Qakbot Being Distributed as ISO Files Instead of Excel Macro

There is a recent increase in the distribution method of malware through ISO files. Among the malware, it has been identified that Qakbot, an online banking malware, has had its distribution method changed from Excel 4.0 Macro to ISO files. The ASEC blog introduced cases of ISO file usage for not only Qakbot, but also AsyncRAT, IcedID, and BumbleBee malware. As such, we can see that cases of using ISO files for malware distribution are increasing.

The phishing mail that distributes Qakbot is shown in Figure 1, and a malicious HTML file is attached to it.

Figure 1. Phishing mail

When the attached HTML file is executed, the page shown in Figure 2 opens, and the compressed file within the script is created. The compressed file is password-protected, and the password can be found on the HTML page.

Figure 2. Malicious HTML
Figure 3. The compressed file inside the script

There is an ISO file inside the compressed file, and the ISO file contains an LNK file and a folder. This folder contains multiple files, including both normal and malicious files (See Figure 6).

Figure 4. Compressed file
Figure 5. Inside the ISO file
Figure 6. Inside the “conspicuously” folder

The LNK file is disguised as a folder icon, and executing this will launch the malicious JS file inside the “conspicuously” folder.

Figure 7. LNK file properties

The malicious JS file serves the role of executing the cmd file in the same folder with the argument “regsvr”. The cmd file combines the strings “regsvr” and “32” transmitted with the argument and ultimately loads the recruiter.db file through regsvr32.exe. The file loaded at this point is Qakbot, the banking malware.

Figure 8. JS file
Figure 9. CMD file

The Qakbot malware first checks to see if the “C:\INTERNAL\__empty” path file exists, and if it does exist, the malware does not perform malicious behaviors. This is assumed to be the process of scanning the emulation string of Windows Defender.

Figure 10. Scanning for the existence of a specific file

It also checks whether the PC is infected or not via environmental variables, and when a particular environmental variable does not exist, it performs malicious behaviors. Afterward, it steals the username, information on currently running processes, OS information, etc., then performs an injection to normal processes. The target processes for injection are as follows.

  • Normal processes targeted for injection
    C:\Windows\explorer.exe
    C:\Windows\System32\msra.exe
    C:\Windows\System32\OneDriveSetup.exe

The injected processes decode multiple C2s to attempt a connection, and a portion of these are shown below. When a connection to C2 is made, additional malicious behaviors can be performed, including downloading malicious modules and stealing financial information.

  • C2
    154.181.203[.]230:995
    66.181.164[.]43:443
    197.204.143[.]46:443
    37.76.197[.]124:443
    89.211.223[.]138:2222
    151.234.63[.]48:990
    31.54.39[.]153:2078
    61.105.45[.]244:443
    186.105.182[.]127:443
    181.231.229[.]133:443
    62.114.193[.]186:995
    70.81.121[.]237:2222
    1.10.253[.]207:443
    138.0.114[.]166:443
    102.101.231[.]141:443
    177.255.14[.]99:995
    203.77.187[.]131:80

Recently, there has been an increase in malware distribution using ISO files, and users must refrain from opening attachments within emails. AhnLab’s anti-malware product, V3, detects and blocks the malware using the alias below.

[File Detection]
Malware/Win.Generic.C5240833 (2022.09.21.00)
Dropper/HTML.Qakbot (2022.09.30.03)
Trojan/CMD.Runner (2022.09.30.03)
Trojan/JS.Runner (2022.09.30.03)

[IOC]
5c97198ce6ada4da0e2f4fc0062bfd3b
34e4f836930e6215d1ccf50b4af7f41a
16c560ec4b9bd06e04b774863b820952
be8a72cb66f90fd4adffb8c2784b74c9
6849be4028889845f55516c304fed307
154.181.203[.]230:995
66.181.164[.]43:443
197.204.143[.]46:443
37.76.197[.]124:443
89.211.223[.]138:2222
151.234.63[.]48:990
31.54.39[.]153:2078
61.105.45[.]244:443
186.105.182[.]127:443
181.231.229[.]133:443
62.114.193[.]186:995
70.81.121[.]237:2222
1.10.253[.]207:443
138.0.114[.]166:443
102.101.231[.]141:443
177.255.14[.]99:995
203.77.187[.]131:80

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[…] a LNK file that fetches the Qakbot payload, illustrating attempts on part of threat actors to adapt to other tactics in the aftermath of Microsoft’s decision to block macros by default for documents downloaded […]

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[…] a LNK file that fetches the Qakbot payload, illustrating attempts on part of threat actors to adapt to other tactics in the aftermath of Microsoft’s decision to block macros by default for documents downloaded […]

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[…] a LNK file that fetches the Qakbot payload, illustrating attempts on part of threat actors to adapt to other tactics in the aftermath of Microsoft’s decision to block macros by default for documents downloaded […]

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[…] a LNK file that fetches the Qakbot payload, illustrating attempts on part of threat actors to adapt to other tactics in the aftermath of Microsoft’s decision to block macros by default for documents downloaded […]

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[…] a LNK file that fetches the Qakbot payload, illustrating attempts on part of threat actors to adapt to other tactics in the aftermath of Microsoft’s decision to block macros by default for documents downloaded […]

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[…] a LNK file that fetches the Qakbot payload, illustrating attempts on part of threat actors to adapt to other tactics in the aftermath of Microsoft’s decision to block macros by default for documents downloaded […]

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[…] a LNK file that fetches the Qakbot payload, illustrating attempts on part of threat actors to adapt to other tactics in the aftermath of Microsoft’s decision to block macros by default for documents […]

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[…] a LNK file that fetches the Qakbot payload, illustrating attempts on part of threat actors to adapt to other tactics in the aftermath of Microsoft’s decision to block macros by default for documents downloaded […]