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IcedID BackConnect Protocol

This is a follow-up to my Hunting for C2 Traffic video. But I didn't have time to record a short video this time, so I wrote a long blog post instead.

UPDATE 2022-11-02

Brad Duncan has released a new pcap file on malware-traffic-analysis.net, which contains an additional C2 command (0x12). Our analysis indicates that this command launches a file manager. This blog post has now been updated with details about this finding.

UPDATE 2022-11-09

Lenny Hansson has released IDS signatures that detect IcedID BackConnect traffic. More details further down in this blog post.

IcedID BackConnect C2 Packet Structure

The IcedID BackConnect (BC) module uses a proprietary command-and-control (C2) protocol that is pretty straight forward. Both client (bot) and the C2 server typically send commands and responses as 13 byte packets using the following structure:

  • Auth: 4 bytes
  • Command: 1 byte
  • Params: 4 bytes
  • ID: 4 bytes

Auth Field

The "Auth" field is presumably used by the bot and C2 server to verify that the other party is communicating using the same protocol and version.

As mentioned by Group-IB and xors the Auth field is typically 0x974F014A (little endian), but we prefer to use the network byte order representation "4a 01 4f 97".

In their IcedID blog post from 2020 Group-IB say:

the auth field that has not changed since at least version 5 of the IcedID core is the constant 0x974F014A

Nevertheless, we recently noticed another IcedID Auth field being used in the wild. But more on that later.

Commands

The following list of IcedID BackConnect C2 commands has been compiled by combining those mentioned by Group-IB with our own analysis of the IcedID BackConnect protocol:

  • 0x00 = Bot queries for a task
  • 0x01 = Set sleep timer
  • 0x02 = Bot error
  • 0x03 = Reconnect
  • 0x04 = Start SOCKS
  • 0x05 = Start VNC

We've also discovered these additional commands in IcedID BackConnect C2 traffic that uses the Auth value "1f 8b 08 08":

  • 0x11 = Start VNC
  • 0x12 = Start file manager
  • 0x13 = Start reverse shell

Commands 0x04, 0x05, 0x11, 0x12 and 0x13 all cause the bot to connect back to the C2 server using a new BackConnect session, which will be used to wrap either SOCKS, VNC, file manager or reverse shell traffic.

Command 0x01: Set Sleep Timer

The set sleep timer command is issued by the C2 server to instruct the bot to sleep for a certain amount of time before requesting a new task from the C2 server again. The sleep time is defined in the four bytes following directly after the 0x01 command. This value is a 32-bit little endian value indicating the number of seconds the bot should sleep, i.e. "3c 00 00 00" = 0x0000003c = 60 seconds. The most common sleep value seems to be 60 seconds, which is why you'll often see byte sequences like this in IcedID C2 sessions:

zz zz zz zz 01 3c 00 00 00 xx xx xx xx

The following Wireshark display filter will show IcedID C2 packets, where the bot is configured to sleep for 60 seconds before querying the C2 server for a new command:

tcp.len == 13 and tcp.payload[4:5] == 01:3c:00:00:00

Command 0x04: Start SOCKS

The SOCKS command (0x04) instructs the bot to start the SOCKS module. As an example, the following byte sequence was sent by the IcedID C2 server 91.238.50.80:8080 in Brad Duncan's 2022-06-28 TA578 IcedID pcap on malware-traffic-analysis.net (see frame #10231):

4a 01 4f 97 04 09 00 00 00 8c a2 b1 09

The first four bytes are the auth value, followed by the Start SOCKS command (04).

After receiving this command the bot established a new TCP connection back to the C2 server, where it echoed back the server's "Start SOCKS" command and then started acting like a SOCKS server.

Except for initially echoing the IcedID Start SOCKS command the SOCKS module actually seems to be compliant with RFC1928, which defines the SOCKS5 protocol. This means that the C2 server can supply an IP address and port number to the bot's SOCKS proxy in order to relay a connection to that host through the bot.

SOCKS packet from IcedID in Wireshark

Image: C2 server instructs bot to relay a connection to 188.40.30.100:80

After receiving a Start SOCKS command an IcedID bot immediately establishes a new TCP connection to the specified IP and port, and relays the application layer data back to the C2 server through the SOCKS connection.

Update check of Advanced Port Scanner

Image: Update check of Advanced Port Scanner relayed through the infected machine

In the 2022-06-28 TA578 IcedID pcap the attacker used multiple SOCKS connections to scan the 10.6.21.0/24 network for services running on TCP ports 21, 80, 445 and 4899. That last port (TCP 4899) is typically used by Radmin VPN, which just so happens to be created by the outfit "Famatech" who also develop the "Advanced Port Scanner". The attacker also used the SOCKS module to make several HTTPS connections to servers like 18.204.62.252 (tlx.3lift[.]com), 23.94.138.115 (cmd5[.]org) and 74.119.118.137 (cat.da.us.criteo[.]com). The attacker also proxied connections to 40.97.120.242 and 52.96.182.162 (outlook.live.com) through the infected bot.

NetworkMiner Hosts tab

NetworkMiner showing hosts that the bot proxied TLS traffic to

JA3 Fingerprints from Proxied Traffic

Since the SOCKS proxy doesn't touch the application layer data we know that the client TLS handshake packets are coming from the C2 server rather than from the bot that's running the SOCKS proxy. This means that we can fingerprint the actual TLS client using JA3.

JA3 hashes in CapLoader

As you can see in the CapLoader screenshot above, most proxied TLS sessions use the cd08e31494f9531f560d64c695473da9 JA3 hash, but two of them use the rare JA3 hash 598872011444709307b861ae817a4b60. That rare JA3 hash was used only when connecting to outlook.live.com.

Command 0x05 or 0x11: VNC

Brad Duncan's 2022-06-28 TA578 IcedID pcap also contains the "Start VNC" command 0x05.

Flow transcript of Start VNC command

Image: Flow transcript of Start VNC command

As can be seen in the CapLoader screenshot above, Start VNC commands were sent at 16:33:33 and 16:34:06 UTC. And just like the SOCKS command, this caused the bot to establish a new connection back to the C2 server, echo the "Start VNC" command and then proceed with the VNC traffic.

Flow transcript of IcedID VNC traffic in ASCII encoding

Image: Flow transcript of IcedID VNC traffic in ASCII encoding

Command 0x13: Reverse Shell

Brad posted a new capture file with network traffic from another IcedID infection last week (2022-10-04). He also noted that the traffic to 51.89.201.236:8080 was different from normal IcedID post-infection traffic.

I've sometimes seen DarkVNC over TCP port 8080 with IcedID infections, but this traffic definitely is -not- DarkVNC

After looking at this C2 traffic I discovered that it was in fact using the IcedID BackConnect protocol outlined in this blog post, but the Auth field "4a 01 4f 97" had been replaced with "1f 8b 08 08".

That exact byte sequence is a common file header for gzip compressed files (RFC1952), where

  • 1f 8b = GZIP magic
  • 08 = DEFLATE compression
  • 08 = Original file name header present

IcedID has previously been seen using fake gzip file headers in payloads, but this time even the C2 packets include the gzip header!

Transcript of TCP session to 51.89.201.236:8080

Image: Transcript of TCP session to 51.89.201.236:8080

The C2 traffic also contained the command 0x13, which I hadn't seen before. Just like the SOCKS and VNC commands, this one triggered the bot to establish a new connection back to the C2 server. But the bot sent a task query command (00) this time, instead of echoing the C2 server's command (0x13). The new TCP session then transitioned into what looks like a reverse shell session.

PowerShell download from https://aicsoftware[.]com:757/coin

Image: Transcript of reverse shell traffic from IcedID BackConnect session

The reverse shell traffic reveals that the attackers retrieved a list of domain admin users and then executed a PowerShell script from aicsoftware[.]com. This PowerShell script was used to install CobaltStrike beacon on the victim's PC.

Command 0x12: File Manager

We discovered the file manager command after this blog post was published. This section has therefore been added after the original publication of this blog post.

The following Wireshark display filter can be used to find file manager commands (0x12) in IcedID C2 traffic that uses the "1f 8b 08 08" auth value:

tcp.len == 13 and tcp.payload[0:5] == 1f:8b:08:08:12

Wireshark display filter to identify IcedID C2 file manager commands

Image: File manager commands in IcedID BackConnect C2

The screenshot above shows that the file manager command was issued three times in 2022-10-31-IcedID-with-DarkVNC-and-Cobalt-Strike-full-pcap-raw.pcap.

IcedID File Manager sessions in CapLoader's Flows view

Image: IcedID TCP sessions in CapLoader's Flows view

As you can see in the two screenshots above, each time a file manager command was issued in the C2 session (Wireshark screenshot) the bot established a new TCP connection back to the C2 server (CapLoader screenshot).

The file manager sessions use a proprietary protocol to perform tasks such as listing disks, changing directory and uploading files.

IcedID File Manager session in CapLoader's Flows Transcript

We've identified the following file manager commands:

  • DISK = List drives
  • CDDIR <path> = Change directory
  • PWD = Show current directory
  • DIR = List current directory
  • PUT <path> = Upload file

IDS Signatures

Lenny Hansson has released IDS signatures that can detect IcedID BackConnect traffic. I'd like to highlight three of Lenny's signatures here.

Alert on "sleep 60 seconds" C2 command, regardless of Auth value:

alert tcp $EXTERNAL_NET 8080 -> $HOME_NET 1024: (msg:"NF - Malware IcedID BackConnect - Wait Command"; flow:established; flags:AP; dsize:13; content:"|01 3c 00 00 00|"; offset:4; depth:5; reference:url,networkforensic.dk; metadata:02112022; classtype:trojan-activity; sid:5006006; rev:2;)

Alert on "start VNC" C2 command with "4a 01 4f 97" Auth:

alert tcp $EXTERNAL_NET 8080 -> $HOME_NET 1024: (msg:"NF - Malware IcedID BackConnect - Start VNC command"; flow:established; flags:AP; dsize:13; content:"|4a 01 4f 97 05 00|"; offset:0; depth:6; reference:url,networkforensic.dk; metadata:03112022; classtype:trojan-activity; sid:5006007; rev:1;)

Alert on "start file manager" C2 command with "1f 8b 08 08" Auth:

alert tcp $EXTERNAL_NET 8080 -> $HOME_NET 1024: (msg:"NF - Malware IcedID BackConnect - Start file manager command"; flow:established; flags:AP; dsize:13; content:"|1f 8b 08 08 12|"; offset:0; depth:5; reference:url,networkforensic.dk; metadata:03112022; classtype:trojan-activity; sid:5006008; rev:1;)

These IDS rules all specify 8080 as the C2 port. You might want to change "8080" into "any" or "[443,8080]" in order to identify IcedID BackConnect C2 traffic on ports other than 8080.

A zip file containing Lenny's Snort rules can be downloaded from networkforensic.dk.

Questions and Answers

Allright, that's all I had to say about the IcedID BackConnect C2 protocol. I'm now ready to take your questions.

Q: Is IcedID's BackConnect VNC traffic the same thing as DarkVNC?

No, DarkVNC traffic doesn't use the IcedID BackConnect C2 Packet Structure described in this blog post. Also, one characteristic behavior DarkVNC is that the first C2 packet contains a string that looks like one of these:

  • (COMPUTERNAME)_ADDITIONAL_ID-DARKVNC
  • BOT-COMPUTERNAME(USERNAME)_ID-REFnnn
  • USR-COMPUTERNAME(USERNAME)_ID-REFnnn
Additionally, the first four bytes in the DarkVNC packets containing one of the strings above is a 32 bit little endian length field. For more details on DarkVNC, see the archived blog post A short journey into DarkVNC attack chain from REAQTA.

Q: Is IcedID's BackConnect VNC traffic the same thing as hVNC?

Almost. hVNC means "hidden VNC" and includes any type of malicious VNC server running on a victim's PC, including IcedID's VNC module as well as DarkVNC.

Q: How did you get Wireshark to decode the SOCKS traffic from IcedID BackConnect?

  1. Open the pcap file from 2022-06-28 TA578 IcedID
  2. Apply display filter: tcp.port eq 8080
  3. Right-click, Decode As, TCP port 8080 = SOCKS
  4. Display filter: tcp.dstport eq 8080 and tcp.len eq 13 and tcp.payload[0:5] eq 4a:01:4f:97:04
  5. Select all packets (Ctrl+A)
  6. Edit, Ignore Packets (Ctrl+D)
  7. Display filter: socks.dst

Q: Can CapLoader's Protocol Identification feature detect the IcedID BackConnect protocol?

The current version (1.9.4) doesn't have a protocol model for the BackConnect protocol, but the next CapLoader release will be able to identify this type if IcedID C2 traffic.

Posted by Erik Hjelmvik on Wednesday, 12 October 2022 18:24:00 (UTC/GMT)

Tags: #IcedID#TA578#SOCKS#SOCKS5#JA3#gzip#PowerShell

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CapLoader 1.1 Released

CapLoader Logo Version 1.1 of the super-fast PCAP parsing tool CapLoader is being released today. CapLoader is the ideal tool for digging through large volumes of PCAP files. Datasets in the GB and even TB order can be loaded into CapLoader to produce a clear view of all TCP and UDP flows. CapLoader also provides instantaneous access to the raw packets of each flow, which makes it a perfect preloader tool in order to select and export interesting data to other tools like NetworkMiner or Wireshark.

Drag-and-Drop PCAP from CapLoader to Wireshark
Five flows being extracted from Honeynet.org's SOTM 28 to Wireshark with CapLoader

New functionality in version 1.1

New features in version 1.1 of CapLoader are:

  • PcapNG support
  • Fast transcript of TCP and UDP flows (similar to Wireshark's ”Follow TCP Stream”)
  • Better port agnostic protocol identification; more protocols and better precision (over 100 protocols and sub-protocols can now be identified, including Skype and the C&C protocol of Poison Ivy RAT)
  • A “Hosts” tab containing a list of all transmitting hosts and information about open ports, operating system as well as Geo-IP localization (using GeoLite data created by MaxMind)
  • Gzip compressed capture files can be opened directly with CapLoader
  • Pcap files can be loaded directly from an URL

CapLoader Flow Transcript aka Follow TCP Stream
Flow transcript of Honeynet SOTM 28 pcap file day3.log

Free Trial Version

Another thing that is completely new with version 1.1 of CapLoader is that we now provide a free trial version for download. The CapLoader trial is free to use for anyone and we don't even require trial users to register their email addresses when downloading the software.

There are, of course, a few limitations in the trial version; such as no protocol identification, OS fingerprinting or GeoIP localization. There is also a limit as to how many gigabyte of data that can be loaded with the CapLoader trial at a time. This size limit is 500 GB, which should by far exceed what can be loaded with competing commercial software like Cascade Pilot and NetWitness Investigator.

The professional edition of CapLoader doesn't have any max PCAP limit whatsoever, which allows for terabytes of capture files to be loaded.

CapLoader with TCP and UDP flows view
CapLoader's Flows view showing TCP and UDP flows

CapLoader with Hosts view
CapLoader's Hosts view showing identified hosts on the network

Getting CapLoader

The trial version of CapLoader can be downloaded from the CapLoader product page. The professional edition of CapLoader can be bought at our Purchase CapLoader page.

CapLoader USB flash drive
The CapLoader USB flash drive

Customers who have previously bought CapLoader 1.0 can upgrade to version 1.1 by downloading an update from our customer portal.

For more information about CapLoader please see our previous blog post Fast analysis of large pcap files with CapLoader

Posted by Erik Hjelmvik on Monday, 21 January 2013 11:45:00 (UTC/GMT)

Tags: #CapLoader#PcapNG#PCAP#GB#gigabyte#capture#flow#transcript#gzip#free

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