Armenian entities have fallen victim to a new version of OxtaRAT, a spying tool used by threat actors to gain remote access and monitor desktop activities. This updated version allows for a range of capabilities, such as exfiltrating files, recording videos from web cameras and desktops, remotely controlling machines with TightVNC, and more. Check Point Research has reported that the recent cyber-attacks started in November 2022, and it is the first time that the perpetrators have targeted Armenia. Previous targets were limited to Azerbaijan, where they attacked human rights organizations, dissidents, and independent media over several years.
The latest intrusion is notable due to the changes in the infection chain, improved operational security, and additional features of the backdoor. The attack starts with a self-extracting archive that appears as a PDF file, but in reality, it conceals malicious code inside an image. OxtaRAT, a polyglot file, combines compiled AutoIT scripts and images, allowing threat actors to run commands, gather sensitive information, perform surveillance through web cameras, and pivot to other devices. The tool has been in use since June 2021, but the functionality was significantly reduced. This indicates a continuous effort by the perpetrators to improve their toolset and transform it into an all-purpose malware tool.
The November 2022 attack is notable for several reasons. The.SCR files that trigger the kill chain already contain the OxtaRAT implant, eliminating the need to download the malware from a command-and-control (C&C) server. Additionally, the geofencing of the C2 domains, which host auxiliary tools, is limited to Armenian IP addresses. Furthermore, OxtaRAT can run commands for port scanning and testing internet speed, which helps in hiding the extensive data exfiltration.
Check Point suggests that the perpetrators might be moving from social engineering to infrastructure-based attacks or targeting corporate environments. The actors behind the attack have been using AutoIT-based malware for seven years and are continuously evolving their tactics. It is essential to exercise caution while opening files and ensure that computer security is up to date to prevent such attacks.