Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Operation Honeybee – A Cyber Attack Leveraging a SYSCON Backdoor Using MS Word Documents

A new cyber attack called “Operation Honeybee” deploying the SYSCON Backdoor Using MS Word to attack the humanitarian aid organizations.

An SYSCON backdoor is a powerful malware that steals confidential information from victims device and sends it to a remote server using FTP Protocol.

It abusing the MS word document that contains a Korean based political topics content that tricks victims to open it.

This Word document manual.doc appeared in Vietnam on January 17 and the original author of the malware is Honeybee.

Honeybee operation evolving with much more capability since August 2017 and the attack has been targeted many Asian countries.

The operation expands beyond the borders of South Korea to target Vietnam, Singapore, Argentina, Japan, Indonesia, and Canada.

SYSCON Backdoor Using MS Word Documents 

Cyber criminal abused an MS word document that contains a VB Macro script that is playing a major role in dropping the SYSCON Backdoor.

This VB Script using a unique key that is used for SYSCON Previous operations and the same key used for this Operation Honeybee.

Most this malicious document has been discovered in South Korea and attacker Mainly started their operation initially in South Korea and later it spread to other countries.

Honeybee operation based malicious document contains “International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies – DPRK Country Office, that drops an implant with the control server address 1113427185.ifastnet.org.

Aside another document has been discovered that contains Win32-based executable dropper to the stolen digital signature from Adobe Systems which is also performing under the Honeybee operation.

Initially Malicious Word document start the infection by dropping the two DLL files and the Word file contains malicious Visual Basic macro code that runs when the document is opened in Word using the Document_Open() autoload function.

 According to McAfee, Visual Basic macro performs the following tasks:
  • Opens a handle to the malicious document to read the encoded CAB file
  • Decodes the CAB file and writes it to the disk at %temp%\setup.cab

Dropper downloads a main payload from the command and control server and Finally, the payload will bypass the user access control and escalate the target systems privilege.

In this case, NTWDBLIB.dll and cliconfg.exe are mainly used to bypass the UAC  Protections and finally it sharing the sensitive information such as List of currently running process, System info, and other data.


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BALAJI is an Ex-Security Researcher (Threat Research Labs) at Comodo Cybersecurity. Editor-in-Chief & Co-Founder - Cyber Security News & GBHackers On Security.

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