Threat Spotlight: EyePyramid Malware

Introduction

Recent news reports reveal that various high profile personalities in Italy were among those targeted by phishing attacks involving the malware dubbed as ‘EyePyramid’. The report was based on court documents declassified by Italian police. The documents show that 18,327 unique usernames along with 1,793 passwords were stolen, totaling roughly 87 GB of data.

The EyePyramid malware has keylogging capabilities and is able to exfiltrate stolen information to various command and control (C&C) servers. Technical information and indicators mentioned in the court documents led to the arrest of the Occhionero siblings, implicated as masterminds of the cyber espionage operation.

The malware has been in circulation since 2010 and has been observed as recently as 2016. Our colleagues over at TrendMicro have published an in-depth blog with a high level of detail about the inner workings of EyePyramid. We’ll discuss additional findings here, focusing on how this malware affects the security posture of its targets. After the malware removes and modifies different security settings, users are left unprotected from a slew of potential attacks and vulnerabilities.

Analysis

This malware usually arrives as an attachment of a spear phishing email. The sender of this email typically uses compromised email accounts to make it appear that the email comes from a trusted source. The malware itself contains a list of targeted domains (Figure 1):

Fig1-EyePyramid.jpg

Figure 1: List of Domains Targeted

To date, published analysis has uncovered over 100 domains associated with EyePyramid. The complete list of these domains can be found near the end of this writeup, in Appendix A.

Another hallmark of this malware is the persistence mechanism. Once the user opens and runs the malware attachment, it drops a copy of itself into the Temp folder and creates registry entries to allow it to run on every system startup. The malware contains a list of pre-defined filenames used when creating a copy of itself to “%UserProfile%\Local Settings\Temp\” (Figure 2):

Fig2-EyePyramid.jpg

Figure 2: List of Malware Filenames

The following are the registry startup entries created:

  • HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce\{malware filename}
  • HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run\{malware filename}

It also adds itself to the Firewall exception list, allowing it to communicate with its C&C servers:

  • HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\SharedAccess\Parameters\FirewallPolicy\StandardProfile\AuthorizedApplications\List

In addition to persistence, the malware takes account of every infected host system by obtaining the following unique information:

  • ProcessorID
  • Diskdrive Signature
  • Lastbootuptime
  • Computer System Product Name
  • MAC Address
  • MotherBoard Serial Number
  • Operating System Name
  • OS Serial Number

Lowering of Security Settings

User Account Control (UAC)

Once the malware has compromised the host system, it checks to see whether the Admin Approval Mode for User Account Control is enabled by checking the registry entry below:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\System", "EnableLUA", 1

When enabled, Admin Approval Mode ensures all users from the local administrator group require specific approval (or elevation) to perform administrative tasks. This is added security to limit malware from making system-wide changes without the administrator’s knowledge.

This malware, however, will disable UAC and UAC remote restriction by setting the registry entries as below:

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\System]
            "EnableLUA"=dword:00000000
            "LocalAccountTokenFilterPolicy"=dword:00000001

In addition to disabling UAC for local logons, the LocalAccountTokenFilterPolicy setting allows remote users belonging to the machine’s local administrator group to have full administrator access. This sets the malware up for lateral movement within the network environment.

New User Account Creation

The malware will also try to create a local admin user and add the user to domain administrator group in Active Directory. This will allow the malware to perform system changes and other functions with administrative privileges. It will also allow itself to connect to remote systems, possibly with full administrator access token:

Fig3-EyePyramid.jpg

Figure 3: Code Snippet Showing Adding Local Admin User

Fig4-EyePyramid.jpg

Figure 4: Code Snippet Showing Adding User to Active Directory

To cover its tracks in case of errors in creating a new admin user, EyePyramid programmatically removes the error message prompt setting of the User Account Control in Microsoft Action Center from the Control Panel by unchecking the User Account Control checkbox:

Fig5-EyePyramid.jpg

Figure 5: Code Snippet to Disable UAC Checkbox in Microsoft Action Center

Fig6-EyePyramid.jpg

Figure 6: Microsoft Action Center

Security Software and Settings

The malware will also prevent, disable, and terminate antivirus (AV) related processes. The list can be found near the end of this writeup, in Appendix B. It will also enable administrative shares on remote machine (IPC$, Admin$, C$) for local accounts and disable the following:

  • Firewall
  • Automatic Windows Update
  • Windows Security Center service
  • Windows Action Center

Microsoft Office Security Level

The malware also sets the security level to its lowest for a number of applications in the Microsoft Office suite, allowing macros to run auto >matically and without warning. And specifically for Outlook, certain attachments normally blocked by extension such as executables and scripts are removed from the block list, thereby allowing them to be viewed by the user. As an example, the settings enforced by the malware for Outlook are shown below. The full list can be viewed near the end of this writeup, in Appendix C.

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\10.0\Outlook\Security]
            "Level"=dword:00000001
            "Level1Remove"=".bat;.com;.exe;.js;.jse;.reg;.vbe;.vbs"

Conclusions

The EyePyramid malware associated with phishing attacks against high profile personalities was primarily used to gather information on their targets. Versions of this malware in the wild date back to as early as 2010, with slight differences in functionality. You can just imagine the gigabytes of data that it was able to steal over the years.

However, this is not the only damage it causes because the aftermath of the attack leaves its targets susceptible to a slew of further potential attacks and vulnerabilities, even after this malware is removed. The numerous security settings disabled by the malware appear to be an effort to ensure ease of access in the future. However, those disabled settings make it easier for ANY attacker to gain access, not just the author of EyePyramid. All of these modifications open a huge gap in the user’s security posture, leaving them vulnerable to future malware attacks.

If you use our endpoint protection product, CylancePROTECT®, you were already protected from this attack. If you don't have CylancePROTECT, contact us to learn how our AI based solution can predict and prevent unknown and emerging threats. Our Research team has put together a video showing CylancePROTECT going up against the latest samples of EyePyramid malware - watch the video here.

Indicators of Compromise (IOCs)

Appendix A:

Targeted Email Domains

Appendix B:

Antivirus Related Processes

Ad-Aware Antivirus

Alice Total Security

AhnLab

Alwil Software

Ashampoo

AVAST Software

AVG

Avira

Bitdefender

BullGuard Ltd

CA

CCleaner

ClamWin

ClamAV for Windows

Comodo

DriveSentry Security Suite

DrWeb

Emsisoft Anti-Malware

Eset

Faronics

FRISK Software

Fortinet

fsi

F-Secure

F-Secure Internet Security

G Data

GFI Software

Grisoft

IKARUS

Immunet Protect

INCAInternet

IObit

K7

K7 Computing

kaspersky lab

Lavasoft

Malwarebytes

Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware

McAfee

McAfee Security Scan

Microsoft Security Client

Microsoft Security Essentials

network associates

Norman

Norton Antivirus

Norton AntiVirus Corporate Edition

Norton Internet Security

Norton Security Scan

Norton 360

Panda Security

PC Tools Antivirus

Quick Heal

Rising

SafeCentral

Softwin

Sophos

SPAMfighter

Spybot - Search & Destroy

SpyShredder

Spyware Doctor

Spyware Terminator

Sunbelt Software

Symantec

Symantec AntiVirus

Symantec Shared

ThreatFire

Trend Micro

Trojan Remover

TrustPort

UAV

Vba32

Virusbuster

Webroot

Windows Defender

Zone labs



Microsoft Security Center Settings:

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Security Center]

"AllAlertsDisabled"=dword:00000001
"AntiVirusDisableNotify"=dword:00000001
"AntiVirusOverride"=dword:00000000
"DisableMonitoring"=dword:00000001
"FirewallDisableNotify"=dword:00000001
"FirewallOverride"=dword:00000000
"FirstRunDisabled"=dword:00000001
"UacDisableNotify"=dword:00000001
"UpdatesDisableNotify"=dword:00000000

Appendix C:

 
Microsoft Office Security Level

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\10.0\Access\Security]
[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\10.0\Excel\Security]
[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\10.0\PowerPoint\Security]
[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\10.0\Word\Security][HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Access\Security][HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Excel\Security][HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\PowerPoint\Security][HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Word\Security][HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Access\Security][HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Excel\Security][HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\PowerPoint\Security][HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Word\Security][HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\10.0\Outlook\Security][HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Outlook\Security][HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Outlook\Security]

SHA-256

0970e403b26e10159639532190a4125f4ddc4e4575d7b98e9be98a7037ff8ebb
0acef3cd66be80ba86641aabce113f7a3302c2500adc2a6d27d0098517220663
0af665d7d81871474039f08d96ba067d5a0bd5a95088009ea7344d23a27ca824
0ed387453442d53d65a5b402243fb8f50ae7605196d1bc90595ed0e9c6143f5d
1012f0717543409a3dfa4418bfdcde31ecc55ef7c673a13f5dbcd131c4a0db22
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2a8a15b41d0713db9ddc5ad895cb9a08023d42057d98e0dcd96cfbee80146d8e
31ef142400853070edc4261e0b35875fd6e294fd30e56ee1040bca233e3e7234
31ef142400853070edc4261e0b35875fd6e294fd30e56ee1040bca233e3e7234
383dd234d22ead747319a04847d789bcedeacd0137a51ff394bab10256ab4b8e
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