Welcome to this week’s edition of the Threat Source newsletter.

Although we can probably largely consider the COVID-19 pandemic “over,” many relics from the peak of lockdown and concerns over the virus are still around in mid-2023. It’s still impossible to get a doctor’s appointment quickly, but many restaurants have embraced al fresco dining and QR codes are back.

At one point I had totally written off QR codes as of 2010-ish, but now they’re all over restaurant menus, cash registers, tip jars and advertising. This started during the pandemic as a touch-free way of interacting with consumers and seems to be sticking around even though the days of indoor seating capacities are over.

QR codes have always served as a way for bad actors to spread malware or even your friendly neighborhood prankster to share Rick Astley’s most famous music video. But recently I discovered several “novel” ways in which bad guys are trying to capitalize on society’s newfound trust in QR codes.

Two months ago, Bleeping Computer reported on fake parking tickets floating around major U.S. and U.K. cities that had phony QR codes on them designed to trick users into “paying” a parking ticket they didn’t owe. That same week, there were also reports of phony Microsoft Word documents being sent via email to targets that contained QR codes claiming to be from the Chinese Ministry of Finance, thus bypassing traditional email security that usually scan things like links and the body copy in an email itself.

The local CBS station in Tampa Bay, Florida also came across a fake Amazon advertisement in March that claimed to enlist people who received a postcard to test out new products. When opened, the site on the other end of the QR code asked for the target’s personal and contact information.

I figured we’d be past the days of attackers just slapping QR codes onto random things, but I also thought we were done with QR codes altogether three years ago. So this serves as a PSA to not just scan any QR code you see in the wild “just because.”

Or, if you’re unsure about the origins of a QR code, iOS and Android phones will show a snippet of a URL that the QR code is sending the user before you click on it, so it’s important to double-check that the URL is where you intended on heading (ex., amazon.com). Either that or just ask for a paper menu at the restaurant.

The one big thing

Cisco Talos has identified multiple versions of an undocumented malicious driver named “RedDriver,” a driver-based browser hijacker that uses the Windows Filtering Platform (WFP) to intercept browser traffic. This threat appears to target native Chinese speakers, as it searches for Chinese language browsers to hijack. Additionally, the authors are likely Chinese speakers themselves. If installed, the malicious driver can hijack and spy on web traffic, potentially redirecting it to a source of the attacker’s choosing.

Why do I care?

This is a concrete example of a recent trend Talos has been following of threat actors taking advantage of a Windows policy loophole that allows the signing and loading of cross-signed kernel mode drivers with signature timestamp prior to July 29, 2015. We have observed over a dozen code-signing certificates with keys and passwords contained in a PFX file hosted on GitHub used in conjunction with these open-source tools. By forging signatures on kernel-mode drivers, attackers can bypass the certificate policies within Windows.

So now what?

Microsoft has blocked all certificates discussed in Talos' blogs posted this week and released an advisory on the matter as part of Patch Tuesday. Talos recommends blocking the certificates mentioned in this blog post, as malicious drivers are difficult to detect heuristically and are most effectively blocked based on file hashes or the certificates used to sign them. Comparing the signature timestamp to the compilation date of a driver can sometimes be an effective means of detecting instances of timestamp forging. Specifically, for RedDriver, there are a series of new Cisco Secure product protections in place to detect and block the malicious driver.

Top security headlines of the week

The list of companies affected by the massive MOVEit mass hack continues to grow, and now includes international hotel chain Radisson and GPS company TomTom. Clop, the ransomware group behind the attack against the MOVEit data transfer software that eventually led to data breaches at more than 100 organizations, added more companies to its leak site this week. Commercial banks Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank are also among the newest victims, with both companies reportedly having clients’ names and account numbers. The parent company of Radisson also confirmed that a “limited number of guest records” were accessed, though it did not provide an exact number. Clop originally used a zero-day vulnerability that’s since been patched to access MOVEit software instances and then steal certain information from users. One threat analyst at New Zealand anti-virus maker Emsisoft estimated that there are now more than 270 businesses affected across the globe, including 17 million individuals. (Tech Crunch, Bloomberg)

With Meta’s new microblogging platform Threads taking off, users and privacy advocates are criticizing its privacy and data collection policies. Meta, which is the parent company behind Facebook and Instagram, launched Threads last week to much fanfare and gained millions of new users in the first few hours of the app’s existence. However, the app has yet to launch in the European Union because it violates several GDPR policies. Threads’ privacy policy states the app has access to GPS location, cameras, photos, IP information, the type of device being used and device signals including “Bluetooth signals, nearby Wi-Fi access points, beacons and cell towers.” In general, Meta seems to collect more personal information on Threads users compared to other platforms, though not necessarily more than Facebook and Instagram, Meta’s other major platforms. (The Guardian, CPO Magazine)

Despite major efforts from international governments and the private sector to combat ransomware, payments to threat actors are set to hit a new record in 2023. A new report from blockchain company Chainanalysis reports that ransomware victims have paid adversaries $449.1 million in the first six months of this year, after that number didn’t even hit $500 million in 2022. If this pace continues, 2023 would be the second-most profitable year ever for ransomware groups behind 2021. Security researchers believe the dip in 2022 could be contributed to several factors, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine disrupting some major APT groups and new decryption software from government agencies and private companies that can return victims’ files for free. Chainanalysis analysts state in the report that big-game hunting is largely contributing to this year’s revenue — in these cases, threat actors target major corporations that likely have the funds to pay large, requested ransom payments. (Wired, Bleeping Computer)

Can’t get enough Talos?

Upcoming events where you can find Talos

BlackHat (Aug. 5 - 10)

Las Vegas, Nevada

Grace Hopper Celebration (Sept. 26 - 29)

Orlando, Florida

Caitlin Huey, Susan Paskey and Alexis Merritt present a "Level Up Lab" titled "Don’t Fail Knowledge Checks: Accelerating Incident Response with Threat Intelligence." Participate in several fast-paced activities that emphasize the importance of threat intelligence in security incident investigations. Attendees will act as incident responders investigating a simulated incident that unfolds throughout this session. Periodic checkpoints will include discussions that highlight how incident response and threat intelligence complement each other during an active security investigation.

Most prevalent malware files from Talos telemetry over the past week

SHA 256: a31f222fc283227f5e7988d1ad9c0aecd66d58bb7b4d8518ae23e110308dbf91
MD5: 7bdbd180c081fa63ca94f9c22c457376
Typical Filename: c0dwjdi6a.dll
Claimed Product: N/A
Detection Name: Trojan.GenericKD.33515991

SHA 256: 1c25a55f121d4fe4344914e4d5c89747b838506090717f3fb749852b2d8109b6
MD5: 4c9a8e82a41a41323d941391767f63f7
Typical Filename: !!mreader.exe
Claimed Product: N/A
Detection Name: Win.Dropper.Generic::sheath

SHA 256: 5616b94f1a40b49096e2f8f78d646891b45c649473a5b67b8beddac46ad398e1
MD5: 3e10a74a7613d1cae4b9749d7ec93515
Typical Filename: IMG001.exe
Claimed Product: N/A
Detection Name: Win.Dropper.Coinminer::1201

SHA 256: e12b6641d7e7e4da97a0ff8e1a0d4840c882569d47b8fab8fb187ac2b475636c
MD5: a087b2e6ec57b08c0d0750c60f96a74c
Typical Filename: AAct.exe
Claimed Product: N/A
Detection Name: PUA.Win.Tool.Kmsauto::1201

SHA 256: b4d8d7cbec7fe4c24dcb9b38f6036a58b765efda10c42fce7bbe2b2bf79cd53e
MD5: c585f4faee96a0bec3b0f93f37239008
Typical Filename: stream.txt
Claimed Product: N/A
Detection Name: Win.Dropper.Autoit::211461.in02