Ancient Office Flaw Revived: Cyber Siege on Ukraine with Cobalt Strike Malware

Beware of old PowerPoint slides, Ukraine! Cyber-sleuths found a sneaky flaw from 2014 being used to deliver Cobalt Strike mayhem. Military minds, check your files—this isn’t your usual army manual.

Hot Take:

When cyberattacks feel like a déjà vu all over again, it’s probably because hackers are dusting off the ol’ 2017 playbook to take a crack at Ukraine. PowerPoint presentations are the new Trojan horses, and Cobalt Strike is having a field day in memory, all while masquerading as a bland VPN client. Meanwhile, Russian hackers are taking a break from vodka to play digital Jenga with Ukraine’s infrastructure. It’s like watching a cat-and-mouse game, if the cat was a hacker and the mouse was an entire country.

Key Points:

  • Cybersecurity researchers uncovered an operation targeting Ukraine using a Microsoft Office vulnerability that’s older than the last season of “Game of Thrones.”
  • A PowerPoint file may have been used as a lure, raising the question of why anyone is still opening PowerPoint files from strangers.
  • The attack employs a remote code execution bug to deliver Cobalt Strike, a legitimate tool that’s popular among hackers for being the Swiss Army knife of malware.
  • The attackers’ domain names are as disguised as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, using names eerily similar to popular art and photography sites.
  • Russian state-sponsored hackers seem to be throwing digital Molotov cocktails at Ukraine’s essential services, because cyber warfare is the new normal.
Cve id: CVE-2017-8570
Cve state: PUBLISHED
Cve assigner short name: microsoft
Cve date updated: 03/04/2018
Cve description: Microsoft Office allows a remote code execution vulnerability due to the way that it handles objects in memory, aka "Microsoft Office Remote Code Execution Vulnerability". This CVE ID is unique from CVE-2017-0243.

Need to know more?

When the Past Attacks

It's like watching a re-run of a bad sitcom. An old bug in Microsoft Office, CVE-2017-8570, is making a comeback tour, courtesy of some nostalgia-addicted cyber adversaries. They're targeting Ukraine with a PowerPoint file that has the allure of an outdated U.S. Army manual, which is apparently irresistible bait for some.

Disguise and Seek

In the world of cyber espionage, it's all about the art of disguise. Hackers are donning digital masks, using domain names that sound like they're related to art and photography websites. It’s a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, or in this case, a malicious script wrapped in a PowerPoint inside a fake domain.

The Puppet Masters

The payload is a DLL file with more functions than a multi-tool. Not only does it inject Cobalt Strike Beacon into the system's memory faster than you can say "What the hack?", but it also checks for virtual machines and plays hide-and-seek with security software. The end goal of this sneaky intrusion? That's still as clear as mud.

Attack of the Clones

Meanwhile, the Russian group UAC-0133, part of the notorious Sandworm team, is busy targeting Ukraine's infrastructure. They’re not just hacking for fun; they're trying to sabotage essential services like a teenager trying to cut the power before a family gathering. With an arsenal of malware that includes the likes of Kapeka and BIASBOAT, they're throwing a digital wrench into the works.

Russian Cyber Games

Sandworm isn't just a cool villain name from "Dune"; it's also a prolific group of cyber troublemakers sponsored by Russian military intelligence. They've been around since the flip phone era, actively involved in espionage and influence operations. Mandiant paints a picture of APT44 as a jack-of-all-trades in the cyberwarfare arena, helping Russia to flex its digital muscles globally.

In conclusion, it's a wild cyber world out there, and Ukraine is facing a barrage of digital arrows. It's a blend of old tricks and new crises, and PowerPoint is no longer just a tool for boring business presentations; it's now part of the cyberwarfare arsenal. Buckle up, folks; it's going to be a bumpy ride on the information superhighway.

Tags: APT44 Sandworm, Cobalt Strike Beacon, CVE-2017-8570, Microsoft Office Vulnerability, military personnel phishing, Russian state-sponsored cyber operations, Ukraine targeted attacks