Last Updated: 2017-03-22 15:33:48 UTC
by Brad Duncan (Version: 1)
2017-03-22 Update: This diary was posted earlier, but we had some technical issues, and the previous diary disappeared. I had to re-post this as a new diary with a new story ID and URL.
Cerber ransomware has been a constant presence since it was first discovered in February 2016. Since then, I've seen it consistently pushed by exploit kits (like Rig and Magnitude) from the pseudoDarkleech and other campaigns. I've also been tracking Cerber on a daily basis from malicious spam (malspam).
Some malspam pushing Cerber is part of the "Blank Slate" campaign. Why call it Blank Slate? Because the emails have no message text, and there's nothing to indicate what, exactly, the attachments are. Subject lines and attachment names are vague and usually consist of random numbers.
Blank Slate has pushed different types of ransomware. However, the vast majority of ransomware from this campaign has been Cerber. I wrote an in-depth article about Blank Slate earlier this month, and it's changed very little since then.
Let's look at some examples from Monday and Tuesday of this week (2017-03-20 and 2017-03-21).
Like other malspam campaigns, Blank Slate emails come from numerous hosts across the globe. I always think of this as botnet-based malspam, but I don't have any visibility on the sending side.
Sending email addresses are always spoofed. The only reliable source data consists of IP addresses for sending mail servers, specifically the one that directly contacted the recipient's mail server, as noted in the email headers. Everything else in an email can probably be spoofed.
What does one of these emails look like? Below is a screen shot with the recipient's information redacted.
What's in the zip file attachment? Another zip file!
What's in that zip within the zip? It's either a Microsoft Word document, or it's a .js file. In this case it's a .js file. I've seen many more .js files than Word documents in recent weeks from this campaign.
The .js file contains obfuscated script. If you double-click the file on a default-configured Windows host, Microsoft Windows Script (WScript) Host will execute the code and try to infect the computer.
On Monday 2017-03-20, I ran one of the extracted .js files on a vulnerable Windows host. After an initial HTTP GET request for the ransomware binary, post-infection traffic was similar to several other recent examples of Cerber. You'll see UDP traffic from the infected host over port 6892. That's followed by HTTP traffic to a domain starting with p27dokhpz2n7nvgr and ending with .top. IP addresses for the UDP traffic changes every week or two (or longer). Post-infection HTTP domains change more frequently.
The infected Windows host acted similar to other hosts I've infected in previous months. Along with the desktop background, decryption instructions were dropped to the desktop in three different files. File names began with _READ_THIS_FILE_ and consisted of a text file, an image file, and an HTA file.
The decryption process hasn't changed in recent months. Recently, whenever I've checked Cerber decryption instructions, the ransom was consistently $500 US dollars. The bitcoin amount had always reflected that $500 dollar value. But this week's example was different. This week, the ransom was 1 bitcoin.
Indicators of Compromise (IoC)
The following IP is traffic generated by the extracted .js files that downloaded Cerber:
- 18.104.22.168 or 22.214.171.124 - sonicfopase.top - GET /admin.php?f=2.gif
- 126.96.36.199 or 188.8.131.52 - bobdomjda.top - GET /admin.php?f=2.gif
- 184.108.40.206 or 220.127.116.11 - dboosajqn.top - GET /user.php?f=2.gif
- 18.104.22.168 - letrockstadawsa.top - GET /search.php
- 22.214.171.124 - yunityreyrehol.top - GET /search.php
Post-infection Cerber traffic:
- 126.96.36.199 to 188.8.131.52 (184.108.40.206/27) UDP port 6892
- 220.127.116.11 to 18.104.22.168 (22.214.171.124/27) UDP port 6892
- 126.96.36.199 to 188.8.131.52 (184.108.40.206/22) UDP port 6892
- HTTP traffic to a domain starting with p27dokhpz2n7nvgr and ending with .top
Cerber samples collected using this batch of emails:
- File description: Cerber sample from bobdomjda.top on 2017-03-20
- File size: 264,378 bytes
- File description: Cerber sample from letrockstadawsa.top on 2017-03-20
- File size: 264,377 bytes
- File description: Cerber sample from sonicfopase.top on 2017-03-20
- File size: 264,378 bytes
- File description: Cerber sample from dboosajqn.top on 2017-03-21
- File size: 273,618 bytes
- File description: Cerber sample from yunityreyrehol.top on 2017-03-21
- File size: 273,617 bytes
I always wonder how effective campaigns like this are. Potential victims must open an attachment from a blank email, go through two zip archives, then double-click the final file. If the final file is a Word document, the victim must also enable macros.
And that works on default Windows configurations. But properly-administered Windows hosts and decent email filtering are enough, I think, to keep most people from worring about it. I'm far more interested in the cycle of abuse targeting hosting providers. Without web servers to host ransomware binaries, Blank Slate cannot continue its current method of operations.
brad [at] malware-traffic-analysis.net