Spectre, Meltdown researchers unveil 7 more speculative execution attacks

Systemic analysis reveals a range of new issues and a need for new mitigations.

Spectre, Meltdown researchers unveil 7 more speculative execution attacks

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

Back at the start of the year, a set of attacks that leveraged the speculative execution capabilities of modern high-performance processors was revealed. The attacks were named Meltdown and Spectre. Since then, numerous variants of these attacks have been devised. In tandem, a range of mitigation techniques has been created to enable at-risk software, operating systems, and hypervisor platforms to protect against these attacks.

A research team—including many of the original researchers behind Meltdown, Spectre, and the related Foreshadow and BranchScope attacks—has published a new paper disclosing yet more attacks in the Spectre and Meltdown families. The result? Seven new possible attacks. Some are mitigated by known mitigation techniques, but others are not. That means further work is required to safeguard vulnerable systems.

The previous investigations into these attacks has been a little ad hoc in nature; examining particular features of interest to provide, for example, a Spectre attack that can be performed remotely over a network, or Meltdown-esque attack to break into SGX enclaves. The new research is more systematic, looking at the underlying mechanisms behind both Meltdown and Spectre and running through all the different ways the speculative execution can be misdirected.

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Windows 10 October 2018 Update is back, this time without deleting your data

Microsoft is opening up about some of its testing procedures, too.

This message, shown during Windows upgrades, is going to be salt in the wound.

Enlarge / This message, shown during Windows upgrades, is going to be salt in the wound.

Just over a month since its initial release, Microsoft is making the Windows 10 October 2018 Update widely available today. The update was withdrawn shortly after its initial release due to the discovery of a bug causing data loss.

New Windows 10 feature updates use a staggered, ramping rollout, and this (re)release is no different. Initially, it'll be offered only to two groups of people: those who manually tell their system to check for updates (and that have no known blocking issues due to, for example, incompatible anti-virus software), and those who use the media-creation tool to download the installer. If all goes well, Microsoft will offer the update to an ever-wider range of Windows 10 users over the coming weeks.

For the sake of support windows, Microsoft is treating last month's release as if it never happened; this release will receive 30 months of support and updates, with the clock starting today. The same is true for related products; Windows Server 2019 and Windows Server, version 1809, are both effectively released today.

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WebCobra Malware Uses Victims’ Computers to Mine Cryptocurrency

The authors thank their colleagues Oliver Devane and Deepak Setty for their help with this analysis. McAfee Labs researchers have discovered new Russian malware, dubbed WebCobra, which harnesses victims’ computing power to mine for cryptocurrencies. Coin mining malware is difficult to detect. Once a machine is compromised, a malicious app runs silently in the background […]

The post WebCobra Malware Uses Victims’ Computers to Mine Cryptocurrency appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

The authors thank their colleagues Oliver Devane and Deepak Setty for their help with this analysis.

McAfee Labs researchers have discovered new Russian malware, dubbed WebCobra, which harnesses victims’ computing power to mine for cryptocurrencies.

Coin mining malware is difficult to detect. Once a machine is compromised, a malicious app runs silently in the background with just one sign: performance degradation. As the malware increases power consumption, the machine slows down, leaving the owner with a headache and an unwelcome bill, as the energy it takes to mine a single bitcoin can cost from $531 to $26,170, according to a recent report.

The increase in the value of cryptocurrencies has inspired cybercriminals to employ malware that steals machine resources to mine crypto coins without the victims’ consent.

The following chart shows how the prevalence of miner malware follows changes in the price of Monero cryptocurrency.

Figure 1: The price of cryptocurrency Monero peaked at the beginning of 2018. The total samples of coin miner malware continue to grow. Source: https://coinmarketcap.com/currencies/monero/.

McAfee Labs has previously analyzed the cryptocurrency file infector CoinMiner; and the Cyber Threat Alliance, with major assistance from McAfee, has published a report, “The Illicit Cryptocurrency Mining Threat.” Recently we examined the Russian application WebCobra, which silently drops and installs the Cryptonight miner or Claymore’s Zcash miner, depending on the architecture WebCobra finds. McAfee products detect and protect against this threat.

We believe this threat arrives via rogue PUP installers. We have observed it across the globe, with the highest number of infections in Brazil, South Africa, and the United States.

Figure 2: McAfee Labs heat map of WebCobra infections from September 9–13.

This cryptocurrency mining malware is uncommon in that it drops a different miner depending on the configuration of the machine it infects. We will discuss that detail later in this post.

Behavior

The main dropper is a Microsoft installer that checks the running environment. On x86 systems, it injects Cryptonight miner code into a running process and launches a process monitor. On x64 systems, it checks the GPU configuration and downloads and executes Claymore’s Zcash miner from a remote server.

Figure 3: WebCobra’s installation window.

After launching, the malware drops and unzips a password-protected Cabinet archive file with this command:

Figure 4: The command to unzip the dropped file.

The CAB file contains two files:

  • LOC: A DLL file to decrypt data.bin
  • bin: Contains the encrypted malicious payload

The CAB file uses the following script to execute ERDNT.LOC:

Figure 5: The script to load the DLL file, ERDNT.LOC.

ERDNT.LOC decrypt data.bin and passes the execution flow to it with this routine:

  • [PlainText_Byte] = (([EncryptedData_Byte] + 0x2E) ^ 0x2E) + 0x2E

Figure 6: The decryption routine. 

The program checks the running environment to launch the proper miner, shown in the following diagram:

Figure 7: Launching the proper miner depending on a system’s configuration.

Once data.bin is decrypted and executed, it tries a few anti-debugging, anti-emulation, and anti-sandbox techniques as well as checks of other security products running on the system. These steps allow the malware to remain undetected for a long time.

Most security products hook some APIs to monitor the behavior of malware. To avoid being found by this technique, WebCobra loads ntdll.dll and user32.dll as data files in memory and overwrites the first 8 bytes of those functions, which unhooks the APIs.

List of unhooked ntdll.dll APIs

  • LdrLoadDll
  • ZwWriteVirtualMemory
  • ZwResumeThread
  • ZwQueryInformationProcess
  • ZwOpenSemaphore
  • ZwOpenMutant
  • ZwOpenEvent
  • ZwMapViewOfSection
  • ZwCreateUserProcess
  • ZwCreateSemaphore
  • ZwCreateMutant
  • ZwCreateEvent
  • RtlQueryEnvironmentVariable
  • RtlDecompressBuffer

List of unhooked user32.dll APIs

  • SetWindowsHookExW
  • SetWindowsHookExA

Infecting an x86 system

The malware injects malicious code to svchost.exe and uses an infinite loop to check all open windows and to compare each window’s title bar text with these strings. This is another check by WebCobra to determine if it is running in an isolated environment designed for malware analysis.

  • adw
  • emsi
  • avz
  • farbar
  • glax
  • delfix
  • rogue
  • exe
  • asw_av_popup_wndclass
  • snxhk_border_mywnd
  • AvastCefWindow
  • AlertWindow
  • UnHackMe
  • eset
  • hacker
  • AnVir
  • Rogue
  • uVS
  • malware

The open windows will be terminated if any of preceding strings shows in the windows title bar text.

Figure 8: Terminating a process if the windows title bar text contains specific strings.

Once the process monitor executes, it creates an instance of svchost.exe with the miner’s configuration file specified as an argument and injects the Cryptonight miner code.

Figure 9: Creating an instance of svchost.exe and executing the Cryptonight miner.

Finally, the malware resumes the process with the Cryptonight miner running silently and consuming almost all the CPU’s resources.

Figure 10: An x86 machine infected with the Cryptonight miner. 

Infecting an x64 system

The malware terminates the infection if it finds Wireshark running.

Figure 11: Checking for Wireshark.

The malware checks the GPU brand and mode. It runs only if one of the following GPUs is installed:

  • Radeon
  • Nvidia
  • Asus

Figure 12: Checking the GPU mode.

If these checks are successful, the malware creates the following folder with hidden attributes and downloads and executes Claymore’s Zcash miner from a remote server.

  • C:\Users\AppData\Local\WIX Toolset 11.2

Figure 13: Requesting the download of Claymore’s Zcash miner.

Figure 14: Claymore’s miner.

Figure 15: Executing the miner with its configuration file.

Finally, the malware drops a batch file at %temp%\–xxxxx.cMD to delete the main dropper from [WindowsFolder]\{DE03ECBA-2A77-438C-8243-0AF592BDBB20}\*.*.

Figure 16: A batch file deleting the dropper.

The configuration files of the miners follow.

Figure 17: Cryptonight’s configuration file.

This configuration file contains:

  • The mining pool: 5.149.254.170
  • Username: 49YfyE1xWHG1vywX2xTV8XZzbzB1E2QHEF9GtzPhSPRdK5TEkxXGRxVdAq8LwbA2Pz7jNQ9gYBxeFPHcqiiqaGJM2QyW64C
  • Password: soft-net

Figure 18: Claymore’s Zcash miner configuration file.

This configuration file contains:

  • The mining pool: eu.zec.slushpool.com
  • Username: pavelcom.nln
  • Password: zzz

Coin mining malware will continue to evolve as cybercriminals take advantage of this relatively easy path to stealing value. Mining coins on other people’s systems requires less investment and risk than ransomware, and does not depend on a percentage of victims agreeing to send money. Until users learn they are supporting criminal miners, the latter have much to gain.

 

MITRE ATT&CK techniques

  • Exfiltration over command and control channel
  • Command-line interface
  • Hooking
  • Data from local system
  • File and directory discovery
  • Query registry
  • System information discovery
  • Process discovery
  • System time discovery
  • Process injection
  • Data encrypted
  • Data obfuscation
  • Multilayer encryption
  • File deletion

Indicators of compromise

IP addresses
  • 149.249.13:2224
  • 149.254.170:2223
  • 31.92.212
Domains
  • fee.xmrig.com
  • fee.xmrig.com
  • ru
  • zec.slushpool.com

McAfee detections

  • CoinMiner Version 2 in DAT Version 8986; Version 3 in DAT Version 3437
  • l Version 2 in DAT Version 9001; Version 3 in DAT Version 3452
  • RDN/Generic PUP.x Version 2 in DAT Version 8996; Version 3 in DAT Version 3447
  • Trojan-FQBZ, Trojan-FQCB, Trojan-FQCR Versions 2 in DAT Version 9011; Versions 3 in DAT Version 3462

Hashes (SHA-256)

  • 5E14478931E31CF804E08A09E8DFFD091DB9ABD684926792DBEBEA9B827C9F37
  • 2ED8448A833D5BBE72E667A4CB311A88F94143AA77C55FBDBD36EE235E2D9423
  • F4ED5C03766905F8206AA3130C0CDEDEC24B36AF47C2CE212036D6F904569350
  • 1BDFF1F068EB619803ECD65C4ACB2C742718B0EE2F462DF795208EA913F3353B
  • D4003E6978BCFEF44FDA3CB13D618EC89BF93DEBB75C0440C3AC4C1ED2472742
  • 06AD9DDC92869E989C1DF8E991B1BD18FB47BCEB8ECC9806756493BA3A1A17D6
  • 615BFE5A8AE7E0862A03D183E661C40A1D3D447EDDABF164FC5E6D4D183796E0
  • F31285AE705FF60007BF48AEFBC7AC75A3EA507C2E76B01BA5F478076FA5D1B3
  • AA0DBF77D5AA985EEA52DDDA522544CA0169DCA4AB8FB5141ED2BDD2A5EC16CE

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NIST Announces Privacy Framework Effort

On September 4, 2018, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced the start of a collaborative project to develop a voluntary privacy framework to help organizations manage privacy related ris…

On September 4, 2018, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced the start of a collaborative project to develop a voluntary privacy framework to help organizations manage privacy related risk. The envisioned privacy framework will provide an enterprise-level approach to help organizations prioritize strategies for “flexible and effective privacy protection solutions so that individuals can enjoy the benefits of innovative technologies with greater confidence and trust.” Parallel with this effort, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration is developing a domestic legal and policy approach for consumer privacy in coordination with the department’s International Trade Administration.

NIST kicked off the privacy framework effort with a public workshop on October 16, 2018 in Austin, Texas held in conjunction with the International Association of Privacy Professionals’ Privacy, Security, Risk 2018 conference. NIST will be holding a live webinar and Q&A session on the privacy framework on November 29, 2018.

NIST is a non-regulatory federal agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce whose mission is to “promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life.”  NIST is perhaps most well known for its 2014 Cybersecurity Framework, which has been widely adopted by private and public enterprises to manage against cybersecurity risk. Previous posts addressed NIST’s prior efforts at issuing new maritime cybersecurity rules, focus on Internet of Things technology, and update to its 2014 Cybersecurity Framework.

The adoption of a privacy framework by NIST will have a significant impact on business. It will also represent a welcome effort in light of the rapidly changing privacy frameworks facing industry, including the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California’s new Privacy Law  (which we analyze here) going into effect January 1, 2020.

Dentons is the world’s largest law firm, a leader on the Acritas Global Elite Brand Index, a BTI Client Service 30 Award winner, and recognized by prominent business and legal publications for its innovations in client service, including founding Nextlaw Labs and the Nextlaw Global Referral NetworkThe Dentons Privacy and Cybersecurity Group operates at the intersection of technology and law, and has been singled out as one of the law firms best at cybersecurity by corporate counsel, according to BTI Consulting Group.