The SLoad Trojan is being primarily spread against computer users in Canada and UK, it appears that the attacks are targeted mainly against specific targets which means that the attackers have carefully researched their intended victims. There are several popular attack methods which are used by the criminal collective:
- Fake Messages and Sites — The hackers can create phishing emails and fake web sites in order to coerce the victims into interacting with the content. This can take the form of both scripts, files or other type of data interaction.
- Payload Carriers — The code can be placed in documents or application installers which when opened will lead to the virus infection. This also include browser hijackers which are dangerous plugins made or the most popular web browsers.
- Direct Attacks — Exploits can be used to directly take down certain machines using popular vulnerabilities.
As soon as it is installed on a given computer it will start to gather sensitive data about the victims and their machines. This allows the hacker operators to execute crimes such as identity theft and financial abuse. The code analysis shows that as soon as the infection is triggered the relevant infection engine will start to scan the memory for a list of running programs and identify any installed and/or running programs that are related to online banking: web browsers, VPN utilities and email clients. A specially designed Trojan instance will be started which will establish a secure and persistent connection with a hacker-controlled server. This will allow the criminals to spy on the victims in real-time, steal any one of their files and deploy other threats if necessary.
Such infections are very useful for performing man-in-the-middle attacks (MITM) and other dangerous behavior. By itself it is categorized as a dangerous banking Trojan however any future releases can add in any other behavior if required.
|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 SLoad Trojan |
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|User Experience||Join Our Forum to Discuss SLoad Trojan.|
Microsoft has reported the release of a SLoad Trojan v2.0 “in the wild” which is a significant update to the previous core threat. It appears that the hackers are the same collective as the ones which have created the first version. In terms of features there isn’t much surprise — some of the main code has been updated to reflect the changes in the infection sequence. The SLoad Trojan still servers its main purpose as a payload dropper that also includes some other functions. The way it works is that the hackers will load a “main payload” which will be downloaded from a remote server and executed by SLoad which will make sure that the infection is deployed correctly.
What’s interesting about this particular threat is that is abuses the Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS) component of Windows in a manner which is similar to another recent threat — the Astaroth Trojan.
As soon as the SLoad Trojan infection has been done it will immediately start to detect active security services which are installed on the host computers. They will be disabled or entirely removed depending on the instructions. Like other popular threats it ill also implement a thorough information gathering process.
Once again the infection technique used by the hackers is the sending of email messages that contain download links or scripts that will deliver the initial loader which is wrapped in PowerShell code. This will download and decrypt and obfuscated VBScript instance that will download the SLoad Trojan.
Before the actual deployment and start of the malicious operations the loader will create a scheduled task that will run the VBScript every 3 minutes. The script will control the BITS instances and spawn different one depending on the deployed configuration. The Sload Trojan v2.0 contains an additional feature that will actively track the stages of infection and prevent certain removal attempts made by the users.
The sLoad Trojan as one of the most effective PowerShell-based malware has received numerous updates in December 2019. The newer versions use a distinct technique that will download the main payload through the BITS (Background Intelligent Transfer Service) service. This is a main component that is part of the Windows operating system to download updates by using idle network bandwidth. Over the years many groups have used it and as such the malware delivery can be done using a lot of distribution techniques.
sLoad Trojan uses alternative protocols and methods compared to most other threats making it very hard to detect by most anti-virus engines. Most of the campaigns rely on the creation and sending out of malware phishing emails that look like sent by companies or services that the recipients are familiar with. In their contents there will be several scripts that when interacted with will deploy the initial sLoad Trojan loader. This component will prepare the environment for the actual malware infection by triggering the rich code. The first loader will run a series of Visual Basic and PowerShell scripts — they are responsible for scheduling the BITS download job.
The newer versions of the sLoad Trojan have been found to run several dangerous modules:
- Installation Folder Creation — The sLoad Trojan will install itself in a specific location. The folder is named after the unique machine ID generated by the main engine
- Constant Malware Check — A special marker will be placed in the system which will periodically check if the sLoad trojan is running properly
- Configuration Files Creation — Every individual computer will have created their own unique configuration file based on the local conditions
- Scheduled Task Creation — The installation engine will create a scheduled task that will guarantee that the relevant sLoad Trojan scripts are running properly
Several of the hacking groups have been found also include a very sophisticated data retrieval module. It is programmed to extract data that can both reveal sensitive information about the victim users and their computers. Additionally due to its complex infiltration pattern the sLoad Trojan is particularly effective at installing other malware onto the compromised machines.
SLoad – Overview
The SLoad Trojan 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 SLoad Trojan 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 SLoad Trojan 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.
The SLoad Trojan 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 SLoad Trojan 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 SLoad Trojan 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 SLoad Trojan 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 SLoad Trojan
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.