Obfuscated Files or Information
|Obfuscated Files or Information|
|Platform||Linux, macOS, Windows|
|Data Sources||Network protocol analysis, Process use of network, Binary file metadata, File monitoring, Malware reverse engineering|
|Defense Bypassed||Host forensic analysis, Signature-based detection, Host intrusion prevention systems|
Adversaries may attempt to make an executable or file difficult to discover or analyze by encrypting, encoding, or otherwise obfuscating its contents on the system. This is common behavior that can be used across different platforms to evade defenses. Portions of files can also be encoded to hide the plain-text strings that would otherwise help defenders with discovery.1
- APT28 encrypted a .dll payload using RTL and a custom encryption algorithm.2
- APT3 obfuscates files or information to help evade defensive measures. 3
- APT32 has used Daniel Bohannon’s Invoke-Obfuscation framework to obfuscate their PowerShell.45
- APT34 has used base64-encoded files that are dropped to victims.6
- Dust Storm has encoded payloads with a single-byte XOR, both skipping the key itself and zeroing in an attempt to avoid exposing the key.7
- Group5 disguised its malicious binaries with several layers of obfuscation, including encrypting the files.8
- Lazarus Group malware uses multiple types of encryption and encoding in its malware files, including AES, Caracachs, RC4, basic XOR with constant 0xA7, and other techniques.91011
- Magic Hound malware has used base64-encoded commands and files, and has also encrypted embedded strings with AES.12
- OilRig has encrypted and encoded data in its malware.13
- Droppers used by Putter Panda use RC4 or a 16-byte XOR key consisting of the bytes 0xA0 – 0xAF to obfuscate payloads.14
- Most of the strings in ADVSTORESHELL are encrypted with an XOR-based algorithm; some strings are also encrypted with 3DES and reversed. API function names are also reversed, presumably to avoid detection in memory.152
- CORESHELL obfuscates strings using a custom stream cipher.16
- The payload of CozyCar is encrypted with simple XOR with a rotating key. The CozyCar configuration file has been encrypted with RC4 keys.17
- Daserf uses encrypted Windows APIs and also encrypts data using the alternative base64+RC4 or the Caesar cipher.18
- The DustySky dropper uses a function to obfuscate the name of functions and other parts of the malware.19
- Elise encrypts several of its files, including configuration files.20
- Variants of Emissary encrypt payloads using various XOR ciphers, as well as a custom algorithm that uses the "srand" and "rand" functions.2122
- Gazer logs its actions into files that are encrypted with 3DES. The malware also stores configuration items in alternate data streams if the Registry is not accessible.23 It also uses RSA to encrypt resources.24
- H1N1 uses multiple techniques to obfuscate strings, including XOR.25
- HTTPBrowser's code may be obfuscated through structured exception handling and return-oriented programming.26
- The Helminth config file is encrypted with RC4.27
- Hi-Zor uses various XOR techniques to obfuscate its components.28
- ISMInjector is obfuscated with the off-the-shelf SmartAssembly .NET obfuscator created by red-gate.com.29
- Many strings in JHUHUGIT are obfuscated with a XOR algorithm.3031
- Matroyshka obfuscates API function names using a substitute cipher combined with Base64 encoding.32
- OLDBAIT obfuscates internal strings and unpacks them at startup.16
- POSHSPY appends a file signature header (randomly selected from six file types) to encrypted data prior to upload or download.33
- If the victim is using PowerShell 3.0 or later, POWERSOURCE writes its decoded payload to an Alternate Data Stream (ADS) named kernel32.dll that is saved in
- Pisloader obfuscates files by splitting strings into smaller sub-strings and including "garbage" strings that are never used. The malware also uses return-oriented programming (ROP) technique and single-byte XOR to obfuscate data.35
- PowerDuke uses an alternate data stream (ADS) PNG file to hide and encrypt itself using Tiny Encryption Algorithm (TEA).36
- Some resources in Prikormka are encrypted with a simple XOR operation or encoded with Base64.37
- RTM strings, network data, configuration, and modules are encrypted with a modified RC4 algorithm.38
- Reaver encrypts some of its files with XOR.39
- A RedLeaves configuration file is encrypted with a simple XOR key, 0x53.40
- Some data in Remsec is encrypted using RC5 in CBC mode, AES-CBC with a hardcoded key, RC4, or Salsa20. Some data is also base64-encoded.4142
- SHOTPUT is obscured using XOR encoding and appended to a valid GIF file.4344
- Sakula uses single-byte XOR obfuscation to obfuscate many of its files.45
- Shamoon contains base64-encoded strings.46
- StreamEx obfuscates some commands by using statically programmed fragments of strings when starting a DLL. It also uses a one-byte xor against 0x91 to encode configuration data.47
- TINYTYPHON has used XOR with 0x90 to obfuscate its configuration file.48
- Most strings in USBStealer are encrypted using 3DES and XOR and reversed.49
- A version of XTunnel introduced in July 2015 obfuscated the binary using opaque predicates and other techniques in a likely attempt to obfuscate it and bypass security products.50
Detection of file obfuscation is difficult unless artifacts are left behind by the obfuscation process that are uniquely detectable with a signature. If detection of the obfuscation itself is not possible, it may be possible to detect the malicious activity that caused the obfuscated file (for example, the method that was used to write, read, or modify the file on the file system).
- Pierre-Marc Bureau. (2013, April 26). Linux/Cdorked.A: New Apache backdoor being used in the wild to serve Blackhole. Retrieved September 10, 2017.
- Bitdefender. (2015, December). APT28 Under the Scope. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
- Symantec Security Response. (2016, September 6). Buckeye cyberespionage group shifts gaze from US to Hong Kong. Retrieved September 26, 2016.
- Carr, N.. (2017, May 14). Cyber Espionage is Alive and Well: APT32 and the Threat to Global Corporations. Retrieved June 18, 2017.
- Bohannon, D.. (2017, March 13). Invoke-Obfuscation - PowerShell Obfuscator. Retrieved June 18, 2017.
- Sardiwal, M, et al. (2017, December 7). New Targeted Attack in the Middle East by APT34, a Suspected Iranian Threat Group, Using CVE-2017-11882 Exploit. Retrieved December 20, 2017.
- Gross, J. (2016, February 23). Operation Dust Storm. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
- Scott-Railton, J., et al. (2016, August 2). Group5: Syria and the Iranian Connection. Retrieved September 26, 2016.
- Novetta Threat Research Group. (2016, February 24). Operation Blockbuster: Unraveling the Long Thread of the Sony Attack. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
- Novetta Threat Research Group. (2016, February 24). Operation Blockbuster: Loaders, Installers and Uninstallers Report. Retrieved March 2, 2016.
- Novetta Threat Research Group. (2016, February 24). Operation Blockbuster: Remote Administration Tools & Content Staging Malware Report. Retrieved March 16, 2016.
- Lee, B. and Falcone, R. (2017, February 15). Magic Hound Campaign Attacks Saudi Targets. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
- Unit 42. (2017, December 15). Unit 42 Playbook Viewer - Oil Rig. Retrieved December 20, 2017.
- Crowdstrike Global Intelligence Team. (2014, June 9). CrowdStrike Intelligence Report: Putter Panda. Retrieved January 22, 2016.
- Kaspersky Lab's Global Research and Analysis Team. (2015, December 4). Sofacy APT hits high profile targets with updated toolset. Retrieved December 10, 2015.
- FireEye. (2015). APT28: A WINDOW INTO RUSSIA’S CYBER ESPIONAGE OPERATIONS?. Retrieved August 19, 2015.
- F-Secure Labs. (2015, April 22). CozyDuke: Malware Analysis. Retrieved December 10, 2015.
- Chen, J. and Hsieh, M. (2017, November 7). REDBALDKNIGHT/BRONZE BUTLER’s Daserf Backdoor Now Using Steganography. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
- ClearSky. (2016, January 7). Operation DustySky. Retrieved January 8, 2016.
- Falcone, R., et al.. (2015, June 16). Operation Lotus Blossom. Retrieved February 15, 2016.
- Falcone, R. and Miller-Osborn, J.. (2015, December 18). Attack on French Diplomat Linked to Operation Lotus Blossom. Retrieved February 15, 2016.
- Falcone, R. and Miller-Osborn, J.. (2016, February 3). Emissary Trojan Changelog: Did Operation Lotus Blossom Cause It to Evolve?. Retrieved February 15, 2016.
- ESET. (2017, August). Gazing at Gazer: Turla’s new second stage backdoor. Retrieved September 14, 2017.
- Kaspersky Lab's Global Research & Analysis Team. (2017, August 30). Introducing WhiteBear. Retrieved September 21, 2017.
- Reynolds, J.. (2016, September 13). H1N1: Technical analysis reveals new capabilities. Retrieved September 26, 2016.
- Dell SecureWorks Counter Threat Unit Threat Intelligence. (2015, August 5). Threat Group-3390 Targets Organizations for Cyberespionage. Retrieved January 25, 2016.
- Falcone, R. and Lee, B.. (2016, May 26). The OilRig Campaign: Attacks on Saudi Arabian Organizations Deliver Helminth Backdoor. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
- Fidelis Cybersecurity. (2015, December 16). Fidelis Threat Advisory #1020: Dissecting the Malware Involved in the INOCNATION Campaign. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
- Falcone, R. and Lee, B. (2017, October 9). OilRig Group Steps Up Attacks with New Delivery Documents and New Injector Trojan. Retrieved January 8, 2018.
- F-Secure. (2015, September 8). Sofacy Recycles Carberp and Metasploit Code. Retrieved August 3, 2016.
- ESET. (2016, October). En Route with Sednit - Part 1: Approaching the Target. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
- Minerva Labs LTD and ClearSky Cyber Security. (2015, November 23). CopyKittens Attack Group. Retrieved September 11, 2017.
- Dunwoody, M.. (2017, April 3). Dissecting One of APT29’s Fileless WMI and PowerShell Backdoors (POSHSPY). Retrieved April 5, 2017.
- Brumaghin, E. and Grady, C.. (2017, March 2). Covert Channels and Poor Decisions: The Tale of DNSMessenger. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
- Grunzweig, J., et al. (2016, May 24). New Wekby Attacks Use DNS Requests As Command and Control Mechanism. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
- Adair, S.. (2016, November 9). PowerDuke: Widespread Post-Election Spear Phishing Campaigns Targeting Think Tanks and NGOs. Retrieved January 11, 2017.
- Cherepanov, A.. (2016, May 17). Operation Groundbait: Analysis of a surveillance toolkit. Retrieved May 18, 2016.
- Faou, M. and Boutin, J.. (2017, February). Read The Manual: A Guide to the RTM Banking Trojan. Retrieved March 9, 2017.
- Grunzweig, J. and Miller-Osborn, J. (2017, November 10). New Malware with Ties to SunOrcal Discovered. Retrieved November 16, 2017.
- PwC and BAE Systems. (2017, April). Operation Cloud Hopper: Technical Annex. Retrieved April 13, 2017.
- Symantec Security Response. (2016, August 8). Backdoor.Remsec indicators of compromise. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
- Kaspersky Lab's Global Research & Analysis Team. (2016, August 9). The ProjectSauron APT. Technical Analysis. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
- Eng, E., Caselden, D.. (2015, June 23). Operation Clandestine Wolf – Adobe Flash Zero-Day in APT3 Phishing Campaign. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
- Falcone, R. and Wartell, R.. (2015, July 27). Observations on CVE-2015-3113, Prior Zero-Days and the Pirpi Payload. Retrieved January 22, 2016.
- Dell SecureWorks Counter Threat Unit Threat Intelligence. (2015, July 30). Sakula Malware Family. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
- Falcone, R.. (2016, November 30). Shamoon 2: Return of the Disttrack Wiper. Retrieved January 11, 2017.
- Cylance SPEAR Team. (2017, February 9). Shell Crew Variants Continue to Fly Under Big AV’s Radar. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
- Settle, A., et al. (2016, August 8). MONSOON - Analysis Of An APT Campaign. Retrieved September 22, 2016.
- Calvet, J. (2014, November 11). Sednit Espionage Group Attacking Air-Gapped Networks. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
- ESET. (2016, October). En Route with Sednit - Part 2: Observing the Comings and Goings. Retrieved November 21, 2016.