The case of a Spanish aerospace firm

ESET researchers have uncovered a Lazarus assault in opposition to an aerospace firm in Spain, the place the group deployed a number of instruments, most notably a publicly undocumented backdoor we named LightlessCan. Lazarus operators obtained preliminary entry to the corporate’s community final 12 months after a profitable spearphishing marketing campaign, masquerading as a recruiter for Meta – the corporate behind Fb, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

The pretend recruiter contacted the sufferer by way of LinkedIn Messaging, a characteristic inside the LinkedIn skilled social networking platform, and despatched two coding challenges required as a part of a hiring course of, which the sufferer downloaded and executed on an organization system. The primary problem is a really primary undertaking that shows the textual content “Howdy, World!”, the second prints a Fibonacci sequence – a sequence of numbers through which every quantity is the sum of the 2 previous ones. ESET Analysis was capable of reconstruct the preliminary entry steps and analyze the toolset utilized by Lazarus because of cooperation with the affected aerospace firm.

On this blogpost, we describe the tactic of infiltration and the instruments deployed throughout this Lazarus assault. We will even current a few of our findings about this assault on the Virus Bulletin conference on October 4, 2023.

Key factors of the blogpost:

  • Workers of the focused firm had been contacted by a pretend recruiter by way of LinkedIn and tricked into opening a malicious executable presenting itself as a coding problem or quiz.
  • We recognized 4 totally different execution chains, delivering three kinds of payloads by way of DLL side-loading .
  • Essentially the most notable payload is the LightlessCan backdoor, implementing strategies to hinder detection by real-time safety monitoring software program and evaluation by cybersecurity professionals; this presents a serious shift as compared with its predecessor BlindingCan, a flagship HTTP(S) Lazarus RAT.
  • We attribute this exercise with a excessive stage of confidence to Lazarus, notably to its campaigns associated to Operation DreamJob.
  • The ultimate aim of the assault was cyberespionage.

Lazarus delivered numerous payloads to the victims’ methods; essentially the most notable is a publicly undocumented and complicated distant entry trojan (RAT) that we named LightlessCan, which represents a big development in comparison with its predecessor, BlindingCan. LightlessCan mimics the functionalities of a variety of native Home windows instructions, enabling discreet execution inside the RAT itself as an alternative of noisy console executions. This strategic shift enhances stealthiness, making detecting and analyzing the attacker’s actions tougher.

One other mechanism used to attenuate publicity is the employment of execution guardrails; Lazarus made positive the payload can solely be decrypted on the meant sufferer’s machine. Execution guardrails are a set of protecting protocols and mechanisms carried out to safeguard the integrity and confidentiality of the payload throughout its deployment and execution, successfully stopping unauthorized decryption on unintended machines, reminiscent of these of safety researchers. We describe the implementation of this mechanism within the Execution chain 3: LightlessCan (complex version) part.

Attribution to the Lazarus group

The Lazarus group (also called HIDDEN COBRA) is a cyberespionage group linked to North Korea that has been lively since a minimum of 2009. It’s liable for high-profile incidents reminiscent of each the Sony Photos Leisure hack and tens-of-millions-of-dollar cyberheists in 2016, the WannaCryptor (aka WannaCry) outbreak in 2017, the 3CX and X_TRADER supply-chain assaults, and an extended historical past of disruptive assaults in opposition to South Korean public and significant infrastructure since a minimum of 2011. The variety, quantity, and eccentricity in implementation of Lazarus campaigns outline this group, in addition to that it performs all three pillars of cybercriminal actions: cyberespionage, cybersabotage, and pursuit of economic achieve.

Aerospace firms should not an uncommon goal for North Korea-aligned superior persistent risk (APT) teams. The nation has performed multiple nuclear tests and launched intercontinental ballistic missiles, which violate United Nations (UN) Safety Council resolutions. The UN screens North Korea’s nuclear actions to forestall additional growth and proliferation of nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction, and publishes biannual reports monitoring such actions. Based on these reviews, North Korea-aligned APT teams assault aerospace firms in makes an attempt to entry delicate expertise and aerospace know-how, as intercontinental ballistic missiles spend their midcourse part within the area exterior of Earth’s environment. These reviews additionally declare that cash gained from cyberattacks accounts for a portion of North Korea’s missile growth prices.

We attribute the assault in Spain to the Lazarus group, particularly to Operation DreamJob, with a excessive stage of confidence. The identify for Operation DreamJob was coined in a blogpost by ClearSky from August 2020, describing a Lazarus marketing campaign concentrating on protection and aerospace firms, with the target of cyberespionage. Since then, we have now loosely used the time period to indicate numerous Lazarus operations leveraging job-offering lures however not deploying instruments clearly just like these concerned in its different actions, reminiscent of Operation In(ter)ception. For instance, the marketing campaign involving instruments signed with 2 TOY GUYS certificates (see ESET Threat Report T1 2021, page 11), and the case of Amazon-themed lures within the Netherlands and Belgium revealed in September 2022.

Our attribution relies on the next elements, which present a relationship largely with the beforehand talked about Amazon-themed marketing campaign:

1. Malware (the intrusion set):

  • Preliminary entry was obtained by making contact by way of LinkedIn after which convincing the goal to execute malware, disguised as a check, with a purpose to reach a hiring course of. It is a recognized Lazarus tactic, used a minimum of since Operation DreamJob.
  • We noticed new variants of payloads that had been beforehand recognized within the Dutch case from final 12 months, reminiscent of intermediate loaders and the BlindingCan backdoor linked with Lazarus.
  • A number of kinds of robust encryption had been leveraged within the instruments of this Lazarus marketing campaign – AES-128 and RC6 with a 256-bit key – that had been additionally used within the Amazon-themed marketing campaign.

2. Infrastructure:

  • For the first-level C&C servers (listed within the Community part on the finish of this blogpost), the attackers don’t arrange their very own servers, however compromise present ones, normally these having poor safety and that host websites with uncared for upkeep. It is a typical, but weak-confidence habits, of Lazarus.

3. Cui bono:

  • Pilfering the know-how of an aerospace firm is aligned with long-term objectives manifested by Lazarus.

Preliminary entry

The group focused a number of firm staff by way of LinkedIn Messaging. Masquerading as a Meta recruiter, the attacker used a job supply lure to draw the goal’s consideration and belief; a screenshot of this dialog, which we obtained throughout our cooperation with the Spanish aerospace firm, is depicted in Determine 1.

Figure_01 - Copy (2)
Determine 1. The preliminary contact by the attacker impersonating a recruiter from Meta

At the start of Lazarus assaults, the unaware targets are normally satisfied to recklessly self-compromise their methods. For this goal, the attackers make use of totally different methods; for instance, the goal is lured to execute an attacker-provided (and trojanized) PDF viewer to see the total content material of a job supply. Alternately, the goal is inspired to attach with a trojanized SSL/VPN consumer, being supplied with an IP handle and login particulars. Each eventualities are described in a Microsoft blogpost revealed in September 2022. The narrative on this case was the scammer’s request to show the sufferer’s proficiency within the C++ programming language.

Two malicious executables, Quiz1.exe and Quiz2.exe, had been supplied for that goal and delivered by way of the Quiz1.iso and Quiz2.iso photos hosted on a third-party cloud storage platform. Each executables are quite simple command line functions asking for enter.

The primary one is a Howdy World undertaking, which is a really primary program, typically consisting of only a single line of code, that shows the textual content “Howdy, World!” when executed. The second prints a Fibonacci sequence as much as the biggest aspect smaller than the quantity entered as enter. A Fibonacci sequence is a sequence of numbers through which every quantity is the sum of the 2 previous ones, usually beginning with 0 and 1; nevertheless, on this malicious problem, the sequence begins with 1 and a pair of. Determine 2 shows instance output from the Fibonacci sequence problem. After the output is printed, each executables set off the malicious motion of putting in further payloads from the ISO photos onto the goal’s system. The duty for a focused developer is to grasp the logic of this system and rewrite it within the C++ programming language.

Determine 2. The output of the decoy program Quiz2.exe

The chain of occasions that led to the preliminary compromise is sketched in Determine 3. The primary payload delivered to the goal’s system is an HTTP(S) downloader that we have now named NickelLoader. The device permits the attackers to deploy any desired program into the reminiscence of the sufferer’s pc.

Determine 3. The chain of occasions finishing the preliminary entry

Publish-compromise toolset

As soon as NickelLoader is operating on the goal’s system, the attackers use it to ship two kinds of RATs. Certainly one of these RATs is already recognized to be a part of the Lazarus toolkit, particularly a variant of the BlindingCan backdoor with restricted performance however equivalent command processing logic. To tell apart it, we put the prefix mini- in entrance of the variant’s identify. Moreover, the attackers launched a RAT not beforehand undocumented publicly, which we have now named LightlessCan.

The RATs are deployed as the ultimate step of chains of phases with various ranges of complexity and are preceded by helper executables, like droppers and loaders. We denote an executable as a dropper if it comprises an embedded payload, even when it’s not dropped onto the file system however as an alternative loaded immediately into reminiscence and executed. Malware that doesn’t have an encrypted embedded information array, however that masses a payload from the file system, we denote as a loader.

Moreover the preliminary quiz-related lures, Desk 1 summarizes the executable information (EXEs) and dynamic hyperlink libraries (DLLs) delivered to the sufferer’s system. All of the malware samples within the third column are trojanized open-source functions (see the fourth column for the underlying undertaking), with a official executable side-loading a malicious DLL. For instance, the malicious mscoree.dll is a trojanized model of the official NppyPluginDll; the DLL comprises an embedded NickelLoader and is loaded by a official PresentationHost.exe, each situated within the C:ProgramShared listing.

Desk 1. Abstract of binaries concerned within the assault

Location listing

Professional mother or father course of

Malicious side-loaded DLL

Trojanized undertaking








LibreSSL 2.6.5




Lua plugin for Notepad++




MZC8051 for Notepad++ 3.2

LightlessCan – new backdoor

Essentially the most fascinating payload used on this marketing campaign is LightlessCan, a successor of the group’s flagship HTTP(S) Lazarus RAT named BlindingCan. LightlessCan is a brand new advanced RAT that has assist for as much as 68 distinct instructions, listed in a customized operate desk, however within the present model, 1.0, solely 43 of these instructions are carried out with some performance. The remaining instructions are current however have a proper implementation within the type of placeholders, missing precise performance. The undertaking behind the RAT is certainly primarily based on the BlindingCan supply code, because the order of the shared instructions is preserved considerably, although there could also be variations of their indexing.

Essentially the most important replace is mimicked performance of many native Windows commands like ping, ipconfig, systeminfo, sc, internet, and so forth. The hardcoded string “The operation accomplished efficiently.”, the usual system message for the ERROR_SUCCESS end result, introduced us to that concept. Desk 2 comprises a listing of these instructions which can be carried out in LightlessCan. In beforehand reported Lazarus assaults, as documented in blogposts by Positive Technologies in April 2021 and HvS Consulting in December 2020, these native instructions are sometimes executed in many instances after the attackers have gotten a foothold within the goal’s system. Nevertheless, on this case, these instructions are executed discreetly inside the RAT itself, fairly than being executed visibly within the system console. This strategy affords a big benefit when it comes to stealthiness, each in evading real-time monitoring options like EDRs, and postmortem digital forensic instruments. The inner model quantity (1.0) signifies that this represents a brand new growth effort by the attackers.

Because the core utilities of Home windows are proprietary and never open-source, the builders of LightlessCan confronted a selection: both to reverse engineer the closed-source system binaries or to get impressed by the code out there by way of the Wine undertaking, the place many programs are rewritten with a purpose to mimic their execution on different platforms like Linux, macOS, or ChromeOS. We’re inclined to consider the builders selected the primary choice, because the corresponding Wine applications they mimicked in LightlessCan had been carried out slightly bit otherwise or under no circumstances (e.g., netsh).

Apparently, in one of many circumstances we analyzed, the LightlessCan payload is saved in an encrypted file on the compromised machine, which may solely be decrypted utilizing an environment-dependent key. Extra particulars about this may be discovered within the Execution chain 3: LightlessCan (complex version) part. That is to make sure that the payload can solely be decrypted on the pc of the meant sufferer and never, for instance, on a tool of a safety researcher.

Desk 2. The listing of LightlessCan instructions mimicking these for Home windows immediate




Mimic the ipconfig command from the Home windows command immediate; see Determine 4.


Mimic the internet command from the Home windows immediate; see Determine 5.


Mimic the netshadvfirewall firewall command from the Home windows immediate; see Determine 4.


Mimic the netstat command from the Home windows immediate.


Mimic the ping -6 command from the Home windows immediate.


Mimic the reg command from the Home windows immediate; see Determine 7.


Mimic the sc command from the Home windows immediate; see Determine 8.


Mimic the ping command from the Home windows immediate.


Mimic the tasklist command from the Home windows immediate.


Mimic the wmic course of name create command from the Home windows immediate; see Determine 9.


Mimic the nslookup command from the Home windows Server immediate.


Mimic the schstasks command from the Home windows immediate; see Determine 10.


Mimic the systeminfo command from the Home windows immediate.


Mimic the arp command from the Home windows immediate.


Mimic the mkdir command from the Home windows immediate.

Determine 4. Hardcoded strings revealing the subset of the ipconfig performance
Determine 5. Hardcoded strings revealing the subset of the net performance
Determine 6. Hardcoded strings revealing the netsh firewall performance
Determine 7. Hardcoded strings revealing the (partial) reg performance
Determine 8. Hardcoded strings revealing the (partial) sc performance
Determine 9. Hardcoded strings revealing the wmic course of name create performance
Determine 10. Hardcoded strings revealing the (partial) schtasks performance

Moreover, an examination of the RAT’s inside configuration means that, compared to BlindingCan, Lazarus elevated the code sophistication in LightlessCan.

Technical evaluation

On this part, we offer technical particulars concerning the compromise chain that delivers the NickelLoader downloader, and the three execution chains Lazarus used to ship its payloads on the compromised system.

Compromise chain: NickelLoader

NickelLoader is an HTTP(S) downloader executed on the compromised system by way of DLL side-loading, which is later used to ship different Lazarus payloads.

The method of delivering NickelLoader unfolds in a sequence of phases, commencing with the execution of PresentationHost.exe, which is triggered robotically after the goal manually executes the preliminary quiz challenges; the Quiz1 case is depicted in Determine 3. A malicious dynamically linked library, mscoree.dll, is then side-loaded by the official PresentationHost.exe – each situated in C:ProgramShared. This DLL is a trojanized NppyPluginDll.dll, from the inactive General Python Plugins DLL for Notepad++ undertaking from 2011. It serves as a dropper and has numerous exports: all of the exports copied from the unique NppyPluginDll.dll plus all of the exports from the official mscoree.dll. Certainly one of these official exports, CorExitProcess, comprises the malicious code liable for the decryption and execution of the following malware stage.

To efficiently decrypt an encrypted information array embedded within the dropper, three 16-character-long key phrases are required by the dropper. These key phrases are as follows:

  1. the identify of the mother or father course of (PresentationHost),
  2. the interior parameter hardcoded within the binary (9zCnQP6o78753qg8), and
  3. the exterior parameter handed on the command line (‑embeddingObject), which is inherited from the mother or father means of PresentationHost.exe, being supplied by Quiz1.exe or Quiz2.exe.

The key phrases are XOR-ed byte by byte and the output types the AES-128 decryption key.

The payload is an HTTP(S) downloader that acknowledges 4 instructions, all 5 letters lengthy, proven in Desk 3. Due to these 5 letter instructions, we selected to call this payload “NickelLoader”, drawing inspiration from the colloquial time period for the US five-cent coin – a nickel. An important instructions are avdrq and gabnc. When these instructions are issued, every of them masses information obtained from the C&C server as a DLL. For this goal, the attackers most likely used MemoryModule, a library that can be utilized to load a DLL fully from reminiscence.

Desk 3. The listing of magic key phrases acknowledged in obtained buffers

Key phrase



Requests one other instant command with out the standard lengthy sleep delay that separates the execution of the instructions.


Hundreds a DLL contained within the obtained buffer and executes its hardcoded export data.


Hundreds a DLL contained within the obtained buffer.


Terminates itself.

Execution chain 1: miniBlindingCan

One of many payloads downloaded and executed by NickelLoader is miniBlindingCan, a simplified model of the group’s flagship BlindingCan RAT. It was reported for the primary time by Mandiant in September 2022, below the identify AIRDRY.V2.

To load miniBlindingCan, a 64-bit malicious dynamically linked library colorui.dll is side-loaded by a official colorcpl.exe executed from C:ProgramDataAdobe and serves as a dropper. The DLL is obfuscated utilizing VMProtect and comprises 1000’s of exports from which LaunchColorCpl is crucial, because it handles the execution of the following stage. There’s an encrypted information array within the DLL’s dumped physique, along with a number of debug symbols revealing the foundation listing and the undertaking from which it was constructed:


Because the identify ShellCodeLoader suggests, the primary goal of this preliminary stage is to decrypt and cargo the information array from its physique, which comprises shellcode. At the start of its execution, ShellCodeLoader employs anti-debugging strategies by inspecting the BeingDebugged worth inside the Course of Setting Block (PEB) construction to find out if it’s being scrutinized or analyzed by debugging instruments, and makes use of anti-sandbox strategies to keep away from detection inside sandboxed environments designed for safety evaluation. The malware additionally explicitly checks whether or not its mother or father course of is colorcpl.exe; if not, it exits instantly.

The decrypted information array just isn’t a whole DLL, however types an intermediate blob with two components: shellcode adopted by one other encrypted information array, which represents the final step of the chain. The shellcode appears to be produced by an occasion of the open-source undertaking ShellcodeRDI – specifically, the ShellcodeRDI.c code. It was most likely produced by executing the Python script from this undertaking on a payload DLL performing as a supply for reflective DLL injection.

The ultimate payload is extracted and decrypted utilizing XOR with an extended key, which is a string constructed by concatenating the identify of the mother or father course of (colorcpl.exe), the filename of the dropper (colorui.dll), and the exterior command line parameter – on this case leading to COLORCPL.EXECOLORUI.DLL669498484488D3F22712CC5BACA6B7A7. This course of is akin to what we noticed with BlindingCan backdoor within the Dutch case we beforehand described on this WeLiveSecurity blogpost. The decryption reveals an executable with download-and-execute performance, whose inside logic of sending and parsing instructions is strongly paying homage to BlindingCan, a flagship HTTP(S) Lazarus RAT. In contrast to the case within the Netherlands, it isn’t VMProtect-ed and it helps solely a small subset of instructions out there beforehand: examine Desk 4in this blogpost and Desk 3 within the blogpost on the Dutch case from September 2022. As a result of the options of this RAT are notably scaled down in comparison with these in BlindingCan, and but they appear to share the identical server-side infrastructure, we have now chosen to tell apart it by appending the prefix “mini-“ to its identify, highlighting its diminished performance in comparison with its fully-featured RAT counterpart.

Desk 4. Instructions of miniBlindingCan

Command ID



Ship system data like pc identify, Home windows model, and code web page.


Replace the present communication interval with a worth supplied by the C&C server.


Discontinue the command execution.


Ship the present configuration of dimension 9,392 bytes to the C&C server.


Replace the configuration of dimension 9,392 bytes, saved encrypted on the file system.


Watch for the following command.


Replace the present communication interval with a worth saved within the configuration.


Obtain and decrypt a file from the C&C server.


Execute shellcode handed as a parameter.

Determine 11 exhibits the decrypted state of a 9,392-byte-long configuration embedded within the RAT. It comprises 5 URLs, on this case compromised web sites, every restricted by a most dimension of 260 wide characters.

Determine 11. A configuration of the miniBlindingCan backdoor. The highlighted worth is the rely of URLs, however solely the primary and the final of the 5 URLs are proven right here. The aim of the final two huge strings just isn’t recognized

Execution chain 2: LightlessCan (easy model)

One other payload we have now seen executed by NickelLoader is LightlessCan, a brand new Lazarus backdoor. We’ve got noticed two totally different chains loading this backdoor.

Within the easy model of the chain, the dropper of this payload is the malicious dynamically linked library mapistub.dll that’s side-loaded by the official fixmapi.exe executed from C:ProgramDataOracleJava. The DLL is a trojanized Lua plugin, model 1.4, with all of the exports copied from the official Home windows mapi32.dll. The export FixMAPI comprises malicious code liable for decrypting and loading the following stage; all the opposite exports include benign code sourced from a publicly out there MineSweeper sample project. This mapistub.dll dropper has persistence established by way of a scheduled job. Sadly, we lack further particulars about this job, besides that its mother or father course of seems as %WINDOWSpercentsystem32svchost.exe -k netsvcs -p -s Schedule.

To efficiently decrypt the embedded information array, the dropper wants three key phrases to be supplied accurately:

  1. the identify of the mother or father course of (fixmapi.exe),
  2. the interior parameter hardcoded within the binary (IP7pdINfE9uMz63n), and
  3. the exterior parameter handed within the command line (AudioEndpointBuilder).

The key phrases are XOR-ed byte by byte and the output types a 128-bit AES key for use for decryption. Notice that the size of the key phrases should not all precisely 16 bytes, however the decryption course of will nonetheless work if the outsized string is truncated to a 16-byte size (as an example, AudioEndpointBuilder to AudioEndpointBui), and the undersized string, fixmapi.exe, is handled as fixmapi.exex00x00x00x00x00, as a result of the string was initialized as 260 situations of the NUL character.

Execution chain 3: LightlessCan (advanced model)

Essentially the most advanced chain we noticed on the compromised system additionally delivers LightlessCan, with numerous parts concerned within the full chain of set up phases: a official utility, an preliminary dropper, a whole dropper (which comprises the configuration), an intermediate dropper, a configuration file, a file with system data (for the decryption of encrypted payloads on the file system), an intermediate loader and the ultimate step, the LightlessCan RAT. The connections and relationships amongst these information are illustrated in Determine 12.

Determine 12. A posh chain of phases delivering the fourth payload

The preliminary dropper of the fourth chain is a malicious dynamically linked library HID.dll that’s side-loaded by a official executable, tabcal.exe, executed from C:ProgramDataAdobeARM. The DLL is a trojanized model of MZC8051.dll, a official file from the 8051 C compiler plugin undertaking for Notepad++. It comprises all of the exports from the unique undertaking, but in addition the mandatory exports from the official Hid Consumer Library by Microsoft, in order that the side-loading by tabcal.exe might be profitable. The export HidD_GetHidGuid comprises the malicious code liable for dropping the following stage and, as within the case of the dropper of the earlier chain (Execution chain 2), all the opposite exports include the benign MineSweeper code.

As within the earlier circumstances, three lengthy key phrases have to be supplied to decrypt the embedded payload:

  1. the identify of the mother or father course of (tabcal.exe),
  2. the interior parameter hardcoded within the binary (9zCnQP6o78753qg8), and
  3. the exterior parameter (LocalServiceNetworkRestricted) – this time not expressed as a command line parameter, however as an alternative because the content material of a file situated at %WINDOWSpercentsystem32thumbs.db.

Once more, the key phrases are XOR-ed byte by byte and the output types a 128-bit AES key for use for the decryption. As within the earlier case, the lengths of the key phrases should not all precisely 16 bytes, however the decryption will nonetheless work if the outsized string is truncated (as an example, to LocalServiceNetw) and the undersized string is prolonged with nulls (as an example, to tabcal.exex00x00x00x00x00x00).

The executable produced by the above recipe is the whole dropper from Determine 12 and has the InternalName useful resource AppResolver.dll (discovered within the VERSIONINFO useful resource). It comprises two encrypted information arrays: a small considered one of 126 bytes, and a big considered one of 1,807,464 bytes (which comprises three subparts). First, it decrypts the small array utilizing the RC6 algorithm with the hardcoded 256-bit key DA 48 A3 14 8D BF E2 D2 EF 91 12 11 FF 75 59 A3 E1 6E A0 64 B8 78 89 77 A0 37 91 58 5A FF FF 07. The output represents paths to which the primary two subparts of the big blob are dropped (i.e., LightlessCan and the intermediate dropper), and yields the strings C:windowssystem32oci.dll and C:windowssystem32grpedit.dat.

Subsequent, it continues with decrypting the second information array – the big blob – utilizing the identical encryption key as earlier than. The result’s a decrypted blob containing three subparts: a DLL equivalent to grpedit.dat (LightlessCan), a DLL equivalent to oci.dll (the intermediate dropper), and a 14,948 byte encrypted file dropped to %WINDOWSpercentSystem32wlansvc.cpl (configuration); as depicted in Determine 13.

Determine 13. The decrypted configuration saved in wlansvc.cpl

Furthermore, the whole dropper additionally shops a number of traits figuring out the compromised system within the file %WINDOWSpercentSystem324F59FB87DF2F, whose identify is hardcoded within the binary. These traits are primarily retrieved from the ComputerHKLMHARDWAREDESCRIPTIONSystemBIOS registry path. Listed here are the precise values of those traits, together with a PowerShell command supplied in brackets that can be utilized to show the corresponding worth on any Home windows machine:

  • SystemBIOSDate (Get-ItemProperty “HKLM:HARDWAREDescriptionSystemBIOS” -Title BIOSReleaseDate | Choose-Object -Property BIOSReleaseDate)
  • SystemBIOSVersion (Get-CimInstance -ClassName Win32_Bios | Choose-Object -Property Model)
  • SystemManufacturer (Get-CimInstance -ClassName Win32_ComputerSystem | Choose-Object -Property Producer)
  • SystemProductName (Get-CimInstance -ClassName Win32_ComputerSystemProduct | Choose-Object -Property Title)
  • Identifier in ComputerHKEY_LOCAL_MACHINEHARDWAREDESCRIPTIONSystemMultifunctionAdapterDiskControllerDiskPeripheral

The concatenation of the values is required for decryption of the encrypted grpedit.dat from the file system. On a check machine operating a picture of Home windows 10 on VMWare, the output may be:

11/12/20INTEL – 6040000VMware, Inc.VMware Digital Platform656ba047-20b25a2a-A

The oci.dll file is one other dropping layer – the intermediate dropper that drops the intermediate loader, which is a payload just like the one described within the beforehand talked about Dutch case. Once more, the attackers used an open-source undertaking, the Flashing Tip plugin for Notepad++, which is not out there on-line. In contrast to the earlier circumstances, solely two lengthy key phrases have to be supplied with a purpose to decrypt the embedded payload efficiently utilizing AES-128:

  1. the identify of the mother or father course of (msdtc.exe), and
  2. the interior parameter hardcoded within the binary (fb5XPNCr8v83Y85P).

Each key phrases are XOR-ed byte by byte (the mother or father course of identify is truncated, or padded with NULLs, as essential to fill 16 bytes). The product of the decryption is the intermediate loader (LLTMapperAPI.dll). It makes use of the system data (similar because the values saved in 4F59FB87DF2F) to decrypt the configuration file wlansvc.cpl and to find, decrypt, and cargo the encrypted grpedit.dat, which is LightlessCan, the brand new full-featured RAT.


We’ve got described a brand new Lazarus assault that originated on LinkedIn the place pretend recruiters approached their potential victims, who had been utilizing company computer systems for private functions. Although public consciousness of all these assaults ought to be excessive, the success charges of those campaigns have nonetheless not dropped to zero.

Essentially the most worrying side of the assault is the brand new sort of payload, LightlessCan, a fancy and probably evolving device that reveals a excessive stage of sophistication in its design and operation, representing a big development in malicious capabilities in comparison with its predecessor, BlindingCan.

The attackers can now considerably restrict the execution traces of their favourite Home windows command line applications which can be closely used of their post-compromise exercise. This maneuver has far-reaching implications, impacting the effectiveness of each real-time monitoring options and of autopsy digital forensic instruments.

For any inquiries about our analysis revealed on WeLiveSecurity, please contact us at [email protected].
ESET Analysis affords personal APT intelligence reviews and information feeds. For any inquiries about this service, go to the ESET Threat Intelligence web page.










An preliminary dropper disguised as a “Howdy World” problem that triggers the compromise.




An preliminary dropper disguised as a “Fibonacci sequence” problem that triggers the compromise.




A VMProtect-ed dropper side-loaded by the official colorcpl.exe. It comprises the debug data string W:DevelopaToolShellCodeLoaderApplibressl-2.6.5.




The miniBlindingCan backdoor dropped by colorui.dll.




A dropper of LightlessCan, side-loaded by the official fixmapi.exe.




A LightlessCan backdoor dropped by mapistub.dll.




A dropper of NickelLoader, side-loaded by PresentationHost.exe. It’s dropped by each quiz-related samples: C273B244EA7DFF20B1D6B1C7FD97F343201984B3 and 38736CA46D7FC9B9E5C74D192EEC26F951E45752.




An HTTPS downloader we’ve named NickelLoader, dropped by mscoree.dll.




An preliminary dropper side-loaded by the official tabcal.exe.




The entire dropper AppResolver.dll dropped by HID.dll within the advanced chain of LightlessCan supply.




A LightlessCan backdoor dropped within the advanced chain of its supply.




The intermediate dropper dropping the intermediate loader within the advanced chain of the LightlessCan supply.




The intermediate loader of LightlessCan.




Internet hosting supplier

First seen






A compromised official web site internet hosting the C&C server:




Comcast Cable Communications, LLC


A compromised official web site internet hosting the C&C server:




Liquid Internet, L.L.C


A compromised official WordPress-based web site internet hosting the C&C server:



Netia SA


A compromised official web site internet hosting the C&C server:[.]pl/library/securimage/index.php



Coreix Ltd


A compromised official web site internet hosting the C&C server:






A compromised official web site internet hosting the C&C server:


160.153.33[.]195[.]mx, LLC


A compromised official web site internet hosting the C&C server:[.]mx/src/recaptcha/index.php


Korea Telecom


A compromised official web site internet hosting the C&C server:[.]kr/prod_img/201409/prod.php



InterRacks B.V.


A compromised official WordPress-based web site internet hosting the C&C server:




DoclerNet Operations, ORG-DHK1-RIPE


A compromised official web site internet hosting the C&C server:




Namecheap, Inc.


A compromised official WordPress-based web site internet hosting the C&C server:

https://nrfm[.]lk/wp-includes/SimplePie/content material.php

MITRE ATT&CK strategies

This desk was constructed utilizing version 13 of the MITRE ATT&CK framework.







Search Open Web sites/Domains: Social Media

Lazarus attackers used LinkedIn to establish and speak to particular staff of an organization of curiosity.

Useful resource Growth


Purchase Infrastructure: Server

Compromised servers had been utilized by the Lazarus HTTP(S) backdoors and the downloader for C&C.


Set up Accounts: Social Media Accounts

Lazarus attackers created a pretend LinkedIn identification of a headhunter from Meta.


Set up Accounts: Cloud Accounts

Lazarus attackers needed to create an account on a third-party cloud storage with a purpose to ship the preliminary ISO photos.


Develop Capabilities: Malware

Customized instruments from the assault are possible developed by the attackers. Some exhibit extremely particular kernel growth capacities seen earlier in Lazarus instruments.


Stage Capabilities: Add Malware

Lazarus attackers uploaded the preliminary ISO photos to a cloud storage.

Preliminary Entry


Phishing: Spearphishing Hyperlink

The goal obtained a hyperlink to a third-party distant storage with malicious ISO photos.


Phishing: Spearphishing by way of Service

The goal was contacted by way of LinkedIn Messaging.



Native API

Home windows APIs are important for miniBlindingCan and LightlessCan to operate and are resolved dynamically at runtime.


Scheduled Activity/Job

Primarily based on the mother or father course of, a scheduled job was most likely created to set off thesimple chain of the LightlessCan execution.


Shared Modules

NickelLoader can load and execute an arbitrary DLL inside reminiscence.


Consumer Execution: Malicious File

Lazarus attackers relied on the execution of Quiz1.exe and Quiz2.exe from the ISO information.


Home windows Administration Instrumentation

One of many LightlessCan instructions permits creation of a brand new course of by way of WMI.



Scheduled Activity/Job

Primarily based on the mother or father course of, a scheduled job was most likely created to set off the straightforward chain of the LightlessCan execution. Furthermore, LightlessCan can mimic the schtasks command.

Protection Evasion


Entry Token Manipulation: Create Course of with Token

LightlessCan can create a brand new course of within the safety context of the consumer represented by the required token and accumulate the output.


Debugger Evasion

There’s an anti-debug test within the dropper of miniBlindingCan.


Execution Guardrails

There’s a mother or father course of test within the miniBlindingCan dropper. The concatenation of the values is required for decryption of the encrypted LightlessCan from the file system.


Deobfuscate/Decode Recordsdata or Data

Many of those Lazarus instruments and configurations are encrypted on the file system, e.g., LightlessCan in grpedit.dat and its configuration in wlansvc.cpl.


Hijack Execution Movement: DLL Facet-Loading

Lots of the Lazarus droppers and loaders use a official program for his or her loading.


Obfuscated Recordsdata or Data: Software program Packing

Lazarus obfuscated a number of executables by VMProtect on this assault, e.g., colorui.dll


Obfuscated Recordsdata or Data: Dynamic API Decision

Each LightlessCan and miniBlindingCan resolve Home windows APIs dynamically.


Obfuscated Recordsdata or Data: Embedded Payloads

The droppers of all malicious chains include an embedded information array with a further stage.


Impair Defenses: Impair Command Historical past Logging

New options of LightlessCan mimic essentially the most helpful Home windows command line utilities, to keep away from executing the unique console utilities.


Impair Defenses: Disable or Modify System Firewall

LightlessCan can mimic the netsh command and work together with firewall guidelines.


Indicator Elimination: File Deletion

LightlessCan has the flexibility to delete information securely.


Indicator Elimination: Timestomp

LightlessCan can alter the modification timestamps of information.


Oblique Command Execution

LightlessCan bypasses command execution by implementing their performance.


Course of Injection

LightlessCan and miniBlindingCan use numerous kinds of course of injection.


Virtualization/Sandbox Evasion: Time Primarily based Evasion

The miniBlindingCan dropper has an intentional preliminary execution delay.


Reflective Code Loading

A lot of the droppers use reflective DLL injection.



File and Listing Discovery

LightlessCan can find a file by its identify.


Community Share Discovery

LightlessCan can mimic the internet share command.


Course of Discovery

LightlessCan identifies processes by identify.


Question Registry

LightlessCan queries the registry for numerous system data it makes use of for encryption.


Distant System Discovery

LightlessCan can mimic the internet view command.


System Community Configuration Discovery

LightlessCan can mimic the arp and ipconfig instructions.


System Community Connections Discovery

LightlessCan can mimic the netstat command.


System Service Discovery

LightlessCan can mimic the sc question and tasklist instructions.

Command and Management


Utility Layer Protocol: Internet Protocols

NickelLoader, LightlessCan, and miniBlindingCan use HTTP and HTTPS for C&C.


Encrypted Channel: Symmetric Cryptography

LightlessCan and miniBlindingCan encrypt C&C site visitors utilizing the AES-128 algorithm.


Knowledge Encoding: Customary Encoding

LightlessCan and miniBlindingCan encode C&C site visitors utilizing base64.



Exfiltration Over C2 Channel

LightlessCan can exfiltrate information to its C&C server.


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