Remove SmokeLoader Malware From Your PC

Remove SmokeLoader Malware From Your PC

The SmokeLoader Malware is a dangerous weapon used against computer users worldwide. It infects mainly via phishing email messages. 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.

Threat Summary

NameSmokeLoader Malware
Short DescriptionThe SmokeLoader Malware is a computer virus that is designed to silently infiltrate computer systems.
SymptomsThe victims may not experience any apparent symptoms of infection.
Distribution MethodSoftware Vulnerabilities, Freeware Installations, Bundled Packages, Scripts and others.
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SmokeLoader Malware – Distribution Methods

The SmokeLoader malware is a new payload dropper which has been captured in a live attack campaign. At the moment it is not known which is the main delivery strategy however we assume that the criminals are going to use the most popular ones. This includes the following:

  • Email Phishing Messages — The hackers can send out messages that pose as legitimate notifications that have been sent by well-known companies and services. They contain links to proposed sites or files that are deemed as required to be opened by the users: software updates, service notifications, account changes and etc. The virus files can also be attached directly to the emails.
  • Malware Application Installers — Another alternative is to create infected application installers of popular software. The hackers target products which are most likely to be used by end users: system utilities, creativity suites, productivity and office apps and etc. As soon as the relevant executable file is opened the SmokeLoader malware will be engaged. These files are made by taking the legitimate files from their official sources and infecting with the necessary code.
  • Infected Documents — The criminals can also embed the dangerous virus installation code in documents across all popular types: text files, databases, spreadsheets and presentations. This is done in the macros, whenever they are opened by the victims a prompt will be presented to them asking for these scripts to be run. The quoted reason is that this is required in order to correctly view the contents of the file.
  • Malware Sites — Both the direct virus files and any malicious payload carriers can be carried in hacker-made sites. They are hosted on similar sounding domain names as legitimate and well-known portals. In most cases the criminals will impersonate search engines, download portals, product landing pages and etc.
  • Browser Hijackers — The virus files can be spread over dangerous extensions which are made for the most popular web browsers. The infections are caused mainly through interaction with the relevant repositories which are one of the most popular places that host them. They are uploaded with fake or stolen developer credentials and user reviews.

Another strategy that can be attempted by the hacking collective is to launch direct attacks by exploiting vulnerabilities. This is done in an automated manner by using automated software.

SmokeLoader Malware – Detailed Description

At the moment there is no information about the identity of the hackers that are behind the SmokeLoader malware campaigns. It is presumed that they are experienced as the malware can be leased on the underground markets for spreading of other threats. By itself it is a modular platform that can be configured to launch different actions depending on the current configuration or certain victim machine conditions.

As soon as the infection has been made the main engine will call a security bypass function which can act against virtual machine hosts. The collected samples will scan the memory of the computer system and detect if there are any running hosts. If such are found the process will terminate itself, in some cases it can even delete all virus files in order to avoid detection. Future versions of this module can be updated to include other software as well: anti-virus engines, firewalls, intrusion detection systems and etc.

This is followed by an in-depth data harvesting module which can be programmed to acquire data that can be categorized into two main types:

  • Personal Information — The engine can acquire data that can directly expose the identity of the victims. This is done by searching for strings such as a person’s name, address, phone number, interests, account credentials and etc.
  • Machine Identification — It is used to assign an unique ID to each affected computer. This is done by launching an algorithm that takes its input parameters from information such as the installed hardware components, system settings and user preferences.

The code analysis shows that it can hook up to existing processes or create ones of its own. This is especilly dangerous as this also includes those with administrative privileges. The collected samples can also interact with the Windows Volume Manager which will allow the hackers to spy on the victims activities in real-time. Code injection is one of the most dangerous effects of the SmokeLoader malware infection. This causes the execution of virus code by various processes making it much more difficult to remove.

It has been confirmed that these samples are configured to enable a persistent infection — this means that the boot options and system settings will be changed in order to automatically start the engine as soon as the computer is powered on. In many cases this also blocks access to the recovery options and boot menus which are used during manual user recovery. In this case the victims will need to resort to a quality anti-spyware solution.

Another consequence of having this infection active is that it can be programmed to delete sensitive data such as backups, system restore points and shadow volume copies. This means that the victims will need to use a data recovery solution to effectively recover their computers.

The relevant engine has also been found to connect to a hacker-controlled server by running its built-in Trojan instance. This will allow the operators to take over control of the machines, spy on the victims activities and hijack data. By classification this is a dropper which means that it can be used to deliver a wide variety of other threats. Some of the most commmon ones include the following:

  • Ransomware — This is one of the most popular malware types — viruses that use a built-in list of target file type extensions which are encrypted with a strong cipher. The processed data is renamed with a given extension and a ransom note or another type of message is produced in order to blackmail the recipients into paying the hackers a “decryption fee”.
  • Cryptocurrency Miners — These applications or scripts can be called in order to run complex tasks that take advantage of the system’s performance. This can place a very heavy toll on components such as the CPU, memory, hard disk spce and memory. The controlling mechanism is a remote server called “mining pool” which will monitor the running tasks. Whenever one of them is reported digital currency will be awarded to the hackers behind the SmokeLoader malware.
  • Web Browser Hijackers — They will change the default settings of the affected web browsers in order to redirect the victims to a preset hacker-controlled page. This is done by modifying the home page, new tabs and search engine values.

We anticipate that future versions will also be programmed to change the Windows Registry. When values that belong to the operating system are affected the victims may experiences serious performance issues to the point of rendering the system completely unusable. When the Registry values of third-party are affected then the normal routine will be changed — unexpected errors may be presented.

Remove NtCrypt Crypter Completely

To remove SmokeLoader Malware 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.

Martin Beltov

Martin graduated with a degree in Publishing from Sofia University. As a cyber security enthusiast he enjoys writing about the latest threats and mechanisms of intrusion.

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