The Astaroth Trojan is a dangerous weapon used against computer users worldwide. It infects mainly via infected software installers. Our article gives an overview of its behavior according to the collected samples and available reports, also it may be helpful in attempting to remove the virus.
|Short Description||The Astaroth Trojan is a computer virus that is designed to silently infiltrate computer systems.|
|Symptoms||The victims may not experience any apparent symptoms of infection.|
|Distribution Method||Software Vulnerabilities, Freeware Installations, Bundled Packages, Scripts and others.|
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|User Experience||Join Our Forum to Discuss Astaroth Trojan.|
Astaroth Trojan – Update May 2020
The newest strategy surrounding the distribution of Astaroth Trojan samples includes a twist in the hacker’s strategy. In May 2020 a new sample has been captured by security analysts documenting new features and a new infection strategy.
A much improved security bypass feature is implemented — it will actively scan the contaminated system for installed programs that can interfere with it and disable them. This also works against sandbox environments and virtual machine hosts.
The newest strategy used to spread Astaroth involves the creation of YouTube channels that contain a link to the command and control servers of the Trojan. This can be done either in an automated manner or by hacking already existing accounts. Phishing email messages continue to be sent to the target users. A link leading to the Trojan is placed in the contents, as soon as the users click on them the download command will be issued leading to the infection.
We remind our readers that the Astaroth Trojan is distributed in a several stages manner — the infection will not start immediately. A first stage installation involves the activation of a complex deployment sequence.
When the victims click on the malware URl this will activate an iFrame script leading to a ZIP file download hosted on a Google-owned folder. The hackers have created accounts in order to use the free cloud file hosting services such as Google Drive.
Before issuing any further actions the security bypass feature will be run in order to disable the active security services. Only when this stage has completed the other malware actions will take place.
At the moment the active campaigns appear to target users in Brazil, like other contemporary infections the phishing messages are themed with COVID-19 related notifications.
Astaroth Trojan Further information
Some of the new samples associated with the Astaroth Trojan have been uncovered by security researchers. Their method of distribution is through the use of phishing tactics however instead of relying on the traditional mechanisms of orchestrating bulk email campaigns or websites, they choose to spread the threat via social network profiles. They are either stolen or automatically generated and utilize both Facebook and YouTube. They are chosen because these sites are one of the most active communities worldwide and the hackers can reach a wide audience.
The captured attacks appear to be localized to Brazilian users and the contacted configuration pattern appears to be very complex. The initial payload dropper will interact with the Windows Management Instrumentation Console (WMIC) service of the Microsoft Windows operating system in order to retrieve its components.
The phishing tactics also make use of email messages that are sent as a supportive measure:
- Faux Invoice
- Faux Show Ticket
- Fake Civil Lawsuit Notification
Astaroth Trojan – Distribution Methods
The Astaroth Trojan is being spread in an ongoing campaign, the reports indicate that the majority of affected victims are from Brazil and Europe. This is a very dangerous threat as it uses the method of exploiting vulnerabilities in the machines, specifically a weakness in a popular anti-virus product (Avast!). The mechanism is unusual — the hackers abuse the legitimate Windows Service called BITSAdmin which is used to download, upload and manage jobs, part of the “Background Intelligent Transfer Service” feature available for Windows developers. Instead of programming it for the usual tasks it is programmed to download malware threats, in this case the Astaroth Trojan.
Email Phishing messages that are sent in a SPAM-like manner are sent to the targets by impersonating Microsoft or other trusted vendors. They have archive attachments in the .7zip format. When opened inside there will be a .lnk file which when executed will spawn the relevant wmic.exe process. This will lead to an attack that is known as a “XSL Script Processing Attack”.
In practice the hackers abuse a trusted binary which will run the script, thus hijacking the Avast anti-virus process. According to the security reports this is not an injection or a privilege escalation. Instead the avast binaries are programmed to run the malware files. The avast engine itself contains a self-protection mechanism which does not permit any abuse of the application itself. The vendor is currently patching the software.
The identity of the criminals is not known at the moment, an investigation is ongoing into the possible origins of the threat. We anticipate that this payload-based infection mechanism can be used with other similar methods:
- Infected Documents — The criminals the virus installation script in documents across all popular variants: text documents, spreadsheets, databases and presentations. When they are opened a macros execution prompt will appear asking the victim users to enable the scripts, the quoted reason is that this is required in order to correctly view the files.
- Infected Application Installers — The criminals can take the installers of popular applications and modify them to include the Astaroth Trojan. This is done by acquiring the legitimate setup files from their official sources and inserting the appropriate virus installation code. Usually applications that are frequently downloaded by end users: system utilities, creativity suites, productivity apps and etc.
- File-Sharing Networks — The files can be spread via peer-to-peer networks like BitTorrent which are popular for distributing both legitimate and pirate content.
Astaroth Trojan – Detailed Description
As soon as the Astaroth Trojan infection is triggered a series of dangerous actions will occur. The relevant BITSAdmin utility will be programmed to download a malicious payload from a predefined hacker-controlled server. The code analysis reveals that the the malware is obfuscated as image files or data without a specific extension. This is done in order to evade regular anti-virus scans.
We anticipate that future versions may include a standalone security bypass which can locate security software that can potentially block the virus execution: anti-virus products, firewalls, intrusion detection systems and virtual machine hosts.
A dangerous component that is part of the Trojan’s code base is the information gathering module:
- Personal Information — The Trojan engine is capable of acquiring data that can be used to directly expose the identity of the victims by looking for strings such as a person’s real name, nicknames, interests, phone number, address and any stored account credentials. The collected information can be used for various crimes including financial abuse, identity theft and blackmail.
- Machine Information — The Trojan engine can create an identifier that is assigned to each compromised machine. It is done using an algoirthm that takes its input parameters from values such as the installed hardware parts list, user settings and certain operating system environment values.
The gathered information will then be sent to the criminal controllers via a network connection to their C&C servers. This allows them to take over control of the victim machines, files theft and to spy on the users. What’s more dangerous is that the Trojan can be programmed to interact with the Windows Volume Manager, thus giving it the ability to access removable storage devices and network shares.
Other malicious actions that can follow include the following:
- Persistent Installation — The Astaroth Trojan code will be launched every time the computer is powered on. This step in most of the cases will also disable access to the boot menu options thereby making most of the manual user removal guides useless.
- Windows Registry Changes — Modification to the Windows Registry values is a common action undertaken by many malware of this category. Changes to strings that are used by the operating system can cause overall performance degradation and stability issues. If any third-party applications or services values are changed then the accompanying programs may quit unexpectedly with errors.
- Additional Payload Delivery — The Trojan client can be programmed to download other threats to the infected computers.
- Data Removal — Important files can be deleted automatically as soon as the Astaroth Trojan infection is triggered. Common data that is to be removed includes System Restore Points, Shadow Volume Copies and Backups. Effective restore of the compromised computers is done by using a combination of an effective anti-spyware utility and a data recovery program.
Depending on the forthcoming versions and future attack campaign we might see a radically different Astaroth Trojan release in the near future.
Remove Astaroth Trojan Completely
To remove Astaroth Trojan manually from your computer, follow the step-by-step removal tutorial written down below. In case this manual removal does not get rid of the miner malware completely, you should search for and remove any leftover items with an advanced anti-malware tool. Such software can keep your computer secure in the future.
- Guide 1: How to Remove Astaroth Trojan from Windows.
- Guide 2: Get rid of Astaroth Trojan on Mac OS X.
- Guide 3: Remove Astaroth Trojan in Google Chrome.
- Guide 4: Erase Astaroth Trojan from Mozilla Firefox.
- Guide 5: Uninstall Astaroth Trojan from Microsoft Edge.
- Guide 6: Remove Astaroth Trojan from Safari.
- Guide 7: Eliminate Astaroth Trojan from Internet Explorer.
- Guide 8: Disable Astaroth Trojan Push Notifications in Your Browsers.
How to Remove Astaroth Trojan from Windows.
Step 1: Boot Your PC In Safe Mode to isolate and remove Astaroth Trojan
Step 2: Uninstall Astaroth Trojan 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 Astaroth Trojan 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 Astaroth Trojan there. This can happen by following the steps underneath:
Get rid of Astaroth Trojan from Mac OS X.
Step 1: Uninstall Astaroth Trojan 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 Astaroth Trojan 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 Astaroth Trojan files from your Mac
When you are facing problems on your Mac as a result of unwanted scripts and programs such as Astaroth Trojan, 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 Astaroth Trojan 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 Astaroth Trojan 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 Astaroth Trojan 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 Astaroth Trojan 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 Astaroth Trojan will be removed.
Eliminate Astaroth Trojan 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.
Remove Push Notifications caused by Astaroth Trojan from Your Browsers.
Turn Off Push Notifications from Google Chrome
To disable any Push Notices from Google Chrome browser, please follow the steps below:
Step 1: Go to Settings in Chrome.
Step 2: In Settings, select “Advanced Settings”:
Step 3: Click “Content Settings”:
Step 4: Open “Notifications”:
Step 5: Click the three dots and choose Block, Edit or Remove options:
Remove Push Notifications on Firefox
Step 1: Go to Firefox Options.
Step 2: Go to “Settings”, type “notifications” in the search bar and click "Settings":
Step 3: Click “Remove” on any site you wish notifications gone and click “Save Changes”
Stop Push Notifications on Opera
Step 1: In Opera, press ALT+P to go to Settings
Step 2: In Setting search, type “Content” to go to Content Settings.
Step 3: Open Notifications:
Step 4: Do the same as you did with Google Chrome (explained below):
Eliminate Push Notifications on Safari
Step 1: Open Safari Preferences.
Step 2: Choose the domain from where you like push pop-ups gone and change to "Deny" from "Allow".