We are back to a more complicated or involved Trickbot download campaign today with links in the email to download the XLS file instead of attachments. This malware campaign delivery method was first mentioned on 22 October 2018 when I missed the onslaught. These do tend to have a much shorter “shelf life” or campaign duration than the more usual office file attachment version, sometimes only between a few minutes and 2 or 3 hours, but in that very short period of time hundreds if not thousands of victims can still be infected. This is because it is much easier for a registrar to block, delete or null route the DNS entries to remove access to the fake sites from the internet. It is much harder when compromised legitimate servers are spreading the payload and can take much longer to persuade a hosting company to block access. We frequently see the payload still active weeks after the initial campaign and reports to the hosting company or companies.
Unfortunately Godaddy have not been on the ball with this one & almost 24 hours later the malware sites and domains are still live & still spewing out Trickbot trojan. If Godaddy actually responded to abuse reports more quickly, we can stop this sort of campaign in its tracks. Because it is still live 24 hours later, victims that had a day off yesterday will no doubt follow the links today & continue to be infected by this malware.
While not directly related, the fact that HSBC USA has recently reported that some customer’s accounts have been compromised & fraudulently accessed, will raise the risk of any recipient to be more inclined to follow the link & open the malware laden XLS file, because it “might” be genuine.
These do need quite a degree of user interaction to get infected. First you have to click the link in the email. Then you have to press the “open in Excel” button on the website that spoofs or imitates the company. Then accept the download & either open it directly or save it. If you save it, then you have to open the XLS spreadsheet and then in any case enable macros and content to be infected.
This example is today’s latest spoof or imitation of a well-known company, bank or public authority delivering Trickbot banking Trojan. The email with the subject of “FW: Account Review ” pretends to come from HSBC, but actually comes from “firstname.lastname@example.org” which is a look-a-like, typo-squatted or other domain that can easily be misidentified, mistaken or confused with the genuine site. These all have a link to download the malicious office XLS file from a remote website.
HSBC has not been hacked or had their email or other servers compromised. They are not sending the emails to you. They are just innocent victims in exactly the same way as every recipient of these emails.
What has happened is that the criminals sending these have registered various domains that look like the genuine Company, Bank, Government Department or message sending service. There are either one or two newly registered domain that imitates a well known Company, Government Department, Bank or other organisation that can easily be confused with the genuine body or website in some way. These are hosted on & send the emails from 3 or 4 different servers. Some days however we do see dozens or even hundreds of fake domains sending emails. Today we have 2 very similar domains, one sending the emails with the second domain hosting the Malicious Office files & the Trickbot payload.
Today’s example of the spoofed domains are, as usual, registered via Godaddy as registrar. Because of new GDPR rules we cannot easily find the registrants name or any further details.
- hsbcdocuments.co.uk Hosted on & sending emails via 18.104.22.168|22.214.171.124|126.96.36.199|
- hsbcdocuments.net Hosted on and distributing the XLS file and the Trickbot payload from 188.8.131.52
You can now submit suspicious sites, emails and files via our Submissions system
From: HSBC UK <email@example.com>
Date: Mon 05/11/2018 12:27
Subject: FW: Account Review
This message was sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
The account review files has been issued at the request of our customer, please download it from the link below:
Your documents have been encrypted with the strongest encryption and a unique key, please print and sign the attached document.
Global Payment and Cash Management
This e-mail is confidential. It may also be legally privileged. If you are not the addressee you may not copy, forward, disclose or use any part of it. If you have received this message in error, please delete it and all copies from your system and notify the sender immediately by return e-mail. Internet communications cannot be guaranteed to be timely. The sender does not accept liability for any errors or omissions.
The link in the email goes to https://hsbcdocuments.net/online-services-payments-home_cmd_leftnav=leftnavfunctionName=AccountReports_state=false_isMainMenu=true_activeCUNParam=hsbc.B2G.reports_page_transactionalSite=true_BlitzToken=blitz_LinkCategory=LHN_LinkID=YourAcc_MakePayments/report11052018.htm Where an Excel spreadsheet containing macros is downloaded.
You first get sent to a webpage looking like these examples, first saying loading documents with a spinning disc so you think that something is actually preparing. Then a page with a warning saying online preview not available and you need to open in Excel
Then when you press the open in Excel button you get sent to this page which downloads the Excel spreadsheet automatically.
There is only one download location for the Trickbot binary today with this campaign.
The folder for the files & configs is: C:\Users\[User]\AppData\Roaming\WINYS
Uses C:\Windows\System32\Tasks\Sysnetsf to keep persistence
All modern versions of word and other office programs, that is 2010, 2013, 2016 and 365, should open all Microsoft office documents that is Word docs, Excel spreadsheet files and PowerPoint etc that are downloaded from the web or received in an email automatically in “protected view” that stops any embedded malware, macros and DDE “exploit /Feature” and embedded ole objects from being displayed and running. Make sure protected view is set in all office programs to protect you and your company from these sorts of attacks and do not over ride it to edit the document. If the protected mode bar appears when opening the document DO NOT follow the advice they give to enable macros or enable editing to see the content. The document will have a warning message, but you will be safe.
Be aware that there are a lot of other dodgy word docs spreading that WILL infect you with no action from you, if you are still using an out dated or vulnerable version of word. This is a good reason to update your office programs to a recent version and stop using office 2003 and 2007. Many of us have continued to use older versions of word and other office programs, because they are convenient, have the functions and settings we are used to and have never seen a need to update to the latest super-duper version.
The risks in using older version are now seriously outweighing the convenience, benefits and cost of keeping an old version going.
Please read our How to protect yourselves page for simple, sensible advice on how to avoid being infected by this sort of socially engineered malware. Also please read our post about word macro malware and how to avoid being infected by them
I strongly urge you to update your office software to the latest version and stop putting yourself at risk, using old out of date software.
Email from: email@example.com