The Double Life of SectorA05 Nesting in Agora (Operation Kitty Phishing)

Overview

In early January 2019, an email containing malware was distributed to 77 reporters covering topics related to the Unification Ministry of South Korea. We analysed these malware and identified them as malware used by SectorA05, and we confirm that they have been using a specific C2 server with a Korean domain name using Japanese IP address for at least 27 months continuously.

In addition to these phishing attacks containing malware, phishing attacks were also used to steal email account information. These attacks mainly targeted South Korean government personnel such as employees from the central government, unification ministry, diplomacy, and defense. Recently, they have also expanded their targets to include cryptocurrency exchanges and individual users.

Their main purpose is to capture government confidential information and achieve monetary gain through stealing cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum and Bitcoin. We decided to group these wave of attacks under what we call “Operation Kitty Phishing”. Their attacks have been ongoing on a daily basis, and what we have discovered so far only appears to be the tip of the iceberg.

January 2019 Unification Reporters Attack

On January 7th, 2019, an email containing malware was distributed to 77 reporters who cover topics related to the Unification Ministry of South Korea using the email subject “RE: TF 참고자료”. A “TF 참고.zip” attachment had a password set and the password was sent along with the body of the email. The word “비번” in the body of the email is a slang word is used mainly by South Koreans, so these hackers are proficient in South Korean.

The zip attachment consists of two normal document files and a piece of executable malware disguised using a Hangul Word Processor (HWP) document icon with a lot of spaces in the filename so that the “.exe” extension is not visible to the user, thereby inducing file execution. When the malware is executed as an SFX (self-extracting archive) file type, it decompresses one normal Hangul Word Processor (HWP) document, “2.wsf” and “3.wsf”. What is unique about this is that it uses two different RATs. The first RAT is a DLL downloaded via “2.wsf” and the second RAT is the script-based “3.wsf” file. Even if one of them are detected, the other one gets used.

A. DLL-based RAT (downloaded by “2.wsf”)

The purpose of the “2.wsf” script is to download and run the BASE64 encoded “Freedom.dll” malware.

The malware spreads using a Google Drive URL in the “2.wsf” script. The URL of the C2 server is stored in Google Drive, and the C2 URL at the time of analysis was “hxxp://my-homework.890m[.]com/bbs/data/”.

“2.wsf” sends a progress log to the C2 server by the progress step so that the hacker can check the progress of each target user.

URLDescription
hxxp://my-homework.890m[.]com/bbs/data/board.php?v=a Finished getting C2 URL
hxxp://my-homework.890m[.]com/bbs/data/board.php?v=b The file name to be saved has been created
hxxp://my-homework.890m[.]com/bbs/data/board.php?v=c The brave.ct file has been downloaded.
hxxp://my-homework.890m[.]com/bbs/data/board.php?v=e Decoded and saved as Freedom.dll
hxxp://my-homework.890m[.]com/bbs/data/board.php?v=f Executed the Freedom.dll file.

The file downloaded via “2.wsf” is “Freedom.dll”. This file uses Google Drive to get the address of the C2 server, but if it cannot connect to the C2 server or Google Drive, it uses “ago2[.]co[.]kr” as the C2 by default. This C2 server using a Korean Top Level Domain with a Japanese IP address is an important clue to track them.

This “Freedom.dll” file is designed to act as a downloader and has the following roles:

  • Check whether OS is 32-bit or 64-bit. If it is a 64bit OS, download and decrypt 64-bit malware (ahnlab.cab) then execute it.
  • It periodically sends infection information to the C2 server using the server relative path “/bbs/data/tmp/Ping.php?WORD=com_[MAC Address]&NOTE=[Windows Version]”
  • If the hacker uploads additional malware for a specific user, download “Cobra_[MAC Address]” file from C2 and decrypt the “Cobra_[MAC Address]” file then run Cobra.dll.
  • “/bbs/data/tmp/D.php?file=Cobra_[MAC Address]” is used to delete files from the C2 server.
  • DLL injection to explorer.exe

The “Freedom.dll” file uses a XOR Table to download and decrypt additional encrypted malware hosted on the C2 server. The XOR Table values used is ”
B20A82932F459278D44058ADBF3113FB56C1D749947D0FE00FE0ABC84BC8A02B” and this XOR Table has also been used in previous attacks of same hacker organization. More information about this XOR table is covered later in this post.

Depending on the target user, the hacker also selectively sends additional malware binaries under the file name “Cobra_[MAC Address]” which steals user information. This helps them ensure that their more valuable malware is kept only for victims they are interested in.

These additional malware binaries are covered later in this post.

B. Script-based RAT (“3.wsf”)

The “3.wsf” script is a script-based RAT. Unlike other malicious WSF (Windows Script File) scripts, it has its own RAT function and registers itself in the “RUN” registry with an “AhnLab V4” value to the persistent mechanism. AhnLab is a Korean local security vendor.

“3.wsf” downloads the C2 server’s URL from Google Drive.

URLDescription
hxxp://my-homework.890m[.]com/gnu/ver Version Check / Update
hxxp://my-homework.890m[.]com/gnu/board.php?m=MAC_ADDR&v=VERSION|TIMEOUT Get C2 command

The kinds of commands that the attacker makes through the C2 server are as follows.

[C2 command processing logic included in ‘3.wsf’ RAT]
C2 Control CodeDescription
cmd Execute command
download Download file from C2 server
upload Upload file to C2 server
update Update the “3.wsf” file
interval Change execution cycle (Default value 3 minutes)

A look at their past

We analyzed the above malware and identified them as SectorA05. Below is a look at their activities and attack methods based on the information from their malware.

Phishing Method of SectorA05 (Initial attack stage)

SectorA05 uses two methods of phishing for gaining initial access. First, phishing attacks to steal passwords of victim e-mail accounts and second, phishing attacks with malware attached to steal information of victim PCs.

A. Phishing attacks that steal passwords of email accounts

They create a phishing site similar to one that the target user uses and sends it to the target. They often mislead the victim using a security-related problem, such as a password reset request, to entice the target user to enter a password.

B. Malware attachment attacks

Malware is delivered via a variety of email attachments – script files, vulnerabilities in HWP documents, and renamed “EXE” executables looking like ordinary documents. These files are usually delivered as compressed files.

(1) Using script files

“WSF” and “VBS” script files are compressed into a single archive, which induces the user to execute the script file in the compressed file. The scripts used in the actual attack are as follows.

  • “정보보고.wsf” (Jan 2018)

    SHA256: 575606c03d3775cd8880c76a3ef7c014cfcab08411a01f07fc3fcb60166be50b

  • “공지사항.png.vbs” (July 2018)

    SHA256: c87f4aeebd3f518ba30780cb9b8b55416dcdc5a38c3080d71d193428b0c1cc5a

(2) Vulnerabilities in HWP documents

Using vulnerabilities in the HWP software which is widely used in Korea, malware can be executed when the target user views this document which was attached to the email. The HWP file used in the actual attack is as follows.

  • “종전선언.hwp” (May 2018)

    SHA256: 5f2ac8672e19310bd532c47d209272bd75075696dea6ffcc47d1d37f18aff141

(3) Executables looking like normal documents

The attacker inserts a lot of spaces in the filename to make the extension of the executable file such as “.exe” or “.scr” to be hidden from the user and misleads them into thinking the executable files are normal document files. The files used in the actual attack are as follows.

  • “미디어 권력이동⑥-넷플렉스, 유튜브.hwp [many space] .exe” ( Jan 2019)

    SHA256: c6c332ae1ccb580ac621d3cf667ce9c017be41f8ad04a94c0c0ea37c4789dd14

  • “중국-연구자료.hwp [many space] .scr” (Jan 2019)

    SHA256: 84edc9b828de54d4bd00959fabf583a1392cb4c3eab3498c52818c96dc554b90

Use of Google Drive

SectorA05 used Google Drive as a way to supply malware. Malware binaries, C2 domain information necessary for normal malware operations, and malware configuration files were all uploaded to Google Drive with accounts they created. These binaries will be downloaded through a script executed by the victim during the initial infection, with additional configuration or customized malware downloaded as well afterward. Using Google Drive also allowed them to bypass network security devices which would typically ignore Google services as a white-listed domain.

Here is a screenshot of Google Drive used by them.

The Google Drive URLs identified as used by the organization are:

  • hxxps://drive[.]google[.]com/uc?export=download&id=0B9_jdTGo3-sndXJESjllMkloOFU
  • hxxps://drive[.]google[.]com/uc?export=download&id=0B9_jdTGo3-snT3RTMHJMZEk2Szg
  • hxxps://drive[.]google[.]com/uc?export=download&id=1MVR58_5SlXgDZ5arasQk9AnmihAb3KJ6
  • hxxps://drive[.]google[.]com/uc?export=download&id=1ocUSxHf_0jUjVMMbAQzwTJb0blUG0bYh
  • hxxps://drive[.]google[.]com/uc?export=download&id=1olByidca-8vkS-5jRKL9CirKPEP7waHm
  • hxxps://drive[.]google[.]com/uc?export=download&id=1RC5_9WWrfMMZKfu11OfIac5y2d5vRH1c
  • hxxps://drive[.]google[.]com/uc?export=download&id=1xCePTgAdwNIAN7MWOH_80aN_TZgn8uFv

Gmail Phishing attacks

SectorA05 conducted phishing attacks for each target user’s email service. They used phishing attacks on users who were using Korea’s leading e-mail services and Google’s Gmail service. Through these phishing attacks, they wanted to get the password of the target user account. Here’s a look at some examples of Gmail phishing attacks.

The following screenshot shows phishing emails disguised as being sent from Gmail’s security team. It is actually sent to a specific target user by a hacker in SectorA05. It requests the target user to protect their email account because there was some unusual activity which does not seem to have been performed by the target user – if the link is clicked, the target user is directed to the phishing login site where the target user’s password will be transferred to the attacker’s server if they enter their password and “protect” their account.

[Examples of Gmail phishing mail]

SectorA05 has been using phishing attacks for many years. The phishing email information they used are as follows.

A. Phishing Mail Sender Email Address

They created email addresses that confused victims by using security-related keywords such as protect, privacy, and security.

  • acc[.]signnin[.]send@gmail[.]com
  • countine[.]protector[.]mail@gmail[.]com
  • n0[.]reaply[.]moster@gmail[.]com
  • no[.]raply[.]letservice@gmail[.]com
  • no[.]repiy[.]acc[.]notice@gmail[.]com
  • noreaply[.]securiity@gmail[.]com
  • noreply[.]centre[.]team@gmail[.]com
  • privacy[.]protect[.]team@gmail[.]com
  • protect[.]password[.]teams@gmail[.]com
  • protect[.]privacy[.]accounnt@gmail[.]com
  • protector[.]privacy[.]master@gmail[.]com

B. Phishing Mail Subject

Phishing email subject lines used were primarily focused on email security – sending emails in the subject related to topics such as email hijackings, login attempts, security status, recovery emails, and password resetting, to convince victims to verify account information.

  • “[경고] 구글은 귀하의 비밀번호를 이용해 계정에 접근하려는 수상한 로그인 시도를 차단했습니다.”
  • “[경고] 누군가가 내 계정에 접근하려는 로그인 시도를 차단했습니다. 즉시 보호상태를 확인하세요.”
  • “[경고] 누군가가 내 비밀번호를 이용해 계정에 접근하려는 시도가 있었습니다”
  • “[중요] 누군가가 내 계정에 접근하려는 시도를 차단했습니다.”
  • “[중요] 즉시 보안상태를 확인하세요.”
  • “누군가가 내 이메일 주소를 복구 이메일로 추가했습니다”
  • “비밀번호 재설정 요청이 접수되었습니다.”
  • “연결된 Google 계정 관련 보안 경고”

The next part is translated into English.

  • “[WARNING] Google has blocked suspicious sign-in attempts to access your account using your password.”
  • “[WARNING] Someone has blocked sign-in attempts to access your account. Please check the protection immediately.”
  • “[WARNING] Someone tried to access your account using my password”
  • “[IMPORTANT] Someone has blocked an attempt to access your account.”
  • “[IMPORTANT] Check your security status immediately.”
  • “Someone added my email address as a recovery email”
  • “Your password reset request has been received.”
  • “Security warnings associated with linked Google Accounts”

C. Phishing Server Domain Address

The sub-domain name of the phishing page was also made to try to confuse the target user by using names similar to the target user’s email provider, such as using “qooqle” instead of “google”.

  • hxxp://acount-qooqle[.]pe[.]hu
  • hxxp://myacccounts-goggle[.]hol[.]es
  • hxxp://myaccounnts-goggle[.] esy[.]es
  • hxxp://qqoqle-centering[.]esy.es

Domains used as phishing servers were used not only for phishing but also for servers that distributed malware and servers that collected information from the victims.

countine[.]protector[.]mail@gmail[.]com

In January 2019, the malware distributed to the reporters downloaded files which obtained C2 information from Google Drive. The hacker’s Google Drive account is “countine[.]protector[.]mail@gmail[.]com”. This email account was also used for Gmail phishing attacks in September 2017 which asked for a password reset. This is an example of one of the Gmail accounts they create and use for both phishing and hosting Google Drive malware content.

Building a nest in “Agora”

“Agora” was an open meeting place in ancient Greek cities. In one of South Korea’s famous portal sites, the name “Agora” was used as an online space for articles and public discussion. A similar site called “Agora 2.0” was created to mimic this but had been neglected for a long time. The site has a domain called “ago2[.]co[.]kr” and has a Japanese IP address.

[Description of the site ‘Agora 2.0’]

SectorA05 hacked the “ago2[.]co[.]kr” server and used it as a C2 server. In January 2019, malware distributed to the reporters used “ago2[.]co[.]kr” as one of the C2 servers. As we continued investigating, we found that the server has been used as a malicious C2 server for at least 27 months. For example, the malware hash “2a25d42130837560fcff1e1e19264f05784bf9e9db6464afb15d7e26f7f4a433” used “ago2[.]co[.]kr” as a C2 server in “Operation Kitty Phishing” in November 4th, 2016.

Thus, they have built an illegitimate nest at “ago2[.]co[.]kr” and have used it as C2 for more than 27 months since at least 2016. In 2017 and 2018, malware from SectorA05 was still using that domain as a C2 server.

The Constant XOR Table

SectorA05 uploads encrypted malware to their C2 server, and the existing malware decrypts it with a XOR Table and then executes it. As we tracked usage of this XOR Table, we confirmed that malware using the same XOR table was used for the attack in June 2017. There are two kinds of XOR tables used as follows.

[January 7, 2019 XOR Decode function used in malware against reporters]

“Case A” refers to the group of malware samples used to attack the reporters, and this XOR Table was already in use in 2017.

Case HASH (SHA256) Timestamp (UTC+9) XOR Table
  f070768ba2d0091b66e2a15726e77165f64ec976e9930425009da79c7aa081ac 2017-06-02 10:09:19 051BC852ED4D1E4BD44030D6BF3187D056C1BE63947D08B00FE0F2E84BC8AB82
A 7603be6e20fdf1338f5de8660b866a7dcb87f1468d139930d9afcba7f3acabb4 2018-12-26 01:40:20
  8573d9008cca956a8f8b9a46ed7880b471435327e8e0ea42b2e143b410a99d7b 2017-07-15 11:23:06B20A82932F459278D44058ADBF3113FB56C1D749947D0FE00FE0ABC84BC8A02B
A fce7a02f4ca7bdab7fdb8168a2478e5897f6f31e3b53d36378033f6ba72ddc29 2018-12-10 06:55:36
A 48ba9d01f1fba5421e8bfbdd384a3849916bbd3e7930557f7d8f92f27cceb5fe2018-12-10 06:55:27
A 12ee511259f7f03e8472efa8baf3e250b64f8da65fe71212cedfdac887f503f42019-01-07 16:28:29
A 55e69e1337af0d93b5a3742d999bf805177c404e7e60e48f303509592ecd0e292019-01-07 16:41:09

Here, Kitty, Kitty!

After initial infection, SectorA05 performs reconnaissance first, such as taking the entire file list of the target user. If the target user has important information related to the Korean government or information related to cryptocurrency, they send additional malware and continuously monitor and collect information.

Additional malware we collected includes screen capture, keylogger, and Chrome Browser Password Stealer.

A. Screen Capture Module

This module periodically captures the victim screen, compresses it, and then sends it to a specific folder on the C2 server. An example of the file name to be transmitted is “[MAC Address]_imgscr_20190124_235450161”.

(SHA256 : 98e1cc1b96b420ece848a2b43a0c1ae0b5f9356a11227fca181ada95435d2c63)

[Code to capture screen]

B. Keylogger Module

This module periodically sends user’s keystrokes together with the window name of the program keystrokes were entered into to the hacker.

(SHA256 : 71841a1b5ee1b383a9282bf513723b7f1713a0e1ee501db38d64c2db9ba08ec4)

[Code to store the victim’s keyboard input value]
[Keylogging information sent to the C2 server]

C. Chrome Browser Password Stealer Module

This module steals information from the Chrome Browser and sees the value of the cookie and login data file in the “\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data\Default\”.

(SHA256 : 08ac5048e86d368eea55d55781659dc54070debc9d117ed0a5ca8edd499fe1f8)

[Code to steal cookies from Chrome Browser]

In some cases, by identifying the user name of the victim PC during the initial infection, the additional malware sent is compiled on a per victim basis. For example, the malware might make use of a fixed username and only steal information related to that specific user.

[Code to steal the login data of CEO user’s Chrome Browser]

Stealing Coins – a personal purpose or a nation state goal?

As we watched SectorA05’s theft activity, we realized that they divided their targets into two classes. The purpose of targeting the first target class was to steal information from South Korean government officials and the purpose of targeting the second target class was to steal cryptocurrency. SectorA05 is an organization that traditionally seeks to seize confidential information from South Korea and neighboring countries. In recent years, however, we found that they are spending a lot of time trying to steal cryptocurrency as well.

We wonder whether SectorA05 is expanding its official role from spying to also including stealing cryptocurrencies, or whether some of SectorA05 staff are deviating from their official interests.

In any case, they continued to actively steal cryptocurrency-related coins from both classes. Their goals are employees of cryptocurrency exchanges, normal users of cryptocurrency, and cryptocurrency-related developers.

They searched the victim’s directory for the cryptocurrency wallet and private key as follows:

[Navigate the file path where the cryptocurrency wallet and private key are stored]

Then, in order to take the control of the cryptocurrency wallet and corresponding private keys stored in the file path, additional malware (“59203b2253e5a53a146c583ac1ab8dcf78f8b9410dee30d8275f1d228975940e”) which compresses the files in the file path is distributed to the target users.

We see that they are responsible for monitoring and managing additional post-infection actions such as manually compiling and distributing additional malware to collect files.

[Malware that compresses files in a path with a wallet and a private key]

They also stole the Ethereum Keystore file issued by MyEtherWallet.

Thus, they are not only interested in confidential information of the government but also in stealing cryptocurrencies.

Kitty? Why? Who?

During the course of constantly tracking SectorA05, we found a management script that they use to manage victims. In the script file itself, they referred to their victims as “Kitty”. We decided to call their operation name “Operation Kitty Phishing”.

[Administrative scripts that an attacker manages victims]

They never stop working

We were surprised at their endless hacking activities as we track them down. They spread phishing e-mails to target users without rest, and their malware continued to spread. Even after distributing malware to reporters covering the Unification Ministry in early January 2019, they then distributed malware to potential users of cryptocurrency.

In addition, if the infected victim’s PCs were scanned and files related to cryptocurrency were found, malware would be compiled and distributed to individual users. The malware hash “f483d5051f39d1b08613479ccbc81423a15bfe5c5fb5a7792d4307a8af4e4586” is an example of a malware compiled and created solely for a single user. As the user name of the victim PC is exposed, the malware for stealing cryptocurrency is tailored for the individual user and distributed in real time.

[Steal a specific file from the victim’s PC username folder]

After they sent malware to the reporters, they continued to use the following URLs containing malware.

  • hxxp://safe-naver-mail[.]pe[.]hu/Est/down/AlyacMonitor64
  • hxxp://safe-naver-mail[.]pe[.]hu/Est/down/cookie.a
  • hxxp://safe-naver-mail[.]pe[.]hu/Est/down/2.a
  • hxxp://aiyac-updaite[.]hol.es/Est/down/AlyacMonitor64
  • hxxp://aiyac-updaite[.]hol.es/Est/down/AppContainer32.a
  • hxxp://aiyac-updaite[.]hol.es/Est/down/AppContainer64.a
  • hxxp://aiyac-updaite[.]hol.es/Est/down/BuildSteps32
  • hxxp://aiyac-updaite[.]hol.es/Est/down/BuildSteps64
  • hxxp://aiyac-updaite[.]hol.es/Est/down/Cookie.a
  • hxxp://aiyac-updaite[.]hol.es/Est/down/CoreWin32
  • hxxp://aiyac-updaite[.]hol.es/Est/down/CoreWin64
  • hxxp://aiyac-updaite[.]hol.es/Est/down/f.a
  • hxxp://aiyac-updaite[.]hol.es/Est/down/kakao.a
  • hxxp://aiyac-updaite[.]hol.es/Est/down/MSOfficeUpdate64
  • hxxp://aiyac-updaite[.]hol.es/Est/down/xpad64.exe

Conclusion

We have been constantly tracking “Operation Kitty Phishing” activity of SectorA05, which is targeting key government officials, cryptocurrency exchanges, and users in South Korea. We were amazed that their activities are older and last longer than we thought.

It was very difficult initially to judge whether the organization conducting email account phishing and the organization distributing malware were part of the same organization, but after tracking them over a long period, we can say with high confidence that they are both part of SectorA05 and are running both operations simultaneously.

While we write this article, they are continuing their malicious activities. We will still keep track of them. Therefore, if new activity is confirmed, our ThreatRecon Team will continue reporting on our findings.

Indicators of Compromise (IoCs)

Hashes (SHA-256)

028abdf89dc34088c2935e972a97f2d1249efe100f6282979d1771121c45101c 03cd82887b032ce2968bb739d13e1dd0ce3683df5bc1b87edc6872ddcd1dc625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Domains

acount-qooqle[.]pe[.]hu
ago2[.]co[.]kr
ahnniab[.]esy[.]es
aiyac-updaite[.]hol[.]es
daum-safety-team[.]esy[.]es
gyjmc[.]com
jejuseongahn[.]org
jundosase[.]cafe24[.]com
kuku675[.]site11[.]com
kuku79[.]herobo[.]com
mail-service[.]pe[.]hu
mail-support[.]esy[.]es
myacccounts-goggle[.]hol[.]es
myaccounnts-goggle[.]esy[.]es
my-homework[.]890m[.]com
nav-mail[.]hol[.]es
nid-mail[.]esy[.]es
nid-naver[.]hol[.]es
qqoqle-centering[.]esy[.]es
safe-naver-mail[.]pe[.]hu
suppcrt-seourity[.]esy[.]es

URLS

hxxp://ago2[.]co[.]kr/bbs/data/dir/F.php
hxxp://ago2[.]co[.]kr/bbs/data/dir/note.png
hxxp://ago2[.]co[.]kr/bbs/data/dir/svchow.dat
hxxp://ago2[.]co[.]kr/bbs/data/F.php
hxxp://ago2[.]co[.]kr/bbs/data/R.php
hxxp://ahnniab[.]esy[.]es/w/b.js
hxxp://aiyac-updaite[.]hol[.]es/Est/down/AlyacMonitor64
hxxp://aiyac-updaite[.]hol[.]es/Est/down/AppContainer32.a
hxxp://aiyac-updaite[.]hol[.]es/Est/down/AppContainer64.a
hxxp://aiyac-updaite[.]hol[.]es/Est/down/BuildSteps32
hxxp://aiyac-updaite[.]hol[.]es/Est/down/BuildSteps64
hxxp://aiyac-updaite[.]hol[.]es/Est/down/Cookie.a
hxxp://aiyac-updaite[.]hol[.]es/Est/down/CoreWin32
hxxp://aiyac-updaite[.]hol[.]es/Est/down/CoreWin64
hxxp://aiyac-updaite[.]hol[.]es/Est/down/f.a
hxxp://aiyac-updaite[.]hol[.]es/Est/down/kakao.a
hxxp://aiyac-updaite[.]hol[.]es/Est/down/MSOfficeUpdate64
hxxp://aiyac-updaite[.]hol[.]es/Est/down/xpad64.exe
hxxp://kuku675[.]site11[.]com/data/zero/log.php
hxxp://kuku79[.]herobo[.]com/data/pod/fund.pas
hxxp://my-homework[.]890m[.]com/bbs/data/board.php
hxxp://my-homework[.]890m[.]com/bbs/data/brave.ct
hxxp://my-homework[.]890m[.]com/bbs/data/tmp/D.php
hxxp://my-homework[.]890m[.]com/bbs/data/tmp/fileupload.php
hxxp://my-homework[.]890m[.]com/bbs/data/tmp/Ping.php
hxxp://my-homework[.]890m[.]com/gnu/board.php
hxxp://my-homework[.]890m[.]com/gnu/download/3.wsf
hxxp://my-homework[.]890m[.]com/gnu/ver
hxxp://nid-mail[.]esy[.]es/bbs/data/tmp/alpha.php
hxxp://nid-mail[.]esy[.]es/bbs/data/tmp/D.php
hxxp://nid-mail[.]esy[.]es/bbs/data/tmp/fileupload.php
hxxp://nid-mail[.]esy[.]es/bbs/data/tmp/Ping.php
hxxp://nid-mail[.]esy[.]es/bbs/data/tmp/tie.txt
hxxp://safe-naver-mail[.]pe[.]hu/Est/down/2.a
hxxp://safe-naver-mail[.]pe[.]hu/Est/down/AlyacMonitor64
hxxp://safe-naver-mail[.]pe[.]hu/Est/down/cookie.a
hxxp://suppcrt-seourity[.]esy[.]es/update/templates/indox.php
hxxp://www[.]gyjmc[.]com/board/data/cheditor/dir1/F.php
hxxp://www[.]jejuseongahn[.]org/hboard4/data/cheditor/badu/alpha.php
hxxps://drive[.]google[.]com/uc?export=download&id=0B9_jdTGo3-sndXJESjllMkloOFU
hxxps://drive[.]google[.]com/uc?export=download&id=0B9_jdTGo3-snT3RTMHJMZEk2Szg
hxxps://drive[.]google[.]com/uc?export=download&id=1MVR58_5SlXgDZ5arasQk9AnmihAb3KJ6
hxxps://drive[.]google[.]com/uc?export=download&id=1ocUSxHf_0jUjVMMbAQzwTJb0blUG0bYh
hxxps://drive[.]google[.]com/uc?export=download&id=1olByidca-8vkS-5jRKL9CirKPEP7waHm
hxxps://drive[.]google[.]com/uc?export=download&id=1RC5_9WWrfMMZKfu11OfIac5y2d5vRH1c
hxxps://drive[.]google[.]com/uc?export=download&id=1xCePTgAdwNIAN7MWOH_80aN_TZgn8uFv

Emails

acc[.]signnin[.]send@gmail[.]com
countine[.]protector[.]mail@gmail[.]com
n0[.]reaply[.]moster@gmail[.]com
no[.]raply[.]letservice@gmail[.]com
no[.]repiy[.]acc[.]notice@gmail[.]com
noreaply[.]securiity@gmail[.]com
noreply[.]centre[.]team@gmail[.]com
privacy[.]protect[.]team@gmail[.]com
protect[.]password[.]teams@gmail[.]com
protect[.]privacy[.]accounnt@gmail[.]com
protector[.]privacy[.]master@gmail[.]com

MITRE ATT&CK Techniques

The following is a MITRE ATT&CK matrix that applied the “Operation Kitty Phishing” of the SectorA05 group.

Initial Access

Spearphishing Attachment
Spearphishing Link
Valid Accounts

Execution

Command-Line Interface
Execution through API
Execution through Module Load
Exploitation for Client Execution
Graphical User Interface
PowerShell
Regsvr32
Rundll32
Scripting
Third-party Software
User Execution

Persistence

Hooking
Registry Run Keys / Startup Folder
Valid Accounts

Privilege Escalation

Hooking
Process Injection
Valid Accounts

Defense Evasion

Deobfuscate/Decode Files or Information
File Deletion
Obfuscated Files or Information
Process Injection
Regsvr32
Rundll32
Scripting
Valid Accounts
Web Service

Credential Access

Credential Dumping
Credentials in Files
Hooking
Input Capture
Private Keys

Discovery

Application Window Discovery
File and Directory Discovery
Process Discovery
Query Registry
System Information Discovery
System Owner/User Discovery

Lateral Movement

N/A

Collection

Automated Collection
Data from Local System
Data from Network Shared Drive
Data from Removable Media
Email Collection
Input Capture
Screen Capture

Exfiltration

Automated Exfiltration
Data Compressed
Exfiltration Over Command and Control Channel
Scheduled Transfer

Command And Control

Commonly Used Port
Data Encoding
Multi-Stage Channels
Remote Access Tools
Standard Application Layer Protocol
Web Service

SectorA01 Custom Proxy Utility Tool Analysis

Overview

SectorA01 is one of the most infamous state sponsored threat actor groups globally and is unique in the sense that it is one of the only state sponsored groups with large interests in financial crime. So with the continued interest into SectorA01’s financial crime activities due to the recent potential misattribution of the Ryuk ransomware [1], we decided to perform an analysis into one of the tools – a proxy utility executable – used exclusively by SectorA01 that recently caught our attention again.

Interestingly, in the Hidden Cobra FASTCash report by the US-CERT [2] in October last year, there were two versions of a “Themida packed proxy service module” (i.e. x32 and x64 versions). Our analysis of those modules showed code reuse of critical functions with the sample we are analyzing in this post, leading us to think that those samples might be an evolution of this sample.

SectorA01 Proxy Utility

SectorA01 uses a variety of tools for different purposes, but one common custom tool used in the attacks targeting the Polish banks in 2016-2017 [3], a Taiwanese Bank in 2017 [4], and Vietnamese banks in 2018 [5] is one of their custom proxy utility executables.

The latest unique sample of this proxy utility we could find was on December 10th, 2018 from Canada. This leads us to one of a few possible theories that Canadian bank(s) may have been one of the many unreported or reported [6] targets during the time period of the attack on the Taiwanese bank based on the compilation timestamps.

As we can see from the FASTCash proxy samples below, at least one of their developers compiles the 64-bit sample immediately after compiling the 32-bit sample – behavior very normal for developers when compiling for multiple systems. The same thing can be seen for the two samples on 20 Feb 2017, and so in fact instead of calling them samples targeting a Taiwanese bank and potentially a Canadian bank, it may be more accurate to call it just one of the many pairs of 32-bit and 64-bit proxy samples produced by the group.

A proxy was also used against an unnamed Southeast Asian bank [7] which appears to be an older version of the proxy, and against an Indian bank [8] which appears to be a newer version of the proxy based our code analysis from samples in the US-CERT FASTCash report.

But despite the similarities, however, we are unable to definitively state that these samples were earlier (unnamed Southeast Asian bank) or later (FASTCash attack, such as against the Indian bank) versions of the proxy. After all, SectorA01 has more than one proxy tool in its arsenal, such as the proxy used together with their TYPEFRAME trojan [9] which has a separate code base.

DescriptionCompilation Timestamp
Attack on unnamed SEA bank (old version)17 Sep 2014 16:59:33
Attack on several Polish banks (variant)24 Aug 2015 10:21:52
Attack on Vietnamese banks (variant)2 May 2016 03:24:39
Attack on a Taiwanese Bank (32-bit) (variant)20 Feb 2017 11:09:30
Sample Discovered from Canada (64-bit) (sample analyzed)20 Feb 2017 11:09:41
FASTCash (32-bit) (new version)14 Aug 2017 17:14:04
FASTCash (64-bit) (new version)14 Aug 2017 17:14:12

Sample Background

This executable is a custom tunneling proxy utility tool in SectorA01’s toolkit. It can be used as either a tunneling proxy server to forward traffic to another destination, or as a tunneling proxy client which requests another infected tunneling proxy server to perform requests.

Besides being used as one of several ordinary proxy servers in a chain of servers to hide the source of attacks, against one example banking target from India in the FASTCash attacks, “a proxy server was created and transactions authorized by the fake or proxy server”. In this scenario, the proxy utility seems to be not used just as a secondary helper utility, but as the primary attack malware.

SectorA01 normally packs these samples with either the Themida or Enigma Protector, but in this blog post we will only be showing the analysis of the unpacked sample.

Process Arguments

This utility requires a single process argument in order for it to run. It attempts to decode the argument and only continues its execution path if the decoded argument match the format it is expecting.

The argument is delimited by the “|” symbol, and the utility decodes up to four tokens with each token being decoded individually. The first is required and used as the primary C2 server (malware acting as tunneling proxy server) or as the URL to be requested (malware acting as tunneling proxy client), the optional second token is used as the proxy target information, the optional third token is used as proxy server information, and the optional fourth token is an optional proxy username and password.

Each deobfuscated token is separated by a colon “:”, which is used as the deobfuscated process arguments delimiter.

int __stdcall WinMain_0(HINSTANCE hInstance, HINSTANCE hPrevInstance, LPSTR lpCmdLine, int nShowCmd){ //deobfuscate process arguments here deobfuscation_complete: if ( strlen(deobfuscated_c2_1) != 0 && strchr(deobfuscated_c2_1, “:”) ){ … } return 0; }

The decoding algorithm makes use of a rotating character in an eight character string “cEzQfoPw” and the loop index to ensure that every deobfuscated character at a different index comes from a different two obfuscated characters.

We recreated this deobfuscation algorithm and created an obfuscation algorithm, which allowed us to forge our own process arguments. An example of a process argument which uses all four tokens could be “!y$t$A$s!z$S$e$U$Q$Y$1$W$U!}$d|!y#z$A$s!z$S$o$1$5$t$A$e$U!x|!y#{!}$Z$C$R$o$1$P#}$8$a!y!y|!00X!B0]0D!8#z$2$R0d$0$b!w!20c!70B0d”.

Example TokenDecoded C2 InformationUsage
!y$t$A$s!z$S$e$U$Q$Y$1$W$U!}$d 192.168.1.1:443C2 Server (1-2 arguments)
Proxy Target (3-4 arguments)
!y#z$A$s!z$S$o$1$5$t$A$e$U!x172.16.1.1:443Proxy Target (2 arguments only)
!y#{!}$Z$C$R$o$1$P#}$8$a!y!y10.1.1.12:8080Proxy Server (3-4 arguments)
!00X!B0]0D!8#z$2$R0d$0$b!w!20c!70B0dsector%20a01:proxyProxy Authentication (4 arguments only)

Note that since the algorithm transforms every two encoded characters into one decoded character based on its character index, there are many possible two characters which will result in the same character, and finally countless different strings which would decode to a single string.

C2 Communication

The algorithm used for C2 communications is more straightforward – a combination of ADD/XOR repeatedly from each character in a hard coded 20 character byte array “{47 B0 62 0E 69 F3 22 8D 65 40 BF 39 24 A6 C3 BB 8E 68 EB B5}” is used for decoding, and the opposite XOR/SUB repeatedly from the reversed byte array is used for encoding. The algorithm restarts for each character without context, so it essentially ends up being a character substitution table.

There are eight commands to communicate with the C2 server, encoded by either the C2 server or the proxy client then decoded by the other side. These commands are in the Russian language but as other researchers have pointed out in the past, is simply a false flag.

In fact, in one of the analyzed malware used against an unnamed Southeast Asian bank, we see that what appears to be a much earlier versions of the proxy having seven numeric-only control codes while this sample has eight Russian language control codes, with the control codes in both samples having almost the same meaning.

OperationDescriptionHex Values over the Network
kliyent2podklyuchitMalware thread created notification (client)d1 14 23 b3 c7 b2 ac fe 70 0d 1c d1 14 b3 d7 f9 38 23 ac
NachaloClient has started (client)92 ab f9 38 ab 14 0d
ssylkaTunneling proxy server has started (client)c9 c9 b3 14 d1 ab
poluchitGet proxy target information (server)70 0d 14 d7 f9 38 23 ac
ustanavlivatSet proxy target information (server)d7 c9 ac ab b2 ab 2a 14 23 2a ab ac
pereslatStart a new tunneling proxy server session in new thread (server)70 c7 be c7 c9 14 ab ac
derzhatMaintain connection (server)1c c7 be b6 38 ab ac
vykhoditExit (server) / Client has exited (client)2a b3 d1 38 0d 1c 23 ac

Tunneling Proxy Server

When this utility acts as a tunneling proxy server, it directly uses Windows Sockets 2 (“WS2_32”) to achieve their rudimentary proxy.

signed __int64 __fastcall c2_ssylka(LPVOID lpThreadParameter){ SOCKET c2Socket = begin_c2(“ssylka”); … SOCKET targetProxySocket = retrieveProxySocket(); … start_tunnel_proxy_server(c2Socket, targetProxySocket); … } signed int __fastcall start_tunnel_proxy_server(SOCKET c2Socket, SOCKET targetProxySocket){ … numBytesReceived = recv(c2Socket, &dataToProxy, 0x2000, 0); … numBytesReceived = send(targetProxySocket, &dataToProxy, numBytesReceived, 0); … }

Tunneling Proxy Client

When this utility acts as a tunneling proxy client, it utilizes the more powerful embedded libcurl library (version 7.49.1 for this sample, but not always the case) to command other infected tunneling proxy servers.

__int64 __fastcall connect_to_proxy(__int64 fixedFunctionAddress, __int64 proxyTarget){ … curl_setopt(handle, CURLOPT_URL, proxyTarget); … curl_setopt(handle, CURLOPT_PROXY, fixedFunctionAddress + 16); //refers to deobfuscated proxy server information … curl_setopt(handle, CURLOPT_HTTPPROXYTUNNEL, 1); … if ( strlen((fixedFunctionAddress + 278)) != ) //if deobfuscated argument 4 is not empty curl_setopt(handle, CURLOPT_PROXYUSERPWD); //curl_setopt argument 3 = deobfuscated process argument 4, which is not detected by decompiler … } … }

The CURLOPT_HTTPPROXYTUNNEL code causes the client to starts by using HTTP CONNECT to the proxy server in order to request it to forward traffic to the proxy target.

>Internet Protocol Version 4, Src: x.x.x.x, Dst: 10.1.1.12 >Transmission Control Protocol, Src Port: xxxxx, Dst Port: 8080, Seq: 1, Ack: 1, Len: 59 >Hypertext Transfer Protocol >CONNECT 192.168.1.1:443 HTTP/1.1\r\n >[Expert Info (Chat/Sequence): CONNECT 192.168.1.1:443 HTTP/1.1\r\n] Request Method: CONNECT Request URI: 192.168.1.1:443 Request Version: HTTP/1.1 Host: 192.168.1.1:443\r\n

The FASTCash Connection

In October last year, the US-CERT reported about the “FASTCash” campaign by SectorA01, which was essentially an ATM cash-out scheme whereby SectorA01 remotely compromised bank payment switch applications to simultaneously physically withdraw from ATMs in many countries and steal millions of dollars.

Some of the artifacts used in the campaign included proxy modules, a RAT, and an installer application. When we performed a preliminary analysis and compared the FASTCash proxy module to the proxy module analyzed in this post, we found algorithmic similarities between the decoding/encoding functions, the process argument deobfuscation function, and the proxy function.

However, the FASTCash proxy module also had more functions in them with new capabilities as described briefly in the US-CERT FASTCash Malware Analysis Report [10]. Additionally, our own analysis showed that they have also updated the use of amateur-ish strings which were previously easily detectable from memory and obviously malicious, to now hiding or removing those custom strings. This is their normal behavior as it has been known that they are constantly modifying their own source code, and these similarities and developments leads us to think that the FASTCash proxy module might be an evolution of their previous proxy module.

Summary

Attribution is a complex and controversial topic, but regardless, correctly attributing a threat to a particular threat group is a far easier task than correctly attributing the threat to or being linked to a particular nation state. Given even a single piece of complex enough custom malware believed to be in possession by only a single group and context behind the attack, it is possible to have some degree of confidence of which group was behind the attack.

But even custom malware source code can get stolen, the executable itself repackaged, or the functions recreated. In a simpler scenario, false flags such as strings and metadata could also be placed.

Regarding the initial attribution of the Ryuk ransomware, however, while others have focused on the misattribution, our view is that even if it was correct it would simply have been a lucky guess. Basing attribution solely on the usage of a single privately purchasable malware is fundamentally flawed, and the simple truth is that no organization in the world would be able to track every piece of malware to know what is being sold in the dark and deep web anyway.

That is why in order to have a higher degree of confidence of who is behind an attack, the entirety of the threat’s tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) need to be analyzed across multiple events using both trusted public and vetted private sources.

SectorA01 shows no signs of stopping their attacks against financial sectors worldwide and although they have been constantly modifying their code protectors, functions, and algorithms, there will be traces of similarities across different versions of their tools. Our Threat Recon Team will continue tracking such events and malware and report on our findings.

Unpacked Sample (SHA-256)

0d75d429c1cc3550b2961be84af777f8bed287a44a144b7a47988c601e1e9a27

Memory Dump Samples from US-CERT FASTCash Report (SHA-256)

9ddacbcd0700dc4b9babcd09ac1cebe23a0035099cb612e6c85ff4dffd087a26

1f2cd2bc23556fb84a51467fedb89cbde7a5883f49e3cfd75a241a6f08a42d6d

Packed Sample from Polish banks attack (SHA-256)

d4616f9706403a0d5a2f9a8726230a4693e4c95c58df5c753ccc684f1d3542e2

Sample from Taiwanese bank attack (SHA-256)

9a776b895e93926e2a758c09e341accb9333edc1243d216a5e53f47c6043c852

Sample from Vietnamese banks attack (SHA-256)

f3ca8f15ca582dd486bd78fd57c2f4d7b958163542561606bebd250c827022de

Attack on Unnamed SEA Bank (“TCP Tunnel Tool”) (SHA-256)

19bba0a7669a0109a6d2184bc0135ea4581449c8f5f0ef8a04af057447635cab

References

[1] Ryuk Ransomware Attack: Rush to Attribution Misses the Point
[2] HIDDEN COBRA – FASTCash Campaign
[3] Włamania do kilku banków skutkiem poważnego ataku na polski sektor finansowy
[4] TAIWAN HEIST: LAZARUS TOOLS AND RANSOMWARE
[5] High alert against malicious code attacks in Vietnam
[6] BMO and CIBC-owned Simplii Financial reveal hacks of customer data
[7] LAZARUS UNDER THE HOOD
[8] North Korean connection to Cosmos hacking? Signs point to Bangladesh heist masterminds
[9] MAR-10135536-12 – North Korean Trojan: TYPEFRAME
[10] MAR-10201537 – HIDDEN COBRA FASTCash-Related Malware

Monthly Threat Actor Groups Intelligence Report, December 2018

This is a summary of activity of suspected state sponsored Threat Actor Groups analyzed by the Threat Recon Team, based on data and information collected from November 21 to December 20, 2018.


1. SectorA Activity Features

A total of four hacking groups were found to be active within SectorA.

Among this detected activity, SectorA05 activity was relatively more intense than others and all SectorA05 activity was highly related to political hacking aimed at South Korea.

There are two main purposes of hacking by SectorA for the month, which can be distinguished by activity aimed at Korea and activity aimed at other countries.

The first is hacking activity targeting financial institutions overseas, and virtual currency exchanges and individual traders in South Korea. This is used to overcome financial and economic sanctions that are currently ongoing against SectorA. The second is hacking activity related to the more traditional espionage aimed at stealing information related to South Korea’s political and diplomatic activities.

Although malware and hacking techniques used by SectorA differ depending on the target, SectorA consistently targets individuals who belong to target organizations by utilizing Spear Phishing with malicious documents attached.

One of their strategies, using Cloud services as their C2 server for hacking activities, is used against both overseas and South Korean targets.

Another strategy, utilizing malware in the form of document reader files, differs depending on the target – overseas targets receive traditional Microsoft Office files, while South Korean targets will receive Hangeul Word Processor (HWP) files regardless of whether they live in South Korea or overseas.


2. SectorB Activity Features

SectorB targets countries from various regions around the world, and a total of four hacking groups activity were found to be active.

Targets were found in the Oceania region including Australia, the European region including the United Kingdom, and the East Asian region including South Korea.

Among this detected activity, some malware that had been used in the past was modified, or malware produced based on open source code was used for hacking activities.

Like before, hacking activity targeted at South Korea utilized Spear Phishing, which included Microsoft Word files containing Macros, and our analysis of the malware used shows that this campaign started in early 2018. In addition, SectorB targets started to include South Korean financial companies.


3. SectorC Activity Features

A total of three hacking groups activity were found to be active within SectorC.

Among this detected activity, SectorC01 activity was relatively more intense than others and SectorC activity was found to be aimed at South Europe including Spain, East Asia including Japan, and Eastern Europe including Ukraine and Poland.

Although hacking activities by SectorC groups around the world were conducted mainly to obtain information related to government agencies, they seem to be targeting Eastern Europe for other purposes based on the characteristics of their malware. SectorC still uses Spear Phishing with code execution vulnerabilities in Microsoft Word files or Microsoft Word files with macros for the initial infection in order to drop variants of their usual malware, although this time they have also included variants written in a different programming language. In addition, SectorC sometimes used only script and normal utility files for attacks on Eastern Europe.


4. SectorD Activity Features

A total of four hacking groups were found to be active within SectorD, and targets were concentrated in Middle Eastern countries, including Lebanon, Oman, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iraq and Israel.

In addition to the use of Phishing websites, there were also cases where Spear Phishing was used with malware in the form of Microsoft Word files containing macros.

Although SectorD groups mainly utilize script-based malware, there were cases of hacking activities targeted at energy companies in Italy with ties to the Middle East which had reused the Wiper malware which was used in the past to disrupt normal system operations.


5. SectorE Activity Features

A total of three hacking groups activity were found to be active within SectorE, and targets were along the Central Asia region, which includes Pakistan, a political rival of SectorE, as well as Chinese companies.

The hacking activities of the SectorE took advantage of vulnerabilities in Microsoft Office, or Spear Phishing involving file-based malware that exploited vulnerabilities in InPage software, along with malware in the form of Word or Excel files containing macros.

In addition, the execution of malware is structured so that the download function is executed in the first step, and the next steps only work if the first one succeeded, reducing exposure to the outside as much as possible. However, as their malware, C2 IPs and C2 Domains were found to have some overlapping characteristics, it can be seen that SectorE groups share various hacking and malware production techniques.


6. SectorF Activity Features

SectorF activities were discovered targeting East Asia, including China and Japan.

They primarily utilizing Spear Phishing, attaching Microsoft Word files containing macros to emails.

While some of the code used in their malware was found to have been produced based on open source code used for penetration testing, others were found to be variants of their custom malware.


The full report detailing each event together with IOCs and recommendations is available to existing NSHC Threat Recon customers.

Introducing Our Research Blog

These days, our lives are all connected to the internet and we all use it for many purposes. Most of us use this for positive purposes, but some have malicious intent.

The Threat Recon Team is the Cyber Threat Intelligence division of NSHC RedAlert Labs, and we track and define the Tactics, Techniques and Procedures of Threat Actor Groups who perform such malicious activity. This research allows us to understand how organizations can protect themselves against such groups.

Starting this year, our team’s researchers will publish our analysis here to share knowledge with other individuals and information security research teams to make a better and safer digital world.

We hope you enjoy our research.