The Syrian malware part 2: Who is The Joe?
Kaspersky Lab would like to alert users in the Middle East for new malware attacks being delivered through Syrian news and social networking forums. Malware writers are using multiple techniques to deliver their files and entice the victims to run them, creating an effective infection vector. Mainly depending on social engineering, the attackers exploit Victims’ trust in social networking forums, curiosity in following news related to the conflict in Syria, their standing in Syria, in addition to their lack of Cyber Security awareness. Once criminals infect the victim’s computer, attackers have full access and control over victim’s devices.
In the first report on Syrian malware, Kaspersky Lab detailed many attacks being used in Syria to spy on users, the report included attacks from different teams and many sources.
This post will follow up on one of the domains, seemingly the most active in the last period: thejoe.publicvm.com
The malware files were found on activist sites and social networking forums, some others were reported by regional organisations like CyberArabs.
Reports that mention “the Joe”
All the files hide under the hood a full-featured variant of a RAT, Remote Administration Trojan (Bitfrose/NjRAT/Shadowtech/Darkcomet…), capable of getting full control over victim machines and devices, monitoring any movements and accessing all files. The thejoe.publicvm.com domain is related to many samples, here we will focus on the most important and luring, that most probably collected the highest number of targeted victims, estimated in thousands.
There are many factors and entities at play in this event, we will only focus on the malware and the facts that have been found during the analysis, presenting only relevant information, in the hope of setting a clear context for this research.
What is the information we had on theJoe?
What has the Joe been doing in the last period?
Who is the Joe?
What is the information we had on the Joe?
The Joe is one of the most active cyber criminals in Syria and the Middle East, targeting all types of users, following is the information collected on the Joe and his activities.
Domain information “thejoe.publicvm.com”
The Joe is using a dynamic domain to be able to change his IP address and maintain anonymity:
The domain thejoe.publicvm.com has been seen using the following IP addresses located in Syria and Russia:
TCP ports used in the attacks: 1234, 1177, 5522.
From the malware samples collected, we were able to find strings in the code, from the Windows device used by the Joe.
Folder paths recovered from the malware files:
The Joe is also using a fake youtube channel where he posts social engineering videos with links to download malware.
The Channel is distributing malware files under the name “Lions of the revolution” or other…
What has the Joe been doing in the last period?
The Joe was busy in the last period; In the below we display some of the most graphical and luring samples collected by the Kaspersky Intelligence services and the Kaspersky Security Network (KSN cloud), detailing their functionalities and how The Joe is able to use the situation in Syria to have the users automatically open the files even if they suspect infected. The most targeted countries are Syria, Turkey, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. The number of victims is estimated around 2000.
6 new stories:
- Let us fix your SSL vulnerability
- Now Let us clean your Skype!
- Did you update to the latest VPN version?
- Let’s Check if your phone number is among the monitored numbers
- The Facebook account encryption application
- What’s your favourite security product?
1 – Let us fix your SSL vulnerability
MD5 Hash: dc6166005db7487c9a8b32d938fec846
Filename: TheSSL.exe, SSL Cleaner.rar
Following up on the vulnerabilities in the OPENSSL, and the amount of news it reached, the cyber criminals are trying to benefit of the user perception of such news but lack of awareness on how the vulnerabilities could be fixed.
Demonstration video on the Heartbleed vulnerability + Link to download the “Fix” with infection
2 – Now Let us clean your Skype!
MD5 Hash: d6ab8ca6406fefe29e91c0604c812ff9
File Name: Skype.exe
Another social engineering trick used to lure criminals to download and execute a malicious file, the skype cleaner to “protect and encrypt your skype communications”.
3 – Did you update to the latest VPN version?
MD5 Hash: 2e07e8622b4e997f6543fc0497452dad
File Name: VPN.exe
Psiphon, a legitimate application used around the world for anonymity protection, is particularly effective and used in Syria for users to protect their traffic from snooping or interception, the application here is bound with malware and delivered to the users as an updated version.
4 – Let’s Check if your phone number is among the monitored numbers
MD5 Hash: ad9a18e1db0b43cb38da786eb3bf7c00
File Name: Syriatel.exe
Another one of the popular malware files, is used to fake a tool that is used to check the mobile phone numbers under surveillance and sorted by location, delivered as a “leaked program” to the victims.
5 – The Facebook account encryption application
MD5 Hash: efdaa73e0ac1b045d5f2214cadd77f09
File Name: Rooms.exe
6 – What’s your favourite security product?
One of the latest files used to infect users is quite different: a binding of a Kaspersky Lab tool with malware. Developed by Kaspersky Lab, TDSSKiller is a powerful free tool that can detect and remove a specific list of rootkit malware families.
Bound with malware, the Joe is using the Kaspersky name to deliver the malware in an attempt to lure victims to open and trust the files he is sending.
Who is “The Joe”
Hundreds of samples were analyzed relating to the Syrian malware, one of the samples, extracts to multiple documents, in one of which, we were able to find a metadata slip which extracted to some interesting information.
The metadata slip by the guy using “Joe” as his nickname, revealed his personal email, which using further research leads to his other emails, full identity, social pages…
Indicators of compromise
|MD5 Hash||Name(s) used for the malware file||First Seen|
|قائمة الأرهاب .zip (“list of terrorism”) file extracts to .JPG and malicious .SCR files||Jan 2014|
|TheSSL.exe (to “remove SSL weaknesses”)
|efdaa73e0ac1b045d5f2214cadd77f09||Rooms.exe (to “encrypt your Facebook”)||Nov 2014|
|a238f8ab946516b6153816c5fb4307be||tdskiler.exe (to “remove malware”)||Jan 2015|
|6379afd35285e16df4cb81803fde382c||Locker.exe (to “encrypt/decrypt” files)||Jan 2015|
Kaspersky Lab detects all malicious files used in the attacks.
All files are actively being used by the cybercriminals at the time of this report.
Syrian malware has a strong reliance on social engineering and the active development of malicious variants. Nevertheless, most of them quickly reveal their true nature when inspected carefully; and this is one of the main reasons for urging Syrian users to be extra vigilant about what they download and to implement a layered defense approach. We expect these attacks to evolve both in quality and quantity.
For more details, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org