New Hawkball backdoor attacks government sector in Central Asia

News by Bradley Barth

The campaign apparently targeted one or more Russian-speaking government entities

A newly discovered malicious backdoor by the name of Hawkball was recently observed in a campaign apparently targeting one or more Russian-speaking government entities in Central Asia, according to a blog post last week from FireEye Labs.

Upon successful infection, Hawkball offers the unidentified attackers a range of malicious capabilities, writes FireEye blog post author and malware researcher Swapnil Patil. These include surveying the host and collecting victim information; delivering additional payloads; creating a named pipe to execute native Windows commands; terminating processes; creating, deleting and uploading files; and enumerating drives.

To deliver the backdoor, the attackers used a malicious decoy file that purports to come from anti-terrorist organisation with a focus on the post-Soviet republics making up the Commonwealth of Independent States. The decoy document’s title is roughly translated from Russian to English as "Collection of the Guiding Composition of Anti-terroristic Security Units and Special Services of the CIS States."

Benjamin Read, senior manager of cyber espionage analysis, said FireEye researchers believe the malicious file was likely used in February 2019. "We don’t have specific insight into the entity targeted, but assessed that the lure content would be appealing to a government." said Read.

Opening the malicious file commences an infection chain that delivers the payload via two previously patched Microsoft Office memory corruption vulnerabilities – CVE-2017-11882 (found in Microsoft Office 2007 Service Pack 3, Microsoft Office 2010 Service Pack 2, Microsoft Office 2013 Service Pack 1 and Microsoft Office 2016 ) and CVE-2018-0802 (found in the Equation Editor in Microsoft Office 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2016).

Hawkball communicates with a hard-coded C2 server over HTTP, exfiltrating the victim’s information, including the computer name, user name, IP address, OEM page, OS version, architecture details and more. It also performs at least two techniques to check if it is being debugged.

SC Media has reached out to FireEye for additional details on the Hawkball attack.

This article was originally published on SC Media US.

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