Story image

New email spam campaign ditches traditional Office macro infection tactic

19 Feb 18

Researchers at Trustwave’s SpiderLabs Blog have spotted a wave of spam emails that use Microsoft Office documents to download password stealers without having to activate Macros.

Often malware will hide in infected Microsoft Office documents commonly attached to spam emails. That malware will be disguised as a downloader that is launched if a victim allows Macros in a malicious document.

This is a common sight in spam delivered from the Necurs botnet, however a new sample has ditched the macro approach entirely and instead uses a Microsoft Office vulnerability to steal details from victims.

Researchers have been tracking an email spam campaign that uses a four-stage infection process to deliver attachments and then a password stealer.

That password stealer can also steal credentials from email clients, FTP and browser clients.

According to researchers, the spam campaign uses a number of different subject lines, often variations of the following:

  • TNT STATEMENT OF ACCOUNT – {random numbers}.
  • Request for Quotation (RFQ) - <{random numbers}>
  • Telex Transfer Notification
  • SWIFT COPY FOR BALANCE PAYMENT

Researchers explain:

“Word documents with Office 2007 Open XML Formats are based on XML and ZIP archive technologies. Anyone can easily manipulate data in a Word 2007 file programmatically or manually. As shown below, the DOCX attachment contains an embedded OLE object that has external references. This 'feature' allows external access to remote OLE objects to be referenced in the document.xml.rels.”

If a victim opens the document, it triggers the download and execution of a remote document file in the form of a rich text file (RTF).

The RFT exploits the MS Equation Editor Tool and in turn downloads a MSHTA command line that leads to a remote HTA file. That HTA file eventually leads to VBScript with obfuscated code, and a PowerShell script that runs a remote binary file.

The binary file then executes the password stealer malware.

The entire process draws on a Microsoft Office vulnerability discovered in July 2017. The vulnerability, CVE-2017-11882, affects multiple Microsoft Office platforms including Microsoft Office 200 7 Service Pack 3, Microsoft Office 2010 Service Pack 2, Microsoft Office 2013 Service Pack 1, and Microsoft Office 2016.

Attackers can run arbitrary code by failing to properly handle objects in memory, also known as a Microsoft Office Memory Corruption vulnerability.

“It's pretty unusual to find so many stages and vectors being used to download malware,” researchers comment.

“This approach can be very risky for the malware author. If any one stage fails, it will have a domino effect on the whole process. Another noticeable point is that the attack uses file types (DOCX, RTF and HTA), that are not often blocked by email or network gateways unlike the more obvious scripting languages like VBS, JScript or WSF.”

Palo Alto Networks integrates RedLock and VM-Series with AWS Security Hub
AWS Security Hub is designed to provide users with a comprehensive view of their high-priority security alerts and compliance status.
Juniper simplifies data integration to improve threat detection
Updates to the Juniper Advanced Threat Prevention Appliances leverage third-party firewalls and security data sources.
Is mobile shopping compromising your enterprise security?
When employees do their holiday shopping on company resources, security teams have a challenge with the surge in browsing and online transactions.
Different approach to malware detection needed – VMware
Security needs to move away from the traditional approach of chasing after arbitrary forms of malware.
Modernising ERP systems can help organisations comply with GDPR
“Organisations need to look for modern ERP systems that are specifically designed with GDPR in mind."
Cyber attacks develop complexity, target Windows sysad tools - report
The report explores changes in the threat landscape over the past year, uncovering trends and how they are expected to impact cybersecurity in 2019.
DanaBot banking Trojan: How to protect your organisation
DanaBot is a Trojan written in the Delphi programming language that includes banking site web injections and stealer functions.
Ping Identity announces new Identity-as-a-Service solution
PingOne for Customers is built for the developer community and provides API-based identity services for customer-facing applications.