Takedowns and Adventures in Deceptive Affiliate Marketing

At Palo Alto Networks, Unit 42 analyzes threats across the spectrum – from nation state all the way down to Florida state. In this blog, I’ll be covering two aspects of multi-year affiliate marketing spam campaigns designed to deceive individuals, scam, and profit off of people’s desire to change their lives.First, I’ll provide an overview of a spam campaign sent to some customers that led me down this more than two year rabbit hole, and then dig into the inner workings. This blog covers a number of topics: data collection, analysis, and enumeration of infrastructure. These efforts allowed us to map out thousands of compromised servers and abused domains and hundreds of compromised accounts, resulting in a collaborative effort with GoDaddy to take down over 15,000 subdomains being used across these campaigns.

DNS Tunneling: how DNS can be (ab)used by malicious actors

DNS is a critical foundation of the Internet that makes it possible to get to websites without entering numerical IP addresses. The power that makes DNS beneficial for everyone also creates potential for abuse. Unit 42 researchers explain how attackers can abuse DNS to hide their tracks and steal data using a technique known as “DNS Tunneling.” This research can help organizations understand DNS-based threats and the risks they pose to their environment.

Operation Comando: How to Run a Cheap and Effective Credit Card Business

In December 2018, Palo Alto Networks Unit 42 researchers identified an ongoing campaign with a strong focus on the hospitality sector, specifically on hotel reservations. Although our initial analysis didn’t show any novel or advanced techniques, we did observe strong persistence during the campaign that triggered our curiosity.

New Python-Based Payload MechaFlounder Used by Chafer

In November 2018 the Chafer threat group targeted a Turkish government entity reusing infrastructure that they used in campaigns reported earlier in 2018. Unit 42 has observed Chafer activity since 2016, however, Chafer has been active since at least 2015. This new secondary payload is Python-based and compiled into executable form using the PyInstaller utility. We’ve also identified code overlap with OilRig’s Clayside VBScript but at this time track Chafer and OilRig as separate threat groups. We have named this payload MechaFlounder for tracking purposes.

Multiple ArtraDownloader Variants Used by BITTER to Target Pakistan

Since at least 2015, a suspected South Asian threat grouping known as BITTER has been targeting Pakistan and Chinese organizations using variants of a previously unreported downloader. We have named this malware family ArtraDownloader. Starting in September 2018 and continuing through the beginning of 2019, BITTER launched a wave of attacks targeting Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. This is the first reported instance of BITTER targeting Saudi Arabia.

Unit 42 Vulnerability Research Team Discovers 23 New Vulnerabilities February 2019 Disclosures – Adobe and Microsoft

As part of Unit 42’s ongoing threat research, we can now disclose that Palo Alto Networks Unit 42 threat researchers have discovered 23 new vulnerabilities addressed by the Adobe Product Security Incident Response Team (PSIRT) as part of their February 2019 APSB19-07 security update release and 2 vulnerabilities addressed by the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC) as part of their February 2019 security update release.  Severity ratings ranged from Important to Critical for each of these vulnerabilities.

Shifting in the Wind: WINDSHIFT Attacks Target Middle Eastern Governments

In August of 2018, DarkMatter released a report entitled “In the Trails of WINDSHIFT APT”, which unveiled a threat actor with TTPs very similar to those of Bahamut. Subsequently, two additional articles (here and here) were released by Objective-See which provide an analysis of some validated WINDSHIFT samples targeting OSX systems. Unit 42 was able to identify and correlate additional attacker activity and can now provide specific details on a targeted WINDSHIFT attack as it unfolded at a Middle Eastern government agency.

menuPass Playbook and IOCs

On December 20, 2018 the US Department of Justice indicted two Chinese nationals on charges of computer hacking, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft. The two are alleged members of a hacking group known as menuPass . The compromised organizations were located around the world in industries such as banking and finance, healthcare and medical equipment, government, aerospace, defense, telecommunications, and consumer electronics.  Unit 42 is releasing all IOCs we have associated with menuPass in an effort to provide defenders with an extensive list of their malware and attack infrastructure.

Mac Malware Steals Cryptocurrency Exchanges’ Cookies

Palo Alto Networks’ Unit 42 recently discovered malware that we believe has been developed from OSX.DarthMiner, a malware known to target the Mac platform.

This malware is capable of stealing browser cookies associated with mainstream cryptocurrency exchanges and wallet service websites visited by the victims, stealing saved passwords in Chrome and seeks to steal iPhone text messages from iTunes backups on the tethered Mac.

Shamoon 3 Targets Oil and Gas Organization

On December 10, a new variant of the Disttrack malware was submitted to VirusTotal that shares a considerable amount of code with the Disttrack malware used in the Shamoon 2 attacks in 2016 and 2017.

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