Researchers find APT malware that monitors mouse clicks to evade detection

The malware also uses other techniques to evade detection from several types of security products, FireEye researchers say

Researchers from security vendor FireEye have uncovered a new APT (advanced persistent threat) that uses multiple detection evasion techniques, including the monitoring of mouse clicks, to determine active human interaction with the infected computer.

Called Trojan.APT.BaneChant, the malware is distributed via a Word document rigged with an exploit sent during targeted email attacks. The name of the document translates to "Islamic Jihad.doc."

"We suspect that this weaponized document was used to target the governments of Middle East and Central Asia," FireEye researcher Chong Rong Hwa said Monday in a blog post.

The attack works in multiple stages. The malicious document downloads and executes a component that attempts to determine if the operating environment is a virtualized one, like an antivirus sandbox or an automated malware analysis system, by waiting to see if there's any mouse activity before initiating the second attack stage.

Mouse click monitoring is not a new detection evasion technique, but malware using it in the past generally checked for a single mouse click, Rong Hwa said. BaneChant waits for at least three mouse clicks before proceeding to decrypt a URL and download a backdoor program that masquerades as a .JPG image file, he said.

The malware also employs other detection evasion methods. For example, during the first stage of the attack, the malicious document downloads the dropper component from an ow.ly URL. Ow.ly is not a malicious domain, but is a URL shortening service.

The rationale behind using this service is to bypass URL blacklisting services active on the targeted computer or its network, Rong Hwa said.

Similarly, during the second stage of the attack, the malicious .JPG file is downloaded from a URL generated with the No-IP dynamic DNS (Domain Name System) service.

After being loaded by the first component, the .JPG file drops a copy of itself called GoogleUpdate.exe in the "C:\ProgramData\Google2\" folder. It also creates a link to the file in the user's start-up folder in order to ensure its execution after every computer reboot.

This is an attempt to trick users into believing that the file is part of the Google update service, a legitimate program that's normally installed under "C:\Program Files\Google\Update\", Rong Hwa said.

The backdoor program gathers and uploads system information back to a command-and-control server. It also supports several commands including one to download and execute additional files on the infected computers.

As defense technologies advance, malware also evolves, Rong Hwa said. In this instance, the malware has used a number of tricks, including evading sandbox analysis by detecting human behavior, evading network-level binary extraction technology by performing multibyte XOR encryption of executable files, masquerading as a legitimate process, evading forensic analysis by using fileless malicious code loaded directly into the memory and preventing automated domain blacklisting by using redirection via URL shortening and dynamic DNS services, he said.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags intrusionsecurityFireEyeDesktop securityspywaremalware

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?