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Windows 10 Users Beware! Astaroth Malware Campaign is Back and More Malicious!


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_.zip”.

It manipulates the ExtExport.exe to load the payload which per researchers is a valid process and an extremely unusual attack mechanism.

Once the victim clicks on the LNK file with the .zip file in it, the malware runs an obfuscated BAT command line, which releases a JavaScript file into the ‘Pictures’ folder and commands the explorer.exe that helps run the file.

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.

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.

Windows 10 Users Beware! TrickBots' Prevalence And Conveyance Escalates in Devices



Reports mention that recently attackers were found exploiting the latest version of the “Remote Desktop ActiveX” which was developed for Windows 10.

Sources say that similar to what many others are doing, the exploitation could cause the automatic execution of the “OSTAP” JavaScript downloaded on the ta
rget’s systems.

Per analyses of researchers, the ActiveX is employed to automatically execute a mal macro right after the target enables a document. The majority of the documents contained images to encourage people to enable the content.

Per reports, the catch was that the image contained a hidden ActiveX control below it; the OSTAP downloader was disguised in white text to make it seemingly invisible to eyes and readable for machines.

Trickbot attackers misuse people’s tendencies of not updating their software with the latest updates to protect the systems.

Trickbots happen to be among the most advanced versions of the malware structures. The number is increasing and so is the threat to systems with Windows 10. Not of late, researchers dug out more documents that execute the OSTAP JavaScript downloader.

It was also found out that the groups of tricksters that were exploiting the ActiveX control were not the only ones. Other groups were also into misusing them along with a few others.

According to sources, the victim documents had the following nomenclature-“i<7-9 arbitrary="" digits="">.doc”. Almost every document had in it an image that would convince the enablers to open it. What the opener wouldn’t know is that below the image is a hidden ActiveX control. The OSTAP JavaScript downloader would be disguised as white text which only the machines could read.

Per sources, the analysis of the ActiveX code exposed the use of the “MsRdpClient10NotSafeForScripting” class. The script is crafted in a way that the server field is left empty to cause an error which would aid the attackers further on.

According to researchers, the technique that kicks the ‘macro’ on is, “_OnDisconnected”. This will execute the main function, first. It doesn’t get executed instantly for it takes time to resolve the DNS to an empty string only to return an error.

The OSTAP’s execution would depend on the “error number matches” exactly to “disconnectReasonDNSLookupFailed”. The OSTAP wscript directive is relative to the error number computation.

The execution of the wscript would work with its very content. This trick is quite an old one in the book. Microsoft’s BAT would ignore the ‘comments’, along with the content and everything that comes with the syntax, while the execution’s happening.

Once the JavaScript is edited per the attackers’ needs, the obfuscation scheme gets repeated. Updating systems doesn’t work every time but it’s a pre-requisite anyway.

A defense mechanism is paramount in cases of OSTAP and the likes of it. With the technology that’s prospering with every passing minute, so is the number of attack mechanisms and attackers. Hence keep systems updates and a tight security structure in place.


Indian users third most affected by Formjacking attacks, after the US and Australia


Followed by the US and Australia, Indian users were the most exposed to Formjacking attacks, according to a new survey by cybersecurity firm, Symantec, which has blocked over 2.3 million formjacking attacks globally in the second quarter of 2019.

In 2018, American users faced 33% of the total formjacking attacks; however, during the first half of the year 2019, they became the most exposed to these attacks with more than 50% of all the global detections. On the other hand, India with 5.7% of all the global attacks ranks third, as per the Symantec report.

Formjacking, a new dangerous threat in the cyber world, operates by infecting websites via malicious codes; mainly, these are the websites that involve filling out job applications, government forms, and credit card details. Symantec carried out a comprehensive analysis of formjacking attacks in its Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR) which calls attention to the ways users and websites have been affected by this critical cyber threat in 2018-19.

“We expect this formjacking trend to continue and expand further to steal all kinds of data from web forms, not just payment card data. This also means that we are likely to see more software supply chain attacks. Unfortunately, formjacking is showing no signs of disappearing any time soon. Therefore, operators of online stores need to be aware of the risk and protect their online presence,” reads the report.

How ‘Formjacking’ Works? 

In order to inject malicious JavaScript code on the website, attackers and cybercriminals modify one of the JavaScript files which get loaded along with the website. Then, the malicious JavaScript code makes alterations in the behavior of the selected web process on the infected website which, as a result, allows hackers to unlawfully acquire credit card data and other sensitive information.

According to the findings of Symantec, the websites which are affected by Formjacking attacks stay under its influence for 46 days. A number of websites have fallen prey to formjacking, with publically reported attacks on the websites of major companies like British Airways, Ticketmaster, Feedify, and Newegg.

Warning the consumers around the globe, Candid Wueest, Principal Threat Researcher at Symantec, said, “Each month we discover thousands of formjacking infected websites, which generate millions of dollars for the cybercriminals," warned Candid Wueest, Principal Threat Researcher at Symantec.

"Consumers often don't notice that they have become a victim to a formjacking attack as it can happen on a trusted online store with the HTTPS padlock intact. Therefore, it is important to have a comprehensive security solution that can protect you against formjacking attacks," He added.