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Research by: Tom Fakterman

Over the course of the last few months, the Cybereason Nocturnus team has been investigating the activity of the Evilnum group. The group first emerged in 2018, and since then, Evilnum’s activity has been varied, with recent reports using different components written in Javascript and C# as well as tools bought from the Malware-as-a-Service provider Golden Chickens.

The group’s operations appear to be highly targeted, as opposed to a widespread phishing operation, with a focus on the FinTech market by way of abusing the Know Your Customer regulations (KYC), documents with information provided by clients when business is undertaken. Since its first discovery, the group’s mainly targeted different companies across the UK and EU.

In recent weeks, the Nocturnus team has observed new activity by the group, including several notable changes from tactics observed previously. These variations include a change in the chain of infection and persistence, new infrastructure that is expanding over time, and the use of a new Python-scripted Remote Access Trojan (RAT) Nocturnus dubbed PyVil RAT. 

PyVil RAT possesses different functionalities, and enables the attackers to exfiltrate data, perform keylogging and the taking of screenshots, and the deployment of more tools such as LaZagne in order to steal credentials.

In this write-up, we dive into the recent activity of the Evilnum group and explore its new infection chain and tools.

Key Findings

  • Evilnum: The Cybereason Nocturnus team is tracking the operations of the Evilnum group, which has been active for the past two years, using a variety of tools.
  • Targeting the Financial Sector: The group is known to target FinTech companies, and is abusing the usage of the Know Your Customer( KYC) procedure in order to start the infection.
  • New Tricks: In this research, we see a deviation from the infection chain, persistence, infrastructure, and tools observed previously, including:
    • Modified versions of legitimate executables employed in an attempt to remain undetected by security tools.
    • Infection chain shift from a JavaScript Trojan with backdoor capabilities to a multi-process delivery procedure of the payload. 
    • A newly discovered Python-scripted RAT dubbed PyVil RAT that was compiled with py2exe, which has the capability to download new modules to expand functionality. 

table of contents

Overview of the Group

The Evilnum group has been reported to target financial technology companies, mostly located in the UK and other EU countries. The main goal of the group is to spy on its infected targets and steal information such as passwords, documents, browser cookies, email credentials and more.

Aside from the group’s own proprietary tools, Evilnum has been observed deploying Golden Chickens tools in some cases, as reported in the past. Golden Chickens is a Malware-as-a-Service (MaaS) provider that is known to have been used by groups such as FIN6 and Cobalt Group. Among the tools used by the Evilnum group are More_eggs, TerraPreter, TerraStealer, and TerraTV.

The Evilnum group’s activity was first identified in 2018, when they used the first version of their infamous JavaScript Trojan. The script extracts C2 addresses from sites like GitHub, DigitalPoint and Reddit by querying specific pages created for this purpose. This technique enables the attackers to change the C2 address of deployed agents easily while keeping the communications masked as requests are made to legitimate known sites. 

Since then, the group has been mentioned several times, in different attacks, each time upgrading its toolset with new capabilities as well as adding new tools to the group’s arsenal.

The initial infection vector of Evilnum typically begins with spear phishing emails, with the goal of delivering ZIP archives that contain LNK files masquerading as photos of different documents such as driving licenses, credit cards, and utility bills. These documents are likely to be stolen and belong to real individuals.

Once an LNK file is opened, it deploys the JavaScript Trojan, which in turn replaces the LNK file with a real image file, making this whole operation invisible to the user.

Up to this date, as described in this publication, six different iterations of the JavaScript trojan have been observed in the wild, each with small changes that don’t alter the core functionality. The JavaScript agent has functionalities such as upload and download files, steal cookies, collect antivirus information, execute commands and more. 

In addition to the JavaScript component, as described in a previous research, the group has been observed deploying a C# Trojan, that possesses similar functionality to the former JavaScript component.

Evilnum1a

Previous infection chain

New Infection Chain

In the past, Evilnum’s infection chain started with spear phishing emails, delivering zip archives that contain LNK files masquerading as images. These LNK files will drop a JavaScript Trojan with different backdoor capabilities as described above. 

In recent weeks, we observed a change in this infection procedure: first, instead of delivering four different LNK files in a zip archive that in turn will be replaced by a JPG file, only one file is archived. This LNK file masquerades as a PDF whose content includes several documents, such as utility bills, credit card photos, and Drivers license photos:

Evilnum2

LNK file in ZIP

When the LNK file is executed, asin previous versions, a JavaScript file is written to disk and executed, replacing the LNK file with a PDF:

Evilnum3

Example KYC documents from the PDF

Unlike previous versions that possessed an array of functionalities, this version of the JavaScript acts mainly as a dropper and lacks any C2 communication capabilities. This JavaScript is the first stage in this new infection chain, culminating with the delivery of the payload, a Python written RAT compiled with py2exe that Nocturnus researchers dubbed PyVil RAT:

Evilnum4

Initial infection process tree

In Cybereason, we are able to view the process tree and the extraction of the JavaScript from the LNK file:

Evilnum5

Initial infection process tree in Cybereason

The JavaScript is extracted by outputting all lines that contain the string “END2” (commented out in the script) to a file named “0.js” in the temp folder and the LNK is copied to the temp folder as “1.lnk”:

Evilnum6

Extraction of the embedded JS script

The JavaScript file is using a similar path to previous versions to drop binaries ("%localappdata%\\Microsoft\\Credentials\\MediaPlayer\\”):

Evilnum7

Snippet from JS file

After the script replaces the LNK file with the real PDF, the JS file is copied to “%localappdata%\Microsoft\Credentials\MediaPlayer\VideoManager\media.js” and is executed again.

In this second execution of the script, an executable file named “ddpp.exe” that is embedded inside the LNK file is extracted and saved to "%localappdata%\Microsoft\Credentials\MediaPlayer\ddpp.exe".

Unlike previous versions where the malware used the Run registry key for persistence, in this new version, a scheduled task named “Dolby Selector Task” for ddpp.exe is created instead:

Evilnum8

ddpp.exe scheduled task

With this scheduled task, the second stage of retrieving the payload begins:

Evilnum9

Downloaders process tree

In Cybereason, we see the attempted credential dump by the payload:

Evilnum10

Downloaders process tree in Cybereason

ddpp.exe: Tojanzed Program

The ddpp.exe executable appears to be a version of “Java(™) Web Start Launcher” modified to execute malicious code:

Evilnum11

ddpp.exe icon

When comparing the malware executable with the original Oracle executable, we can see the similar metadata between the files. The major difference at first sight, is that the original Oracle executable is signed, while the malware is not:

Evilnum12

ddpp.exe file properties 

Evilnum13

Original javaws.exe file properties 

According to Intezer engine there is huge amount of shared code between the malware executable and the legitimate Oracle Corporation file:

Evilnum14

ddpp.exe code reuse in Intezer 

ddpp.exe Functionality

The ddpp.exe executable functions as a downloader for the next stages of the infection.

It is executed by the scheduled task with three arguments:

  • The encoded UUID of the infected machine
  • An encoded list of installed Anti-virus products
  • The number 0

Evilnum15

ddpp.exe scheduled task arguments

When ddpp.exe is executed, it unpacks shellcode:

Evilnum16

ddpp.exe passing execution to shellcode

The shellocode connects to the C2 using a GET request, sending in the URI the three parameters received that were described above. In turn, the malware receives back another encrypted executable, which is saved to disk as “fplayer.exe” and is executed using a new scheduled task: 

Evilnum17

ddpp.exe C2 communication over HTTP

fplayer.exe

fplayer.exe functions as another downloader. The downloaded payload is then loaded by fplayer.exe to memory and serves as a fileless RAT. The file is saved in “%localappdata%\microsoft\media player\player\fplayer.exe” and is executed with a scheduled task named “Adobe Update Task”: 

Evilnum18

fplayer.exe scheduled task

Fplayer.exe is executed with several arguments as well:

  • The encoded UUID of the infected machine
  • Three arguments that will be used by the PyVil RAT at a later stage:
    • “-m”: The name of the scheduled task
    • “-f”: tells the PyVil RAT to parse the rest of the arguments
    • “-t”: update the scheduled task

Evilnum19

fplayer.exe scheduled task arguments

Similarly to ddpp.exe, fplayer.exe appears to be a modified version of “Stereoscopic 3D driver Installer”:

Evilnum19b

fplayer.exe icon

In here as well, we can see the similar metadata between the files with the difference being that the original Nvidia  executable is signed, while the malware is not:

Evilnum20

fplayer.exe file properties

Evilnum21

Original nvStinst.exe file properties 

This time as well, according to Intezer engine there are high percentage of code similarities with Nvidia Corporation:

Evilnum22

fplayer.exe code reuse in Intezer 

When fplayer.exe is executed, it also unpacks shellcode:

Evilnum23

 fplayer.exe passing execution to shellcode

The shellcode connects to the C2 using a GET request, this time sending in the URI the only the encoded UUID.  fplayer.exe was observed to receive another encrypted executable, which is saved as ‘%localappdata%\Microsoft\Media Player\Player\devAHJE.tmp’:

Evilnum24

fplayer.exe C2 communication

The process decrypts the received executable, and maps it to memory, passing it the execution.

The decrypted file is a compiled py2exe executable. py2exe is a Python extension which converts Python scripts into Microsoft Windows executables.

PyVil: A New Python RAT

The Python code inside the py2exe is obfuscated with extra layers, in order to prevent decompilation of the payload using existing tools. Using a memory dump, we were able to extract the first layer of Python code. The first piece of code decodes and decompresses the second layer of Python code:

Evilnum25

The first layer of deobfuscation code 

The second layer of Python code decodes and loads to memory the main RAT and the imported libraries:

Evilnum26

Snippet from the second layer of code: extraction of Python libraries

The PyVil RAT has several functionalities including:

  • Keylogger
  • Running cmd commands
  • Taking screenshots
  • Downloading more Python scripts for additional functionality 
  • Dropping and uploading executables
  • Opening an SSH shell
  • Collecting information such as: 
    • Anti-virus products installed
    • USB devices connected
    • Chrome version

PyVil RAT’s Global variables give a clear understanding of the malware’s capabilities:

Evilnum27

Global variables showing PyVil RAT's functionality

PyVil RAT has a configuration module that holds the malware’s version, C2 domains, and user agents to use when communicating with the C2:

Evilnum28

Configuration module

PyVil RAT’s C2 communications are done via POST HTTP requests and are RC4 encrypted using a hardcoded key encoded with base64:

Evilnum29

RC4 key

Evilnum30

data exfiltration from the infected machine being sent to the C2

This encrypted data contains a Json of different data collected from the machine and configuration:

Evilnum31

One of the decrypted JSONs sent to the C2 

Field

Usage

type

Not clear

xmode

Not clear

req_type

Request type

svc_ver

Malware version in the configuration

ext_ver

A version of an executable the malware may download (-2 means the  executables folder does not exist)

ext_exists

Checks for the existence of a particular executable 

svc_name

Appears to be a name used to identify the malware by the C2.

ext_uuid

Encoded machine UUID

svc_uuid

machine UUID

host

Hostname

uname

User name

ia

Is user admin

wv

Windows version

dt

Current date and time

avs

List of installed anti-virus products

gc

Dictionary of different configuration

sc_secs_min

Minimum sleep time between sending screenshots

sc_secs_max

Maximum sleep time between sending  screenshots

kl_secs_min

Minimum sleep time between sending keylogging data

kl_secs_max

Maximum sleep time between sending keylogging data

kl_run

Is keylogger activated

klr

Is keylogger activated

tc

Is USB connected

cr

Is chrome.exe is running

ct

Type of downloaded  module to run: executable or Python module

cn

Module name corresponding to “ct”

imp

Execute the downloaded module (corresponds with “ct”)

pwds

Extracted passwords

cooks

Cookies information

Fields used in C2 communication

During the analysis of PyVil RAT, on several occasions, the malware received from the C2 a new Python module to execute. This Python module is a custom version of the LaZagne Project which the Evilnum group has used in the past. The script will try to dump passwords and collect cookie information to send to the C2:

Evilnum32

Decrypted LaZagne output sent to the C2 

Expanding Infrastructure

In previous campaigns of the group, Evilnum’s tools avoided using domains in communications with the C2, only using IP addresses. In recent weeks, we encountered an interesting trend with Evilnum’s growing infrastructure. 

By tracking Evilnum’s new infrastructure that the group has built in the past few weeks, a trend of expansion can be seen. While the C2 IP address changes every few weeks, the list of domains associated with this IP address keeps growing. A few weeks ago, three domains associated with the malware were resolved to the same IP address:

Domains

Resolved IP

crm-domain[.]net

5.206.227[.]81

telecomwl[.]com

leads-management[.]net

Shortly thereafter, the C2 IP address of all three domains changed. In addition, three new domains were registered with the same IP address and were used by the malware:

Domains

Resolved IP

crm-domain[.]net

185.236.230[.]25

telecomwl[.]com

leads-management[.]net

voipssupport[.]com

voipasst[.]com

voipreq12[.]com

A few weeks later, this change occurred again. The resolution address of all domains changed in the span of a few days, with the addition of three new domains:

Domains

Resolved IP

crm-domain[.]net

193.56.28[.]201

telecomwl[.]com

leads-management[.]net

voipssupport[.]com

voipasst[.]com

voipreq12[.]com

telefx[.]net

fxmt4x[.]com

xlmfx[.]com

Evilnum33

Evilnum’s Infrastructure

Conclusion

In this write-up, we examined a new infection chain by the Evilnum group - threat actors who have started to make a name for themselves. Since the first reports in 2018 through today, the group’s TTPs have evolved with different tools while the group has continued to focus on  FinTech targets. 

The Evilnum group employed different types of tools along its career, including JavaScript and C# Trojans, malware bought from the malware-as-a-service Golden Chickens, and other existing Python tools. With all these different changes, the primary method of gaining initial access to their FinTech targets stayed the same: using fake Know your customer (KYC) documents to trick employees of the finance industry to trigger the malware. 

In recent weeks we observed a significant change in the infection procedure of the group, moving away from the JavaScript backdoor capabilities, instead utilizing it as a first stage dropper for new tools down the line. During the infection stage, Evilnum utilized modified versions of legitimate executables in an attempt to stay stealthy and remain undetected by security tools.

The group deployed a new type of Python RAT that Nocturnus researchers dubbed PyVil RAT which possesses abilities to gather information, take screenshots, keylog data, open an SSH shell and deploy new tools. These tools can be a Python module such as LaZagne or an executable, and thus adding more functionality for the attack as required. This innovation in tactics and tools is what allowed the group to stay under the radar, and we expect to see more in the future as the Evilnum group’s arsenal continues to grow.

Mitre ATT&CK BREAKDOWN

Initial Access

Execution

Persistence

Privilege Escalation

Defense Evasion

Spearphishing Link

User Execution

Scheduled Task

Scheduled Task

Deobfuscate/Decode Files or Information

 

Windows Command Shell

   

Masquerading

 

JavaScript/JScript

   

Obfuscated Files or Information

 

Credential Access

Discovery

Collection

Command and Control

Exfiltration

Credentials from Password Stores

Process Discovery

Keylogging

Data Encoding

Exfiltration Over C2 Channel

Credentials from Web Browsers

Security Software Discovery

Screen Capture

Ingress Tool Transfer

 

OS Credential Dumping

System Information Discovery

 

Application Layer Protocol

 

Keylogging

   

Encrypted Channel

 

Steal Web Session Cookie

       

 

INDICATORS OF COMPROMISE

Click here to download this campaign's IOCs (PDF)

Click here to read the threat alert for PyVil RAT.