What is DarkGate malware?
DarkGate is a loader malware family that was first detected in 2018 and has since been continuously undergoing serious development, significantly expanding its functionality. This malicious software is notable for the use of various evasion techniques, such as process hollowing.
It is distributed based on the malware-as-a-service (MaaS) model by its developer who goes by the name RastaFarEye on popular Darkweb forums. According to the creator of the malware, they have been developing it since 2017.
As of the beginning of 2024, RastaFarEye offers only 30 seats per month to those willing to purchase a subscription, which is priced at $15,000/mo. The malware has been observed to be used by known threat actors in different attacks involving data theft and extortion. Operators get to control the malware via a special panel.
Technical details of the DarkGate malicious software
DarkGate is a multi-functional malware, meaning that it can be employed for a range of malicious purposes. Here is an overview of its key capabilities:
- DarkGate can execute malware to memory, making it more difficult to detect and remove.
- It can remotely control the victim's computer, giving the attacker complete access to the victim's data and system, as well as log its keystrokes and take screenshots.
- DarkGate can browse and manage files on the victim's computer.
- It can steal the victim's passwords, credit card numbers, cookies, history, and other sensitive information from their web browsers.
- The malware can gain administrator privileges on the victim's computer, giving the attacker even more control over the system.
- DarkGate can steal the victim's Discord login token, which can be used to log in to their account and steal their data.
- It is also equipped with a cryptominer, allowing operators to mine various cryptocurrencies using the victim's computer's CPU and/or GPU.
The DarkGate virus achieves persistence, making sure it stays on the computer even after a restart, in several ways. For instance, it can create a shortcut in the Startup folder or change a setting in the registry. Additionally, it employs Asynchronous Process Call injection.
In order to evade antivirus software, DarkGate has the functionality to check the presence of a list of popular security products on the system. It also has an anti-sandboxing capability, where it can detect a virtual machine environment and halt or adjust its execution.
All the communication with the command and control (C2) server is performed via HTTP and is obfuscated.
Execution process of DarkGate attacks
Despite having an anti-sandboxing capability, DarkGate can be easily analyzed in ANY.RUN. As a result, we can easily detect the malware and observe its activity by simply uploading its sample to the sandbox.
DarkGate`s threat details demonstrated in ANY.RUN
The execution chain of DarkGate may vary depending on the versions and other factors. In some instances, the entire execution chain is contained in a single file that facilitates all activities post-infection. Let's examine our sample.
DarkGate may perform process hollowing into certain processes within the infected operating system. This can include TabTip32, BraveUpdate, MicrosoftEdgeUpdate, ielowutil, or, in our case, GoogleUpdate. This malware often utilizes AutoIT scripts and files for injection and execution of shellcode and other malicious activities. The primary malicious activities are executed through the injected GoogleUpdate process. It adds itself to the startup directory, checks for the presence of antivirus software, connects to the command and control server (C2), downloads payloads, and more.
Distribution methods of the DarkGate malware
However, instead of directly embedding malware into an email attachment, DarkGate typically utilizes malicious links that direct users to compromised websites hosting MSI installer files. When unsuspecting users download and execute these infected MSIs, the DarkGate malware silently installs itself on their computers. Once embedded, DarkGate begins to steal sensitive information and perform other similar actions.
DarkGate is an extremely capable malware that is operated by infamous threat groups, which puts it on a list of major cybersecurity concerns. To ensure your organization has the capacity to avoid becoming another victim of the malware, you need to have access to up-to-date information on DarkGate.
Utilize the ANY.RUN sandbox to examine the latest samples of DarkGate and gather up-to-date insights into their behavior patterns. Uncover the TTPs employed by the malware and collect its indicators of compromise. Leverage ANY.RUN's interactive malware analysis approach to safely interact with the malware as if on your own device, extracting even more relevant information.
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