SideWinder APT Utilizing New WarHawk Backdoor to Goal Entities in Pakistan

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SideWinder, a prolific nation-state actor primarily identified for concentrating on Pakistan navy entities, compromised the official web site of the Nationwide Electrical Energy Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) to ship a tailor-made malware known as WarHawk.

“The newly found WarHawk backdoor incorporates numerous malicious modules that ship Cobalt Strike, incorporating new TTPs similar to KernelCallBackTable injection and Pakistan Commonplace Time zone test with the intention to guarantee a victorious marketing campaign,” Zscaler ThreatLabz said.

The risk group, additionally known as APT-C-17, Rattlesnake, and Razor Tiger, is suspected to be an Indian state-sponsored group, though a report from Kaspersky earlier this Could acknowledged earlier indicators that led to the attribution have since disappeared, making it difficult it to hyperlink the risk cluster to a particular nation.

Greater than 1,000 assaults are mentioned to have been launched by the group since April 2020, a sign of SideWinder’s newfound aggression because it commenced operations a decade in the past in 2012.

The intrusions have been important not solely with regard to their frequency but in addition of their persistence, even because the group takes benefit of an enormous arsenal of obfuscated and newly-developed parts.

In June 2022, the risk actor was discovered leveraging an AntiBot script that is designed to filter their victims to test the shopper browser atmosphere, particularly the IP tackle, to make sure the targets are positioned in Pakistan.

The September marketing campaign noticed by Zscaler entails the usage of a weaponized ISO file hosted on NEPRA’s web site to activate a killchain that results in the deployment of the WarHawk malware, with the artifact additionally performing as a decoy to cover the malicious exercise by displaying a legitimate advisory issued by the Cupboard Division of Pakistan on July 27, 2022.

WarHawk, for its half, masquerades as official apps similar to ASUS Replace Setup and Realtek HD Audio Supervisor to lure unsuspecting victims into execution, ensuing the exfiltration of system metadata to a hard-coded distant server, whereas additionally receiving extra payloads from the URL.

This features a command execution module that is answerable for the execution of system instructions on the contaminated machine acquired from the command-and-control server, a file supervisor module that recursively enumerates recordsdata current in several drives, and an add module that transmits recordsdata of curiosity to the server.


Additionally deployed as a second-stage payload utilizing the aforementioned command execution module is a Cobalt Strike Loader, which validates the host’s time zone to substantiate it matches the Pakistan Commonplace Time (PKT), failing which the method is terminated.

Following the anti-anThe loader injects shellcode right into a notepad.exe course of utilizing a method known as KernelCallbackTable course of injection, with the malware creator lifting supply code from a technical write-up revealed in April 2022 by a researcher who goes by the net alias Capt. Meelo.

The shellcode then decrypts and masses Beacon, the default malware payload utilized by Cobalt Strike to determine a connection to its command-and-control server.

Per the cybersecurity firm, the assault marketing campaign’s connections to the SideWinder APT stem from the reuse of community infrastructure that has been recognized as utilized by the group in prior espionage-focused actions in opposition to Pakistan.

“The SideWinder APT Group is constantly evolving their ways and including new malware to their arsenal with the intention to perform profitable espionage assault campaigns in opposition to their targets,” the researchers concluded.

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