Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Stayin’ Alive Hacking Teleco & Government Organizations to Deploy Backdoor

Threat actors target telecoms and government ministries because they house valuable data and infrastructure. 

Telecoms hold sensitive communication records and can disrupt essential services, while government ministries contain classified information, making them attractive targets for the following illicit purposes:-

  • Espionage
  • Financial gain
  • Cyber warfare

Cybersecurity researchers at Check Point have monitored ‘Stayin’ Alive,’ an ongoing campaign since at least 2021, primarily in Asia targeting Telecom and government sectors. 

The campaign deploys downloaders and loaders, with one called CurKeep targeting multiple countries, revealing its broader regional focus.

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The campaign’s simple, diverse tools appear disposable for downloading payloads. They lack code similarities but connect to ToddyCat, a Chinese-affiliated threat actor in the region.

Infrastructure Analysis

The investigation began with a September 2022 email to a Vietnamese telecom company uploaded to VirusTotal. 

The email contained a ZIP attachment with legitimate and side-loaded files. Execution involves a simple backdoor called ‘CurKeep,’ maintaining persistence via a scheduled task.

CurKeep infection chain
CurKeep infection chain (Source – CheckPoint)

CurKeep samples used C&C servers with a shared TLS certificate (fd31ea84894d933af323fd64d36910ca0c92af99) across multiple IP addresses, likely tied to the same actor.

Stayin’ Alive shared certificate among IP addresses
Stayin’ Alive shared certificate among IP addresses (Source – CheckPoint)

Additional tools used

Here below, we have mentioned all the additional tools that the threat actors use:-

  • CurLu Loader
  • CurCore
  • CurCore Payload
  • CurLog Loader
  • Old Vietnam Lure

The newly discovered StylerServ sample serves files over high ports using passive listening. Five threads monitor specific ports and, if conditions are met, serve encrypted files like ‘stylers.bin’ during remote connections.

These files appear to include a configuration of several file formats and unidentified DWORDs.

Encrypted and decrypted configs
Encrypted and decrypted configs (Source – CheckPoint)

Countries targeted

Here below, we have mentioned all the countries that the threat actors target:-

  • Vietnam
  • Pakistan
  • Uzbekistan
  • Kazakhstan

The following domains are used by CurLog and CurLu loaders that were previously linked to ToddyCat’s infrastructure, with shared connections to 149.28.28[.]159:-

  • fopingu[.]com
  • rtmcsync[.]com

Sophisticated actors increasingly rely on disposable loaders and downloaders to evade detection and attribution. ‘Stayin’ Alive’ demonstrates this trend, targeting high-profile organizations with basic backdoors.

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