FlyingYeti APT Serves Up Cookbox Malware Using WinRAR

The Russia-aligned FlyingYeti's phishing campaign exploited Ukrainian citizens' financial stress to spread Cookbox malware.

3 Min Read
On a cold slope backed by jagged mountains, a yeti trudges through the snow, the abominable snowman.
Source: Daniel Eskridge via Alamy Stock Photo

A month-long phishing campaign by the Russia-aligned threat actor group FlyingYeti has been leveraging a WinRAR vulnerability to deliver the Cookbox malware to Ukrainian citizens.

The Cloudforce One threat intelligence team noted in an advisory this week that the attack aimed to exploit the financial distress of Ukrainian citizens following the lifting of a government moratorium on evictions and utility disconnections for unpaid debt.

"FlyingYeti sought to capitalize on that pressure, leveraging debt restructuring and payment-related lures in an attempt to increase their chances of successfully targeting Ukrainian individuals," the report noted.

Also known as UAC-0149 by the Computer Emergency Response Team of Ukraine (CERT-UA), FlyingYeti has previously primarily targeted the country's military entities, but extended its focus to include civilian targets in the latest campaign.

Phishing operations began in mid-April, when Cloudforce One detected FlyingYeti's preparations.

A Recipe for Malware Infestation

The attackers used the debt-themed lures to trick victims into opening malicious files. When opened, the files infected the victim's system with the Cookbox malware, a PowerShell-based threat able to execute additional malicious commands and payloads.

FlyingYeti's phishing emails and Signal messages impersonated the country's housing authority, Kyiv Komunalka, and its website, urging recipients to download a Microsoft Word document which then retrieved a WinRAR archive file from a GitHub-hosted site. WinRAR is a file archiver utility for Windows.

This file exploited the WinRAR vulnerability CVE-2023-38831 to execute the Cookbox malware, and contained multiple files, including those designed to obscure file extensions and appear as harmless documents.

These decoy documents, which looked like debt restructuring agreements, contained tracking links with Canary Tokens to monitor victim engagement.

The report noted the malware also used persistence techniques to remain on the victim's device, communicating with a dynamic DNS (DDNS) domain for command-and-control (C2) purposes.

Cookbox Malware Deployed After Extensive Reconnaissance

Cloudflare's monitoring revealed that FlyingYeti conducted extensive reconnaissance on Ukrainian communal housing and utility payment processes, including analyzing QR codes used for making payments.

The malware delivery method initially leveraged Cloudflare's serverless computing platform Workers to fetch the WinRAR file from GitHub.

When the company uncovered this method, they could shut down the operation, but FlyingYeti adapted by directly hosting the malware on GitHub, the company noted.

Cloudflare's efforts included notifying GitHub, which resulted in the removal of the phishing site, the WinRAR file, and the suspension of the associated account.

This forced FlyingYeti to move to yet other alternative hosting solutions, including online file-sharing services Pixeldrain and Filemail.

Still, Cloudflare's continuous disruption efforts extended the attack's execution time and forced the attackers to repeatedly adapt their tactics, which ended with the malicious actors giving up on the campaign for now, it reported.

FlyingYeti could easily resurface however: Ukraine has been targeted by various threat actors during its ongoing war with Russia, most recently through attackers using an old Microsoft Office RCE exploit from 2017 as the initial vector.

Implement Zero Trust, Run EDR

In the report, Cloudflare recommended several basic security steps to mitigate potential phishing threats, starting with implementing zero-trust architecture foundations.

"Ensure your systems have the latest WinRAR and Microsoft security updates installed," the report noted. "Consider preventing WinRAR files from entering your environment, both at your Cloud Email Security solution and your Internet Traffic Gateway."

Additional email security measure should focus on protection against phishing, business email compromise (BEC), and other threats, while leveraging browser isolation can separate messaging applications such as LinkedIn, email, and Signal from the main network.

Additionally, scanning, monitoring, and enforcing controls on specific or sensitive data moving through your network environment with data loss prevention policies was also recommended.

Running an endpoint detection and response (EDR) tool, for example Microsoft Defender for Endpoint, can provide visibility into binary execution on hosts.

Finally, searching the network for FlyingYeti's indicators of compromise (IOCs), included in the report, could help identify potential malicious activity.

About the Author(s)

Nathan Eddy, Contributing Writer

Nathan Eddy is a freelance journalist and award-winning documentary filmmaker specializing in IT security, autonomous vehicle technology, customer experience technology, and architecture and urban planning. A graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Nathan currently lives in Berlin, Germany.

Keep up with the latest cybersecurity threats, newly discovered vulnerabilities, data breach information, and emerging trends. Delivered daily or weekly right to your email inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights