Nasty new malware strain creeps quietly past Windows defenses

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Security researchers have identified a new malware campaign that leverages code signing certificates and other techniques to help it avoid detection by antivirus software.

According to a new blog post from Elastic Security, the cybersecurity firm's researchers identified a cluster of malicious activity after reviewing its threat prevention telemetry.

The cybercriminals behind this new campaign are using valid code signing certificates to sign malware to help them remain under the radar of the security community. However, Elastic Security also discovered a new malware loader used in the campaign that it has named Blister.

Due to the use of valid code signing certificates and other measures taken to avoid detection, the cybercriminals responsible have been running this new campaign for at least three months.

Blister malware

The cybercriminals are using a code signing certificate issued by the digital identity firm Sectigo for a company called Blist LLC which is why Elastic Security gave their malware loader the name Blister. They may also be operating out of Russia as they are using Mail.Ru as their email service.

In addition to using a valid code signing certificate, the cybercriminals also relied on other techniques to remain undetected including embedding the Blister malware into a legitimate library. After being executed with elevated privileges by using the rundll32 command, the malware decodes bootstrapping code that is heavily obfuscated and stored in the resource section. From here, the code remains dormant for ten minutes to evade sandbox analysis.

Once enough time has passed, the malware starts up and begins decrypting embedded payloads that allow it to access a Windows system remotely and move laterally across a victim's network. Blister also achieves persistence on an infected machine by storing a copy in the ProgramData folder as well as another posing as rundll32.exe. To make matters worse, the malware is added to a system's startup location so it launches every time a machine boots.

Elastic Security has notified Sectigo to have Blister's code signing certificate revoked though the firm has also created a Yara rule to help organization's identify the new malware.

In an email to TechRadar Pro, Chief Compliance Officer at Sectigo, Tim Callan provided further details on the matter, saying:

“During the week of December 21, 2021, Sectigo was made aware of a code-signing certificate being used by the threat actor behind the recently discovered BLISTER malware. Upon discovering the issue, Sectigo immediately revoked the compromised certificate.

As one of the longest-standing publicly trusted Certificate Authorities, Sectigo takes careful precautions to ensure that every certificate we issue follows the guidelines set by the CA/Browser forum. Sectigo does not regulate, control, or monitor the business practices of any operator, nor do our services relate in any way whatsoever with the content distributed by a particular operator.” 

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Via Bleeping Computer

Anthony Spadafora

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.