NewsJuly 17, 2017 @ 12:45 PM

The Adwind Remote Access Tool Experiences a Resurgence

A remote access tool (RAT) is surging in popularity, spreading to multiple countries through a new spam campaign and putting countless users at risk. Among its capabilities, the tool can steal passwords, collect keystrokes and record audio by using an infected device’s microphone. Because it is written in Java, it will run on any machine that can run the programming language, such as Windows, Mac OSX, Linux and Android — making many systems vulnerable to infection.

The tool, called Adwind, is a growing threat. According to International Business Times, Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab identified more than 443,000 instances of Adwind infection between 2013 and 2016.

More recently, Trend Micro found that the use of the RAT grew dramatically in the last few months alone. In fact, detection of Adwind increased by 107 percent from May to June 2017.

A Resurgence for a Remote Access Tool

The current campaign is spam-based, purporting to be a charter agreement from the chair of the Mediterranean Yacht Broker Association Charter Committee, according to Trend Micro. The email said the attachment contained urgent changes to the agreement for immediate review.

In a particularly nasty trick, the email sender address is forged to increase apparent legitimacy. The threat actors are obviously hoping that any victim who owns a yacht would not be aware of current best practices for security or would assume that they would not be touched by this kind of malware. Researchers noted that the spam was directed at the aerospace industry, with Switzerland, Ukraine, Austria and the U.S. being the most targeted countries.

Trend Micro also found that there were two separate spam waves in the campaign. “We saw the first on June 7, 2017, using a different URL to divert victims to their .NET-written malware equipped with spyware capabilities,” the researchers said. “The second wave was observed on June 14, and used different domains that hosted their malware and command-and-control (C&C) servers.”

Flexible Malware Awareness

Adwind is flexible malware that can have many effects. It has been known to “steal credentials, record and harvest keystrokes, take pictures or screenshots, film and retrieve videos, and exfiltrate data,” Trend Micro researchers explained. It can even compromise an affected machine and turn it into a botnet. It has been deployed in many forms, all malicious.

This particular campaign seemed to be targeted at Windows machines, since the malicious URL drops a .pif file, which is used by Windows to run some MS-DOS programs. Run similarly to an .exe file, the file is written in .NET and is actually a downloader. The downloader kicks off the infection process by attempting to change the machine’s system certificate.

Everyone in an organization needs to understand how malware acts and adjust their behaviors online accordingly. Following the best practices for security awareness and training should also help enterprises protect their users and data.

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Larry Loeb

Principal, PBC Enterprises

Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek. He wrote for IBM's DeveloperWorks site for seven years and has written a book on the Secure Electronic Transaction Internet protocol. His latest book has the commercially obligatory title of Hack Proofing XML. He's been online since uucp "bang" addressing (where the world existed relative to !decvax), serving as editor of the Macintosh Exchange on BIX and the VARBusiness Exchange.