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Malware Meets SysAdmin – Automation Tools Gone Bad

This post was authored by Alex Chiu and Xabier Ugarte Pedrero.

Talos recently spotted a targeted phishing attack with several unique characteristics that are not normally seen. While we monitor phishing campaigns used to distribute threats such as Dridex, Upatre, and Cryptowall, targeted phishing attacks are more convincing because the format of the message is personalized to the targeted user. This targeted attack was more difficult to detect because adversaries chose to leverage AutoIT, a well known freeware administration tool for automating system management in corporate environments. This notable characteristic made this attack worthy of further analysis.

Utilizing AutoIT within a payload is unique because it is a legitimate management tool. In this attack, AutoIT was utilized to install a Remote Access Trojan (RAT) and maintain persistence on the host in a manner that’s similar to normal administration activity. RATs allow adversaries to fully control compromised hosts remotely to conduct malicious operations, such as exfiltrating sensitive information. The use of AutoIT is potentially an extremely effective method of evading detection by traditional anti-virus technologies and remaining hidden on the system if it is used by the target to manage systems. The combination of a legitimate administration tool being used to install a back-door onto a target system is unique and is why this attack caught our attention.

Another characteristic of this attack that was notable is how adversaries went to great lengths to spoof a phishing message that would appear credible to the user. In this attack, an actual business was impersonated, using the logo and physical address of the business, in order to appear legitimate. The bait in this case is a Microsoft Word document containing a macro that downloads and executes a binary from hxxp://frontlinegulf[.]com/tmp/adobefile.exe.

autoit-phish-doc

Figure 1: A screenshot of the Word document, demonstrating how adversaries impersonated a real company to trick the target.

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Microsoft Internet Explorer Out of Band Advisory

Today an out of band advisory was released by Microsoft to address CVE-2015-2502. This vulnerability is addressed by MS15-093.

MS15-093 address a memory corruption vulnerability in Internet Explorer versions 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11. This affects all currently supported versions of Windows, including Windows 10.

This advisory is rated critical. An attacker can craft a web page designed to exploit this vulnerability and lure a user into visiting it.  The compromise will result in remote code execution at the permission level of the affected user. The use of proper user access controls can limit the severity of the compromise.

As with most out of band releases, it has been reported that this attack is being exploited in the wild. Users should patch immediately.

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Talos Identifies Multiple Memory Corruption Issues in Quicktime

Update 2015-08-21: This post has been updated to reflect an additional advisory released on August 20.

Talos, in conjunction with Apple’s security advisories issued on August 13 and August 20, has released six advisories for vulnerabilities that Talos found in Apple Quicktime. In accordance with our Vendor Vulnerability Reporting and Disclosure policy, these vulnerabilities have been reported to Apple and CERT.  This post serves as a summary for the advisories being released in coordination with Apple and CERT.

Ryan Pentney and Richard Johnson of Talos are credited with the discovery of these vulnerabilities.

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Microsoft Patch Tuesday – August 2015

Microsoft has released their monthly set of security bulletins designed to address security vulnerabilities within their products. This month’s release sees a total of 14 bulletins released which address 58 CVEs. Four bulletins are rated “Critical” this month and address vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer, Graphics Component, Office, and Edge. The other ten bulletins are rated “Important” and address vulnerabilities within Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), Server Message Block (SMB), XML Core Services, Mount Manager, System Center Operations Manager, UDDI Services, Command Line, WebDAV, Windows, and the .NET Framework. Read More »

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Research Spotlight: Detecting Algorithmically Generated Domains

This post was authored by Mahdi Namazifar and Yuxi Pan

Once a piece of malware has been successfully installed on a vulnerable system one of the first orders of business is for the malware to reach out to the remote command-and-control (C&C) servers in order to receive further instructions, updates and/or to exfiltrate valuable user data. If the rendezvous points with the C&C servers are hardcoded in the malware the communication can be effectively cut off by blacklisting, which limits the malware’s further operation and the extent of their damage.

To avoid such static detection mechanisms recent attackers have been taking advantage of various Domain Generation Algorithms (DGA) in choosing and updating the domain names of their C&C servers. DGA embedded in the malware generate a large amount of pseudo-random domain names within a given period, most of which are nonexistent. With the same random seed, e.g. time of the day or most popular tweets of the day, the attackers can generate exactly the same list of domain names remotely, among which they will only register a few. The malware will contact some or all of the domains generated by the DGA, giving its opportunity to be able to connect to the C&C server. The sheer amount of nonexistent domains produced by the DGA on a daily basis presents a great burden for security specialists if blacklisting is still to be pursued.

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