Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Vulnerabilities / Threats

6/23/2017
11:08 AM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
Google+
RSS
E-Mail
100%
0%

RAT Vulnerabilities Turn Hackers into Victims

A small number of Remote Administration Tools have vulnerabilities which can enable attack targets to turn the tables on threat actors.

Threat actors using certain Remote Administration Tools (RATs) may find themselves on the receiving end of malware. Newly discovered vulnerabilities in these tools may enable cybercriminals' targets to turn the tables on their attackers and deliver malware.

Targeted cyberattacks hit thousands of businesses each year. Oftentimes victims label these threats as "advanced and persistent" to suggest they were inevitable, as though attackers are too sophisticated for defenders to protect themselves.

In many cases this is far from the truth, argues Waylon Grange, senior threat researcher at Symantec. Vulnerabilities in multiple hacker tools can be used against threat actors.

In looking at APT reports over the years, he says, there is a pattern of common RATS used in multiple campaigns. Frequently cited tools include Gh0stRAT, Korplug/Plug-X, and XtremeRAT, among others. The command-and-control components of these tools have vulnerabilities that can be exploited by attacker targets, who can turn the tables on their assailants.

"The attacker who was the attacker is now the victim," says Grange of the exploits' capabilities, which could enable a target to remote into an attacker's machine and browse it. "The tools can expose them to more vulnerabilities than the people they're targeting in some ways."

At this year's Black Hat USA conference in Las Vegas, Grange will disclose several exploits that could allow for remote execution or remote information disclosure on machines running these common C&C components. His talk is titled "Digital Vengeance: Exploiting the Most Notorious C&C Toolkits."

The idea is not to give a lesson in "hacking back" but to warn actors of the consequences of using these RATs. One of the tools he will discuss is Gh0stRAT, which has been around for at least 10 years and used in attacks believed to have been by Chinese nation-state actors.

Gh0stRAT allows an adversary access to the target's machine. Once malware is downloaded they can monitor keystrokes, see the screen, capture audio, and view the webcam. It stays on the machine and will continue to run after rebooting.

"It's fairly easy to recognize," says Grange. "Most antivirus products pick it up right away because it has been around for so long."

If a machine's antivirus program discovers the Gh0stRAT component, he continues, people have developed a Python script to search the malware and pull out configuration information. This script can "call home" to the C&C address and provide data on the adversary's location.

Armed with the location of the attacker's server, a victim can install malware back on the adversary's machine and view their screen and files.

"I can see who the adversary has as their targets," says Grange. "If they're remote controlling someone else, I can see what connections they have to others; what files they may have gotten off other targets."

It's worth noting this is not currently legal and Grange conducted his research in a test environment and attacked his own machines. He anticipates if this is made legal in the future, many businesses will want to use it to retaliate against adversaries -- a practice he thinks "won't achieve much" in making real progress against cybercrime.

"Where I see this most useful is in terms of researching," he continues. "Attribution is hard. If you can see where they are and what they target, that can provide a lot of valuable insight into attribution. It's most useful for researchers as opposed to a revenge tool."

Grange says these findings indicate modern attackers are not as untouchable as businesses think.

"The tools they use are sloppy, are broken," he says. "It's not an excuse to say 'we were hit by a nation-state so we can't be held accountable for what happened.' They still play on the same playing field."

Black Hat USA returns to the fabulous Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada, July 22-27, 2017. Click for information on the conference schedule and to register.

 


Related Content:

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
AndrewfOP
100%
0%
AndrewfOP,
User Rank: Strategist
6/27/2017 | 10:31:44 AM
Hacker tracking via RAT
Although no security is truly impregnable against truly skilled hackers, I suspect majority if not most of hacks are perpetrated by those with limited technical skills, who are criminals in the first place, rather than skillful computer programmers performing illegal activities.  And those that simply purchasing hacking tools to perform criminal acts should be the main focus of combating cybercrimes. 

Currently there are limited tools for authorities to respond cybercrimes, especially at the local levels.  If unsophisticated "hackers" are simply the users of hacking software that generate most of the hacking activities and can be traced or tagged by reversed RAT hacking, it would give law enforcement decided advantages to identify and prosecute cyber criminals. 

 
97% of Americans Can't Ace a Basic Security Test
Steve Zurier, Contributing Writer,  5/20/2019
How a Manufacturing Firm Recovered from a Devastating Ransomware Attack
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  5/20/2019
TeamViewer Admits Breach from 2016
Dark Reading Staff 5/20/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: Could you pass the hash, I really have to use the bathroom!
Current Issue
Building and Managing an IT Security Operations Program
As cyber threats grow, many organizations are building security operations centers (SOCs) to improve their defenses. In this Tech Digest you will learn tips on how to get the most out of a SOC in your organization - and what to do if you can't afford to build one.
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-9892
PUBLISHED: 2019-05-22
An issue was discovered in Open Ticket Request System (OTRS) 5.x through 5.0.34, 6.x through 6.0.17, and 7.x through 7.0.6. An attacker who is logged into OTRS as an agent user with appropriate permissions may try to import carefully crafted Report Statistics XML that will result in reading of arbit...
CVE-2019-10066
PUBLISHED: 2019-05-22
An issue was discovered in Open Ticket Request System (OTRS) 7.x through 7.0.6, Community Edition 6.0.x through 6.0.17, and OTRSAppointmentCalendar 5.0.x through 5.0.12. An attacker who is logged into OTRS as an agent with appropriate permissions may create a carefully crafted calendar appointment i...
CVE-2019-10067
PUBLISHED: 2019-05-22
An issue was discovered in Open Ticket Request System (OTRS) 7.x through 7.0.6 and Community Edition 5.0.x through 5.0.35 and 6.0.x through 6.0.17. An attacker who is logged into OTRS as an agent user with appropriate permissions may manipulate the URL to cause execution of JavaScript in the context...
CVE-2019-6513
PUBLISHED: 2019-05-21
An issue was discovered in WSO2 API Manager 2.6.0. It is possible for a logged-in user to upload, as API documentation, any type of file by changing the extension to an allowed one.
CVE-2019-12270
PUBLISHED: 2019-05-21
OpenText Brava! Enterprise and Brava! Server 7.5 through 16.4 configure excessive permissions by default on Windows. During installation, a displaylistcache file share is created on the Windows server with full read and write permissions for the Everyone group at both the NTFS and Share levels. The ...