interesting links:

KTAE analysis for two samples used in the SingHealth data breach

Mofang, a suspected Chinese-speaking threat actor, was described in more detail in 2016 by this FOX-IT research paper, written by Yonathan Klijnsma and his colleagues. Interestingly, the paper also mentioned Singapore as a suspected country where this actor is active. Although the similarity is extremely weak, 4% and 1% respectively, they can easily point the investigator in the right direction for more investigation.

Another interesting case is the discovery and publication (“DEADLYKISS: HIT ONE TO RULE THEM ALL. TELSY DISCOVERED A PROBABLE STILL UNKNOWN AND UNTREATED APT MALWARE AIMED AT COMPROMISING INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS“) from our colleagues at Telsy of a new, previously unknown malware deemed “DeadlyKiss”. A quick check with KTAE on the artifact with sha256 c0d70c678fcf073e6b5ad0bce14d8904b56d73595a6dde764f95d043607e639b (md5: 608f3f7f117daf1dc9378c4f56d5946f) reveals a couple of interesting similarities with other Platinum APT samples, both in terms of code and unique strings.

Analysis for 608f3f7f117daf1dc9378c4f56d5946f

Another interesting case presented itself when we were analysing a set of files included in one of the Shadowbrokers dumps.

Analysis for 07cc65907642abdc8972e62c1467e83b

In the case above, “cnli-1.dll” (md5: 07cc65907642abdc8972e62c1467e83b) is flagged as being up to 8% similar to Regin. Looking into the file, we spot this as a DLL, with a number of custom looking exports:

Looking into these exports, for instance, fileWriteEx, shows the library has actually been created to act as a wrapper for popular IO functions, most likely for portability purposes, enabling the code to be compiled for different platforms:

Speaking of multiplatform malware, recently, our colleagues from Leonardo published their awesome analysis of a new set of Turla samples, targeting Linux systems. Originally, we published about those in 2014, when we discovered Turla Penquin, which is one of this group’s backdoors for Linux. One of these samples (sha256: 67d9556c695ef6c51abf6fbab17acb3466e3149cf4d20cb64d6d34dc969b6502) was uploaded to VirusTotal in April 2020. A quick check in KTAE for this sample reveals the following:

Analysis for b4587870ecf51e8ef67d98bb83bc4be7 – Turla 64 bit Penquin sample

We can see a very high degree of similarity with two other samples (99% and 99% respectively) as well as other lower similarity hits to other known Turla Penquin samples. Looking at the strings they have in common, we immediately spot a few very good candidates for Yara rules—quite notably, some of them were already included in the Yara rules that Leonardo provided with their paper.

 

When code similarity fails

When looking at an exciting, brand new technology, sometimes it’s easy to overlook any drawbacks and limitations. However, it’s important to understand that code similarity technologies can only point in a certain direction, while it’s still the analyst’s duty to verify and confirm the leads. As one of my friends used to say, “the best malware similarity technology is still not a replacement for your brain” (apologies, dear friend, if the quote is not 100% exact, that was some time ago). This leads us to the case of OlympicDestroyer, a very interesting attack, originally described and named by Cisco Talos.

In their blog, the Cisco Talos researchers also pointed out that OlympicDestroyer used similar techniques to Badrabbit and NotPetya to reset the event log and delete backups. Although the intention and purpose of both implementations of the techniques are similar, there are many differences in the code semantics. It’s definitely not copy-pasted code, and because the command lines were publicly discussed on security blogs, these simple techniques became available to anyone who wants to use them.

In addition, Talos researchers noted that the evtchk.txt filename, which the malware used as a potential false-flag during its operation, was very similar to the filenames (evtdiag.exe, evtsys.exe and evtchk.bat) used by BlueNoroff/Lazarus in the Bangladesh SWIFT cyberheist in 2016.

Soon after the Talos publication, the Israeli company IntezerLabs tweeted that they had found links to Chinese APT groups. As a side node, IntezerLabs have an exceptional code similarity technology themselves that you can check out by visiting their site at analyze.intezer.com.

IntezerLabs further released a blogpost with an analysis of features found using their in-house malware similarity technology.

A few days later, media outlets started publishing articles suggesting potential motives and activities by Russian APT groups: “Crowdstrike Intelligence said that in November and December of 2017 it had observed a credential harvesting operation operating in the international sporting sector. At the time it attributed this operation to Russian hacking group Fancy Bear”…

On the other hand, Crowdstrike’s own VP of Intelligence, Adam Meyers, in an interview with the media, said: “There is no evidence connecting Fancy Bear to the Olympic attack”.

Another company, Recorded Future, decided to not attribute this attack to any actor; however, they claimed that they found similarities to BlueNoroff/Lazarus LimaCharlie malware loaders that are widely believed to be North Korean actors.

During this “attribution hell”, we also used KTAE to check the samples for any possible links to previous known campaigns. And amazingly, KTAE discovered a unique pattern that also linked Olympic Destroyer to Lazarus. A combination of certain code development environment features stored in executable files, known as a Rich header, may be used as a fingerprint identifying the malware authors and their projects in some cases. In the case of the Olympic Destroyer wiper sample analyzed by Kaspersky, this “fingerprint” produced a match with a previously known Lazarus malware sample. Here’s how today’s KTAE reports it:

Analysis for 3c0d740347b0362331c882c2dee96dbf

The 4% similarity shown above comes from the matches in the sample’s Rich header. Initially, we were surprised to find the link, even though it made sense; other companies also spotted the similarities and Lazarus was already known for many destructive attacks. Something seemed odd though. The possibility of North Korean involvement looked way off mark, especially since Kim Jong-un’s own sister attended the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang. According to our forensic findings, the attack was started immediately before the official opening ceremony on 9 February, 2018. As we dug deeper into this case, we concluded it was an elaborate false flag; further research allowed us to associate the attack with the Hades APT group (make sure you also read our analysis: “Olympic destroyer is here to trick the industry“).

This proves that even the best attribution or code similarity technology can be influenced by a sophisticated attacker, and the tools shouldn’t be relied upon blindly. Of course, in 9 out of 10 cases, the hints work very well. As actors become more and more skilled and attribution becomes a sensitive geopolitical topic, we might experience more false flags such as the ones found in the OlympicDestroyer.

If you liked this blog, then you can hear more about KTAE and using it to generate effective Yara rules during the upcoming “GReAT Ideas, powered by SAS” webinar, where, together with my colleague Kurt Baumgartner, we will be discussing practical threat hunting and how KTAE can boost your research. Make sure to register for GReAT Ideas, powered by SAS, by clicking here.

Register: https://www.brighttalk.com/webcast/15591/414427

Note: more information about the APTs discussed here, as well as KTAE, is available to customers of Kaspersky Intelligence Reporting. Contact: intelreports@kaspersky.com

 

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Magecart hackers

Hacking groups are continuing to leverage misconfigured AWS S3 data storage buckets to insert malicious code into websites in an attempt to swipe credit card information and carry out malvertising campaigns.

In a new report shared with The Hacker News, cybersecurity firm RiskIQ said it identified three compromised websites belonging to Endeavor Business Media last month that are still hosting JavaScript skimming code — a classic tactic embraced by Magecart, a consortium of different hacker groups who target online shopping cart systems.

The unpatched affected websites host emergency services-related content and chat forums catering to firefighters, police officers, and security professionals, per RiskIQ.

  • www[.]officer[.]com
  • www[.]firehouse[.]com
  • www[.]securityinfowatch[.]com

The cyber firm said it hasn’t heard back from Endeavor Business Media despite reaching out to the company to address the issues.
As a consequence, it’s working with Swiss non-profit cybersecurity firm Abuse.ch to sinkhole the malicious domains associated with the campaign.

Amazon S3 (short for Simple Storage Service) is a scalable storage infrastructure that offers a reliable means to save and retrieve any amount of data via a web services interface.

cybersecurity

These virtual credit card skimmers, also known as formjacking attacks, are typically JavaScript code that Magecart operators stealthily insert into a compromised website, often on payment pages, designed to capture customers’ card details in real-time and transmit it to a remote attacker-controlled server.

Last July, RiskIQ uncovered a similar Magecart campaign leveraging misconfigured S3 buckets to inject digital credit card skimmers on 17,000 domains.

credit card skimmer code

In addition to using JavaScript to load the skimmer, RiskIQ said it discovered additional code that it calls “jqueryapi1oad” used in connection with a long-running malvertising operation that began in April 2019 and has infected 277 unique hosts to date.

“We first identified the jqueryapi1oad malicious redirector — so named after the cookie we connected with it — in July of 2019,” the researchers said. “Our research team determined that the actors behind this malicious code were also exploiting misconfigured S3 buckets.”

The code sets the jqueryapi1oad cookie with an expiration date based on the outcome of a bot check and creates a new DOM element in the page into which it’s been injected. Then it proceeds to download additional JavaScript code that, in turn, loads a cookie associated with Keitaro traffic distribution system (TDS) to redirect traffic to scam ads tied to HookAds malvertising campaign.

flash player

“The domain futbolred[.]com is a Colombian soccer news site that’s in the top 30,000 of global Alexa rankings. It also misconfigured an S3 bucket, leaving it open to jqueryapi1oad,” the researchers said.

To mitigate these threats, RiskIQ recommends securing S3 buckets with the right level of permissions, in addition to using Access Control Lists (ACLs) and bucket policies to grant access to other AWS accounts or to public requests.

“Misconfigured S3 buckets that allow malicious actors to insert their code into numerous websites is an ongoing issue,” RiskIQ concluded. “In today’s threat environment, businesses cannot move forward safely without having a digital footprint, an inventory of all digital assets, to ensure they are under the management of your security team and properly configured.”

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