Pony is a malware with two main functions — stealing information and dropping other viruses with different tasks on infected machines. It has been around since 2011, and it still actively attacks users in Europe and America.

Type
Stealer
Origin
Unknown
First seen
1 January, 2011
Last seen
2 August, 2021
Also known as
Fareit
Siplog
Global rank
10
Week rank
17
Month rank
18
IOCs
22312

What is Pony malware?

Pony, also known as Fareit or Siplog, is an information stealer and loader – a malware used to collect data from infected machines and install other malicious programs. This particular virus was First Spotted in the wild in 2011. It is known to attack users primarily in Europe and North America.

The earliest discovered version of Pony stealer is 1.7, and the latest updated known version is 2.2. Though being regularly updated, the malware did not gain groundbreakingly new features since the time of its first discovery by Microsoft. In addition to the core functionality, Pony can also steal cryptocurrency wallet credentials, FTP clients, and autofill values from the browsers.

In contrast to the majority of botnets, Pony stealer does not require a centralized C&C server or a group of C&C servers to carry out its attacks. Instead, each attacker can set up their own custom control server or purchase a server that was previously set up by another criminal, instantly gaining access to infrastructure that provides reports about the stolen data. In addition, the malware itself can be divided into two modules, the builder, which is used to construct clients that are then have to be downloaded on the victim’s machine to collect data, and the bot itself – the final payload.

General description of Pony malware

The robust functionality of Pony trojan helped this malware to keep its position as the most popular password stealer through 5 years. Apart from being able to steal credentials, Pony malware can disable certain antivirus and windows security features and run in the background completely hidden from the user, who may not have a clue that his or her PC is, in fact, infected. When activated, Pony stealer can use the infected PC to take part in botnet attacks, for example, using a hijacked machine to send spam emails. Pony can also download other malware to the victim’s machine and send harvested personal data to a destination specified by the attacker.

What’s more, Pony has been mentioned by multiple “hacker celebrities” as the backbone of many attack campaigns. For instance, the author of the infamous Andromeda botnet has referred to Pony as the “titanic work of the author of miracle (Fareit Bot),” further stating that Pony loader was incorporated in the Andromeda botnet attacks as a plug-in.

Part of the malware’s popularity is due to the fact that the source code of multiple Pony loader versions has been leaked and is available for download on the darknet. Particularly, the source code of Pony builder and loader versions 1.9 and 2.0 are available for download on several underground forums.

The Pony stealer builder is a program that attackers can use to construct custom Pony bots with pre-programmed C&C addresses, where stolen data can be sent. The Pony Bot is the actual program that is used for information stealing. The Bot is written primarily in assembly language. A peculiar feature of this malware that separates it from the rest of the pack is its unique decoding technique. The Bot itself does not come equipped with a decoding algorithm, instead of using just simple functions that are programmed to send encrypted information to the control server, where stolen passwords and other data are decrypted.

Even though the core feature-set of Pony trojan has not changed drastically over the course of its lifespan, newer versions of the malware gained several anti-detection features designed to prevent research and disassembly of the malware. As such, in addition to standard anti-evasion and debugging techniques, each attacker has the ability to implement various packers, including custom ones, to avoid detection by antivirus software.

With the use of Packers, the malware gains a Russian “matryoshka” nesting-doll like-design. While the payload is inactive when the package containing Pony stealer is analyzed, the final payload cannot be detected by antivirus signatures since it is hidden in the innermost and smallest package. However, once activated, the Pony loader has to unpack itself, thus revealing its presence.

Pony malware analysis

A video of a simulation recorded in ANY.RUN malware hunting service helps us to examine the behavior of Pony in-depth.

process graph of the pony execution Figure 1: A process graph generated by ANY.RUN enables to examine the lifecycle of Pony in a visual form

text report of a Pony analysis Figure 2: Customizable text reports provided by ANY.RUN gives more opportunities for research or sharing of study results

Pony malware execution process

In the case of our simulation, after the user ran the malicious file, the malware launched itself. Next, the malicious executable file connected to the C2 server and started stealing information from the infected system. It should be noted that in some cases, Pony is known to download other malware to the victim’s machine.

Distribution of Pony malware

Pony is distributed in multiple ways, including email spam campaigns, exploit kits, and DNS poisoning. Also, Pony can be hidden within free downloadable online programs and can mimic legitimate software. For example, malicious emails usually include either a Microsoft Word archive or a JavaScript file. As soon as the document is downloaded and opened, Pony injects into the victim’s PC and starts execution.

Another attack vector of Pony is through a compromised DNS server which is infected by another malware. In this case, the victim is redirected to a malicious website from where Pony downloads itself onto the users’ PC.

How to detect Pony stealer using ANY.RUN?

Analysts can take a look at what changes the malware made in the registry. Just click on the process and then on the button "More Info" in the appeared window. Then, in the "Advanced details of process" window, switch to the "Registry changes" tab. Note that you can switch between the friendly and raw display of changes.

pony fareit registry changes Figure 3: Registry changes made by Pony

Conclusion

Availability and robust feature set helped make Pony stealer one of the most widely used information stealers. In fact, this malware is regularly being used in attacks targeting Europe and North America. The danger of Pony attacks is further enhanced by its nesting-doll-like design, where the final payload hides within a layered package, allowing to avoid easy detection. Interactive malware hunting service ANY.RUN gives researchers the ability to take a look at how this dangerous malware functions and examine its behavior in action in a safe environment.

IOCs

IP addresses
23.202.231.167
109.68.33.25
209.99.40.222
207.241.224.2
52.128.23.153
160.153.136.3
23.227.38.32
13.55.248.1
72.14.178.174
3.14.182.203
69.16.230.42
104.215.148.63
81.169.145.86
103.224.182.251
43.225.55.205
35.205.61.67
23.235.214.102
23.253.46.64
154.0.171.186
104.26.15.45
Hashes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12palmsrecoverycenter.com
itroublvehacker.gq
isns.net
smtp.aryalremit.com
smtp.vlsc-shipping.com
smtp.siqanalytical.com
smtp.autocliima.com
smtp.uascc.net
chemscalere.com
www.mediconthemove.com
www.hencountrydo.org
www.hanaleedossmann.com
www.hellomygoddess.com
majul.com
wealthcluster.com
secureupgrade.com
www.ehealthak.com
www.eg.com
drivespace.com
www.oleandrindrugs.com

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