Inside the SOC
Laplas Clipper: Defending against crypto-currency thieves with DETECT + RESPOND
Between June 2021 and June 2022, crypto-currency platforms around the world lost an estimated 44 billion USD to cyber criminals, whose modus operandi range from stealing passwords and account recovery phrases, to cryptojacking and directly targeting crypto-currency transactions.
There has been a recent rise in cases of cyber criminals’ using information stealer malware to gather and exfiltrate sensitive crypto-currency wallet details, ultimately leading to the theft of significant sums of digital currency. Having an autonomous decision maker able to detect and respond to potential compromises is crucial to safeguard crypto wallets and transactions against would-be attackers.
In late 2022, Darktrace observed several threat actors employing a novel attack method to target crypto-currency users across its customer base, specifically the latest version of the Laplas Clipper malware. Using Self-Learning AI, Darktrace DETECT/Network™ and Darktrace RESPOND/Network™ were able to uncover and mitigate Laplas Clipper activity and intervene to prevent the theft of large sums of digital currency.
Laplas Clipper Background
Laplas Clipper is a variant of information stealing malware which operates by diverting crypto-currency transactions from victims’ crypto wallets into the wallets of threat actors . Laplas Clipper is a Malware-as-a-Service (MaaS) offering available for purchase and use by a variety of threat actors. It has been observed in the wild since October 2022, when 180 samples were identified and linked with another malware strain, namely SmokeLoader . This loader has itself been observed since at least 2011 and acts as a delivery mechanism for popular malware strains .
SmokeLoader is typically distributed via malicious attachments sent in spam emails or targeted phishing campaigns but can also be downloaded directly by users from file hosting pages or spoofed websites. SmokeLoader is known to specifically deliver Laplas Clipper onto compromised devices via a BatLoader script downloaded as a Microsoft Word document or a PDF file attached to a phishing email. These examples of social engineering are relatively low effort methods intended to convince users to download the malware, which subsequently injects malicious code into the explorer.exe process and downloads Laplas Clipper.
Laplas Clipper activity observed across Darktrace’s customer base generally began with SmokeLoader making HTTP GET requests to Laplas Clipper command and control (C2) infrastructure. Once downloaded, the clipper loads a ‘build[.]exe’ module and begins monitoring the victim’s clipboard for crypto-currency wallet addresses. If a wallet address is identified, the infected device connects to a server associated with Laplas Clipper and downloads wallet addresses belonging to the threat actor. The actor’s addresses are typically spoofed to appear similar to those they replace in order to evade detection. The malware continues to update clipboard activity and replaces the user’s wallet addresses with a spoofed address each time one is copied for a for crypto-currency transactions.
Darktrace Coverage of Laplas Clipper and its Delivery Methods
In October and November 2022, Darktrace observed a significant increase in suspicious activity associated with Laplas Clipper across several customer networks. The activity consisted largely of:
- User devices connecting to a suspicious endpoint.
- User devices making HTTP GET requests to an endpoint associated with the SmokeLoader loader malware, which was installed on the user’s device.
- User devices making HTTP connections to the Laplas Clipper download server “clipper[.]guru”, from which it downloads spoofed wallet addresses to divert crypto-currency payments.
In one particular instance, a compromised device was observed connecting to endpoints associated with SmokeLoader shortly before connecting to a Laplas Clipper download server. In other instances, devices were detected connecting to other anomalous endpoints including the domains shonalanital[.]com, transfer[.]sh, and pc-world[.]uk, which appears to be mimicking the legitimate endpoint thepcworld[.]com.
Additionally, some compromised devices were observed attempting to connect malicious IP addresses including 193.169.255[.]78 and 185.215.113[.]23, which are associated with the RedLine stealer malware. Additionally, Darktrace observed connections to the IP addresses 195.178.120[.]154 and 195.178.120[.]154, which are associated with SmokeLoader, and 5.61.62[.]241, which open-source intelligence has associated with Cobalt Strike.
The following DETECT/Network models breached in response to these connections:
- Compromise / Beacon to Young Endpoint
- Compromise / Slow Beaconing Activity to External Rare
- Compromise / Beacon for 4 Days
- Compromise / Beaconing Activity to External Rare
- Compromise / Sustained TCP Beaconing Activity to Rare Endpoint
- Anomalous Connection / Multiple Failed Connections to Rare Endpoints
- Compromise / Large Number of Suspicious Failed Connections
- Compromise / HTTP Beaconing to Rare Destination
- Compromise / Post and Beacon to Rare External
- Anomalous Connection / Callback on Web Facing Device
DETECT/Network is able to identify such activity as its models operate based on a device’s usual pattern of behavior, rather than a static list of indicators of compromise (IOCs). As such, Darktrace can quickly identify compromised devices that deviate for their expected pattern of behavior by connecting to newly created malicious endpoints or C2 infrastructure, thereby triggering an alert.
In one example, RESPOND/Network autonomously intercepted a compromised device attempting to connect to the Laplas Clipper C2 server, preventing it from downloading SmokeLoader and subsequently, Laplas Clipper itself.
In another example, DETECT/Network observed an infected device attempting to perform numerous DNS Requests to a crypto-currency mining pool associated with the Monero digital currency.
This activity caused the following DETECT/Network models to breach:
- Compromise / Monero Mining
- Compromise / High Priority Crypto Currency Mining
RESPOND/Network quickly intervened, enforcing a previously established pattern of life on the device, ensuring it could not perform any unexpected activity, and blocking the connections to the endpoint in question for an hour. These actions carried out by Darktrace’s autonomous response technology prevented the infected device from carrying out crypto-mining activity, and ensured the threat actor could not perform any additional malicious activity.
Finally, in instances when RESPOND/Network was not activated, external connections to the Laplas Clipper C2 server were nevertheless monitored by DETECT/Network, and the customer’s security team were notified of the incident.
The rise of information stealing malware variants such as Laplas Clipper highlights the importance of crypto-currency and crypto-mining in the malware ecosystem and more broadly as a significant cyber security concern. Crypto-mining is often discounted as background noise for security teams or compliance issues that can be left untriaged; however, malware strains like Laplas Clipper demonstrate the real security risks posed to digital estates from threat actors focused on crypto-currency.
Leveraging its Self-Learning AI, DETECT/Network and RESPOND/Network are able to work in tandem to quickly identify connections to suspicious endpoints and block them before any malicious software can be downloaded, safeguarding customers.
List of IOCs
a720efe2b3ef7735efd77de698a5576b36068d07 - SHA1 Filehash - Laplas Malware Download
conhost.exe - URI - Laplas Malware Download
188.8.131.52 - IP Address - Laplas C2 Endpoint
184.108.40.206 - IP Address - Laplas C2 Endpoint
220.127.116.11 - IP Address - Laplas C2 Endpoint
18.104.22.168 - IP Address - Laplas C2 Endpoint
22.214.171.124 - IP Address - Laplas C2 Endpoint
clipper.guru - URI - Laplas C2 URI
/bot/online?guid= - URI - Laplas C2 URI
/bot/regex?key= - URI - Laplas C2 URI
/bot/get?address - URI - Laplas C2 URI
Mitre Attack and Mapping
T1189 – Drive By Compromise
T1566/002 - Spearphishing
T1588 / 001 - Malware
Ingress Tool Transfer:
T1105 – Ingress Tool Transfer
Command and Control:
T1071/001 – Web Protocols
T1071 – Application Layer Protocol
T1008 – Fallback Channels
T1104 – Multi-Stage Channels
T1571 – Non-Standard Port
T1102/003 – One-Way Communication
T1573 – Encrypted Channel
T1176 – Browser Extensions
T1185 – Man in the Browser
T1041 – Exfiltration over C2 Channel
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Inside the SOC
How Abuse of ‘PerfectData Software’ May Create a Perfect Storm: An Emerging Trend in Account Takeovers
Amidst the ever-changing threat landscape, new tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) seem to emerge daily, creating extreme challenges for security teams. The broad range of attack methods utilized by attackers seems to present an insurmountable problem: how do you defend against a playbook that does not yet exist?
Faced with the growing number of novel and uncommon attack methods, it is essential for organizations to adopt a security solution able to detect threats based on their anomalies, rather than relying on threat intelligence alone.
In March 2023, Darktrace observed an emerging trend in the use of an application known as ‘PerfectData Software’ for probable malicious purposes in several Microsoft 365 account takeovers.
Using its anomaly-based detection, Darktrace DETECT™ was able to identify the activity chain surrounding the use of this application, potentially uncovering a novel piece of threat actor tradecraft in the process.
Microsoft 365 Intrusions
In recent years, Microsoft’s Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) suite, Microsoft 365, along with its built-in identity and access management (IAM) service, Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), have been heavily targeted by threat actors due to their near-ubiquitous usage across industries. Four out of every five Fortune 500 companies, for example, use Microsoft 365 services .
Malicious actors typically gain entry to organizations’ Microsoft 365 environments by abusing either stolen account credentials or stolen session cookies . Once inside, actors can access sensitive data within mailboxes or SharePoint repositories, and send out emails or Teams messages. This activity can often result in serious financial harm, especially in cases where the malicious actor’s end-goal is to elicit fraudulent transactions.
Darktrace regularly observes malicious actors behaving in predictable ways once they gain access to customer Microsoft 365 environment. One typical example is the creation of new inbox rules and sending deceitful emails intended to convince recipients to carry out subsequent actions, such as following a malicious link or providing sensitive information. It is also common for actors to register new applications in Azure AD so that they can be used to conduct follow-up activities, like mass-mailing or data theft. The registration of applications in Azure AD therefore seems to be a relatively predictable threat actor behavior . Darktrace DETECT understands that unusual application registrations in Azure AD may constitute a deviation in expected behavior, and therefore a possible indicator of account compromise.
These registrations of applications in Azure AD are evidenced by creations of, as well as assignments of permissions to, Service Principals in Azure AD. Darktrace has detected a growing trend in actors creating and assigning permissions to a Service Principal named ‘PerfectData Software’. Further investigation of this Azure AD activity revealed it to be part of an ongoing account takeover.
‘PerfectData Software’ Activity
Darktrace observed variations of the following pattern of activity relating to an application named ‘PerfectData Software’ within its customer base:
- Actor signs in to a Microsoft 365 account from an endpoint associated with a Virtual Private Server (VPS) or Virtual Private Network (VPN) service
- Actor registers an application called 'PerfectData Software' with Azure AD, and then grants permissions to the application
- Actor accesses mailbox data and creates inbox rule
In two separate incidents, malicious actors were observed conducting their activities from endpoints associated with VPN services (HideMyAss (HMA) VPN and Surfshark VPN, respectively) and from endpoints within the Autonomous System AS396073 MAJESTIC-HOSTING-01.
In March 2023, Darktrace observed a malicious actor signing in to a Microsoft 365 account from a Kuwait-based IP address within the Autonomous System, AS198605 AVAST Software s.r.o. This IP address is associated with the VPN service, HMA VPN. Over the next couple of days, an actor (likely the same malicious actor) signed in to the account several more times from two different Nigeria-based endpoints, as well as a VPS-related endpoint and a HMA VPN endpoint.
During their login sessions, the actor performed a variety of actions. First, they created and assigned permissions to a Service Principal named ‘PerfectData Software’. This Service Principal creation represents the registration of an application called ‘PerfectData Software’ in Azure AD. Although the reason for registering this application is unclear, within a few days the actor registered and granted permission to another application, ‘Newsletter Software Supermailer’, and created a new inbox rule names ‘s’ on the mailbox of the hijacked account. This inbox rule moved emails meeting certain conditions to a folder named ‘RSS Subscription. The ‘Newsletter Software Supermailer’ application was likely registered by the actor to facilitate mass-mailing activity.
Immediately after these actions, Darktrace detected the actor sending out thousands of malicious emails from the account. The emails included an attachment named ‘Credit Transfer Copy.html’, which contained a suspicious link. Further investigation revealed that the customer’s network had received several fake invoice emails prior to this initial intrusion activity. Additionally, there was an unusually high volume of failed logins to the compromised account around the time of the initial access.
In a separate case also observed by Darktrace in March 2023, a malicious actor was observed signing in to a Microsoft 365 account from an endpoint within the Autonomous System, AS397086 LAYER-HOST-HOUSTON. The endpoint appears to be related to the VPN service, Surfshark VPN. This login was followed by several failed and successful logins from a VPS-related within the Autonomous System, AS396073 MAJESTIC-HOSTING-01. The actor was then seen registering and assigning permissions to an application called ‘PerfectData Software’. As with the previous example, the motives for this registration are unclear. The actor proceeded to log in several more times from a Surfshark VPN endpoint, however, they were not observed carrying out any further suspicious activity.
It was not clear in either of these examples, nor in fact any of cases observed by Darktrace, why actors had registered and assigned permissions to an application called ‘PerfectData Software’, and there do not appear to be any open-source intelligence (OSINT) resources or online literature related to the malicious usage of an application by that name. That said, there are several websites which appear to provide email migration and data recovery/backup tools under the moniker ‘PerfectData Software’.
It is unclear whether the use of ‘PerfectData Software’ by malicious actors observed on the networks of Darktrace customers was one of these tools. However, given the nature of the tools, it is possible that the actors intended to use them to facilitate the exfiltration of email data from compromises mailboxes.
If the legitimate software ‘PerfectData’ is the application in question in these incidents, it is likely being purchased and misused by attackers for malicious purposes. It is also possible the application referenced in the incidents is a spoof of the legitimate ‘PerfectData’ software designed to masquerade a malicious application as legitimate.
Cases of ‘PerfectData Software’ activity chains detected by Darktrace typically began with an actor signing into an internal user’s Microsoft 365 account from a VPN or VPS-related endpoint. These login events, along with the suspicious email and/or brute-force activity which preceded them, caused the following DETECT models to breach:
- SaaS / Access / Unusual External Source for SaaS Credential Use
- SaaS / Access / Suspicious Login Attempt
- SaaS / Compromise / Login From Rare Following Suspicious Login Attempt(s)
- SaaS / Email Nexus / Unusual Location for SaaS and Email Activity
Subsequent activities, including inbox rule creations, registration of applications in Azure AD, and mass-mailing activity, resulted in breaches of the following DETECT models.
- SaaS / Admin / OAuth Permission Grant
- SaaS / Compromise / Unusual Logic Following OAuth Grant
- SaaS / Admin / New Application Service Principal
- IaaS / Admin / Azure Application Administration Activities
- SaaS / Compliance / New Email Rule
- SaaS / Compromise / Unusual Login and New Email Rule
- SaaS / Email Nexus / Suspicious Internal Exchange Activity
- SaaS / Email Nexus / Possible Outbound Email Spam
- SaaS / Compromise / Unusual Login and Outbound Email Spam
- SaaS / Compromise / Suspicious Login and Suspicious Outbound Email(s)
In cases where Darktrace RESPOND™ was enabled in autonomous response mode, ‘PerfectData Software’ activity chains resulted in breaches of the following RESPOND models:
• Antigena / SaaS / Antigena Suspicious SaaS Activity Block
• Antigena / SaaS / Antigena Significant Compliance Activity Block
In response to these model breaches, Darktrace RESPOND took immediate action, performing aggressive, inhibitive actions, such as forcing the actor to log out of the SaaS platform, and disabling the user entirely. When applied autonomously, these RESPOND actions would seriously impede an attacker’s progress and minimize network disruption.
In addition, Darktrace Cyber AI Analyst was able to autonomously investigate registrations of the ‘PerfectData Software’ application and summarized its findings into digestible reports.
Due to the widespread adoption of Microsoft 365 services in the workplace and continued emphasis on a remote workforce, account hijackings now pose a more serious threat to organizations around the world than ever before. The cases discussed here illustrate the tendency of malicious actors to conduct their activities from endpoints associated with VPN services, while also registering new applications, like PerfectData Software, with malicious intent.
While it was unclear exactly why the malicious actors were using ‘PerfectData Software’ as part of their account hijacking, it is clear that either the legitimate or spoofed version of the application is becoming an very likely emergent piece of threat actor tradecraft.
Darktrace DETECT’s anomaly-based approach to threat detection allowed it to recognize that the use of ‘PerfectData Software’ represented a deviation in the SaaS user’s expected behavior. While Darktrace RESPOND, when enabled in autonomous response mode, was able to quickly take preventative action against threat actors, blocking the potential use of the application for data exfiltration or other nefarious purposes.
MITRE ATT&CK Mapping
• T1598 – Phishing for Information
• T1110 – Brute Force
• T1078.004 – Valid Accounts: Cloud Accounts
Command and Control:
• T1105 – Ingress Tool Transfer
• T1098.003 – Account Manipulation: Additional Cloud Roles
• T1114 – Email Collection
• T1564.008 – Hide Artifacts: Email Hiding Rules
• T1534 – Internal Spearphishing
Unusual Source IPs
• 5.62.60[.]202 (AS198605 AVAST Software s.r.o.)
• 160.152.10[.]215 (AS37637 Smile-Nigeria-AS)
• 197.244.250[.]155 (AS37705 TOPNET)
• 169.159.92[.]36 (AS37122 SMILE)
• 45.62.170[.]237 (AS396073 MAJESTIC-HOSTING-01)
• 92.38.180[.]49 (AS202422 G-Core Labs S.A)
• 129.56.36[.]26 (AS327952 AS-NATCOM)
• 92.38.180[.]47 (AS202422 G-Core Labs S.A.)
• 107.179.20[.]214 (AS397086 LAYER-HOST-HOUSTON)
• 45.62.170[.]31 (AS396073 MAJESTIC-HOSTING-01)
Darktrace Integrates Self-Learning AI with Amazon Security Lake to Support Security Investigations
Darktrace has deepened its relationship with AWS by integrating its detection and response capabilities with Amazon Security Lake.
This development will allow mutual customers to seamlessly combine Darktrace AI’s bespoke understanding of their organization with the Threat Intelligence offered by other security tools, and investigate all of their alerts in one central location.
This integration will improve the value security teams get from both products, streamlining analyst workflows and improving their ability to detect and respond to the full spectrum of known and unknown cyber-threats.
How Darktrace and Amazon Security Lake augment security teams
Amazon Security Lake is a newly-released service that automatically centralizes an organization’s security data from cloud, on-premises, and custom sources into a customer owned purpose-built data lake. Both Darktrace and Amazon Security Lake support the Open Cybersecurity Schema Framework (OCSF), an open standard to simplify, combine, and analyze security logs.
Customers can store security logs, events, alerts, and other relevant data generated by various AWS services and security tools. By consolidating security data in a central lake, organizations can gain a holistic view of their security posture, perform advanced analytics, detect anomalies and open investigations to improve their security practices.
With Darktrace DETECT and RESPOND AI engines covering all assets across IT, OT, network, endpoint, IoT, email and cloud, organizations can augment the value of their security data lakes by feeding Darktrace’s rich and context-aware datapoints to Amazon Security Lake.
Amazon Security Lake empowers security teams to improve the protection of your digital estate:
- Quick and painless data normalization
- Fast-tracks ability to investigate, triage and respond to security events
- Broader visibility aids more effective decision-making
- Surfaces and prioritizes anomalies for further investigation
- Single interface for seamless data management
How will Darktrace customers benefit?
Across the Cyber AI Loop, all Darktrace solutions have been architected with AWS best practices in mind. With this integration, Darktrace is bringing together its understanding of ‘self’ for every organization with the centralized data visibility of the Amazon Security Lake. Darktrace’s unique approach to cyber security, powered by groundbreaking AI research, delivers a superior dataset based on a deep and interconnected understanding of the enterprise.
Where other cyber security solutions are trained to identify threats based on historical attack data and techniques, Darktrace DETECT gains a bespoke understanding of every digital environment, continuously analyzing users, assets, devices and the complex relationships between them. Our AI analyzes thousands of metrics to reveal subtle deviations that may signal an evolving issue – even unknown techniques and novel malware. It distinguishes between malicious and benign behavior, identifying harmful activity that typically goes unnoticed. This rich dataset is fed into RESPOND, which takes precise action to neutralize threats against any and every asset, no matter where data resides.
Both DETECT and RESPOND are supported by Darktrace Self-Learning AI, which provides full, real-time visibility into an organization’s systems and data. This always-on threat analysis already makes humans better at cyber security, improving decisions and outcomes based on total visibility of the digital ecosystem, supporting human performance with AI coverage and empowering security teams to proactively protect critical assets.
Converting Darktrace alerts to the Amazon Security Lake Open Cybersecurity Schema Framework (OCSF) supplies the Security Operations Center (SOC) and incident response team with contextualized data, empowering them to accelerate their investigation, triage and response to potential cyber threats.
Darktrace is available for purchase on the AWS Marketplace.
Learn more about how Darktrace provides full-coverage, AI-powered cloud security for AWS, or see how our customers use Darktrace in their AWS cloud environments.