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Inside the SOC

PrivateLoader:ネットワークベースの侵害指標

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26
Jul 2022
26
Jul 2022
このブログでは、ペイ・パー・インストール(PPI)プロバイダが悪意のあるペイロードを配信するために使用することが増えているモジュール型ダウンローダ、PrivateLoaderのネットワークベースのIOCを調査しています。

脅威アクターは、悪意のあるペイロードを自ら配信する代わりに、特定のサイバー犯罪者(ペイ・パー・インストール(PPI)プロバイダと呼ばれる)にお金を払ってペイロードの配信を代行してもらうことができます。2022年1月以降、DarktraceのSOCは、PPIプロバイダーが PrivateLoader と呼ばれるモジュラー型マルウェアダウンローダーを使ってクライアントのペイロードを配信する事例を複数観測しています。

このブログでは、これらのPPIプロバイダがどのようにPrivateLoaderをシステムにインストールしたかを探り、感染したPrivateLoaderボットがさらに悪質なペイロードをインストールするために取った手順を概説します。ここで提供される詳細は、PrivateLoaderの操作に関する洞察を提供し、セキュリティチームが自社のネットワーク内のPrivateLoaderボットを特定する際の一助となることを目的としています。  

脅威の概要 

2022年1月から6月にかけて、Darktrace は複数のDarktrace クライアントの環境内で以下の一連のネットワーク動作を確認しました。これらのステップを含む活動のパターンは、PrivateLoaderの活動の範例です。

1. 被害者のデバイスは、ファイルストレージサービス(通常はDiscord Content Delivery Network (CDN))からパスワードで保護されたアーカイブファイルをダウンロードするよう指示するページにリダイレクトされる。

2. 端末がSSL接続でファイルストレージサービス(一般的にはDiscord CDN)に連絡する

3. SSL接続でPastebinに接続し、45.144.225[.]57にURI文字列「/server.txt」または「server_p.txt」でHTTP GETリクエストするか、212.193.30[.]45にURI文字列「/proxies.txt」でHTTP GETリクエストを行うか、いずれかのデバイスが行う

4. デバイスは、212.193.30[.]21、85.202.169[.]116、2.56.56[.]126または2.56.59[.]42にURI文字列 '/base/api/statistics.php' でHTTP GET要求を行う

5. 端末がSSL接続でファイルストレージサービス(一般的にはDiscord CDN)に連絡する

6. デバイスは、URI文字列「/base/api/getData.php」を用いて、212.193.30[.]21, 85.202.169[.]116, 2.56.56[.]126 または 2.56.59[.]42 のいずれかにHTTP POSTリクエストを行う

7. デバイスは最終的に、様々なエンドポイントから悪意のあるペイロードをダウンロードする

PPIビジネス 

PrivateLoaderを詳しく調べる前に、ペイパーインストール(PPI)ビジネスについて文脈を整理しておく必要があります。これは、2つの当事者で構成されています。  

1. PPIクライアント - 悪意のあるペイロードを多数のターゲットシステムにインストールさせることを望むアクターです。PPIクライアントは、一般的に、コモディティマルウェアを広く配布しようとするエントリレベルの脅威アクターです [1]。

2. PPIプロバイダ - PPIクライアントが悪意のあるペイロードをインストールするために支払うことができるアクターです。 

As the smugglers of the cybercriminal world, PPI providers typically advertise their malware delivery services on underground web forums. In some cases, PPI services can even be accessed via Clearnet websites such as InstallBest and InstallShop [2] (Figure 1).  

Figure 1: A snapshot of the InstallBest PPI login page [2]


To utilize a PPI provider’s service, a PPI client must typically specify: 

(A)  the URLs of the payloads which they want to be installed

(B)  the number of systems onto which they want their payloads to be installed

(C)  their geographical targeting preferences. 

Payment of course, is also required. To fulfil their clients’ requests, PPI providers typically make use of downloaders - malware which instructs the devices on which it is running to download and execute further payloads. PPI providers seek to install their downloaders onto as many systems as possible. Follow-on payloads are usually determined by system information garnered and relayed back to the PPI providers’ command and control (C2) infrastructure. PPI providers may disseminate their downloaders themselves, or they may outsource the dissemination to third parties called ‘affiliates’ [3].  

Back in May 2021, Intel 471 researchers became aware of PPI providers using a novel downloader (dubbed ‘PrivateLoader’) to conduct their operations. Since Intel 471’s public disclosure of the downloader back in Feb 2022 [4], several other threat research teams, such as the Walmart Cyber Intel Team [5], Zscaler ThreatLabz [6], and Trend Micro Research [7] have all provided valuable insights into the downloader’s behaviour. 

Anatomy of a PrivateLoader Infection

The PrivateLoader downloader, which is written in C++, was originally monolithic (i.e, consisted of only one module). At some point, however, the downloader became modular (i.e, consisting of multiple modules). The modules communicate via HTTP and employ various anti-analysis methods. PrivateLoader currently consists of the following three modules [8]: 

  • The loader module: Instructs the system on which it is running to retrieve the IP address of the main C2 server and to download and execute the PrivateLoader core module
  • The core module: Instructs the system on which it is running to send system information to the main C2 server, to download and execute further malicious payloads, and to relay information regarding installed payloads back to the main C2 server
  • The service module: Instructs the system on which it is running to keep the PrivateLoader modules running

Kill Chain Deep-Dive 

The chain of activity starts with the user’s browser being redirected to a webpage which instructs them to download a password-protected archive file from a file storage service such as Discord CDN. Discord is a popular VoIP and instant messaging service, and Discord CDN is the service’s CDN infrastructure. In several cases, the webpages to which users’ browsers were redirected were hosted on ‘hero-files[.]com’ (Figure 2), ‘qd-files[.]com’, and ‘pu-file[.]com’ (Figure 3). 

Figure 2: An image of a page hosted on hero-files[.]com - an endpoint which Darktrace observed systems contacting before downloading PrivateLoader from Discord CDN
Figure 3: An image of a page hosted on pu-file[.]com- an endpoint which Darktrace observed systems contacting before downloading PrivateLoader from Discord CDN


On attempting to download cracked/pirated software, users’ browsers were typically redirected to download instruction pages. In one case however, a user’s device showed signs of being infected with the malicious Chrome extension, ChromeBack [9], immediately before it contacted a webpage providing download instructions (Figure 4). This may suggest that cracked software downloads are not the only cause of users’ browsers being redirected to these download instruction pages (Figure 5). 

Figure 4: The event log for this device (taken from the Darktrace Threat Visualiser interface) shows that the device contacted endpoints associated with ChromeBack ('freychang[.]fun') prior to visiting a page ('qd-file[.]com') which instructed the device’s user to download an archive file from Discord CDN
 Figure 5: An image of the website 'crackright[.]com'- a provider of cracked software. Systems which attempted to download software from this website were subsequently led to pages providing instructions to download a password-protected archive from Discord CDN


After users’ devices were redirected to pages instructing them to download a password-protected archive, they subsequently contacted cdn.discordapp[.]com over SSL. The archive files which users downloaded over these SSL connections likely contained the PrivateLoader loader module. Immediately after contacting the file storage endpoint, users’ devices were observed either contacting Pastebin over SSL, making an HTTP GET request with the URI string ‘/server.txt’ or ‘server_p.txt’ to 45.144.225[.]57, or making an HTTP GET request with the URI string ‘/proxies.txt’ to 212.193.30[.]45 (Figure 6).

Distinctive user-agent strings such as those containing question marks (e.g. ‘????ll’) and strings referencing outdated Chrome browser versions were consistently seen in these HTTP requests. The following chrome agent was repeatedly observed: ‘Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/74.0.3729.169 Safari/537.36’.

In some cases, devices also displayed signs of infection with other strains of malware such as the RedLine infostealer and the BeamWinHTTP malware downloader. This may suggest that the password-protected archives embedded several payloads.

Figure 6: This figure, obtained from Darktrace's Advanced Search interface, represents the post-infection behaviour displayed by a PrivateLoader bot. After visiting hero-files[.]com and downloading the PrivateLoader loader module from Discord CDN, the device can be seen making HTTP GET requests for ‘/proxies.txt’ and ‘/server.txt’ and contacting pastebin[.]com

It seems that PrivateLoader bots contact Pastebin, 45.144.225[.]57, and 212.193.30[.]45 in order to retrieve the IP address of PrivateLoader’s main C2 server - the server which provides PrivateLoader bots with payload URLs. This technique used by the operators of PrivateLoader closely mirrors the well-known espionage tactic known as ‘dead drop’.

The dead drop is a method of espionage tradecraft in which an individual leaves a physical object such as papers, cash, or weapons in an agreed hiding spot so that the intended recipient can retrieve the object later on without having to come in to contact with the source. When threat actors host information about core C2 infrastructure on intermediary endpoints, the hosted information is analogously called a ‘Dead Drop Resolver’ or ‘DDR’. Example URLs of DDRs used by PrivateLoader:

  • https://pastebin[.]com/...
  • http://212.193.30[.]45/proxies.txt
  • http://45.144.225[.]57/server.txt
  • http://45.144.255[.]57/server_p.txt

The ‘proxies.txt’ DDR hosted on 212.193.40[.]45 contains a list of 132 IP address / port pairs. The 119th line of this list includes a scrambled version of the IP address of PrivateLoader’s main C2 server (Figures 7 & 8). Prior to June, it seems that the main C2 IP address was ‘212.193.30[.]21’, however, the IP address appears to have recently changed to ‘85.202.169[.]116’. In a limited set of cases, Darktrace also observed PrivateLoader bots retrieving payload URLs from 2.56.56[.]126 and 2.56.59[.]42 (rather than from 212.193.30[.]21 or 85.202.169[.]116). These IP addresses may be hardcoded secondary C2 address which PrivateLoader bots use in cases where they are unable to retrieve the primary C2 address from Pastebin, 212.193.30[.]45 or 45.144.255[.]57 [10]. 

Figure 7: Before June, the 119th entry of the ‘proxies.txt’ file lists '30.212.21.193' -  a scrambling of the ‘212.193.30[.]21’ main C2 IP address
Figure 8: Since June, the 119th entry of the ‘proxies.txt’ file lists '169.85.116.202' - a scrambling of the '85.202.169[.]116' main C2 IP address

Once PrivateLoader bots had retrieved C2 information from either Pastebin, 45.144.225[.]57, or 212.193.30[.]45, they went on to make HTTP GET requests for ‘/base/api/statistics.php’ to either 212.193.30[.]21, 85.202.169[.]116, 2.56.56[.]126, or 2.56.59[.]42 (Figure 9). The server responded to these requests with an XOR encrypted string. The strings were encrypted using a 1-byte key [11], such as 0001101 (Figure 10). Decrypting the string revealed a URL for a BMP file hosted on Discord CDN, such as ‘hxxps://cdn.discordapp[.]com/attachments/978284851323088960/986671030670078012/PL_Client.bmp’. These encrypted URLs appear to be file download paths for the PrivateLoader core module. 

Figure 9: HTTP response from server to an HTTP GET request for '/base/api/statistics.php'
Figure 10: XOR decrypting the string with the one-byte key, 00011101, outputs a URL in CyberChef

After PrivateLoader bots retrieved the 'cdn.discordapp[.]com’ URL from 212.193.30[.]21, 85.202.169[.]116, 2.56.56[.]126, or 2.56.59[.]42, they immediately contacted Discord CDN via SSL connections in order to obtain the PrivateLoader core module. Execution of this module resulted in the bots making HTTP POST requests (with the URI string ‘/base/api/getData.php’) to the main C2 address (Figures 11 & 12). Both the data which the PrivateLoader bots sent over these HTTP POST requests and the data returned via the C2 server’s HTTP responses were heavily encrypted using a combination of password-based key derivation, base64 encoding, AES encryption, and HMAC validation [12]. 

Figure 11: The above image, taken from Darktrace's Advanced Search interface, shows a PrivateLoader bot carrying out the following steps: contact ‘hero-files[.]com’ --> contact ‘cdn.discordapp[.]com’ --> retrieve ‘/proxies.txt’ from 212.193.30[.]45 --> retrieve ‘/base/api/statistics.php’ from 212.193.30[.]21 --> contact ‘cdn.discordapp[.]com --> make HTTP POST request with the URI ‘base/api/getData.php’ to 212.193.30[.]21
Figure 12: A PCAP of the data sent via the HTTP POST (in red), and the data returned by the C2 endpoint (in blue)

These ‘/base/api/getData.php’ POST requests contain a command, a campaign name and a JSON object. The response may either contain a simple status message (such as “success”) or a JSON object containing URLs of payloads. After making these HTTP connections, PrivateLoader bots were observed downloading and executing large volumes of payloads (Figure 13), ranging from crypto-miners to infostealers (such as Mars stealer), and even to other malware downloaders (such as SmokeLoader). In some cases, bots were also seen downloading files with ‘.bmp’ extensions, such as ‘Service.bmp’, ‘Cube_WW14.bmp’, and ‘NiceProcessX64.bmp’, from 45.144.225[.]57 - the same DDR endpoint from which PrivateLoader bots retrieved main C2 information. These ‘.bmp’ payloads are likely related to the PrivateLoader service module [13]. Certain bots made follow-up HTTP POST requests (with the URI string ‘/service/communication.php’) to either 212.193.30[.]21 or 85.202.169[.]116, indicating the presence of the PrivateLoader service module, which has the purpose of establishing persistence on the device (Figure 14). 

Figure 13: The above image, taken from Darktrace's Advanced Search interface, outlines the plethora of malware payloads downloaded by a PrivateLoader bot after it made an HTTP POST request to the ‘/base/api/getData.php’ endpoint. The PrivateLoader service module is highlighted in red
Figure 14: The event log for a PrivateLoader bot, obtained from the Threat Visualiser interface, shows a device making HTTP POST requests to ‘/service/communication.php’ and connecting to the NanoPool mining pool, indicating successful execution of downloaded payloads

In several observed cases, PrivateLoader bots downloaded another malware downloader called ‘SmokeLoader’ (payloads named ‘toolspab2.exe’ and ‘toolspab3.exe’) from “Privacy Tools” endpoints [14], such as ‘privacy-tools-for-you-802[.]com’ and ‘privacy-tools-for-you-783[.]com’. These “Privacy Tools” domains are likely impersonation attempts of the legitimate ‘privacytools[.]io’ website - a website run by volunteers who advocate for data privacy [15]. 

After downloading and executing malicious payloads, PrivateLoader bots were typically seen contacting crypto-mining pools, such as NanoPool, and making HTTP POST requests to external hosts associated with SmokeLoader, such as hosts named ‘host-data-coin-11[.]com’ and ‘file-coin-host-12[.]com’ [16]. In one case, a PrivateLoader bot went on to exfiltrate data over HTTP to an external host named ‘cheapf[.]link’, which was registered on the 14th March 2022 [17]. The name of the file which the PrivateLoader bot used to exfiltrate data was ‘NOP8QIMGV3W47Y.zip’, indicating information stealing activities by Mars Stealer (Figure 15) [18]. By saving the HTTP stream as raw data and utilizing a hex editor to remove the HTTP header portions, the hex data of the ZIP file was obtained. Saving the hex data using a ‘.zip’ extension and extracting the contents, a file directory consisting of system information and Chrome and Edge browsers’ Autofill data in cleartext .txt file format could be seen (Figure 16).

Figure 15: A PCAP of a PrivateLoader bot’s HTTP POST request to cheapf[.]link, with data sent by the bot appearing to include Chrome and Edge autofill data, as well as system information
Figure 16: File directory structure and files of the ZIP archive 

When left unattended, PrivateLoader bots continued to contact C2 infrastructure in order to relay details of executed payloads and to retrieve URLs of further payloads. 

Figure 17: Timeline of the attack

Darktrace のカバレッジ 

Most of the incidents surveyed for this article belonged to prospective customers who were trialling Darktrace with RESPOND in passive mode, and thus without the ability for autonomous intervention. However in all observed cases, Darktrace DETECT was able to provide visibility into the actions taken by PrivateLoader bots. In one case, despite the infected bot being disconnected from the client’s network, Darktrace was still able to provide visibility into the device’s network behaviour due to the client’s usage of Darktrace/Endpoint. 

If a system within an organization’s network becomes infected with PrivateLoader, it will display a range of anomalous network behaviours before it downloads and executes malicious payloads. For example, it will contact Pastebin or make HTTP requests with new and unusual user-agent strings to rare external endpoints. These network behaviours will generate some of the following alerts on the Darktrace UI:

  • Compliance / Pastebin 
  • Device / New User Agent and New IP
  • Device / New User Agent
  • Device / Three or More New User Agents
  • Anomalous Connection / New User Agent to IP Without Hostname
  • Anomalous Connection / POST to PHP on New External Host
  • Anomalous Connection / Posting HTTP to IP Without Hostname

Once the infected host obtains URLs for malware payloads from a C2 endpoint, it will likely start to download and execute large volumes of malicious files. These file downloads will usually cause Darktrace to generate some of the following alerts:

  • Anomalous File / EXE from Rare External Location
  • Anomalous File / Numeric Exe Download
  • Anomalous File / Masqueraded File Transfer
  • Anomalous File / Multiple EXE from Rare External Locations
  • Device / Initial Breach Chain Compromise

If RESPOND is deployed in active mode, Darktrace will be able to autonomously block the download of additional malware payloads onto the target machine and the subsequent beaconing or crypto-mining activities through network inhibitors such as ‘Block matching connections’, ‘Enforce pattern of life’ and ‘Block all outgoing traffic’. The ‘Enforce pattern of life’ action results in a device only being able to make connections and data transfers which Darktrace considers normal for that device. The ‘Block all outgoing traffic’ action will cause all traffic originating from the device to be blocked. If the customer has Darktrace’s Proactive Threat Notification (PTN) service, then a breach of an Enhanced Monitoring model such as ‘Device / Initial Breach Chain Compromise’ will result in a Darktrace SOC analyst proactively notifying the customer of the suspicious activity. Below is a list of Darktrace RESPOND (Antigena) models which would be expected to breach due to PrivateLoader activity. Such models can seriously hamper attempts made by PrivateLoader bots to download malicious payloads. 

  • Antigena / Network / External Threat / Antigena Suspicious File Block
  • Antigena / Network / Significant Anomaly / Antigena Controlled and Model Breach
  • Antigena / Network / External Threat / Antigena File then New Outbound Block
  • Antigena / Network / Significant Anomaly / Antigena Significant Anomaly from Client Block 
  • Antigena / Network / Significant Anomaly / Antigena Breaches Over Time Block

In one observed case, the infected bot began to download malicious payloads within one minute of becoming infected with PrivateLoader. Since RESPOND was correctly configured, it was able to immediately intervene by autonomously enforcing the device’s pattern of life for 2 hours and blocking all of the device’s outgoing traffic for 10 minutes (Figure 17). When malware moves at such a fast pace, the availability of autonomous response technology, which can respond immediately to detected threats, is key for the prevention of further damage.  

Figure 18: The event log for a Darktrace RESPOND (Antigena) model breach shows Darktrace RESPOND performing inhibitive actions once the PrivateLoader bot begins to download payloads

結論

By investigating PrivateLoader infections over the past couple of months, Darktrace has observed PrivateLoader operators making changes to the downloader’s main C2 IP address and to the user-agent strings which the downloader uses in its C2 communications. It is relatively easy for the operators of PrivateLoader to change these superficial network-based features of the malware in order to evade detection [19]. However, once a system becomes infected with PrivateLoader, it will inevitably start to display anomalous patterns of network behaviour characteristic of the Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs) discussed in this blog.

Throughout 2022, Darktrace observed overlapping patterns of network activity within the environments of several customers, which reveal the archetypal steps of a PrivateLoader infection. Despite the changes made to PrivateLoader’s network-based features, Darktrace’s Self-Learning AI was able to continually identify infected bots, detecting every stage of an infection without relying on known indicators of compromise. When configured, RESPOND was able to immediately respond to such infections, preventing further advancement in the cyber kill chain and ultimately preventing the delivery of floods of payloads onto infected devices.

IoCs

MITRE ATT&CK Techniques Observed

参考文献

[1], [8],[13] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ldp7eESQotM  

[2] https://news.sophos.com/en-us/2021/09/01/fake-pirated-software-sites-serve-up-malware-droppers-as-a-service/

[3] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228873118_Measuring_Pay-per Install_The_Commoditization_of_Malware_Distribution 

[4], [15] https://intel471.com/blog/privateloader-malware

[5] https://medium.com/walmartglobaltech/privateloader-to-anubis-loader-55d066a2653e 

[6], [10],[11], [12] https://www.zscaler.com/blogs/security-research/peeking-privateloader 

[7] https://www.trendmicro.com/en_us/research/22/e/netdooka-framework-distributed-via-privateloader-ppi.html

[9] https://www.gosecure.net/blog/2022/02/10/malicious-chrome-browser-extension-exposed-chromeback-leverages-silent-extension-loading/

[14] https://www.proofpoint.com/us/blog/threat-insight/malware-masquerades-privacy-tool 

[16] https://asec.ahnlab.com/en/30513/ 

[17]https://twitter.com/0xrb/status/1515956690642161669

[18] https://isc.sans.edu/forums/diary/Arkei+Variants+From+Vidar+to+Mars+Stealer/28468

[19] http://detect-respond.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-pyramid-of-pain.html

INSIDE THE SOC
Darktrace cyber analysts are world-class experts in threat intelligence, threat hunting and incident response, and provide 24/7 SOC support to thousands of Darktrace customers around the globe. Inside the SOC is exclusively authored by these experts, providing analysis of cyber incidents and threat trends, based on real-world experience in the field.
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Shuh Chin Goh
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Inside the SOC

Stemming the Citrix Bleed Vulnerability with Darktrace’s ActiveAI Platform

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28
May 2024

What is Citrix Bleed?

Since August 2023, cyber threat actors have been actively exploiting one of the most significant critical vulnerabilities disclosed in recent years: Citrix Bleed. Citrix Bleed, also known as CVE-2023-4966, remained undiscovered and even unpatched for several months, resulting in a wide range of security incidents across business and government sectors [1].

How does Citrix Bleed vulnerability work?

The vulnerability, which impacts the Citrix Netscaler Gateway and Netscaler ADC products, allows for outside parties to hijack legitimate user sessions, thereby bypassing password and multifactor authentication (MFA) requirements.

When used as a means of initial network access, the vulnerability has resulted in the exfiltration of sensitive data, as in the case of Xfinity, and even the deployment of ransomware variants including Lockbit [2]. Although Citrix has released a patch to address the vulnerability, slow patching procedures and the widespread use of these products has resulted in the continuing exploitation of Citrix Bleed into 2024 [3].

How Does Darktrace Handle Citrix Bleed?

Darktrace has demonstrated its proficiency in handling the exploitation of Citrix Bleed since it was disclosed back in 2023; its anomaly-based approach allows it to efficiently identify and inhibit post-exploitation activity as soon as it surfaces.  Rather than relying upon traditional rules and signatures, Darktrace’s Self-Learning AI enables it to understand the subtle deviations in a device’s behavior that would indicate an emerging compromise, thus allowing it to detect anomalous activity related to the exploitation of Citrix Bleed.

In late 2023, Darktrace identified an instance of Citrix Bleed exploitation on a customer network. As this customer had subscribed to the Proactive Threat Notification (PTN) service, the suspicious network activity surrounding the compromise was escalated to Darktrace’s Security Operation Center (SOC) for triage and investigation by Darktrace Analysts, who then alerted the customer’s security team to the incident.

Darktrace’s Coverage

Initial Access and Beaconing of Citrix Bleed

Darktrace’s initial detection of indicators of compromise (IoCs) associated with the exploitation of Citrix Bleed actually came a few days prior to the SOC alert, with unusual external connectivity observed from a critical server. The suspicious connection in question, a SSH connection to the rare external IP 168.100.9[.]137, lasted several hours and utilized the Windows PuTTY client. Darktrace also identified an additional suspicious IP, namely 45.134.26[.]2, attempting to contact the server. Both rare endpoints had been linked with the exploitation of the Citrix Bleed vulnerability by multiple open-source intelligence (OSINT) vendors [4] [5].

Darktrace model alert highlighting an affected device making an unusual SSH connection to 168.100.9[.]137 via port 22.
Figure 1: Darktrace model alert highlighting an affected device making an unusual SSH connection to 168.100.9[.]137 via port 22.

As Darktrace is designed to identify network-level anomalies, rather than monitor edge infrastructure, the initial exploitation via the typical HTTP buffer overflow associated with this vulnerability fell outside the scope of Darktrace’s visibility. However, the aforementioned suspicious connectivity likely constituted initial access and beaconing activity following the successful exploitation of Citrix Bleed.

Command and Control (C2) and Payload Download

Around the same time, Darktrace also detected other devices on the customer’s network conducting external connectivity to various endpoints associated with remote management and IT services, including Action1, ScreenConnect and Fixme IT. Additionally, Darktrace observed devices downloading suspicious executable files, including “tniwinagent.exe”, which is associated with the tool Total Network Inventory. While this tool is typically used for auditing and inventory management purposes, it could also be leveraged by attackers for the purpose of lateral movement.

防衛回避

In the days surrounding this compromise, Darktrace observed multiple devices engaging in potential defense evasion tactics using the ScreenConnect and Fixme IT services. Although ScreenConnect is a legitimate remote management tool, it has also been used by threat actors to carry out C2 communication [6]. ScreenConnect itself was the subject of a separate critical vulnerability which Darktrace investigated in early 2024. Meanwhile, CISA observed that domains associated with Fixme It (“fixme[.]it”) have been used by threat actors attempting to exploit the Citrix Bleed vulnerability [7].

Reconnaissance and Lateral Movement

A few days after the detection of the initial beaconing communication, Darktrace identified several devices on the customer’s network carrying out reconnaissance and lateral movement activity. This included SMB writes of “PSEXESVC.exe”, network scanning, DCE-RPC binds of numerous internal devices to IPC$ shares and the transfer of compromise-related tools. It was at this point that Darktrace’s Self-Learning AI deemed the activity to be likely indicative of an ongoing compromise and several Enhanced Monitoring models alerted, triggering the aforementioned PTNs and investigation by Darktrace’s SOC.

Darktrace observed a server on the network initiating a wide range of connections to more than 600 internal IPs across several critical ports, suggesting port scanning, as well as conducting unexpected DCE-RPC service control (svcctl) activity on multiple internal devices, amongst them domain controllers. Additionally, several binds to server service (srvsvc) and security account manager (samr) endpoints via IPC$ shares on destination devices were detected, indicating further reconnaissance activity. The querying of these endpoints was also observed through RPC commands to enumerate services running on the device, as well as Security Account Manager (SAM) accounts.  

Darktrace also identified devices performing SMB writes of the WinRAR data compression tool, in what likely represented preparation for the compression of data prior to data exfiltration. Further SMB file writes were observed around this time including PSEXESVC.exe, which was ultimately used by attackers to conduct remote code execution, and one device was observed making widespread failed NTLM authentication attempts on the network, indicating NTLM brute-forcing. Darktrace observed several devices using administrative credentials to carry out the above activity.

In addition to the transfer of tools and executables via SMB, Darktrace also identified numerous devices deleting files through SMB around this time. In one example, an MSI file associated with the patch management and remediation service, Action1, was deleted by an attacker. This legitimate security tool, if leveraged by attackers, could be used to uncover additional vulnerabilities on target networks.

A server on the customer’s network was also observed writing the file “m.exe” to multiple internal devices. OSINT investigation into the executable indicated that it could be a malicious tool used to prevent antivirus programs from launching or running on a network [8].

Impact and Data Exfiltration

Following the initial steps of the breach chain, Darktrace observed numerous devices on the customer’s network engaging in data exfiltration and impact events, resulting in additional PTN alerts and a SOC investigation into data egress. Specifically, two servers on the network proceeded to read and download large volumes of data via SMB from multiple internal devices over the course of a few hours. These hosts sent large outbound volumes of data to MEGA file storage sites using TLS/SSL over port 443. Darktrace also identified the use of additional file storage services during this exfiltration event, including 4sync, file[.]io, and easyupload[.]io. In total the threat actor exfiltrated over 8.5 GB of data from the customer’s network.

Darktrace Cyber AI Analyst investigation highlighting the details of a data exfiltration attempt.
Figure 2: Darktrace Cyber AI Analyst investigation highlighting the details of a data exfiltration attempt.

Finally, Darktrace detected a user account within the customer’s Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) environment conducting several suspicious Office365 and AzureAD actions from a rare IP for the network, including uncommon file reads, creations and the deletion of a large number of files.

Unfortunately for the customer in this case, Darktrace RESPOND™ was not enabled on the network and the post-exploitation activity was able to progress until the customer was made aware of the attack by Darktrace’s SOC team. Had RESPOND been active and configured in autonomous response mode at the time of the attack, it would have been able to promptly contain the post-exploitation activity by blocking external connections, shutting down any C2 activity and preventing the download of suspicious files, blocking incoming traffic, and enforcing a learned ‘pattern of life’ on offending devices.

結論

Given the widespread use of Netscaler Gateway and Netscaler ADC, Citrix Bleed remains an impactful and potentially disruptive vulnerability that will likely continue to affect organizations who fail to address affected assets. In this instance, Darktrace demonstrated its ability to track and inhibit malicious activity stemming from Citrix Bleed exploitation, enabling the customer to identify affected devices and enact their own remediation.

Darktrace’s anomaly-based approach to threat detection allows it to identify such post-exploitation activity resulting from the exploitation of a vulnerability, regardless of whether it is a known CVE or a zero-day threat. Unlike traditional security tools that rely on existing threat intelligence and rules and signatures, Darktrace’s ability to identify the subtle deviations in a compromised device’s behavior gives it a unique advantage when it comes to identifying emerging threats.

Credit to Vivek Rajan, Cyber Analyst, Adam Potter, Cyber Analyst

付録

Darktrace モデルカバレッジ

Device / Suspicious SMB Scanning Activity

Device / ICMP Address Scan

Device / Possible SMB/NTLM Reconnaissance

Device / Network Scan

Device / SMB Lateral Movement

Device / Possible SMB/NTLM Brute Force

Device / Suspicious Network Scan Activity

User / New Admin Credentials on Server

Anomalous File / Internal::Unusual Internal EXE File Transfer

Compliance / SMB Drive Write

Device / New or Unusual Remote Command Execution

Anomalous Connection / New or Uncommon Service Control

Anomalous Connection / Rare WinRM Incoming

Anomalous Connection / Unusual Admin SMB Session

Device / Unauthorised Device

User / New Admin Credentials on Server

Anomalous Server Activity / Outgoing from Server

Device / Long Agent Connection to New Endpoint

Anomalous Connection / Multiple Connections to New External TCP Port

Device / New or Uncommon SMB Named Pipe

Device / Multiple Lateral Movement Model Breaches

Device / Large Number of Model Breaches

Compliance / Remote Management Tool On Server

Device / Anomalous RDP Followed By Multiple Model Breaches

Device / SMB Session Brute Force (Admin)

Device / New User Agent

Compromise / Large Number of Suspicious Failed Connections

Unusual Activity / Unusual External Data Transfer

Unusual Activity / Enhanced Unusual External Data Transfer

Device / Increased External Connectivity

Unusual Activity / Unusual External Data to New Endpoints

Anomalous Connection / Data Sent to Rare Domain

Anomalous Connection / Uncommon 1 GiB Outbound

Anomalous Connection / Active Remote Desktop Tunnel

Anomalous Server Activity / Anomalous External Activity from Critical Network Device

Compliance / Possible Unencrypted Password File On Server

Anomalous Connection / Suspicious Read Write Ratio and Rare External

Device / Reverse DNS Sweep]

Unusual Activity / Possible RPC Recon Activity

Anomalous File / Internal::Executable Uploaded to DC

Compliance / SMB Version 1 Usage

Darktrace AI Analyst Incidents

Scanning of Multiple Devices

Suspicious Remote Service Control Activity

SMB Writes of Suspicious Files to Multiple Devices

Possible SSL Command and Control to Multiple Devices

Extensive Suspicious DCE-RPC Activity

Suspicious DCE-RPC Activity

Internal Downloads and External Uploads

Unusual External Data Transfer

Unusual External Data Transfer to Multiple Related Endpoints

MITRE ATT&CK マッピング

Technique – Tactic – ID – Sub technique of

Network Scanning – Reconnaissance - T1595 - T1595.002

Valid Accounts – Defense Evasion, Persistence, Privilege Escalation, Initial Access – T1078 – N/A

Remote Access Software – Command and Control – T1219 – N/A

Lateral Tool Transfer – Lateral Movement – T1570 – N/A

Data Transfers – Exfiltration – T1567 – T1567.002

Compressed Data – Exfiltration – T1030 – N/A

NTLM Brute Force – Brute Force – T1110 - T1110.001

AntiVirus Deflection – T1553 - NA

Ingress Tool Transfer   - COMMAND AND CONTROL - T1105 - NA

Indicators of Compromise (IoCs)

204.155.149[.]37 – IP – Possible Malicious Endpoint

199.80.53[.]177 – IP – Possible Malicious Endpoint

168.100.9[.]137 – IP – Malicious Endpoint

45.134.26[.]2 – IP – Malicious Endpoint

13.35.147[.]18 – IP – Likely Malicious Endpoint

13.248.193[.]251 – IP – Possible Malicious Endpoint

76.223.1[.]166 – IP – Possible Malicious Endpoint

179.60.147[.]10 – IP – Likely Malicious Endpoint

185.220.101[.]25 – IP – Likely Malicious Endpoint

141.255.167[.]250 – IP – Malicious Endpoint

106.71.177[.]68 – IP – Possible Malicious Endpoint

cat2.hbwrapper[.]com – Hostname – Likely Malicious Endpoint

aj1090[.]online – Hostname – Likely Malicious Endpoint

dc535[.]4sync[.]com – Hostname – Likely Malicious Endpoint

204.155.149[.]140 – IP - Likely Malicious Endpoint

204.155.149[.]132 – IP - Likely Malicious Endpoint

204.155.145[.]52 – IP - Likely Malicious Endpoint

204.155.145[.]49 – IP - Likely Malicious Endpoint

参考文献

  1. https://www.axios.com/2024/01/02/citrix-bleed-security-hacks-impact
  2. https://www.csoonline.com/article/1267774/hackers-steal-data-from-millions-of-xfinity-customers-via-citrix-bleed-vulnerability.html
  3. https://www.cybersecuritydive.com/news/citrixbleed-security-critical-vulnerability/702505/
  4. https://www.virustotal.com/gui/ip-address/168.100.9.137
  5. https://www.virustotal.com/gui/ip-address/45.134.26.2
  6. https://www.trendmicro.com/en_us/research/24/b/threat-actor-groups-including-black-basta-are-exploiting-recent-.html
  7. https://www.cisa.gov/news-events/cybersecurity-advisories/aa23-325a
  8. https://www.file.net/process/m.exe.html
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著者について
Vivek Rajan
Cyber Analyst

Blog

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How to Protect your Organization Against Microsoft Teams Phishing Attacks

Default blog imageDefault blog image
21
May 2024

The problem: Microsoft Teams phishing attacks are on the rise

Around 83% of Fortune 500 companies rely on Microsoft Office products and services1, with Microsoft Teams and Microsoft SharePoint in particular emerging as critical platforms to the business operations of the everyday workplace. Researchers across the threat landscape have begun to observe these legitimate services being leveraged more and more by malicious actors as an initial access method.

As Teams becomes a more prominent feature of the workplace many employees rely on it for daily internal and external communication, even surpassing email usage in some organizations. As Microsoft2 states, "Teams changes your relationship with email. When your whole group is working in Teams, it means you'll all get fewer emails. And you'll spend less time in your inbox, because you'll use Teams for more of your conversations."

However, Teams can be exploited to send targeted phishing messages to individuals either internally or externally, while appearing legitimate and safe. Users might receive an external message request from a Teams account claiming to be an IT support service or otherwise affiliated with the organization. Once a user has accepted, the threat actor can launch a social engineering campaign or deliver a malicious payload. As a primarily internal tool there is naturally less training and security awareness around Teams – due to the nature of the channel it is assumed to be a trusted source, meaning that social engineering is already one step ahead.

Screenshot of a Microsoft Teams message request from a Midnight Blizzard-controlled account (courtesy of Microsoft)
Figure 1: Screenshot of a Microsoft Teams message request from a Midnight Blizzard-controlled account (courtesy of Microsoft)

Microsoft Teams Phishing Examples

Microsoft has identified several major phishing attacks using Teams within the past year.

In July 2023, Microsoft announced that the threat actor known as Midnight Blizzard – identified by the United States as a Russian state-sponsored group – had launched a series of phishing campaigns via Teams with the aim of stealing user credentials. These attacks used previously compromised Microsoft 365 accounts and set up new domain names that impersonated legitimate IT support organizations. The threat actors then used social engineering tactics to trick targeted users into sharing their credentials via Teams, enabling them to access sensitive data.  

At a similar time, threat actor Storm-0324 was observed sending phishing lures via Teams containing links to malicious SharePoint-hosted files. The group targeted organizations that allow Teams users to interact and share files externally. Storm-0324’s goal is to gain initial access to hand over to other threat actors to pursue more dangerous follow-on attacks like ransomware.

Darktrace がMicrosoft Teamsのフィッシングを阻止する方法について、さらに詳しく知りたい方は、ブログをお読みください: 餌に喰いつくな:Darktrace Microsoft Teamsのフィッシング攻撃を阻止する方法

The market: Existing Microsoft Teams security solutions are insufficient

Microsoft’s native Teams security focuses on payloads, namely links and attachments, as the principal malicious component of any phishing. These payloads are relatively straightforward to detect with their experience in anti-virus, sandboxing, and IOCs. However, this approach is unable to intervene before the stage at which payloads are delivered, before the user even gets the chance to accept or deny an external message request. At the same time, it risks missing more subtle threats that don’t include attachments or links – like early stage phishing, which is pure social engineering – or completely new payloads.

Equally, the market offering for Teams security is limited. Security solutions available on the market are always payload-focused, rather than taking into account the content and context in which a link or attachment is sent. Answering questions like:

  • Does it make sense for these two accounts to speak to each other?
  • Are there any linguistic indicators of inducement?

Furthermore, they do not correlate with email to track threats across multiple communication environments which could signal a wider campaign. Effectively, other market solutions aren’t adding extra value – they are protecting against the same types of threats that Microsoft is already covering by default.

The other aspect of Teams security that native and market solutions fail to address is the account itself. As well as focusing on Teams threats, it’s important to analyze messages to understand the normal mode of communication for a user, and spot when a user’s Teams activity might signal account takeover.

The solution: How Darktrace protects Microsoft Teams against sophisticated threats

With its biggest update to Darktrace/Email ever, Darktrace now offers support for Microsoft Teams. With that, we are bringing the same AI philosophy that protects your email and accounts to your messaging environment.  

Our Self-Learning AI looks at content and context for every communication, whether that’s sent in an email or Teams message. It looks at actual user behavior, including language patterns, relationship history of sender and recipient, tone and payloads, to understand if a message poses a threat. This approach allows Darktrace to detect threats such as social engineering and payloadless attacks using visibility and forensic capabilities that Microsoft security doesn’t currently offer, as well as early symptoms of account compromise.  

Unlike market solutions, Darktrace doesn’t offer a siloed approach to Teams security. Data and signals from Teams are shared across email to inform detection, and also with the wider Darktrace ActiveAI security platform. By correlating information from email and Teams with network and apps security, Darktrace is able to better identify suspicious Teams activity and vice versa.  

Interested in the other ways Darktrace/Email augments threat detection? Read our latest blog on how improving the quality of end-user reporting can decrease the burden on the SOC. To find our more about Darktrace's enduring partnership with Microsoft, click here.

参考文献

[1] Essential Microsoft Office Statistics in 2024

[2] Microsoft blog, Microsoft Teams and email, living in harmony, 2024

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著者について
Carlos Gray
Product Manager
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