A new variant of the Emotet banking malware is using compromised connected devices as first-layer command-and-control (C&C) servers.

In the beginning of April 2019, Trend Micro observed a new variant of Emotet that differed from previous versions of the banking malware in several ways. First, the variant didn’t arrive through a traditional spam mail campaign; it spread via spam, but it did so with the help of Powload, a downloader Trojan that came hidden within the attack emails’ attached ZIP archives.

Second, the variant used new POST-infection traffic. Previous versions did not use a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) path, but samples of this new iteration did. This path, which consisted of randomized words and a randomized number, helped the malware evade network-based detection. Aside from the URI path, the data in the threat’s HTTP POST message body also changed.

Lastly, researchers found that some of the recent live IP addresses of Emotet’s C&C servers belonged to compromised connected devices. Those behind the malware had been attempting to harvest vulnerable smart products and use them as proxy C&C servers. This tactic allowed the compromised devices to redirect victims to the actual Emotet C&C servers without exposing their location.

A Busy Year for Emotet

Emotet has already come a long way since July 2018 when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) labeled the threat to be “among the most costly and destructive malware affecting state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) governments, and the private and public sectors.” In October 2018, for instance, Kryptos Logic observed the digital threat add email exfiltration, hence espionage, to its bag of tricks.

Early in 2019, Menlo Security spotted the malicious software disguising an XML document as a Word document to trick users. This discovery came just a few months before Cybereason saw a campaign in which the malware dropped TrickBot to infect users with Ryuk ransomware.

How to Defend Against Ever-Evolving Malware

Security professionals can help defend their organizations against ever-evolving malware such as Emotet by conducting vulnerability assessments of their IT environments as the cornerstone of an ongoing offensive security strategy. As part of this approach, teams should embrace penetration testing to help find and remediate unknown vulnerabilities before attackers do.

More from

Bridging the 3.4 Million Workforce Gap in Cybersecurity

As new cybersecurity threats continue to loom, the industry is running short of workers to face them. The 2022 (ISC)2 Cybersecurity Workforce Study identified a 3.4 million worldwide cybersecurity worker gap; the total existing workforce is estimated at 4.7 million. Yet despite adding workers this past year, that gap continued to widen.Nearly 12,000 participants in that study felt that additional staff would have a hugely positive impact on their ability to perform their duties. More hires would boost proper risk…

The Evolution of Antivirus Software to Face Modern Threats

Over the years, endpoint security has evolved from primitive antivirus software to more sophisticated next-generation platforms employing advanced technology and better endpoint detection and response.  Because of the increased threat that modern cyberattacks pose, experts are exploring more elegant ways of keeping data safe from threats.Signature-Based Antivirus SoftwareSignature-based detection is the use of footprints to identify malware. All programs, applications, software and files have a digital footprint. Buried within their code, these digital footprints or signatures are unique to the respective…

How Do Threat Hunters Keep Organizations Safe?

Neil Wyler started his job amid an ongoing cyberattack. As a threat hunter, he helped his client discover that millions of records had been stolen over four months. Even though his client used sophisticated tools, its threat-hunting technology did not detect the attack because the transactions looked normal. But with Wyler’s expertise, he was able to realize that data was leaving the environment as well as entering the system. His efforts saved the company from suffering even more damage and…

The White House on Quantum Encryption and IoT Labels

A recent White House Fact Sheet outlined the current and future U.S. cybersecurity priorities. While most of the topics covered were in line with expectations, others drew more attention. The emphasis on critical infrastructure protection is clearly a top national priority. However, the plan is to create a labeling system for IoT devices, identifying the ones with the highest cybersecurity standards. Few expected that news. The topic of quantum-resistant encryption reveals that such concerns may become a reality sooner than…