ASEC Weekly Phishing Email Threat Trends (March 19th, 2023 – March 25th, 2023)

AhnLab Security Emergency response Center (ASEC) monitors phishing email threats with the ASEC automatic sample analysis system (RAPIT) and honeypot. This post will cover the cases of distribution of phishing emails during the week from March 19th, 2023 to March 25th, 2023 and provide statistical information on each type. Generally, phishing is cited as an attack that leaks users’ login account credentials by disguising as or impersonating an institute, company, or individual through social engineering methods. On a broader note, the act is a technical subterfuge that enables the threat actor to perform attacks such as information leaks, malware distribution, and fraud against various targets. The focus of this post will be on the fact that phishing attacks mainly occur through emails. We will also provide a detailed classification of various attack methods that are based on phishing emails. Furthermore, we will make an effort to minimize user damage by introducing new attack types that have never been found before and emails that require users’ caution, along with their keywords. The phishing emails covered in this post will only be those that have attachments. Emails that have malicious links in the body without attachments will be excluded.

Phishing Emails

During this week, the most prevalent threat type seen in phishing email attachments was FakePage with 59%. FakePages are web pages where the threat actor has imitated the screen layout, logo, and font of the real login pages or advertising pages, leading users to enter their account and password information. The input information is sent to the threat actor’s C2 server or used to induce users to access other fake websites. See <FakePage C2> below The second most prevalent threat type was Downloader (23%), which includes loaders such as SmokeLoader and GuLoader. It was then followed by Worm, which took up 7%. Worm is a type of malware that has a feature to spread, where it uses various methods for spreading, with one of them being using the SMTP protocol to send emails in mass quantity.   Aside from these, Infostealer (6%), Trojan (4%), and Exploit (2%) types were detected.  The threat types using phishing email attachments and their order of prevalence are similar to the order of malware distribution published weekly in the <ASEC Weekly Malware Statistics>.

File Extensions in Phishing Emails

We have identified which file extensions were used by the threats above for the distribution of email attachments. FakePages were distributed through web pages script (HTML, HTM, SHTML) documents that must be executed with a web browser. Other malware, including Infostealer and downloader, came attached to emails with various file extensions including compressed files (ZIP, R09, RAR), IMG disk image files, and PDF document files. 

Cases of Distribution

The following are distribution cases that occurred during the week from March 19th, 2023 to March 25th, 2023. The cases will be classified into FakePage and malware types, including Infostealer, Downloader, Exploit, and Backdoor. The numbers in email subjects and attachment filenames are unique IDs and may vary depending on the email recipient. Distribution cases with Korean subjects were also found. These are cases that specifically targeted Korean users instead of propagating themselves globally using the identical English subject and text.

Case: FakePage

Email SubjectAttachment
[**Bank Transaction Notice]_Outward Remittance-Domestic Funds Transfer NoticeSecurity Email.html
[FedEx] Guide on Import LicenseAWB#.HTML
FW: Quotation Request PO #1192-ID_HYU-23 (Project)Quotation Request Scan_PO #1192-ID_HYU-23.htm
[DHL] Notice on Import Tax Payment Deadline – (INV and AWB) ✈ParcelDocumentDHL.html
FedEx Shipment Arrival NoticeAWB#989345874598.html
DHL Shipment Document Arrival Notice / Shipping Documents / Original BL, Invoice & Packing ListDoc#447805.htm
Quotation & SampleQuotation Sample designs.pdf
FedEx Shipment Arrival NotificationFedEx Shippingdocs.htm
NEW ORDER on 3/23/2023 9:31:33 a.m.ORDER_LST .html
UPS Ship Notification, Paperwork is AttachedUPS Shipment Paperworks ********@*********
*******@********* Signed Documente-Signed_Doc_____________*******@*********
New DHL Shipment Document Arrival Notice / Shipping Documents /TruefriendStatement.HTM…
Original BL, Invoice & Packing List.(DHL) Original BL, PL, CI Copies.htm
Your parcel has arrived urgent pick up needed todayShipping_Doc.htm
FedEx Ship Paperworks for Antstudioe-Secure_FedEx03818420230315112447.html
RE: INVOICE PAYMENT ADVICE $77,823.44 USD INVOICE REMITTANCE COPYinvoice payment remittance copy.htm
**@********* Signed Documente-Signed_Doc_____________**@*********
RE: PO.14036987,14038068 shipping documents and payment via DHL (083AB单)payment_doc & shipment#7221HKT.htm
********@********* Signed Documente-Signed_Doc_____________********@*********
Re: Fw:Inquiry for 2023 New Products
RE: New Invoice Order PaymentNewInvoiceOrderStatement.html
NEW ORDER- OC#8081013559 PO#3495-1022New order sign invoice for payment.htm
There is an important encrypted corporate email you need to readSecuredoc_82396476.html
Shipment Booking Confirmation – BL Draft is Ready for ReviewDraft Bill of Lading – SHSYD4096642.htm
New DHL Shipment Document Arrival Notice / Shipping Documents / Original BL, Invoice & Packing List(DHL) Original BL, PL, CI Copies.html
You have received an essential encrypted company emailSecuredoc_05741605.html
An important encrypted corporate email has been sent to youSecuredoc_28422847.html

Case: Malware (Infostealer, Downloader, etc.)

Email SubjectAttachment
[DHL] Acceptance of Import Declaration (Payment Before Acceptance) – 7759303436Tax Notification – 7759303436.z
Statement of Account from Partners attachedStatement of Account from Partners.rar
RE: NEW PRODUCT ORDEROrder Quantity.xls
Order Enquiry 202300221Order Enquiry
New Customer OrderORDER101-PDF.tar
World Surfaris Remittancebalance$405,000.34-pdf.gz
New Booking,/paymentINVOICE.xz
RE: Re: [subject line info removed]report
Re: Confirmation transfer AGS # 22-0035Confirmation Transfer MT103_Pdf.7z
Re[5]: nice picture only for youbest__plp.jpg.exe
Re: Fw:Inquiry for 2023 New Products PricesNew 2023 prices
smart picssuperphotos.gif.exe
Re: Wire confirmation detailsTT copy.xls
PO# 17711PO_Q0149-REV1-2023.xls
Your Transport Plan has Changed – MaerskTransport Plan.img
very wonderful pics PRIVATEsuper-plp.pif
sexy photo privatesuperphotos.scr
New PO#4501250499 P/N R505567PO#4501250499 .xls
beautiful picturesmyimg.gif.scr
RE: Re: [subject line information removed]
Re: very wonderful pictures don’t showgreat-img.jpg.exe
Re[5]: very cool images don’t showprivact.gif.exe
Re[3]: very smart images PRIVATEwild_action.gif.exe
very wonderful photos don’t showsex_pic.jpg.scr
FW:Payment Overdue InvoicesSwift30405830330.arj
wonderful picture just for youcoolplp.gif.scr
Re: very cool pictures only for yougreat_scene.jpg.pif
sexy picturessuperimages.gif.scr
Re[3]: cool picsfuck__photos.jpg.scr
Re: Re: Happy new year!
Fw: Re: [subject line information removed]
very nice photothe-action.gif.pif
nice photomyimages.gif.pif
Daily Statement – Payment ReportDaily Statement.xz
sexy photocoolpic.scr
Re[5]: sexy photosgreatphotos.exe
Re[5]: very wonderful images PRIVATEprivimages.gif.pif
Advanced payment for invoice 060296proof of payment 20th March.r09
super beautiful picturessex_pic.exe
Re[4]: very nice pics only for youwild-images.jpg.scr
Re[5]: very wonderful picture only for youfuck-images.exe
INVOICE ITALY SHIPMENT PICK UP—-771001413904INVOICE 771001413904.xz
Payment Advice – Ref: [HSBC41057723] / RFQ Priority Payment / Customer Ref: [PI7800152T9]Payment Advice – Ref [HSBC41057723]PDF.7Z
RE: New OrderNew Order.r09
REMITTANCE TT COPY $23,150.00_20230320.pdfREMITTANCE TT COPY $23,150.00_20230320.pdf.gz

The ASEC analysis team has selected keywords that users must look out for, based on the distribution cases above. If these keywords are included in the subject of the email, or if the same characteristics are found, users must exercise strict caution as they may be phishing emails from threat actors. 

Keywords to Beware of: ‘Transaction Notice’

The keywords for this week are ‘Transaction Notice’. A Korean phishing email disguised as a transaction notice from a financial institute were found to be in distribution this week. Unlike most phishing pages that are poorly made, this email was quite sophisticated in terms of its disguise. In the email was a malicious HTML file which asked for the user’s ID and password before revealing its content upon being run. When the user inputs this information, it is leaked to the threat actor’s server; thus, users should not give their account credentials.

FakePage C2 URL

When users enter their IDs and passwords on the login pages among the FakePages created by the threat actor, their information is sent to the attacker’s server. The list below shows the threat actor’s C2 addresses of fake login pages distributed during the week.

  • https[:]//outmoded-leaks[.]000webhostapp[.]com/fte[.]php
  • https[:]//formspree[.]io/f/myyazkbv
  • https[:]//formspree[.]io/f/xgebzovk
  • https[:]//formspree[.]io/f/myyazkbv
  • https[:]//app[.]padhaaku[.]co[.]in/bda/aim/fte[.]php
  • http[:]//ns2[.]wrsc[.]org/sites/all/libraries/elfinder/files/index/kugo/FedExpress[.]php
  • https[:]//escolagirassol[.]com[.]br/dd/ddhl[.]php
  • https[:]//alemadistones[.]com/secure/Citizen/Exo/css/FX/cloudlog[.]php
  • https[:]//eagleconstructiontn[.]com/321[.]php
  • https[:]//formspree[.]io/f/xbjeaypw
  • https[:]//belwooddoors[.]by/21/jotform[.]php
  • https[:]//veterantechnologysolution[.]com/media/dhl/fte[.]php

Attacks using phishing emails are disguised with content that can easily deceive users, such as invoices and tax payments, to induce users to access fake login pages or execute malware. Fake login pages are evolving by the second to closely resemble the original pages. The attackers pack malware in compressed file formats to escape the attachment scans of users’ security products. Users must practice strict caution and refer to recent cases of distribution to avoid being exposed to infection by malicious phishing emails. The ASEC analysis team recommends users follow the email security guidelines below.

  • Do not execute links and attachments in emails from unverified senders until they are proven to be credible.
  • Do not enter sensitive information such as login account credentials until the site is found to be reliable.
  • Do not execute attachments with unfamiliar file extensions until they are found to be reliable.
  • Use security products such as antimalware software.

According to the MITRE ATT&CK framework, phishing email attacks correspond to the following techniques.

  • Phishing for Information (Reconnaissance, ID: T1598[1])
  • Phishing (Initial Access, ID: TI1566[2])
  • Internal Spearphishing (Lateral Movement, ID:T1534[3])

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