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
12 July, 2020
Also known as
Heodo
Geodo
Global rank
1
Week rank
3
Month rank
6
IOCs
22312

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
77.74.78.80
181.230.65.232
190.108.228.62
23.111.136.190
91.236.4.234
181.120.79.227
104.236.52.89
51.159.23.217
219.92.13.25
103.38.12.139
195.201.56.70
139.59.12.63
125.63.106.22
14.99.112.138
190.251.235.239
203.153.216.178
192.241.220.183
93.51.50.171
212.51.142.238
175.114.178.83
Hashes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192-168-100-87.abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz012345.plex.direct
isns.net
file.litgid.org
prospekt.org
majul.com
chesapeakeresearchgroup.com
elx01.knas.systems
booking.msg.bluhotels.com
booking.msg.bluhotels.com
qxq.ddns.net
krupskaya.com
m-onetrading-jp.com
thuocnam.tk
www.sentakubin.co.jp
bhp-shop.eu
www.blackstarinsider.co.uk
blackstarinsider.co.uk
blackstaramps.com
wecancodeit.org
ortografka.pl

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