New form of malware has been reported to cause infections via a vulnerability for Windows Machines that is 17 years old. The virus, related to the pen-testing (penetration testing) tool Cobalt Strike is also dubbed Cobalt Strike malware and it’s primary goal after infecting your computer is to turn it into a slave of the hackers who are behind the infection. In the event that you have seen W32/Cobalt or other similar detection on your computer, we recommend that you read this article and learn how to fully remove the Cobalt Strike malware from your PC and protect it against future infections and intrusions.
|Name||Cobalt Strike Malware|
|Short Description||Aims to make your computer remotely controlled via shell commands by the hackers behind the virus.|
|Symptoms||No symptoms so far as the malware is file-less, but your computer may behave strange and can contain other malware in it.|
|Distribution Method||Via malicious URLs or compromised websites.|
|Detection Tool|| See If Your System Has Been Affected by malware |
Malware Removal Tool
|User Experience||Join Our Forum to Discuss Cobalt Strike Malware.|
Cobalt Strike Malware – Infection Analysis
In order to cause a successful infection, the malicious file of this virus is actually a semi-legitimate Microsoft Word document, which pretends to be a legitimate file sent by a bank or a big company. The file itself infects via malicious macros which contain the exploit CVE-2017-11882 that is over 17 years old at the time of writing this. So far, what is known about this vulnerability is that it was only patched once, two weeks after it was discovered by Microsoft.
The way the cyber-criminals who are believed to be the Cobalt hacker group have decided to use malicious macro infections for their attacks in e-mails that they pretend are from Visa. One sample was detected by malware researchers Jasper Manual and Joie Salvio at Fortinet and it uses the following e-mail:
The message (In Russian) pretends to come from Visa’s payWave system and it aims to get the victim to open what appears to be a .zip and .doc files that pose as “New security system changes in Visa payWave”. Once this document is opened, the victim sees a legitimate Microsoft Word file that only says the words “Enable Editing”:
When this .ps1 file is executed, the actual Cobalt Strike infection takes place on the victim’s computer.
Cobalt Strike Malware – Malicious Activity
Once downloaded, the .ps1 file, belonging to Cobalt Strike is automatically activated. It triggers yet another PowerShell script which has the client DLL files of Cobalt Strike – a rather outdated, but still very effective tool, previously used for penetration testing of the defenses in Windows Operating Systems. Once it detects whether your Windows is running based on 32-bit or 63-bit architecture, the appropriate Cobalt Strike DLL is executed directly in your Windows PowerShell memory and this results in the malware not being actually present on your drive, while remaining embedded in PowerShell and even if you delete the .ps1 file, the virus is still active on your PC. This also helps any antivirus programs that are conventional to detect the virus.
Once the DLL of Cobalt Strike is triggered, the cyber-criminals have obtained complete control of your computer system – it belongs to them. They can perform all of the activities which can be performed using the Cobalt Strike shell commands themselves. Here is only a small part of commands that may be triggered, using Cobalt malware:
→ spawnto – spawns sessions into processes.
inject – injects various malicious scripts in legitimate Windows processes.
dllinject – same as inject but for DLLs
download – can download other malware or files on your computer.
upload – can upload files to the hacker’s server, i.e. it can steal your files.
timestomp – to assist with blending files, obfuscation and updating itself.
ls – similar to Linux, it helps you to list different files.
mkdir – to create folders on your computer.
keylogger pid – to log your keystrokes.
screenshot pid – to take a screenshot of your desktop.
jobkill – to kill a job.
socks 8080 – to set a Proxy server on a selected port (in this case 8080).
These are only the main commands that are likely to be used on your computer and you have no way of knowing that they are triggered as it all happens in the background of your computer. The full list of commands can be seen on Cobalt Strike’s web page.
How to Remove Cobalt Strike Malware from Your PC
- Guide 1: How to Remove Cobalt Strike Malware from Windows.
- Guide 2: Get rid of Cobalt Strike Malware from Mac OS X.
- Guide 3: Remove Cobalt Strike Malware from Google Chrome.
- Guide 4: Erase Cobalt Strike Malware from Mozilla Firefox.
- Guide 5: Uninstall Cobalt Strike Malware from Microsoft Edge.
- Guide 6: Remove Cobalt Strike Malware from Safari.
- Guide 7: Eliminate Cobalt Strike Malware from Internet Explorer.
How to Remove Cobalt Strike Malware from Windows.
Step 1: Boot Your PC In Safe Mode to isolate and remove Cobalt Strike Malware
Step 2: Uninstall Cobalt Strike Malware and related software from Windows
Here is a method in few easy steps that should be able to uninstall most programs. No matter if you are using Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista or XP, those steps will get the job done. Dragging the program or its folder to the recycle bin can be a very bad decision. If you do that, bits and pieces of the program are left behind, and that can lead to unstable work of your PC, errors with the file type associations and other unpleasant activities. The proper way to get a program off your computer is to Uninstall it.
Step 3: Clean any registries, created by Cobalt Strike Malware on your computer.
The usually targeted registries of Windows machines are the following:
You can access them by opening the Windows registry editor and deleting any values, created by Cobalt Strike Malware there. This can happen by following the steps underneath:
Get rid of Cobalt Strike Malware from Mac OS X.
Step 1: Uninstall Cobalt Strike Malware and remove related files and objects
1. Hit the ⇧+⌘+U keys to open Utilities. Another way is to click on “Go” and then click “Utilities”, like the image below shows:
- Go to Finder.
- In the search bar type the name of the app that you want to remove.
- Above the search bar change the two drop down menus to “System Files” and “Are Included” so that you can see all of the files associated with the application you want to remove. Bear in mind that some of the files may not be related to the app so be very careful which files you delete.
- If all of the files are related, hold the ⌘+A buttons to select them and then drive them to “Trash”.
In case you cannot remove Cobalt Strike Malware via Step 1 above:
In case you cannot find the virus files and objects in your Applications or other places we have shown above, you can manually look for them in the Libraries of your Mac. But before doing this, please read the disclaimer below:
You can repeat the same procedure with the following other Library directories:
Tip: ~ is there on purpose, because it leads to more LaunchAgents.
Step 2: Scan for and remove malware from your Mac
When you are facing problems on your Mac as a result of unwanted scripts, programs and malware, the recommended way of eliminating the threat is by using an anti-malware program. Combo Cleaner offers advanced security features along with other modules that will improve your Mac’s security and protect it in the future.
Remove Cobalt Strike Malware from Google Chrome.
Step 1: Start Google Chrome and open the drop menu
Step 2: Move the cursor over "Tools" and then from the extended menu choose "Extensions"
Step 3: From the opened "Extensions" menu locate the unwanted extension and click on its "Remove" button.
Step 4: After the extension is removed, restart Google Chrome by closing it from the red "X" button at the top right corner and start it again.
Erase Cobalt Strike Malware from Mozilla Firefox.
Step 1: Start Mozilla Firefox. Open the menu window
Step 2: Select the "Add-ons" icon from the menu.
Step 3: Select the unwanted extension and click "Remove"
Step 4: After the extension is removed, restart Mozilla Firefox by closing it from the red "X" button at the top right corner and start it again.
Uninstall Cobalt Strike Malware from Microsoft Edge.
Step 1: Start Edge browser.
Step 2: Open the drop menu by clicking on the icon at the top right corner.
Step 3: From the drop menu select "Extensions".
Step 4: Choose the suspected malicious extension you want to remove and then click on the gear icon.
Step 5: Remove the malicious extension by scrolling down and then clicking on Uninstall.
Remove Cobalt Strike Malware from Safari.
Step 1: Start the Safari app.
Step 2: After hovering your mouse cursor to the top of the screen, click on the Safari text to open its drop down menu.
Step 3: From the menu, click on "Preferences".
Step 4: After that, select the 'Extensions' Tab.
Step 5: Click once on the extension you want to remove.
Step 6: Click 'Uninstall'.
A pop-up window will appear asking for confirmation to uninstall the extension. Select 'Uninstall' again, and the Cobalt Strike Malware will be removed.
Eliminate Cobalt Strike Malware from Internet Explorer.
Step 1: Start Internet Explorer.
Step 2: Click on the gear icon labeled 'Tools' to open the drop menu and select 'Manage Add-ons'
Step 3: In the 'Manage Add-ons' window.
Step 4: Select the extension you want to remove and then click 'Disable'. A pop-up window will appear to inform you that you are about to disable the selected extension, and some more add-ons might be disabled as well. Leave all the boxes checked, and click 'Disable'.
Step 5: After the unwanted extension has been removed, restart Internet Explorer by closing it from the red 'X' button located at the top right corner and start it again.