SecurityBrief Asia logo
Asia's leading source of cybersecurity and cyber-attack news
Story image

DragonOK updates toolset and targets multiple geographic regions

Tue 10 Jan 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

The DragonOK group has been actively launching attacks for years. We first discussed them in April 2015 when we witnessed them targeting a number of organizations in Japan. In recent months, Unit 42 has observed a number of attacks that we attribute to this group. Multiple new variants of the previously discussed sysget malware family have been observed in use by DragonOK. Sysget malware was delivered both directly via phishing emails, as well as in Rich Text Format (RTF) documents exploiting the CVE-2015-1641 vulnerability (patched in MS15-033) that in turn leveraged a very unique shellcode. Additionally, we have observed instances of the IsSpace and TidePool malware families being delivered via the same techniques. While Japan is still the most heavily targeted geographic region by this particular actor, we also observed instances where individuals or organizations in Taiwan, Tibet, and Russia also may have been targeted.

Infiltration

We observed two unique techniques of infiltration for this particular campaign:

Phishing emails being sent with malicious executables directly attached Malicious RTF files which exploit CVE-2015-1641.

The phishing emails had the following characteristics:

Email Subjects

Pickup at the Juanda Airport (1-Sep) ポイントプレゼントのお知らせ [Roughly Translated: Point gift announcement] 20周年記念パーティー [Roughly Translated: 20th Anniversary Party] 参加者の10周年記念同窓会一覧 [Roughly Translated: List of participants’ 10th anniversary alumni association] 子供の調査連れ [Roughly Translated: Children’s investigation] G20 report 記念日の再会 [Roughly Translated: Anniversary reunion] 最新の人事異動通知 [Roughly Translated: Recent personnel change notice]

Attachment Filenames

G20 report.exe exe List of Participants.exe Registration form.exe

These emails targeted the following industries in Japan:

Manufacturing Higher Education Energy Technology Semiconductor

The malicious RTF files in question leverage a very specific shellcode to drop and execute the malicious payload, as well as a decoy document. Decoy documents are legitimate benign documents that are opened after the malicious payload is delivered, thus ensuring that the victim does not become suspicious because their expected document opened as expected.

Two samples were found to include the decoy document show in Figure 1.

The title of the document roughly translates to “Ministry of Communications & Departments Authorities Empty Sites and Hosted Public Works Source Clearance Photos”. The use of traditional Chinese indicators the target likely residing in either Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Macau. However, based on the Taiwanese subject matter in this document, we can safely come to the conclusion that the intended victim was of Taiwanese origin. These samples delivered an updated version of the IsSpace malware family, which was discussed previously in a watering hole attack targeting an aerospace firm. IsSpace is an evolved variant of the NFlog backdoor, which has been used by DragonOK in the past.

Figure 1 Taiwanese decoy document

Two other samples were identified that used a Tibet-themed decoy document. The document in question (Figure 2) appears to be an internal newsletter from the Central Tibetan Ministry, as suggested by the logo used as well as the content of the document itself.  This document indicates that the malware may have been targeted towards an individual that is interested in Tibetan affairs. These particular samples were unique in that they delivered the TidePool malware family that we reported on in May of 2016. We have not previously observed DragonOK using TidePool in attacks.

Figure 2 Tibetan decoy document containing internal newsletter

We also identified an additional sample using decoy targeting Taiwanese victims (Figure 3), which deployed a newer sysget sample.

Figure 3 Taiwanese-targeted decoy document

Other new samples associated with this group used a Russian language decoy document (Figure 4.) The decoy document in question discusses the GOST block cipher, which was created by the Russian government in the 1970’s. The combination of Russian language and Russian-specific subject matter indicates that the intended victim speaks Russian and may be interested in encryption. Like the previously discussed Tibetan decoy documents, these samples also delivered the TidePool malware family.

Figure 4 Russian decoy document discussing the GOST block cipher

Finally, multiple samples used a traditional Chinese language decoy document that discussed a subsidy welfare adjustment program. The use of traditional Chinese indicators the target likely residing in either Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Macau. Similar to other attacks witnessed, a variant of the sysget malware family is installed by these files.

Figure 5 Decoy document discussing subsidy welfare adjustment program

Malware Deployed

In looking at the various malware samples used in attempted attacks, the following four families were identified:

Sysget version 2 Sysget version 3 TidePool IsSpace

We broke the sysget classification into multiple variants when we found that a number of changes have been made since our April 2015 report. Major distinctions between the versions of sysget include the following:

Sysget version 2

Removed support for persistence on Windows XP Reworked the URIs used for network communication Added additional layers of encryption for network communication and stored configuration files Switched from RC4 to AES-128

Sysget version 3

Numerous anti-debug and anti-vm procedures added Encrypted URIs in network communication with an initial static key

In addition, we observed a sysget version 4 that was discovered in another sample during our research. This version is not attributed to a specific attack against an organization.

Indicators of compromise related to sysget version 4 and other samples not directly attributed to specific attacks may be found in the Appendix of this blog post.  Additionally, more information about the various sysget variants may also be found in the Appendix.

The TidePool samples encountered are consistent with the samples previously discussed. I encourage readers to view our previous blog post to learn more about the intricacies of this particular malware family.

The IsSpace malware sample, however, looks to have been updated since last we wrote on it. While the available commands from the command and control (C2) server remains the same, the URI structure of the network communication has been modified. Additionally, the installation routine for this malware family has been updated to be far less complex than previous discussed versions, favoring PowerShell to set persistence and forgoing the previously used side-loading technique. A more detailed analysis of the new instances of IsSpace may be found at the end of this blog post in the Appendix.

Infrastructure

A number of unique domains were employed by the various Trojans used in these attacks. For the numerous instances of sysget we observed, the following domains were observed for their C2:

kr44.78host[.]com gtoimage[.]com gogolekr[.]com

All of the above domains have Chinese

oimage[.]com and trend.gogolekr[.]com are both registered to the same registrant and resolve to the same netblock of 104.202.173.0/24.

The instances of TidePool identified communicated with the following C2 servers:

europe.wikaba[.]com russiaboy.ssl443[.]org cool.skywave[.]top

These domains did not have many definitive relations with the sysget C2 servers except for cool.skywave[.]top, which shared a unique registrant email with the sysget C2 server of trend.gogolekr[.]com. Additionally, the geographic region of the resolved IPs was consistent with the previous set, as they all resolved to various regions in southeast Asia. Specifically, the domains resolved to China, Korea, and Taiwan in the past six months.

The IsSpace samples resolved to the following domains:

www.dppline[.]org www.matrens[.]top

These domains had no apparent connections to the previously discussed C2 servers, other than the fact that they resolved to Korea and Hong Kong respectively. Additionally, the registrar of ‘Jiangsu Bangning Science and technology Co. Ltd.’ was used for a large number of domains. A full graph of the relations between the various attacks is shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6 Relationships between attacks

Conclusion

The DragonOK group are quite active and continue updating their tools and tactics. Their toolset is being actively developed to make detection and analysis more difficult. Additionally, they appear to be using additional malware toolsets such as TidePool. While Japan is still the most-targeted region by this group, they look to be seeking out victims in other regions as well, such as Taiwan, Tibet, and Russia.

Palo Alto Network customers are protected against this threat in the following ways:

Malware families are tagged in AutoFocus via a variety of tags (TidePool, NFlog, Sysget) The following IPS signatures detect malicious network traffic:

IPS signature 14365 (IsSpace.Gen Command And Control Traffic) IPS signature 14588 (Suspicious.Gen Command And Control Traffic) IPS signature 13574 (NfLog.Gen Command And Control Traffic) IPS signature 13359 (Nflog.Gen Command And Control Traffic)

All samples are appropriately marked malicious in WildFire.

Article by Josh Grunzweig, Unit 42, Palo Alto Networks.

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
How to ensure ethical deployment of AI implentations
The increase in automation and machine technology such as AI and machine learning has unlocked a whole new level of scale and service to organisations. 
Story image
Digital Transformation
How to modernise legacy apps without compromising security
At a time when digital transformation has become central to business, even the most important applications come with a ‘use-by’ date.
Story image
Ransomware
A third of companies paying ransom don’t recover data - report
Veeam's report finds 76% of businesses who are victims of cyberattacks paid the ransom to recover data, but a third were still unable to get their information back.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
AI-based email security platform Abnormal Security valued at $4B
"A new breed of cybersecurity solutions that leverage AI is required to change the game and stop the rising threat of sophisticated and targeted email attacks."
Story image
Cybersecurity
The 'A-B-C' of effective application security
Software applications have been a key tool for businesses for decades, but the way they are designed and operated has changed during the past few years.
Story image
Data Protection
Managed Service Providers key to customer data protection
Frequent cyberattacks in the ASEAN region drive the demand for MSPs that can deliver purpose-built security solutions for SME customers.
Story image
Malware
Use of malware, botnets and exploits expands in Q1 2022
"As zero-day attacks and other vulnerabilities among companies like Google and Microsoft come to light, threat actors are quickly adjusting their tactics."
Story image
Fortinet
Fortinet sees 34% revenue increase in latest financial results
Fortinet has released its financial results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2022, seeing a total revenue increase of 34.4% compared to the same quarter last year.
Story image
Malware
Sharp increase in phishing as cybercriminals leverage SEO to lure victims
"Malware lurking everywhere, from cloud apps to search engines, leaving organisations at greater risk than ever before."
Story image
APAC
Odaseva expands in APAC and UK with more security features
Odaseva, a data platform for Salesforce, is establishing new headquarters in London as well as a new data center in India.
Story image
Ransomware
Anniversaries remind us to review identity risks
World Password Day provides a timely reminder for ordinary citizens and organisations to stop and think about the risks associated with digital identities.
Story image
Appian
Appian awarded billions in damages against Pegasystems Inc.
Appian has been awarded USD$2.036 billion in damages against Pegasystems Inc as the result of a jury verdict in the Circuit Court for Fairfax County, Virginia.
Story image
SaaS
Absolute Software expands Secure Access product offering
Absolute Software is enhancing its Secure Access product portfolio, enabling minimised risk exposure and optimised user experiences in the hybrid working environment.
Story image
Tech job moves
Tech job moves - Datacom, Micro Focus, SnapLogic and VMware
We round up all job appointments from May 6-12, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
Story image
Cybersecurity
ThoughtLab reveals 10 best practices for cybersecurity in 2022
The benchmarking study reveals best practices that can reduce the probability of a material breach and the time it takes to find and respond to those that happen.
Story image
Firewall
Sophos named Gartner Peer Insights Customers Choice for network firewalls
The company earned the highest overall customer rating among vendors with at least 150 verified customer reviews.
Story image
Training
Fortinet training edges toward closing cybersecurity gap
The Fortinet Training Institute has made significant progress in closing the cybersecurity skills gap, on track to train one million people by 2026.
Story image
Phishing
Developments in phishing and how to protect your business
Phishing, the practice of sending malicious emails to encourage users to perform actions that benefit an attacker, is a key security concern for modern businesses due to its prevalence and impact.
Story image
Blue Prism
Blue Prism Desktop uses IA to defend against vulnerabilities
SS&C Blue Prism Desktop aims to help protect businesses against vulnerabilities, using a combination of security measures and intelligent automation tech.
SonicWall
Find out how you and your business can prevent being caught out by everything from ransomware to cryptojacking.
Link image
Story image
Microsoft
Apple, Google and Microsoft expands plans to get rid of passwords
FIDO Alliance says the world is closer to not relying on passwords after Apple, Google and Microsoft expands their support for a passwordless sign-in standard.
Story image
Workato
Workato unveils enhancements to enterprise automation platform
"The extra layer of protection with EKM, zero-logging, and hourly key rotation gives customers a lot more visibility and control over more sensitive data."
Story image
Phishing
KnowBe4 celebrates reaching 50,000 customers worldwide
KnowBe4 has reached the milestone of 50,000 customers, adding nearly 2,500 in the first quarter of 2022 alone.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Video: 10 Minute IT Jams - An update from IronNet
Michael Ehrlich joins us today to discuss the history of IronNet and the crucial role the company plays in the cyber defence space.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Companies rushing to secure print infrastructure
As the pandemic prioritised communication channels and the shift to remote work, IT departments fell behind in updating the security of print and IT infrastructure.
Story image
Cybersecurity
A10 Networks finds over 15 million DDoS weapons in 2021
A10 Networks notes that in the 2H 2021 reporting period, its security research team tracked more than 15.4 million Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) weapons.
Story image
Microsoft
Microsoft unveils three new security managed services
Security Experts includes three new managed services, Defender Experts for Hunting, Defender Experts for XDR, Security Services for Enterprise.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Managed service providers: effective scoping to avoid costly vendor pitfalls
Managed security services are outsourced services focusing on the security and resilience of business networks.
Story image
Cybersecurity
CyberArk launches $30M investment fund to advance security
CyberArk has announced the launch of CyberArk Ventures, a $30 million global investment fund dedicated to advancing the next generation of security disruptors.
Story image
Digital Transformation
Physical security systems guide the hybrid workplace to new heights
Organisations are reviewing how data gathered from their physical security systems can optimise, protect and enhance their business operations in unique ways.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Hard numbers: Why ambiguity in cybersecurity no longer adds up
As cybersecurity costs and risks continue to escalate, CEOs continue to struggle with what their investment in cyber protection buys. Getting rid of ambiguity becomes necessary.
Story image
Ransomware
Cybersecurity starts with education
In 2021, 80% of Australian organisations responding to the Sophos State of Ransomware study reported being hit by ransomware. 
Story image
Phishing
Google reveals new safety and security measures for users
Google's new measures include automatic two step verification, virtual cards and making it easier to remove contact information on Google Search results.
Story image
Forensics
Exterro adds advanced capabilities to digital forensic tool
The launch is in-line with Exterro’s investment in the FTK product line, and underscores the company's commitment to the digital forensics.
Story image
Ivanti
Ivanti and Lookout bring zero trust security to hybrid work
Ivanti and Lookout have joined forces to help organisations accelerate cloud adoption and mature their zero trust security posture in the everywhere workplace.
Story image
VPN
Palo Alto Networks says ZTNA 1.0 not secure enough
Palo Alto Networks is urging the industry to move to Zero Trust Network Access 2.0 because previous versions have major gaps in security protection.
Story image
Tech job moves
Tech job moves - Cisco, Hitachi Vantara, Tricentis & Zscaler
We round up all job appointments from April 28 - May 5, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
Story image
BeyondTrust
BeyondTrust integrates Password Safe solution with SailPoint
BeyondTrust has announced the integration of BeyondTrust Password Safe with SailPoint identity security offerings.
Story image
Remote Working
How zero trust and SD-WANs can support productive remote working
The way people connect with applications and data has changed, users are remotely accessing resources that could be stored anywhere from a corporate data center to the cloud.
Story image
Hyperscale
SpaceDC partners with Aofei for data center sales in Asia
SpaceDC has partnered with Aofei Data International to sell Aofei's data centers, CDN and SDN in China.
Story image
Application Security
What are the DDoS attack trend predictions for 2022?
Mitigation and recovery are vital to ensuring brand reputation remains solid in the face of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack and that business growth and innovation can continue.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
ForgeRock releases Autonomous Access solution powered by AI
ForgeRock has officially introduced ForgeRock Autonomous Access, a new solution that uses AI to prevent identity-based cyber attacks and fraud.
Story image
Sift
Sift shares crucial advice for preventing serious ATO breaches
Are you or your business struggling with Account Takeover Fraud (ATO)? One of the latest ebooks from Sift can provide readers with the tools and expertise to help launch them into the new era of account security.
Story image
Secure access service edge / SASE
Versa Networks recognised as SASE leader in Govie Awards
Versa Networks has announced its SASE offering has been recognised in The Govies Government Security Awards competition by Security Today magazine.