Introduction to JasperLoader
Malware loaders are playing an increasingly important role in malware distribution. They give adversaries the ability to gain an initial foothold on a system and are typically used to deliver various malware payloads following successful compromise. These attacks are popping up more frequently, as we covered in July with Smoke Loader and Brushaloader earlier this year. Loaders allow attackers to decide which malware to drop based on how they feel they can best monetize the access they gained. While malware loaders are commonly seen with email-based threats, they have also been prevalent within the exploit kit landscape for years. Recently, Cisco Talos observed an increase in loader activity being used to deliver various malware to systems located in various European countries.
Specifically, we’re tracking a loader known as “JasperLoader,” which has been increasingly active over the past few months and is currently being distributed via malicious spam campaigns primarily targeting central European countries with a particular focus on Germany and Italy. JasperLoader employs a multi-stage infection process that features several obfuscation techniques that make analysis more difficult. It appears that this loader was designed with resiliency and flexibility in mind, as evidenced in later stages of the infection process.
Over the past several months, we’ve seen several spam campaigns with signed emails attempting to infect victims with JasperLoader and ultimately the Gootkit banking trojan. Message signing makes use of certificates’ verification to confirm the authenticity of the person sending the email, as only those with access to the private keys should be able to sign the message. Message signing is not the same as message encryption and is used only to validate the identity of the message sender not to guarantee the confidentiality of the message itself. Talos has identified several malicious campaigns making use of this type of message signing as a way to lend credibility to their messages and maximize the likelihood that potential victims will open the malicious attachments.