Emotet

Emotet is one of the most dangerous trojans ever 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
ex-USSR
First seen
1 June, 2014
Last seen
31 July, 2021
Also known as
Heodo
Geodo
Global rank
1
Week rank
1
Month rank
1
IOCs
32658

What is Emotet Trojan?

Emotet is an extremely sophisticated and destructive Trojan used to download and install other malware. First recorded in 2014 it was classified as a banking trojan, but Emotet has gained advanced capabilities over the course of its lifetime and evolved into an entire malware distribution service.

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. Emotet's main targets are governments, corporations, small businesses, and individuals, focusing on Europe, America, and Canada.

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 that 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 mentioned Trojan versions are 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 trojan is distributed is through 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 that 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 webserver. 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 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 the firewall.

How does Emotet spread?

The main distribution method of Emotet malware is malicious email campaigns. The trojan uses its 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 its way into a machine completely “silently”, without the user ever knowing about it.

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

For your detailed Emotet malware analysis ANY.RUN's "Fake Net" feature will be very useful. It intercepts HTTP requests and returns a 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.

01/28/20 Update: In January 2021 Emotet botnet was taken down by law enforcement. The global effort, known as Operation Ladybird, located the malware infrastructure around the globe. They arrested at least two of the cybercriminal gang's members in Ukraine. Their names were not uncovered.

Security experts teamed up and simultaneously hijacked hundreds of Emotet command-and-control servers and disrupted its backups, too. Researchers placed their own machines at the IP addresses of crooks’ computers and made the payload inactive to prevent connection with the botnet.

These actions lead to the fact that Emotet’s C2 servers don’t work anymore and it can’t cause any harm to the infected machine. Right now the malware comeback seems impossible.

Dutch police officials used their access to two crucial servers located in the country to deploy an Emotet update to all infected hosts that will remove the malware from all infected computers on March 25, 2021.

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

IOCs

IP addresses
45.33.55.157
195.78.33.200
190.56.149.122
54.39.178.177
91.211.88.52
51.38.50.144
188.40.170.197
221.147.142.214
162.241.204.233
45.79.75.232
173.249.6.108
72.167.223.217
37.157.196.117
47.188.131.94
61.76.222.210
72.249.144.95
163.172.107.70
75.109.111.18
75.188.107.174
107.170.146.252
Hashes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isns.net
majul.com
elx01.knas.systems
booking.msg.bluhotels.com
booking.msg.bluhotels.com
192-168-100-87.abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz012345.plex.direct
pool.ug
oshibki-bytovoj-tehniki.com
ticket.ipv10.eu
3jkpvk2m8y.dattolocal.net
krupskaya.com
m-onetrading-jp.com
thuocnam.tk
haxt.net
www.get-xmas.com
www.drive-software.com
get-xmas.com
qxq.ddns.net
www2.moveit.com
freedesktopsoft.com

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