The Cardinal RAT is a newly discovered threat which appears to be targeting primarily financial technology companies in Israel. The hacking group behind it has developed a new version of the threat for this specific campaign. The Cardinal RAT has been known since its first iteration back in 2015 with, to this date various criminal groups have been making new versions.
The ongoing attack wave is carried out by crafting and distributing malware documents that contain the specific virus installations scripts, the files can be of all popular formats: spreadsheets, presentations, databases and text files. As soon as the virus-infected document is opened a prompt will appear asking the users to enable the built-in code. Whenever this is done so the infection will be started.
The newest attack wave was spotted in March 2019 and appears to be focused on Financial technology companies that are located in Israel. We anticipate that future releases and further attacks can be made using other common distribution methods:
- Malware Application Installers — The hackers may laso create dangerous versions of popular software that is often acquired by end users.
- Browser Hijackers — They represent dangerous plugins which are made compatible with the most popular popular web browsers. The extensions are commonly uploaded to the relevant repositories using fake user reviews and developer credentials.
- Alternative Download Locations — The dangerous files can be uploaded to various locations frm where they can be acquired. This include the creation of malicious web sites which may be hosted on similar sounding domain names and include self-signed or stolen certificates. Another place where they can be found is through BitTorrent trackers which are used by the BitTorrent file sharing network.
As soon as the infection is installed on a given computer it will start its built-in behavior pattern. One of the distinct features this threat has is the advanced stealth installation which uses many techniques in order to silently inject itself onto the system’s memory and deploy the Cardinal RAT files. Three strategies are being used by the malware: the hiding of the code in common files using steganography, the Bitmap file technique and renamed methods in MD5 hashes.
The Cardinal RAT as a Trojan will conduct the most common operations that are made typical for this category of malware — data extraction and surveillance over the victim users. This means that as soon as the virus is started it will start to gather sensitive information that can be used to identify both the users and their machines. When it comes to personal data it can be used for crimes like identity theft and financial abuse. When it comes to the infected computers themselves the main engine will acquire a lot of data that is to be used to create an unique ID: the installed hardware components, system environment values and specific user preferences.
The infection allows the criminals to execute certain commands either automatically or when the appropriate trigger is given. The RAT can report all of the gathered data to the hackers via a specific connection to their own server. It can be made secure and persistent using the appropriate commands. This is particularly useful to the hackers as they can use the connection to constantly spy on the victims. The Cardinal RAT may also execute a keylogger function which will transmit all entered keyboard and mouse input to the hackers.
One of the most dangerous consequences of having this infection active on a give computer is the fact that it can also interact with the installed applications such as web browsers by changing their options and acquiring their cache and stored data: bookmarks, history, settings, user preferences and even stored account credentials.
The code analysis shows that the Cardinal RAT may also may download and execute malware if instructed to do so — this can depend on local conditions or by the ongoing hacker instructions. Other features of note include the capturing of screenshots and other forms of surveillance either automatically at certain intervals or at the request of the hackers. What is distinct about this particular Trojan is that it it can automatically update itself to the newest version, if the command is given it can also remove itself.
As the Cardinal RAt Trojan is constantly updated we advise that all users remove the infection as soon as possible.
|Type||Malware, Scam Hacking Program|
|Short Description||It is installed silently by other payload droppers.|
|Symptoms||The victims may notice performance issues and can get infected with other malware.|
|Distribution Method||Mainly via download sites and file sharing networks.|
|Detection Tool|| See If Your System Has Been Affected by Cardinal RAT |
Malware Removal Tool
|User Experience||Join Our Forum to Discuss Cardinal RAT.|
SLoad – How Did I Get It
The Cardinal RAT can be spread using a variety of different tactics. There are many variants of it which are spread using various collectives. There may be many versions using the SLoad name and alternatives as well. This allows the criminal collectives to launch a multitude of attacks bearing different versions of the malware.
One of the main techniques is the coordination of phishing email messages which coerce the victims to interact with the included content. They are designed to appear as legitimate notifications sent from well-known services and companies. The Cardinal RAT files can be either attached or inserted as text links.
Hacker-made sites that pose as legitimate download portals, search engines and software product pages will scam the users into downloading and running the application. They are generally hosted on domains that sound similar to popular sources and may include self-signed security certificates.
To increase the number of infected victims the criminals can also place the Cardinal RAT in payload carriers such as macro-infected documents and malware application bundles. They are widely downloaded from the Internet by end users and may be found on file-sharing sites as well like BitTorrent.
Such infections can also be spread via browser hijackers which are dangerous web browser extensions that are usually uploaded to the repositories of the most popular browsers.
SLoad – What Does It Do
The Cardinal RAT upon execution will start its infection process as soon as the infection occurs. Its main goal is to start a secure and persistent connection to a hacker-controlled server. It allows the criminals to take over control of the affected computers, steal their data and deploy other threats.
Such malware can execute many different tactics depending on the exact attack campaign. Most of them are used in order to serve as payload carriers for other threats. Popular options are the following:
- Data Theft — The Cardinal RAT may include an information harvesting ability which is capable of acquiring data that ca directly expose the identity of the victim users.
- Machine Identification — Many similar threats are programmed to extract the list of installed hardware components ,specific operating system environment values and user settngs which are then processed by a special algorithm that will output an unique infection ID that is to be assigned to each different computer.
- Windows Registry Changes — The Cardinal RAT can create entries for itself in the Windows Registry which can make its removal more difficult. If it edits existing values then serious performance issues can arise. Data loss and errors are a common side effect of this operation.
- Boot Menu Options Modification — Some Cardinal RAT versions can modify the boot options in order to automatically start themselves when the computer is powered on. By disabling access to these options manual user removal guides can become worthless.
- Data Removal — The engine can be configured to locate and delete files such as system backups, restore files and shadow volume copies. This makes recovery much more difficult and in this case the use of a data recovery solution needs to be used.
Any future SLoad variants can include other malicious actions as per the hacker’s instructions.
How to Remove Cardinal RAT
In order to fully remove SLoad from your computer system, we recommend that you follow the removal instructions underneath this article. If the first two manual removal steps do not seem to work and you still see SLoad or programs, related to it, we suggest what most security experts advise – to download and run a scan of your comptuer with a reputable anti-malware program. Downloading this software will not only save you some time, but will remove all of SLoad files and programs related to it and will protect your computer against such intrusive apps and malware in the future.