Cranefly Cyberspy Group Spawns Unique ISS Technique


Thread author
Staff Member
Malware Hunter
Jul 27, 2015
Hacking group Cranefly is using the new technique of using Internet Information Services (IIS) commands to deliver backdoors to targets and carry out intelligence-gathering campaigns.

Researchers at Symantec have observed a previously undocumented dropper Trojan called Geppei being used to install backdoors (including Danfuan and Regeorg) and other custom tools on SAN arrays, load balancers, and wireless access point (WAP) controllers that may lack appropriate security tools, according to a blog post on Oct. 28. In examining the activity, the team noticed that Cranefly is using ISS logs to communicate with Geppei. "The technique of reading commands from IIS logs is not something Symantec researchers have seen being used to date in real-world attacks, making it novel," Brigid O Gorman, senior intelligence analyst on Symantec’s Threat Hunter team, tells Dark Reading. "It is a clever way for the attacker to send commands to its dropper."

ISS logs record data such as webpages visited and apps used. The Cranefly attackers are sending commands to a compromised Web server by disguising them as Web access requests; IIS logs them as normal traffic, but the dropper can read them as commands, if they contain the strings Wrde, Exco, or Cllo, which don't normally appear in IIS log files. "These appear to be used for malicious HTTP request parsing by Geppei — the presence of these strings prompts the dropper to carry out activity on a machine," Gorman notes. "It is a very stealthy way for attackers to send these commands." The commands contain malicious encoded .ashx files, and these files are saved to an arbitrary folder determined by the command parameter and they run as backdoors (i.e., ReGeorg or Danfuan).

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