Emotet

Emotet is one of the most dangerous 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
ex-USSR
First seen
1 June, 2014
Last seen
31 March, 2020
Also known as
Heodo
Geodo
Global rank
1
Week rank
2
Month rank
3
IOCs
4966

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. Today Emotet is targeting 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 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 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 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 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 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 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?

For your detailed Emotet malware analysis ANY.RUN's "Fake Net" feature will be very useful. 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 allows professionals to study cyber threats with maximum efficiency, helping researchers to battle elusive malware like Emotet.

IOCs

IP addresses
50.28.51.143
103.31.232.93
190.190.134.145
189.171.215.211
201.236.135.104
95.7.221.205
109.73.110.33
190.181.235.46
51.159.23.217
109.74.5.95
104.236.52.89
190.115.18.139
201.251.43.69
115.78.95.230
178.210.51.222
87.106.136.232
152.89.236.214
198.199.114.69
104.236.246.93
209.141.41.136
Hashes
df9c5fdc3d035f9159431f10a9357dd1ec6285c54d74d5507d006c966c1c6ec4
710b02bf96be93459bd676e4d3ca6914d871765c569dc4198cd34ddf46dd32ff
47cbfeb18cd674adc44ba59829b9f65cdaec1fcfb32e3913d34a79fc415f78a4
e146321a910d48bba2786037ac42e4c61c222fc29e93b634e19c6ac505f17102
ed81dfb2005382658a1d8212f4a3388a91027d1339d16166dc31e9251a658472
2c00eca94d000266397368f37bc55dde88ca079a5dbe9b2da450da417a8972be
194b7310db4cd67da668984a046a212330818d5215ac634f17797d70e0e76216
402b525a6a3ea4399a53fcc8fdd8de0a4b6c8c757a5f79223a3e2dc77917119b
1ad1ff05930f27ef4b349c7a612235d1632ef7ceaa1a17adf7c7b3a97b40ca4d
902480863ef4e85c87210f6c7b7177d879f682f3bbbec0df8d0171c7565fac39
2df91ac6643b11aead62a87b2d1aa2dbb527721dc174ba156ea4f25a5927dac0
0a44112d2788c5a26241442a3570e3da18137825e87efabbe00ba95bf5fec598
4b33678c6aec0eae75f271a23d83290c0f8f8e07d4e81e65e7af096232a83ee4
8999010cb2ec1bc473d2b4fb6718c8d68218196d1af748e25e45666bbc2513a0
ae82f9ee4a0c830dca58631f999604eab7c9e3bcb69f85d748cb6d3572f06b3e
367c58d4561b5936aa2e2c7b298bf441caf3abd2c75d9f640f4348d29017fd75
59b760cb6ec16be4e8dac1f09ea58ab8e0ef4400fe7a0ec3025ba061dc3f6ce2
d9e53c7b8e2cc532015fe9b78eef55e3ad5d9602f8db1f3316dde483dddc84be
63401641a9fd13220bba57edc7ffb8426714733d553fb77bdc020c83c43e496b
6c2b69a5faa678f4b064bca6cc774e8b3623d9de878566ecbf638818385c5eb7
Domains
gearnova.com
majul.com
elx01.knas.systems
isns.net
qxq.ddns.net
hackite.com
alaescuela.com.mx
www.alaescuela.com.mx
wecancodeit.org
chesapeakeresearchgroup.com
krupskaya.com
m-onetrading-jp.com
thuocnam.tk
ns2.fastcom.co.nz
cpdns02.fastcom.co.nz
www.josebernalte.com
www.blackstaramps.com
www.blackstarinsider.co.uk
blackstarinsider.co.uk
s16222592.onlinehome-server.info

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