Harvester: Nation-State-Backed Group Uses New Toolset to Target Victims in South Asia

The most notable thing about this campaign is the previously unseen toolset deployed by the attackers.

The attackers deployed a custom backdoor called Backdoor.Graphon on victim machines alongside other downloaders and screenshot tools that provided the attackers with remote access and allowed them to spy on user activities and exfiltrate information.

Analysts do not know the initial infection vector that Harvester used to compromise victim networks, but the first evidence found of Harvester activity on victim machines was a malicious URL. The group then started to deploy various tools, including its custom Graphon backdoor, to gain remote access to the network. The group also tried to blend its activity in with legitimate network traffic by leveraging legitimate CloudFront and Microsoft infrastructure for its command and control (C&C) activity.

Tools used:

Backdoor.Graphon – custom backdoor that uses Microsoft infrastructure for its C&C activity
Custom Downloader – uses Microsoft infrastructure for its C&C activity
Custom Screenshotter – periodically logs screenshots to a file
Cobalt Strike Beacon – uses CloudFront infrastructure for its C&C activity (Cobalt Strike is an off-the-shelf tool that can be used to execute commands, inject other processes, elevate current processes, or impersonate other processes, and upload and download files)
Metasploit – an off-the-shelf modular framework that can be used for a variety of malicious purposes on victim machines, including privilege escalation, screen capture, to set up a persistent backdoor, and more.

The custom downloader used by the attackers leverages the Costura Assembly Loader. Once on a victim machine, it checks if the following file exists:

If the file does not exist it downloads a copy from the following URL:

Next, the sample creates the following file if it does not exist:

“[ARTEFACTS_FOLDER]Microsoft Services[.]vbs”
Then it sets the following registry value to create a loadpoint:

HKEY_CURRENT_USERSOFTWAREMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRun”MicrosoftSystemServices” = “[ARTEFACTS_FOLDER]Microsoft Services[.]vbs”
Finally it opens an embedded web browser within its own UI using the following URL:

While it initially appeared that this URL may have been a loadpoint for Backdoor.Graphon, upon further investigation it appears to be a decoy to confuse any affected users.

Backdoor.Graphon is compiled as a .NET PE DLL with export “Main” and the following PDB file name:

D:OfficeProjectsUpdated Working Due to Submission4.5Outlook_4.5Outlook 4.5.2 32 bit New without presistancyNPServicesbinx86DebugNPServices[.]pdb
When this is executed, it attempts to communicate with the attackers’ C&C servers, which are hosted on Microsoft infrastructure.

The attackers then run commands to control their input stream and capture the output and error streams. They also periodically send GET requests to the C&C server, with the content of any returned messages extracted and then deleted.

Data that cmd.exe pulled from the output and error streams is encrypted and sent back to the attackers’ servers.

The custom screenshot tool was also packed with the Costura Assembly Loader. The screenshot tool takes photos that it saves to a password-protected ZIP archive for exfiltration, with all archives older than a week deleted.

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