Formbook from Possible ModiLoader (DBatLoader)

Published: 2023-06-17
Last Updated: 2023-06-17 05:07:01 UTC
by Brad Duncan (Version: 1)
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I'm currently doing a "30 days of Formbook" collection effort, generating infection traffic from recent Formbook samples and posting the results to my blog.  On Friday 2023-06-16, I ran across an example that kicks off with an Excel file exploiting CVE-2017-11882 to use what seems like ModiLoader (also known as DBatLoader).

I previously wrote about ModiLoader for Remcos RAT in an ISC diary last month.  In today's diary, I'll review an infection that I think is ModiLoader Formbook from my infection run yesterday (Friday, 2023-06-16).

Shown above:  Flow chart for my Formbook infection from possible ModiLoader.

The Initial Lure

The initial lure was a file created with Excel to exploit an old vulnerability for CVE-2017-11882.  I used a Windows 7 host with Office 2007 as a vulnerable system in my lab to test the sample.

Shown above:  The initial lure opened in Office 2007 Excel.

After opening the initial lure, the file retrieved a loader-style EXE, and that loader-style EXE retrieved base64 text over HTTPS from qu[.]ax as shown below.  Approximately one minute later, the Formbook C2 traffic started.

Shown above:  Traffic from the infection run filtered in Wireshark.

Checking the loader EXE in a sandbox revealed the loader retrieved a base64 text file from hxxps://qu[.]ax/NNAs.wav.  The base64 text represents a malicious DLL file in reverse byte order.  Fortunately CyberChef can easily decode the text and return the binary.

Shown above:  Downloading the loader EXE's payload from hxxps://qu[.]ax/NNAs.wav in a web browser.

Shown above:  Checking the downloaded file to find it's base64 text.

Shown above:  Decoding the base64 text file in CyberChef to reveals a malicious EXE or DLL.

Shown above:  Checking the converted file and discovering it's a DLL.

Post-infection Forensics

Examining my infected lab host revealed the loader EXE was made persistent through the Windows registry.  My investigation also found a copy of MSBuild.exe (a legitimate file for the Microsoft Build Engine) made persistent in the same manner I usually see for Formbook.  I've done similar, undocumented infection runs with confirmed ModiLoader samples for Formbook, and each of those also had some sort of non-Formbook, legitimate file where I would normally see a Formbook EXE.  This seems common for ModiLoader Formbook infections.

Shown above:  Artifacts from my infection run.

Indicators of Compromise (IOCs)

The following are malware/artifacts from this infection run.

Malware/artifacts from the infection run:

SHA256 hash: 4f6e9a66f50f443d07676ef43a7f2349fc713c96522058c1c4d425da7be4a4bf

File size: 1,821,184 bytes
File name: DC293_payment.xls
File type: Composite Document File V2 Document (created with Excel)
File description: File exploiting CVE-2017-11882 in vulnerable versions of Microsoft Excel

SHA256 hash: 8566d2bf58fe371e646076c60874a8fbb50de2fbf9b950c457804d316a3de89f

File size: 94,208 bytes
File location: htxxp://23.94.144[.]13/555/vbc.exe
File location: C:\Users\Public\cleanmgr_rse.exe
Persistent file location: C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Roaming\bestm.exe
File type: PE32 executable (GUI) Intel 80386 Mono/.Net assembly, for MS Windows
File description: possible ModiLoader (DBatLoader) EXE for Formbook version 4.1

SHA256 hash: 16c7760898572422cac97f705e9076c35610a07fbc40aaa91b5663af923cdca7

File size: 1,036,972 bytes
File location: hxxps://qu[.]ax/NNAs.wav
File type: ASCII text, with very long lines (65536), with no line terminators
File description: Base64 text retrieved by ModiLoader for Formbook
Note: File is decords to a Windows DLL in reverse byte order

SHA256 hash: cfc4f6c4931fc8df03919d96181178a903a6ccd39eb5268ac00b3a223c027b5b

File size: 777,728 bytes
File type: PE32 executable (DLL) (console) Intel 80386 Mono/.Net assembly, for MS Windows
File description: Windows DLL converted from the above Base64 text
Run method: unknown

SHA256 hash: d94e9ea7dce3dd4760f48356f14a986ea1fc8f1c84864105bf815a32284296ab

File size: 261,688 bytes
File location: C:\Program Files (x86)\W2d0\k6qlvnu84nj0.exe
File type: PE32 executable (DLL) (console) Intel 80386 Mono/.Net assembly, for MS Windows
File description: Copy of legitimate Microsoft file msbuild.exe (not inherently malicious)

Windows Registry key: HKCU\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run

Value 0

name: bestm
type: REG_SZ
data: "C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Roaming\bestm.exe"

Value 1

name: YDD0P4187
type: REG_SZ
data: C:\Program Files (x86)\W2d0\k6qlvnu84nj0.exe

HTTP GET and POST requests:

GET /tfgp/?[string of alphanumeric characters with the following mixed in: = _ + and /]
POST /tfgp/

Domains used for Formbook C2 traffic:

DNS query for www.valleyofbreath[.]com - no response from DNS server
DNS query for[.]com - no response from DNS server
DNS query for www.cloudzon[.]world - response: No such name
DNS query for www.eperq[.]buzz - response: No such name
DNS query for www.nolinkoti[.]biz - response: No such name
DNS query for www.simplepay[.]kitchen - response: No such name
DNS query for www.thecharmingchimp[.]com - response: No such name
DNS query for www.theclockpeddler[.]com - response: No such name
DNS query for www.thewoodeniphonecase[.]com - response: No such name
DNS query for www.yolcu360online[.]autos - response: No such name
DNS query for www.youhousedesign[.]com - response: No such name
DNS query for www.rtlsdepmpyv7[.]com - no IP returned from DNS server

www.chaintrt[.]com - TCP SYN segments only, no response or RST from server
www.cleanskinshop[.]com - TCP SYN segments only, no response or RST from server
www.hew9[.]xyz - TCP SYN segments only, no response or RST from server

www.astudyinstories[.]com - GET /tfgp/[string]
- GET /tfgp/[string]
www.ctrivertravel[.]net - GET /tfgp/[string]
www.dl-jmjg[.]com - GET /tfgp/[string]
www.driversofficial[.]com - GET /tfgp/[string]
www.eliteenduranceuk[.]com - GET /tfgp/[string]
www.firstonsiterestoration[.]com - GET /tfgp/[string]
www.ganosignsandprinting[.]com - GET /tfgp/[string]
www.langlaufdavos[.]com - GET /tfgp/[string]
www.martynasobczak[.]com - GET /tfgp/[string]
www.openseamonkeys[.]com - GET /tfgp/[string]
www.unbecomingsail[.]xyz - GET /tfgp/[string]

www.4thmainland[.]com - GET /tfgp/[string] and POST /tfgp/ requests
www.abhisheksharma[.]life - GET /tfgp/[string] and POST /tfgp/ requests
www.babyshoespromo[.]com - GET /tfgp/[string] and POST /tfgp/ requests
www.gameozo[.]com - GET /tfgp/[string] and POST /tfgp/ requests
www.livetcvety[.]ru - GET /tfgp/[string] and POST /tfgp/ requests
www.porgy[.]online - GET /tfgp/[string] and POST /tfgp/ requests
www.sagewoodworkinginc[.]com - GET /tfgp/[string] and POST /tfgp/ requests
www.strattmanwedding[.]com - GET /tfgp/[string] and POST /tfgp/ requests
www.ytdxjt[.]com - GET /tfgp/[string] and POST /tfgp/ requests

Final Words

Since this infection chain relies on a 2017 vulnerability, anyone with a Windows 10 or 11 host running an up-to-date/patched version of Microsoft Office will not be affected.  When checked against VirusTotal, the malicious Excel, EXE, and DLL files have a decent detection rate.  This is not a high-risk infection for many people.  Perhaps the most interesting thing is that new malware samples exploiting CVE-2017-11882 like this one are submitted to VirusTotal on a daily (or near-daily) basis.

A packet capture (pcap) from the infection run, along the with associated malware and artifacts are available here.

Brad Duncan
brad [at]

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