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The favored Distant Entry Instrument (RAT)

Don’t be too hasty to link each Poison Ivy-primarily based cyber assault to China. The popular remote entry tool (RAT), which we just lately detailed on this blog, is being used in a broad campaign of assaults launched from the Middle East, too.

First, some background:
In October 2012, malware assaults towards Israeli government targets grabbed media attention as officials quickly reduce off Web entry for its whole police power and banned using USB reminiscence sticks. [1] Safety researchers subsequently linked these assaults to a broader, yearlong campaign that focused not simply Israelis however Palestinians as nicely. [2] — and as found later, even the U.S. and UK governments. [Three] Additional analysis revealed a connection between these assaults and members of the so-known as “Gaza Hackers Staff.” We check with this marketing campaign as “Molerats.”

Threat actors in specific geographic areas could want one RAT to another, but many RATs are publicly accessible and utilized by a wide range of risk actors, including those involved in malware-based mostly espionage.

In 2012, the Molerats attacks appeared to rely closely on the XtremeRAT, a freely out there device that is common with attackers primarily based within the Middle East. [5] However the group has additionally used Poison Ivy (PIVY), a RAT extra commonly related to threat actors in China [6] — a lot in order that PIVY has, inaccurately, develop into synonymous with all APT attacks linked to China.

This weblog post analyzes several recent Molerats assaults that deployed PIVY towards targets in the Middle East and within the U.S. We also study further PIVY attacks that leverage Arabic-language content associated to the continued crisis in Egypt and the wider Middle East to lure targets into opening malicious recordsdata. [7]

Enter Poison Ivy
We observed several assaults in June and July 2013 towards targets within the Center East and the U.S. that dropped a PIVY payload that connected to command-and-management (CnC) infrastructure utilized by the Molerats attackers.

The malware sample we analyzed was unusual for two causes:
– It referenced an article that was printed final yr
– The compile time for the dropped binary was additionally dated from last 12 months, seemingly per the referenced article. However this malware was signed, and — in contrast to the compile time, which will be faked — the signing deadpool vector t shirt design time on its certificate was a lot more moderen: Monday, July 08, 2013 1:45:10 A.M.

Listed here are the file details:
Hamas shoot down Israeli F-sixteen fighter jet by fashionable weapon in Gaza sea.doc- – – – – – – – – – – -.scr

MD5: 7084f3a2d63a16a191b7fcb2b19f0e0d
This malware was signed with a forged Microsoft certificate similar to previous XtremeRat samples. But the serial quantity (which is usually reused by attackers, enabling FireEye researchers to link individual assaults, including those by the Molerats) is completely different this time.

The malware dropped an instance of PIVY with the following configuration:
ID: F16 08-07-2013

DNS/Port: Direct:,

Proxy DNS/Port:
Proxy Hijack: No

ActiveX Startup Key:
HKLM Startup Entry:

File Name:
Install Path: C:\Documents and Settings\Admin\Local Settings\Temp\morse.exe

Keylog Path: C:\Documents and Settings\Admin\Local Settings\Temp\morse
Inject: No

Course of Mutex: gdfgdfgdg
Key Logger Mutex:

ActiveX Startup: No
HKLM Startup: No

Copy To: No
Melt: No

Persistence: No
Keylogger: No

Password: !@#GooD#@!
We collected extra PIVY samples that had the same password or linked to CnC infrastructure at a common IP deal with (or both). We observed three PIVY passwords (another potential identifier) used in the Yoda assaults: “!@#GooD#@!”, “!@#Goood#@!” and “admin100”.

Additional Samples with Center Eastern Themes
We additionally found a PIVY sample used by this group that leveraged what are referred to as key files instead of passwords. The PIVY builder permits operators to load .pik recordsdata containing a key to secure communications between the compromised laptop and the attacker’s machine. By default, PIVY secures these communications with the ascii textual content password of “admin” — when the same non-default password seems in a number of attacks, researchers can conclude that the assaults are related.

The PIVY sample in query had an MD5 hash of 9dff139bbbe476770294fb86f4e156ac and communicated with a CnC server at over port 443. The key file used to safe communications contained the next ascii string ‘Password (256 bits):\x0d\x0aA9612889F6’ (where \x0d\x0a represents a line break).

The 9dff139bbbe476770294fb86f4e156ac pattern dropped a decoy document in Arabic that included a transcript of an interview with Salam Fayyad, the former Prime Minister of the Palestinian Nationwide Authority.

The sample 16346b95e6deef9da7fe796c31b9dec4 was additionally seen speaking with over port deadpool vector t shirt design 443. This pattern seems to have been delivered to its targets by way of a link to a RAR archive labeled Ramadan.rar (fc554a0ad7cf9d4f47ec4f297dbde375) hosted at the Dropbox file-sharing webpage.

The pattern a8714aac274a18f1724d9702d40030bf dropped a decoy document in Arabic that contained a biography of Basic Adbel Fattah el-Sisi – the Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces.

A recent sample (d9a7c4a100cfefef995785f707be895c) used protests in Egypt to entice recipients to open a malicious file.

Another pattern (b0a9abc76a2b4335074a13939c59bfc9) contained a decoy with a grim image of Fadel Al Radfani, who was the adviser to the defense minister of Yemen earlier than he was assassinated.

Although deadpool vector t shirt design we’re seeing Egyptian- and Center Jap-themed attacks using decoy content in Arabic, we can’t determine the meant targets of all of these assaults.

Delivery Vector
We consider that the Molerats attacker makes use of spear phishing to ship weaponized RAR information containing their malicious payloads to their victims in a minimum of two different ways. The Molerats actor will in some circumstances attach the weaponized RAR file on to their spear- phishing-emails. We also imagine that this actor sends spear-phishing emails that embody hyperlinks to RAR recordsdata hosted on third-party platforms resembling Dropbox.

In one such example we discovered the next link was used to host Ramadan.rar (fc554a0ad7cf9d4f47ec4f297dbde375):

hxxps://dl[.]dropboxusercontent[.]com/s/uiod7orcpykx2g8/Ramadan.rar token_hash=AAHAVuiXpTkOKwar9e0WH-EfrK7PEB9O7t7WC6Tgtn315w&dl=1

CnC Infrastructure
Now we have found 15 PIVY samples that may be linked by common passwords, frequent CnC domains, and customary IP addresses to which the CnC domains resolve. The CnC servers for this cluster of activity are:


Two of the domains ( and that were used as CnCs for PIVY had been both documented as XtremeRat CnCs that have been utilized in previous attacks. [Eight]

We targeted on these domains and their IP addresses — which that they had in common with As well as, we added the nicely-known CnCs and used in beforehand documented attacks.

By observing changes in DNS resolution that occurred within the identical timeframe, we were ready to ensure that the passive DNS information we collected was the identical. Apparently, we also found that the domains often shifted to a brand new IP address over time.

One fascinating discovery issues a pattern (5b740b4623b2d1049c0036a6aae684b0) that was first seen by VirusTotal on September 14, 2012. This date is throughout the timeframe of the original XtremeRat assaults, but the payload in this case was PIVY. This indicates that the attackers have been using PIVY along with XtremeRat for longer than we had originally believed.

We have no idea whether using PIVY is an attempt by those behind the Molerats campaign to frame China-based mostly threat actors for their assaults or just evidence that they’ve added one other effective, publicly-accessible RAT to its arsenal. But this growth should elevate a warning flag for anyone tempted to mechanically attribute all PIVY assaults to threat actors based in China. The ubiquity of off-the-shelf RATs makes figuring out those accountable an increasing problem.

The continued attacks are additionally heavily leveraging content material in Arabic that makes use of conflicts in Egypt and the wider Center East to lure targets into opening malicious information. But we have no additional details about the exact targets of these Arabic lures.

As events on the bottom within the Middle East — and in Egypt in particular — obtain worldwide consideration, we count on the Molerat operators to proceed leveraging these headlines to catalyze their operations.

1. been-hacked-the-inside-story/

2. opposition to_Israeli_and_Palestinian_targets.pdf



6. /content/dam/legacy/assets/pdfs/fireeye-poison-ivy-report.pdf
7. The Molerats group also uses addition RATs akin to XtremeRat, Cerberus, Cybergate, however we have focused on their used of PIVY on this blog.