Researchers at Kaspersky Lab have recently published a report, focused on a cyber-espionage campaign strategized by a hacker organization dubbed the Winnti group. Winnti has been attacking enterprises in the online video game field since 2009. The bad news is the group is active again, this time targeting digital certificates signed by big software providers to conduct intellectual property theft. The source code of several game projects is also endangered by the hacking team.
Image Source: Secure List
What Tools Does Winnti Employ?
Winnti 1.x and 2.x
According to Kaspersky, the group has been using a piece of malicious code which is called Winnti as well. Researchers have divided all the variants of the tool into two generations – 1.x and 2.x. More about the creation and usage of Winnti malware, you can read in the Winnti tool report by SecureList.
HDRoot/ HDD Rootkit
The newest threat traced back to the Winnti group is called HDRoot and is based on a 2006 bootkit installer.
What Is a Bootkit?
A bootkit is a boot virus designed to hook and patch Windows, and then get loaded into the Windows Kernel. Due to these malicious capabilities, the bootkit gets unlimited access to the machine. Because the Master Boot Record is not encrypted, a bootkit may avoid full volume encryption.
HDRoot is described as ‘a universal platform for a sustainable and persistent appearance in a targeted system’. What is worse, it can be employed as a foothold for any hacker’s tool.
HDRoot is used for cyber-espionage and intellectual property theft. It was discovered ‘by accident’ – when a sample of malware drew the attention of GReAT (Kaspersky Lab’s Global Research and Analysis Team). What intrigued the researchers was:
- The way this particular malware piece was protected with a commercial VMProtect Win64 executable and signed with a compromised certificate that belongs to a Chinese entity – Guangzhou YuanLuo Technology.
- The fact that the malware was spoofed to look like a Microsoft’s Net Command net.exe.
HDRoot Malicious Capabilities and Targets
Those two factors made the malware sample quite suspicious. At a later stage of the analysis, Kaspersky experts revealed that the HDRoot bootkit could be used to launch other malicious tools. To be more specific, two types of backdoor malware were identified. One of them could bypass detection by professional anti-virus software in South Korea – AhnLab’s V3 Lite, AhnLab’s V3 365 Clinic and ESTsoft’s ALYac. Hence, a conclusion was reached – the Winnti team used the backdoor to attack targets in South Korea.
Kaspersky researchers consider the probability that the Winnti organization has primary interests in South East Asia. Some of its other targets are likely situated in Japan, China, Bangladesh and Indonesia. HDRoot infections have been also detected in the United Kingdom and Russia.
Image Source: Secure List
The geography of the targets is probably related to the Winnti attackers home country and their interest in local software entities. It may be that the hackers wanted to obtain access to popular local companies. However, the reasons they had (and still may have) are not quite clear yet.
Researches also consider the possibility that the HDD Rootkit has been created by someone who joined the Winnti group, after he had written the bookit. Another scenario is that the hackers used third-party code, which was available on the Chinese cyber black market. What is more, once Kaspersky spotted the attack by Winnti and started analyzing it, the group immediately took action and adapted it. The result – in a couple of weeks, a new variant of the threat was identified. The attack is still active.
How Are the Winnti/ HDRoot Attacks Initiated?
Researchers believe that most of the attacks are initiated with a phishing email sent to one or more company mailboxes. The email messages typically contain malicious attachments in self-extracting or a regular archive with an executable file. Exploitation of zero-day vulnerabilities has not been observed. Once the targeted company is penetrated, the Winnti group uploads a set of tools on the compromised computer and starts scanning the network resources.
Then, they escalate privileges and locate whatever information is valuable in the particular company. Next, stolen data is exfiltrated in compressed form to one of Winnti’s control & command servers. For that purpose, a back-connect TCP channel through a chain of TCP-proxy apps is used, as disclosed by researchers.
According to researchers at Kaspersky Lab, their products can successfully block HDRoot and protect users.
To avoid being compromised by malicious software, sustain a powerful AV solution.
SpyHunter scanner will only detect the threat. If you want the threat to be automatically removed, you need to purchase the full version of the anti-malware tool.Find Out More About SpyHunter Anti-Malware Tool / How to Uninstall SpyHunter
- Guide 1: How to Remove HDRoot Bootkit from Windows.
- Guide 2: Get rid of HDRoot Bootkit from Mac OS X.
- Guide 3: Remove HDRoot Bootkit from Google Chrome.
- Guide 4: Erase HDRoot Bootkit from Mozilla Firefox.
- Guide 5: Uninstall HDRoot Bootkit from Microsoft Edge.
- Guide 6: Remove HDRoot Bootkit from Safari.
- Guide 7: Eliminate HDRoot Bootkit from Internet Explorer.
How to Remove HDRoot Bootkit from Windows.
Step 1: Boot Your PC In Safe Mode to isolate and remove HDRoot Bootkit
Step 2: Uninstall HDRoot Bootkit 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 HDRoot Bootkit 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 HDRoot Bootkit there. This can happen by following the steps underneath:
Get rid of HDRoot Bootkit from Mac OS X.
Step 1: Uninstall HDRoot Bootkit 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 HDRoot Bootkit 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 HDRoot Bootkit files from your Mac
When you are facing problems on your Mac as a result of unwanted scripts and programs such as HDRoot Bootkit, the recommended way of eliminating the threat is by using an anti-malware program. SpyHunter for Mac offers advanced security features along with other modules that will improve your Mac’s security and protect it in the future.
Remove HDRoot Bootkit 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 HDRoot Bootkit 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 HDRoot Bootkit 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 HDRoot Bootkit 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 HDRoot Bootkit will be removed.
Eliminate HDRoot Bootkit 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.