Emotet

Emotet is one of the most dangerous banking Trojans to have been created. Over the course of its lifetime, it was upgraded to become a very destructive malware. It targets mostly corporate victims but even private users get infected in mass spam email campaigns.

Type
Trojan
Origin
Unknown
First seen
1 June, 2014
Last seen
18 January, 2020
Also known as
Heodo
Geodo
Global rank
1
Week rank
1
Month rank
1
IOCs
4469

What is Emotet Trojan?

Emotet is an extremely sophisticated and destructive banking Trojan used to download and install other malware. First recorded in 2014, Emotet has gained advanced capabilities over the course of its lifetime. Today Emotet is targeting governments, corporations, small businesses and individuals, focusing on Europe, America, and Canada.

So what makes Emotet virus so dangerous? Emotet can act like a worm and spread using local networks, which makes it extremely hard to clean-up. In addition to this, the Trojan has advanced persistence and anti-evasion mechanics, such as the ability to detect sandboxes and virtual machines with an option to generate false indicators to throw researches off. On top of that, the Trojan has a polymorphic design – meaning that it can change its code to bypass signature-based detection, making this cyber defense strategy useless against its’ attacks. If that wasn’t enough, Emotet can receive updates from the control server, performing this operation as if an operating system update is being installed. This allows the Trojan to drop additional malware onto the infected machine stealthily. It should also be noted that Emotet trojan has a modular design which makes it possible to adapt this malware to various tasks and customize it for every particular campaign, giving the attackers the maximum flexibility.

General description of Emotet

The first version of Emotet malware which was spotted in the wild all the way back in 2014 was designed to steal banking credentials by intercepting internet traffic and was much more basic than the beast of a Trojan which we know today. When Emotet was first spotted in the wild, the malware targeted mainly banks from Germany and Austria using only its native information stealing toolset.

Version two followed shortly after, this time carrying several additional modules such as a money transfer, mail spam, DDoS and address book stealing modules. The third iteration of Emotet was released in 2015, this time focusing on upgrading the anti-evasion functionality of the malware and introducing banks from Switzerland into the list of potential victims.

The next overhaul of the Emotet malware followed in December 2016, changing the attack vector of the virus. At the beginning of its lifetime Version 4 heavily relied on the RIG 4.0 exploit kit to make its way into the victims' computers later switching primarily to mail spam. The same iteration of the malware also marked the moment when the primary use case of the malware started shifting from using its own banking module to dropping other Trojans onto infected machines.

Speaking of modules, Emotet malware can perform a large number of malicious activities that vary depending on the modules used in a particular campaign. Most versions of the virus included a spam module which can be used to continue the spread of the malware by sending out a series of malicious emails from the infected machine. Another normally included module is the one used for credential stealing, allowing Emotet to steal sensitive information from web browsers and mail clients.

Starting from 2017, Emotet trojan began coming equipped with a spreader module, allowing the malware to infect all machines connected via a local network. The virus also gained the address book stealer module – this one is interesting. It analyzes the relationship between email senders and receivers and uses the collected information to enhance the effectiveness of subsequent campaigns originating from the users’ PC, allowing to target friends, family members and colleagues of the victim with personalized spam emails.

Not only does Emotet malware provide flexible functionality through the use of modules and has several anti-evasion functions, but it also puts a heavy emphasis on persistence. To ensure that the malware stays in the infected machine, it injects into running processes, often targeting the Explorer.exe. In addition to that, the malware uses Scheduled Tasks and makes registry keys changes.

It should be noted that the banking Trojan we are reviewing today is extremely destructive and its attacks can have several consequences, such as loss of private data, inability to operate the infected PC up to its complete disability and financial losses associated with restoring the infrastructure damaged by the malware. In fact, one company was forced to spend an excess of one million dollars to deal with the aftermath of an Emotet attack.

Emotet malware analysis

A video recorded in the ANY.RUN malware hunting service displays the execution process of Emotet, allowing to examine the behavior of this malware in a lot of detail.

emotet execution process tree

Figure 1: Displays the processes list generated by the ANY.RUN malware hunting service

text report of the emotet analysis

Figure 2: Even more information about the execution of Emotet can be found in customizable text reports generated by ANY.RUN

Emotet execution process

Considering that the primary way in which the Emotet banking trojan is distributed is malicious email spam campaigns, the first step in the chain of infection involves tricking the potential victim into opening an attached Microsoft Office file using social engineering. After the file has been opened and macros enabled, there is no need for additional user actions. Downloaded files contain malicious VBA code which runs after a document has been opened. One of the possible options of the infection process is when the VBA code utilizes WMI to launch a Powershell script which downloads the payload – a malicious executable file from the web server. Notably, the Powershell script is encoded. Emotet makes steps to maintain a presence in the infected system - it copies itself into %AppData% subfolders and changes the autorun value in the registry. Through all infection process, the malware sends information to and from a server. As the last execution step, Emotet waits for commands from C2 servers.

Prevention of Emotet attacks

To minimize the risk of Emotet virus infection and potential destruction if such infection does occur, users are advised to follow a set of standard best practices, such as not downloading files from suspicious emails and keeping an updated version of antivirus on the machine at all times.

For organizations, it is advised to restrict inbound SMB communication between client systems in order to prevent Emotet from spreading from one machine to another within the local network, provide security training for personnel and instruct employees about the danger of mail spam as well as take all possible precautions to filter out potentially malicious emails at firewall.

How does Emotet spread?

The main distribution method of Emotet malware is malicious email campaigns. The banking Trojan uses it’s address book stealer module to pull the contacts from the email account of its victim and send itself to found contacts from the hijacked account.

Bearing in mind that potential victims are receiving an email from somebody they know and trust, Emotet has a very high chance of a successful attack. The received email usually contains a link to a malicious URL that downloads the malware when clicked. However, email spam is not the only distribution Method that this malware utilizes. It may also take advantage of certain Windows vulnerabilities, thus the malware can make it’s way into a machine completely “silently”, without the user ever knowing about it.

How to collect Emotet’s IOCs using ANY.RUN?

In your analysis of Emotet malware will be useful our feature "Fake Net". It intercepts HTTP requests and returns 404 error, forcing malware to reveal its C2 links.

To turn it on in "Advanced mode" of the "New task" window check the box next to the "Fake net" in the "Network" section.

fake net emotet Figure 3: Run emotet sample with turn on "Fake net" feature

Conclusion

Emotet malware is one of the most sophisticated and destructive Trojans that are currently active. Since its first introduction all the way back in 2014, the malware has underground a substantial evolution gaining a lot of anti-evasion features, obtaining worm-like functionality and even changing the main focus from information stealing to installing other Trojans onto infected machines. Thanks to the ability to spread to adjacent systems, Emotet can easily infect all machines in a single network, making dealing with the consequences of an attack a true nightmare. The situation is further worsened by the fact that the malware is equipped with a series of anti-evasion tricks that make analyzing it quite difficult. As a result, the process of developing countermeasures is much more complicated in comparison to more simple and straightforward Trojans.

Thankfully, modern online hunting services like ANY.RUN are equipped with equally advanced research functions and allow professionals to study cyber threats with the maximum efficiency, helping researchers to battle elusive malware like Emotet.

IOCs

IP addresses
100.6.23.40
98.192.74.164
59.135.126.129
91.205.215.10
51.77.113.102
91.236.4.234
65.99.217.242
183.82.97.25
70.123.95.180
72.186.137.156
66.7.242.50
81.17.92.70
91.250.96.22
64.40.250.5
68.172.243.146
149.210.171.237
178.33.167.120
188.85.143.170
98.199.196.197
51.77.113.100
Hashes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qxq.ddns.net
thuocnam.tk
majul.com
m-onetrading-jp.com
krupskaya.com
isns.net
www.josebernalte.com
asc.hremsoft.com
oes.com.ng
applications.oes.com.ng
uis.hremsoft.com
www.misteducare.com
www.hremsoft.com
adonis-medicine.at
www.menatworksafety.it
www.cislverona.it
statistiche.leevee.it
www.tannenrecords.com
68-187-160-28.static.hckr.nc.charter.com
polymertech.de

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