- With internet-sharing applications, or "proxyware," users download software that allows them to share a percentage of their bandwidth with other internet users for a fee, with the companies that created this software acting as a go-between.
- As proxyware has grown in popularity, attackers have taken notice and are now attempting to exploit this interest to monetize their malware campaigns.
- Malware is currently leveraging these platforms to monetize the internet bandwidth of victims, similar to how malicious cryptocurrency mining attempts to monetize the CPU cycles of infected systems.
- In many cases, these applications are featured in multi-stage, multi-payload malware attacks that provide adversaries with multiple monetization methods.
- Trojanized installers are some of the most common threats taking advantage of public interest in proxyware to infect victims.
- These applications pose significant privacy and operational risks to organizations as they may allow nefarious or abusive network traffic to appear as if it originates from their corporate networks resulting in reputational damages that may also lead to service disruption.
Adversaries are finding new ways to monetize their attacks by abusing internet-sharing, or "proxyware" platforms like Honeygain, Nanowire, and others. This poses new challenges to organizations, especially to those whose internet access is rated as residential. But any organization could be at risk, as there are platforms that also allow data center-based internet sharing.
How did it work?
Malicious actors are taking multiple avenues to monetize these new platforms in their favor. The most obvious one is the silent installation of the platform client to "sell" the victim's bandwidth without their knowledge. In some cases, the adversaries patch the client to stop any alerts that would warn the victim. As these platforms became more popular, the adversaries started to leverage trojanized installers, which install the legitimate platform client as well as digital currency miners and information stealers. Given the nature of proxyware services, the users expect that their performance will suffer, making it a perfect disguise for coin miners.
Cisco Talos also identified a malware family that will deploy a complete set of monetization methods — it drops a patched version of the Honeygain client, an XMRig miner and an information stealer. On top of that, it seems to be evolving to also deploy a Nanowire client, another one of these proxyware applications.
Organizations should be aware of these applications, how they work, and how they are being taken advantage of, as they may pose a significant risk to corporate environments. Users' bandwidth can be sold to platform customers to access the internet, while the actions performed by them over this access are logged to the organization's IP address. This is a recent trend, but the potential to grow is enormous. We are already seeing serious abuse by threat actors that stand to make a significant amount of money off these attacks. These networks may also allow threat actors to obfuscate the source of their attacks, making them appear as if they are originating from legitimate corporate networks. Security analysts could struggle to analyze and/or respond to these attacks and render conventional network defenses that rely on reputation or IP-based blocklists ineffective. Some users or organizations could even eventually become wrapped up in part of a law enforcement investigation if their infrastructure is used for illicit or illegal purposes.
Introduction to proxyware
Proxyware platforms enable users to sell the use of their unused internet bandwidth, typically by running a client application. The client application is responsible for joining their system to a network that is operated by the platform provider. The provider then sells access to this network and routes customer traffic through the network, allowing their customers to access the internet using the bandwidth and internet connections provided by nodes on the network. In many cases, this type of service is advertised as a way for marketing organizations to access resources from residential networks in a variety of geographic regions to test potential campaigns and circumvent network restrictions. For the home users, this is advertised as a means to circumvent geolocation checks on streaming or gaming platforms while generating some income for the user offering up their bandwidth. Many of these platforms have emerged in recent years, including Honeygain, IPRoyal Pawns, Nanowire, Peer2Profit and PacketStream, though there are likely several more.
What could possibly go wrong?
In many cases, the users of these platforms are either not aware of the operational or privacy implications of running these clients on their systems/networks, or they simply view the earnings potential as outweighing the perceived costs associated with granting the use of their resources to random entities. In either case, the use of these platforms introduces risks that may not be immediately apparent to many people.
Most obviously, there are privacy implications for entities who purchase and use the networks provided by these platforms. In the case of the Honeygain platform, because of the way the communications are processed to facilitate the retrieval and delivery of content, it may be possible to monitor the DNS activity of other platform users. Unencrypted content that is retrieved (like HTTP) could be intercepted and manipulated in transit by Honeygain nodes under adversarial control, creating a range of plausible attack scenarios.
Since these platforms allow external entities to make direct use of users' network connections, this results in network traffic that appears to originate from these users' networks. The use of this communications pathway for illegal or illicit purposes could create legal liability for unsuspecting platform users. In some cases, we observed users reporting that their home networks were experiencing service degradation due to being blocked from accessing various internet resources after installing these client applications.
Post on Honeygain subreddit.
While it is unclear if this was the direct result of nefarious traffic traversing the connectivity pathway provided by these platforms, it is reasonable to assume that there are circumstances where abusive traffic generated by these clients could lead to this scenario. It was not uncommon to see these reports when researching the user communities associated with these platforms.
We also observed several instances of Honeygain users claiming to maximize their profits by installing the software on relatives and/or acquaintances' computers, thus transferring these same risks to those individuals.
Post on Honeygain subreddit.
In situations where malware is used to covertly install these applications on victim systems as part of an attacker's monetization strategy, this could also lead to direct financial losses in cases where the victim is on a limited data plan and is forced to pay overages or other fees to cover the excess bandwidth used by the proxyware application.
Some users are also reportedly installing these clients on computers at their workplaces. Now that many organizations are using a hybrid work model, these applications may introduce many of the same risks to organizational environments if these applications are installed on employees' devices.
Post on Honeygain subreddit.
In some instances, this is actively encouraged by the platform providers themselves. Below is a screenshot from the FAQs for one proxyware platform provider.
Endpoints in corporate environments running these applications could create a situation where abusive traffic appears to originate from the corporate network and may result in adverse reputational effects, leading to operational issues such as corporate networks ending up on reputation-based blocklists. Likewise, these applications effectively establish a tunneled communications pathway between an external entity and an endpoint on an internal network segment that may circumvent conventional perimeter-based inspection and threat detection capabilities. Abuse of the client application itself could also lead to the successful compromise of systems located inside corporate networks.
Adversaries may also take advantage of this network model by conducting their attacks using the network created by proxyware platforms. This could result in their attacks appearing as if they were originating from various residential networks around the world, and may make analyzing and responding to attacks more difficult. The same mechanisms currently used to monitor and track Tor exit nodes, "anonymous" proxies, and other common traffic obfuscation techniques do not currently exist for tracking nodes within these proxyware networks.
How widespread is proxyware?
This business model has become increasingly attractive to users, as it provides a way for them to generate passive income with their unused network bandwidth. The subscriber growth of the Honeygain subreddit provides a good visual representation of this trend.
One proxyware platform, Peer2Profit, claims to have enrolled roughly 55,000 users on the platform.
Honeygain, one of the most popular proxyware platforms, recently released the details of a 2021 User Experience and Awareness Survey. In their report, they claim to have received approximately 250,000 survey responses from Honeygain users, which it reports is 16 times more than those it received in 2020.
Investigating DNS activity associated with the API used by the Honeygain client, we identified a large number of queries being performed. This is another indicator that clearly demonstrates the popularity of this platform across the internet.
The majority of the systems observed resolving the domain associated with the Honeygain API were located in Brazil, however, activity was observed across many other countries, as well.
Users aren't the only ones who have taken notice of these relatively new platforms. Threat actors have also set their sights on finding ways to leverage these same platforms to monetize their malware attacks.
As most of these platforms function differently, we will focus the majority of the analysis in this blog on one of the most popular ones, Honeygain. While this post focuses on threats targeting the Windows platform, Honeygain also offers an Android client, which behaves similarly to the Windows client. At the time of writing, we did not identify any cases where the Android client was being used nefariously or otherwise abusing users' devices.
During our analysis of malicious activity associated with proxyware applications, we identified several methods adversaries are using to increase the effectiveness of their malware campaigns. Throughout the course of this research, we identified a variety of different malware families being distributed under the guise of legitimate installers for applications like Honeygain. These trojanized installers enable adversaries to distribute threats like RATs, information stealers, and other malware to victims who believe they are installing legitimate applications.
In other cases, threat actors are distributing the proxyware applications to monetize victims' network bandwidth for the purposes of generating revenue. We also observed malware that attempted to leverage victims' CPU resources for mining cryptocurrency, while at the same time also monetizing their network bandwidth using proxyware applications. The following sections provide analysis of a few of the most interesting campaigns we've discovered.
One of the most common techniques we observed was the use of legitimate installers as decoy programs included alongside other malicious components. In these attacks, threat actors are distributing malicious executables that pose as installers for legitimate proxyware applications like Honeygain. When executed, they will typically install the legitimate application, while also silently installing malware.
In one example, an attacker was distributing cryptocurrency mining malware under the guise of a Honeygain installer. The initial malware dropper was an installer bundle that was created using Smart Install Maker. The bundle contained a legitimate, signed Honeygain installation package along with the malware. The malware featured a multi-stage infection process and relied on the use of multiple distinct components, as shown below.
When executed, the installer bundle extracts various components into the %TEMP% directory on the system, then executes the legitimate Honeygain installer, which is what is displayed to the victim. At the same time, the installer also silently creates and executes various components required for the malware's operation.
The main Honeygain program directory used during the installation process is located at:
C:\Program Files (x86)\HG\Honey gain\
The malware stores two malicious files — setup_x86.exe and url.vbs — in this same directory.
The malware also creates a working directory at C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\intelx86_driver and writes the main cryptocurrency mining dropper (iv.exe) into this directory. This payload is then executed by the installer to run the payload and start the mining process.
The VBScript file (url.vbs) is also executed by the initial installer process and is used to launch a web browser on the infected system and redirect the victim to a landing page associated with a Honeygain referral code, presumably tied to the malware author's account. The VBScript associated with this operation is below:
When this is executed, the victim is taken to the landing page associated with the Honeygain referral code. This provides another mechanism that an attacker can use to monetize infections by allowing them to generate revenue for each victim who uses the landing page to sign up for a Honeygain account.
The initial installer then executes setup_x86.exe, which is used to achieve persistence and iv.exe — the cryptocurrency mining component — before terminating execution.
Additional installation & persistence
Additional setup and installation tasks are performed by setup_x86.exe. It first invokes the Windows Service Configuration Tool (sc.exe) to stop and delete a Windows service called "Wwanip" using the following command-line syntax:
"C:\Windows\System32\sc.exe" stop Wwanip "C:\Windows\System32\sc.exe" delete Wwanip
It then creates a directory structure under "C:\Users\SYSTEM" and stores the following components:
C:\Users\SYSTEM\AppData\Roaming\Intel\Graphics_driver\Graphics_driver\sysdll.exe C:\Users\SYSTEM\AppData\Roaming\Intel\Graphics_driver\Graphics_driver\vxml.xml C:\Users\SYSTEM\AppData\Roaming\Intel\Graphics_driver\Graphics_driver\ixml.xml C:\Users\SYSTEM\AppData\Roaming\Intel\Graphics_driver\Graphics_driver\sc.md
Then, it creates an executable at the following location:
Next, the malware uses two Scheduled Tasks and a Windows Service to achieve persistence on the victim machine.
The first scheduled task is created using an XML configuration via the following syntax:
"C:\Windows\System32\schtasks.exe" /create /xml "C:\Users\SYSTEM\AppData\Roaming\Intel\Graphics_driver\Graphics_driver\vxml.xml" /tn "Desktop Windows Manager Adapter For Microsoft Windows" /ru "system"
The XML configuration instructs the scheduled task to execute C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\intelx86_driver\intel_vga.exe at system startup, allowing persistence across system reboots.
A second scheduled task is then created, which uses another XML configuration via the following syntax:
"C:\Windows\System32\schtasks.exe" /create /xml "C:\Users\SYSTEM\AppData\Roaming\Intel\Graphics_driver\Graphics_driver\ixml.xml" /tn "Virtual Disk Manager Adapter For Microsoft Windows" /ru "system"
The XML configuration file associated with this scheduled task defines a series of time-based triggers that are used to execute C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\intelx86_driver\service.exe on the following schedule:
Finally, a new Windows service is created and configured to start automatically at system boot. The service is then immediately started. This new service is created using the following command:
"C:\Windows\System32\sc.exe" create Wwanip binPath= "C:\Users\SYSTEM\AppData\Roaming\Intel\Graphics_driver\Graphics_driver\sysdll.exe" start= auto
The service.exe mentioned previously is effectively a copy of setup_x86.exe. It drops the same files and creates the same scheduled tasks. The main difference is that service.exe is packed with a non-standard version of Smart Install Maker.
The setup_x86.exe process also creates an uninstall executable and its INI file at the filesystem path "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Corporation\Microsoft Visual C++ 2013 Redistributable (x86) - 19.1.30" just as a legitimate installer package would.
As previously described, during the malware installation process, persistence is achieved for C:\Users\SYSTEM\AppData\Roaming\Intel\Graphics_driver\Graphics_driver\sysdll.exe via the creation of a Windows service called "Wwanip."
This service invokes a .NET executable that is responsible for retrieving updates from the command and control (C2) and using the contents returned from the server to overwrite previously saved malware components. This mechanism is likely used to ensure that the malware is periodically updated with the latest version available. The executable contains two primary functions — OnStart() and OnTimer() — that facilitate this process.
As seen above, the OnStart() function is responsible for retrieving additional data from the C2 and copying the returned data to C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\intelx86_driver\intel_vga.exe, likely as a way to ensure that the most recent version of the malware continues to run on previously infected systems.
The OnTimer() function operates similarly, however it is also responsible for ensuring that the services.exe file is also present on the system in the case that it is removed or otherwise unavailable.
Below is a screenshot showing an example of the HTTP request made by the sysdll.exe process for the purpose of requesting the latest version of the malware.
At the time of analysis, the C2 was no longer active. However, historical data shows that the C2 was previously responding with binary contents to client requests for this URL. The binary delivered in these cases matches the cryptocurrency mining component initially dropped onto the system (iv.exe) and operates as described in the following section.
Cryptocurrency miner payload
The main cryptocurrency mining payload (iv.exe) is created and executed during the initial installation process described earlier. Another copy (intel_vga.exe) is also periodically retrieved from C2 as described in the previous section enabling it to persist across reboots via a Scheduled Task.
It is a .NET executable that includes two encrypted resources.
During execution, these resources are retrieved and decrypted using a function called AES_Decryptor().
One of the resources is responsible for injecting the final cryptocurrency mining payload (XMRig) into a remote process, in this case associated with svchost.exe.
In this example, XMRig is executed using the following parameters:
C:\Windows\System32\svchost.exe -B --donate-level=1 -a null -o heartsbeat[.]gq:3333 -u user -p coucou -o gulf[.]moneroocean[.]stream:10004 -u 45dLToERxNfcTR3AH2tJmr3xP3wuDyeap9UTaH5EtMHyB9zEeUN9XMo6PMdHFGjNkKgPKiAGZeQjtbVWLML3J6Bc1rYAGDY -p Homerig --opencl -t 2 --cpu-max-threads-hint=60
Investigating the mining pool being used, it does not appear that this campaign has been very successful thus far, as only about 2.19 XMR have been paid out at the time of this writing.
As proxyware applications become more popular, we will likely see many more examples of malware leveraging legitimate installers as part of their malware to convince victims to infect their systems.
In addition to malware that leverages proxyware applications as decoys during the infection process, we identified malware that attempts to install Honeygain and register the newly installed client with the attacker's Honeygain account, allowing them to monetize bandwidth on infected systems. While Honeygain limits the number of devices operating under a single account, there is nothing to stop an attacker from registering multiple Honeygain accounts to scale their operation based on the number of infected systems under their control.
In one example, we identified an attacker attempting to do just that. In this case, the initial malicious executable contained three resources that were Base64 encoded. An example of one of these resources is shown below.
These three resources correspond to the following components used by the malware.
- The main program executable associated with the application 7-Zip.
- A DLL used by the 7-Zip application.
- A ZIP archive containing a copy of the Honeygain program directory from a previously installed system. When the initial binary is executed, it is responsible for extracting these resources and creating a working directory called "Winint" within %APPDATA% on the system. The 7-Zip application and DLL are then stored inside of this directory. The ZIP archive is extracted using the following syntax:
%APPDATA%\Winint\Winint\7z.exe e %APPDATA%\Winint\Winint\winint.zip -o %APPDATA%\Winint\Winint -y
An executable stored in this directory (winint32.exe) is then executed, which launches the Honeygain application. This binary appears to be a modified copy of the legitimate .NET executable associated with Honeygain v.0.6.4.0. Some of the design elements have been removed to prevent the main application from being displayed to victims.
The main() function of the application has been modified to allow persistence to be achieved on infected systems to ensure that the Honeygain application is executed at system boot as well as every minute if it is terminated for any reason. A comparison view of the normal main() function and the one included in the malicious executable can be seen below.
The executable also includes hardcoded credentials that are used to authenticate to the Honeygain API when the application is run, allowing the victim's system to be associated with an existing Honeygain account. The following screenshot shows this modification to the Honeygain application.
This activity can also be observed by intercepting and inspecting the API communications from an infected system. In this case, it appears that the Honeygain account has already exceeded the total number of clients allowed to be registered.
This demonstrates another way that attackers have identified to monetize the resources of systems that they can infect. Unlike cryptocurrency mining malware, which attempts to monetize the CPU resources of infected systems, this type of malware attempts to monetize the internet connection of the system. This could prove particularly damaging to victims who may have limited monthly bandwidth subscriptions and potentially cause them to incur direct monetary losses due to additional usage charges that may result from Honeygain running at all times on their system.
Talos researchers also identified examples of malware campaigns attempting to simultaneously use multiple methods for monetizing successful infections. In one case, we identified a multi-stage malware campaign that was being used to deliver an information stealer, cryptocurrency mining malware, as well as proxyware software to generate revenue using the resources of infected systems.
This is a textbook example of the varied approaches available to adversaries. Attackers are no longer content with simply deploying cryptocurrency mining to make money — they are now also stealing sensitive data and monetizing network bandwidth, all at the same time.
Below is a high-level diagram depicting the overall execution flow of the malware in this case.
The following sections describe the functionality associated with each component in the infection process.
Stage 1: Initial loader
The initial malware loader, written in C++, is a standard unpacked binary that appears to be undergoing active development. This downloader is responsible for initiating all of the subsequent stages of this infection chain.
It begins by attempting to create the mutex "LIJKMERGL32D23890NUFEWOIHJ," exiting if it fails. Afterward, it creates a directory called "Shared Resources" located within %APPDATA%\Roaming. Then, it copies itself into this newly created directory with the filename "Numerical Resources Monitor.exe." The malware creates a Windows Registry run entry called "Shared Resources Monitor" that points to the new binary location. This entry is created under "HKCU\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run."
This downloader, like most of the other components used by the malware, also sends HTTP requests to the attacker via the IPLogger URL shortener to log the current status of the infection process. It will report that it is running, the version of the dropper and the processor characteristics.
Before downloading the payload, it checks if their processes are already running, reporting it back to the C2. The loader then attempts to download the second stage binaries, which in reality, are downloaders for the final malware payloads. The first one is responsible for deploying an XMRig cryptocurrency miner, which is stored in the "%APPDATA%\Roaming\Monitoring Statistics\" directory with the filename MobileStatsMonitor.exe. Afterward, it downloads an additional loader to deploy proxyware applications that will attempt to monetize the victim's bandwidth. Finally, it attempts to download and execute a homemade password stealer. Each of these components are described in detail in the following sections.
Stage 2A: XMRig cryptocurrency miner dropper
This executable performs two tasks. First, it downloads the XMRig payload from Dropbox and launches it with the necessary configuration to mine the Monero cryptocurrency.
There is no persistence mechanism established for the XMRig downloader or for the mining executable. Its configuration is hardcoded into the stage 2 downloader executable. The parameters used to execute XMRig are shown below:
The initial downloader acts as a persistence mechanism for subsequent stages and functions as an update mechanism for the miner. Each time the system reboots, the initial loader will retrieve the latest available payloads and execute them each time.
This loader also downloads and attempts to execute an information stealer. However, due to a programming error in the downloader, the execution fails.
Both executables are Base64 encoded and then obfuscated with a char-by-char XOR operation that uses the key "3." This obfuscation method derives the key from a sequence of logical and bit shifting operations.
Stage 2B: Information stealer
The information stealer is essentially a dropper for two well-known password recovery utilities: ChromePass and WebBrowserPassView, both available from NirSoft. These utilities are commonly used to retrieve sensitive information from applications so that it can be transmitted and further monetized by the attacker.
The tools are obfuscated in the same manner as described in the previous section. The output is exfiltrated to an attacker-controlled server different from the C2. Once the upload is performed, both results and the utilities are removed from the system.
This component, like others mentioned in this analysis, appears to be in early stages of development. There is code present in this executable to also extract Chrome and Firefox profile information, but that code is never executed.
Stage 2C: Honeygain & Nanowire loader
Honeygain is not the only platform capable of being abused. We observed a Stage 2 malware payload being delivered that contained the functionality to retrieve and execute Honeygain or Nanowire (or both) on infected systems. While it currently appears to be under active development, it further demonstrates how attackers weaponize these proxyware platforms.
In this particular case, the Stage 2 payload functions as a loader and is capable of retrieving several additional components which were being hosted on Dropbox.
These components included:
- A ZIP archive containing the Honeygain program directory.
- A Nanowire application executable.
- A Nanowire configuration file.
- A Honeygain configuration file. The malware attempts to retrieve a ZIP archive hosted on Dropbox that contains a copy of the Honeygain program directory that is normally created during the installation of the Honeygain application. In this case, it appears to have been taken from a system on which the attacker previously installed Honeygain.
A function called "GetExeLocalAppDataUserConfigPath()" also checks for a specific Honeygain configuration file and, if needed, attempts to replace it with one retrieved from Dropbox.
The Honeygain configuration file in this case contains the API key needed for the malware to authenticate to the Honeygain platform and register the infected system under the attacker's account, allowing them to generate revenue.
Prior to launching the Honeygain client application, the malware also attempts to disable program notifications by modifying the Windows Registry and restarting the "Windows Push Notifications User Service (WpnUserService)" using a function called DisableNotifs().
When the Honeygain client is finally started, the API key is sent to the Honeygain platform to allow the client to authenticate. An example of one of the Honeygain client API requests containing the token is below.
The malware also contains the functionality required to download and execute Nanowire on the infected system. An example of the DLNanowire() function, which could be used to retrieve the Nanowire executable and associated configuration file, can be seen below.
The parameters in the function above are responsible for silently launching the Nanowire client in "sell" mode which allows the infected system's internet connection to be used by other members of the Nanowire network in order to generate revenue for the attacker. The configuration files that are retrieved are used to ensure that infected systems are associated with the attacker's account across the platforms so that revenue can be obtained. Below is an example of a portion of the Nanowire configuration file hosted at the Dropbox URL contained in the malware in this case.
The configuration also limits the amount of bandwidth that is made available to the Nanowire network, in this case 20mbps. A comparable configuration file is also retrievable for use with the Honeygain application.
A function called Startup() is responsible for achieving persistence on infected systems through the use of a Windows Registry run entry within HKCU.
The executable also features a SendToPanel() function that is responsible for sending information to a remote server using the specified User-Agent. The URL points to the IPLogger URL-shortening service.
At the time of writing, this shortened URL was resolved to hXXps[:]//www[.]test[.]com which may indicate that this functionality is still currently under development and not in use at this time, but may be used by the attacker in the future. An example of one of these POST requests is shown below.
In the sample we analyzed, the DLNanowire() function was not directly called. However, its presence and the payload being actively hosted at the specified Dropbox URL indicates that this functionality is fully working and available for use by the adversary.
Command & control (C2)
This malware uses the IPLogger URL-shortening service to facilitate C2 communications between the infected system and the attacker-controlled infrastructure. Throughout each stage of the infection process, the malware transmits status updates by embedding the information into the User-Agent header of HTTP requests that are made. These requests are sent to specific IPLogger URLs that are typically configured to forward the requests to the actual infrastructure being monitored by the threat actor. This occurs at strategic points at each stage of the infection process to provide ongoing updates on the progress of the overall infection process and notify the threat actor if issues are encountered. The following image shows an example of the status update that is sent when the XMRig miner is successfully executed.
Similar messages can be observed for many of the components executed throughout the infection. When errors are encountered, they are also transmitted to the attacker using the same mechanism. Below is an example request related to the failed deployment of the Honeygain client.
The information stealer described in the information stealer section is responsible for exfiltrating sensitive information from infected systems. The collected data is transmitted to an attacker-controlled server via an HTTP POST request as defined in the Upload() function present in the stealer.
The aforementioned examples demonstrate the varied approaches currently being used by adversaries attempting to identify new ways to more effectively infect victims and attempt to monetize their malware distribution operations. As these platforms continue to gain in popularity, we will likely continue to see examples of this sort of abuse on a larger scale.
Is proxyware software malicious?
The use of proxyware has become increasingly widespread over the past couple of years. These platforms may introduce significant risk to most corporate environments. In cases where proxyware has been installed on corporate assets, the security team should be alerted. Organizations may want to conduct response activities to determine if its presence is due to successful malware infection or a policy violation if it was installed by an employee. In either case, proxyware software should be considered a potentially unwanted application (PUA) or potentially unwanted program (PUP) and treated in a similar manner to cryptocurrency mining software that may be discovered in the environment.
These relatively new platforms were built with a legitimate purpose, but attackers quickly found ways to abuse them. It's not the first time we have documented abuses of legitimate platforms — a good example is the research we posted about the abuse of the Discord and Slack content delivery networks. We believe attackers are highly likely to abuse these proxyware platforms, as they can be used to disguise an attacker's origin more efficiently than Tor, since the exit nodes cannot be cataloged. For organizations, these platforms pose two essential problems: The abuse of their resources, eventually being blocklisted due to activities they don't even control and it increases organizations' attack surface, potentially creating an initial attack vector directly on the endpoint.
These platforms also pose new challenges for researchers, since there is no way to identify a connection through these kinds of networks — the origin IP becomes even less meaningful in an investigation. Due to the various risks associated with these platforms, it is recommended that organizations consider prohibiting the use of these applications on corporate assets. In most cases, endpoints should not be communicating with the networks associated with these platforms, and organizations should consider deploying comprehensive logging and alerting mechanisms to ensure that they can effectively detect and respond when systems within the environment begin communicating with them as this could be an indicator that the system has been compromised.
CoverageWays our customers can detect and block this threat are listed below.
Cisco Secure Web Appliance web scanning prevents access to malicious websites and detects malware used in these attacks.
Cisco Secure Malware Analytics helps identify malicious binaries and build protection into all Cisco Security products.
Cisco Umbrella, our secure internet gateway (SIG), blocks users from connecting to malicious domains, IPs, and URLs, whether users are on or off the corporate network.
Additional protections with context to your specific environment and threat data are available from the Cisco Secure Firewall Management Center.
Open Source Snort Subscriber Rule Set customers can stay up to date by downloading the latest rule pack available for purchase on Snort.org.The following SIDs have been released to detect this threat: 45549, 46237 and 58030 - 58033.
Cisco Secure Endpoint users can use Orbital Advanced Searchto run complex OSqueries to see if their endpoints are infected with this specific threat. For specific OSqueries, click here. The following OSqueries have been added for this threat.
Indicators of Compromise (IOCs)
The following indicators of compromise have been observed as being associated with these malware campaigns.
The following file hashes (SHA256) have been observed as being associated with these malware campaigns.
The following domains have been observed as being associated with these malware campaigns.
The following URLs have been observed as being associated with these malware campaigns.
Stealer Exfiltration URL: