The OilRig threat group launched an attack involving the BONDUPDATER Trojan malware against a high-ranking government office in the Middle East.

According to Palo Alto Networks’ Unit 42, the threat group sent a series of spear phishing emails with a blank subject line to government workers in the region last month. Anyone who opened the attachment risked activating the latest version of BONDUPDATER, which offers backdoor functionality that lets threat actors execute commands and download files on infected machines.

OilRig, which has been active for at least two years, had previously used the Trojan malware in similar attacks against Middle Eastern governments.

What’s New in This Version of BONDUPDATER?

BONDUPDATER was first spotted in November 2017 and is based on Microsoft’s PowerShell. In the most recent attack, however, researchers found that the spear phishing emails contained a Word document with a macro that installed the Trojan malware. The process involved creating a series of files on the victim’s system and then gaining persistence by dropping a script that scheduled a task to execute every minute.

This version of BONDUPDATER used TXT records to communicate with the command-and-control (C&C) server as well as the Domain Name System (DNS) A records, which it received by using a DNS tunneling protocol. This follows a pattern in which OilRig doesn’t always develop new tools, but simply saves development time by building on Trojan malware that’s already part of its arsenal.

Avoid Trojan Malware With UBA and IAM

In a recent podcast, IBM experts recommended layering on user behavior analytics (UBA) with identity and access management (IAM), which can make it easier to detect when employees exhibit potentially risky behaviors. This should be coupled with ongoing efforts to educate users about phishing schemes.

Source: Palo Alto Networks

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