A malware group that goes by the name of ‘Astaroth’ has re-emerged stronger and stealthier than before. This group has been known for exploiting Microsoft Windows tools to further the attack.
Microsoft had gotten aware of these methods and exposed the malware group and its “living-off-the-land” tactics. But the malware resurfaced with a hike in activity and better techniques.
Reportedly, the Windows Management Instrumentation Command-line (WMIC) is the built-in tool that got used the last time as was spotted by the Windows Defender ATP.
Per sources, the analysis done by Microsoft led to the discovery of a spam operation that spread emails with links to websites hosting a “.LNK” shortcut file which would instruct the WMIC and other Windows tools to run “fileless” malware in the memory well out of the reach of the anti-malware.
Sources indicate that having learnt from mistakes, Astaroth now entirely dodges the use of the WMIC. January and February showed a rise in activity.
According to sources, the new styled campaign still commences with a spam email comprising of a malicious website hosting link, LNK file but it the new version it employs a file attribute, “Alternate Data Streams” (ADS), that lets the attacker clip data to a file that already exists so that hiding malicious payloads gets easier.
Per source reports, the first step of the campaign which is a spam email reads, “Please find in the link below the STATEMENT #56704/2019 AND LEGAL DECISION, for due purposes”. The link is an archive file marked as, “Arquivo_PDF_
It manipulates the ExtExport.exe to load the payload which per researchers is a valid process and an extremely unusual attack mechanism.
Researchers mention and sources confirm that using the ADS permits the stream data to stay unidentifiable in the File Explorer, in this version Astaroth reads and decrypts plugins from ADS streams in desktop.ini that let Astaroth to rob email and browser passwords. It also unarms security software.
Per sources, the plugins are the “NirSoft WebBrowserPassView” tool is for regaining passwords and browsers and the “NirSoft MailPassView” tool is for getting back the email client passwords.
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This is not the only legitimate tool Astaroth exploits. A command-line tool that goes by the name of “BITSAdmin” which aids admins to create download and upload jobs with tracking their progress is exploited to download encrypted payloads.
Reportedly, Astaroth has previously wreaked havoc on continents like Asia, North America, and Europe.