ASEC Weekly Phishing Email Threat Trends (April 9th, 2023 – April 15th, 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 April 9th, 2023 to April 15th, 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 57%. 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 (12%), which includes loaders such as SmokeLoader and GuLoader. It was then followed by Worm (9%) and Infostealers (9%) like AgentTesla and FormBook that leak user credentials saved in web browsers, emails, and FTP clients. Aside from those mentioned above, Trojan (6%), Backdoor (5%), and Dropper (1%) 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 (HTM, HTML, SHTML) documents that must be executed with a web browser. Other malware, including Infostealer and downloader, came attached to emails with file extensions including compressed files (RAR, ZIP, 7Z, GZ, etc.).

Cases of Distribution

The following are distribution cases that occurred during the week from April 9th, 2023 to April 15th, 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 identical English subject and texts.

Case: FakePage

Email SubjectAttachment
DHL ARRIVAL (CONTAINER) Seaport Import Customs Information Submission Form – Proforma Invoice, Packing List & BL Copyinvoice & Tracking NumberHT2.html
FedEx Shipment Arrival NoticeAWB#989345874598.html
[FedEx] Tariffs payment notice (Tax Invoice)Tax_Notification.html
PO912048302417 Payment CopyPI0437834 Payment Confirmation.html
DHL Express Shipment ConfirmationCustomInvoice_8278124481.pdf.htm
Fw: Deliver BL / INV / PLShipping Document (1).html
FedEx Shipping Document / Invoice ReceiptINVOICE_AWB.htm
Incoming Shipment InvoiceAWB#03773N .htm
Updated quotationqoutation order879999.shtml
Cigna HealthCare ACH Settlement: Please review and SignHealthcare-Claim-Notification.pdf
Shipment Booking Confirmation – BL Draft is Ready for Review – Original Scan copies of DocumentDraft Bill of Lading__Shipping Document.htm
Overdue Balance Notice : TT_COPY_FOR_VNQ5160KTR-E_3000PCSAWWDPAYMENT DETAILS.html
New DHL Shipment Document Arrival Notice / Shipping Documents / Original BL, Invoice & Packing List(DHL) Original BL, PL, CI Copies.htm
FW: REVISED PO’SSOA for 2023.shtml
DHL Shipping Document / Invoice ReceiptDHLShippingdocs.htm
EFT/ERA Cigna HealthCare ACH Payment: Completed_ Please Review and SignACH-Deposit-Completed.pdf
PO#13012022N_ 新命令PO#13012022N.html
TRACK: EXPRESS (Shipment Notification)DHL EXPRESS shipping docs.shtml
(Invoice) Original BL, PL, CI_AWB#71******90****@**********.com DHL Express Notification.PDF.html
Shipment Notification (TRACK EXPRESS)Track_ Express Shipping Docs.shtml
Statement of Account (SOA) PaidPayment_Copy.PDF.html
Fwd: Past due balance SWIFT copy.invoice_proforma2.html
SF Express: eNotification senteimDoc.html
INV Remittances 2nd request 711647666′INV-PAY0080388388.html
FW: Payment 12 Apr 2023Wire Transfer confirmation.shtml
FYI SWIFT COPY FEDSD34455532536737DWESFEDSD34455532536737DWES.html
Your parcel has arrived urgent pick up needed today.AWB #8347630147.htm

Case: Malware (Infostealer, Downloader, etc.)

Email SubjectAttachment
Related to 2023 Korea-U.S. Policy Forum[Attachment] Profile Template.doc
Reply: Reply: [DHL] Acceptance of Import Declaration (Payment Before Acceptance) – 1000452436Import declaration acceptance statement-1000452436.rar
Fwd: Quotation InvitationQuotation Invitation 000111.pdf.GZ
Re: Adtours travel, incBooking_8986007pdf (1).7z
RE: BOOKINGBooking_8986007pdf.7z
Fwd: SNE-20210123SNE-20210123.rar
RFQ Bidding of 38D OBA projectRFQ Bidding of 38D OBA project.rar
FW: SWIFT Transfer REG:NO: SWFT7900896875SWFT7900896875.7Z
Our new order# F.94_100023010DOc 000399288299991.rar
PTC-04-0-03643 / KMTCSHAK477267CZ3C126-2409.xls
NEW REQUIREMENT 10.04.2023REQUIREMENT100420230001001010.pdf.gz
Advice & SWIFT copy: CustID 52579XXXX_6031NMDC0002724_FORESTAL MIMOSA LIMITEDCustID
RE: [Inquiry]Quote_3500001299.r09
AW: PO-000001306PO-000001306.r09
AW: SRY-510-9310SRY51093IO.IMG
Re: BokingsConfirm!.rar
SUBJECT:Advice from Standard Chartered BankFTT 325272022023.img.tar
DHL Shipment Notification: AWB811470484778#AWB811470484778.rar
RE; Final Warning – Over Due Payment – Urgent Reminder!Final Warning – Over Due Payment – Urgent R….OUTSTANDING PAYMENT.IMG
ARH2301433-MODERN SPARES AND EQUIPMENT 12.04.2023ARH PO # 2301433.pdf.7z
CV Lic. H&S Oli***ti *****curriculum vitae Lic. H&S Oli***ti *****.zip
FW: Autogenerated mail – Vendor Payment AdvicePayment_110280.JPEG.7z
RE: dubai
[Adres dogrulanamadi (SPF:softfail)] SEHVEN YATAN TUTAR IADESIIADESI.001
Mart-2023 EkstrenizEkstrenz.gz
swift mesaji hkSWIFT.UUE
11.04.2023 sevkiyatSWIFT.001
Fw: About The Payment20230412123719_TRF_MT 103.gz
NEW ORDERPO-5418911023 and PO-5418911025.gz
sexy pictures very importantsuperscene.gif.scr
super sexy pictures don’t showsex_img.gif.scr
Re: super beautiful pics privatebest__pctrs.jpg.pif
sexy picscoolact.pif
Re[5]: nice picturesfuck-plp.gif.scr
Re[3]: very nice photos just for yougreat-imgs.pif
Re[5]: very wonderful picture only for youprvimg.jpg.pif
Re[5]: smart photosbestpic.jpg.scr
Re[4]: very beautiful images don’t showgreat-imgs.gif.pif
Re[2]: very sexy imageswild__pctrs.exe
super beautiful photoprivate-phot.gif.pif
super sexy picturescool_pic.exe
beautiful photo very importantsuperimages.gif.pif
super sexy picscool_pic.pif
Re: very wonderful picture imortantfuckscene.jpg.pif
wonderful picstheimages.gif.exe
Re[5]: smart picturesprvscene.pif
beautiful picturessuperpctrs.jpg.exe
Re: very cool pictures privatebest-phot.scr
Re: super cool photos PRIVATEbest__phot.scr
very nice photos only for youcool__pctrs.gif.exe

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: ‘Import Customs’   

The keyword for this week is ‘Import Customs.’ Last week, the author of the phishing email distributed the mail with the subject, “DHL ARRIVAL (CONTAINER) Seaport Import Customs Information Submission Form – Proforma Invoice, Packing List & BL Copy.” The sender impersonated the DHL shipping company, and the attachment was a phishing HTML file that started with the words ‘Invoice & Tracking,’ unrelated to the subject of the email. Upon clicking the file, a page pretending to be from the DHL shipping company is opened, and it requires the user to enter their ID and password to lookup their customs information. As such, users are advised to take closer looks at the file names of email attachments before opening them and also check if the attachments are related to the subject of the email.

  • Phishing URL: hxxps[:]//formcarry[.]com/s/HGNnWjQ9O0

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[:]//formspree[.]io/f/myyazkbv
  • https[:]//vigilant-rubin[.]185-236-228-67[.]plesk[.]page/jh/Adhl[.]php
  • http[:]//ingitek[.]ru/bitrix/admin/csss/tt/xlss[.]php
  • http[:]//usxcheap[.]us/GS9/access1[.]php
  • https[:]//submit-form[.]com/riYXPwjH
  • https[:]//realmebel[.]pro/dh/dlh[.]php
  • http[:]//ingitek[.]ru/bitrix/admin/csss/tt/xlss[.]php
  • https[:]//formspree[.]io/f/myyazkbv
  • https[:]//submit-form[.]com/qt7uUYP3
  • https[:]//submit-form[.]com/IsP9wxLh
  • https[:]//ecstatic-chandrasekhar[.]185-236-228-67[.]plesk[.]page/chkky/Adhl[.]php
  • https[:]//www[.]mkcrop-kr[.]com/si/fdpxoGur23f[.]php
  • https[:]//submit-form[.]com/MC3ozIXM
  • https[:]//ecstatic-chandrasekhar[.]185-236-228-67[.]plesk[.]page/chkky/Adhl[.]php
  • https[:]//submit-form[.]com/kVlBCzwE
  • https[:]//formspree[.]io/f/myyazkbv
  • https[:]//www[.]btdpipe1ine[.]com/ke/fdpxoGur23f[.]php
  • https[:]//cranecenter[.]ru/X/processor1[.]php
  • https[:]//app[.]headlessforms[.]cloud/api/v1/form-submission/nQwc1kUGvU
  • https[:]//formcarry[.]com/s/HGNnWjQ9O0
  • https[:]//test[.]novostroi21[.]ru/killer/xlss[.]php
  • https[:]//www[.]nsggroup[.]it/,/tw/postdhll[.]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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