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Friday, July 12, 2024

Agent Tesla’s Distinctive Method: VBS and Steganography for Supply and Intrusion

Agent Tesla’s Distinctive Method: VBS and Steganography for Supply and Intrusion

Authored by Yashvi Shah

Agent Tesla features as a Distant Entry Trojan (RAT) and an data stealer constructed on the .NET framework. It’s able to recording keystrokes, extracting clipboard content material, and looking out the disk for helpful information. The acquired data could be transmitted to its command-and-control server through numerous channels, together with HTTP(S), SMTP, FTP, and even via a Telegram channel.

Typically, Agent Tesla makes use of misleading emails to contaminate victims, disguising as enterprise inquiries or cargo updates. Opening attachments triggers malware set up, hid via obfuscation. The malware then communicates with a command server to extract compromised information.

The next warmth map reveals the present prevalence of Agent Tesla on discipline:

Determine 1: Agent Tesla warmth map

McAfee Labs has detected a variation the place Agent Tesla was delivered via VBScript (VBS) information, showcasing a departure from its ordinary strategies of distribution. VBS information are script information utilized in Home windows for automating duties, configuring techniques, and performing numerous actions. They may also be misused by cybercriminals to ship malicious code and execute dangerous actions on computer systems.

Technical Evaluation

The examined VBS file executed quite a few PowerShell instructions after which leveraged steganography to carry out course of injection into RegAsm.exe as proven in Determine 2. Regasm.exe is a Home windows command-line utility used to register .NET assemblies as COM elements, permitting interoperability between completely different software program. It may also be exploited by malicious actors for functions like course of injection, probably enabling covert or unauthorized operations.

Determine 2: An infection Chain

VBS wants scripting hosts like wscript.exe to interpret and execute its code, handle interactions with the consumer, deal with output and errors, and supply a runtime setting. When the VBS is executed, wscript invokes the preliminary PowerShell command.

Determine 3: Course of Tree

First PowerShell command

The primary PowerShell command is encoded as illustrated right here:

Determine 4: Encoded First PowerShell

Obfuscating PowerShell instructions serves as a protection mechanism employed by malware authors to make their malicious intentions more durable to detect. This system includes deliberately obfuscating the code by utilizing numerous methods, similar to encoding, changing characters, or utilizing convoluted syntax. This runtime decoding is completed to cover the true nature of the command from static evaluation instruments that look at the code with out execution. Upon decoding, achieved by substituting occurrences of ‘#@$#’ with ‘A’ and subsequently making use of base64-decoding, we efficiently retrieved the decrypted PowerShell content material as follows:

Determine 5: Decoded content material

Second PowerShell Command

The deciphered content material serves because the parameter handed to the second occasion of PowerShell..

Determine 6: Second PowerShell command

Deconstructing this command line for clearer comprehension:

Determine 7: Disassembled command


As noticed, the PowerShell command instructs the obtain of a picture, from the URL that’s strore in variable “imageURL.” The downloaded picture is 3.50 MB in measurement and is displayed beneath:


Determine 8: Downloaded picture

This picture serves because the canvas for steganography, the place attackers have hid their information. This hidden information is extracted and utilized because the PowerShell instructions are executed sequentially. The instructions explicitly point out the presence of two markers, ‘<<BASE64_START>>’ and ‘<<BASE64_END>>’. The size of the info is saved in variable ‘base64Length’. The info enclosed between these markers is saved in ‘base64Command’. The next pictures illustrate these markers and the content material encapsulated between them.

Determine 9: Steganography

After acquiring this information, the malware proceeds with decoding procedures. Upon examination, it turns into obvious that the decrypted information is a .NET DLL file. Within the subsequent step, a command is executed to load this DLL file into an meeting.

Determine 10: DLL obtained from steganography

Course of Injection into RegAsm.exe

This DLL serves two functions:

  1. Downloading and decoding the ultimate payload
  2. Injecting it into RegAsm.exe

Determine 11: DLL loaded

In Determine 11, at marker 1, a parameter named ‘QBXtX’ is utilized to just accept an argument for the given instruction. As we proceed with the ultimate stage of the PowerShell command proven in Determine 7, the sequence unfolds as follows:

$arguments = ,(‘txt.46ezabwenrtsac/42.021.871.591//:ptth’)

The instruction mandates reversing the content material of this parameter and subsequently storing the end result within the variable named ‘handle.’ Upon reversing the argument, it transforms into: /castrnewbaze64.txt

Determine 12: Request for payload

Due to this fact, it’s evident that this DLL is designed to fetch the talked about textual content file from the C2 server through the supplied URL and save its contents throughout the variable named “textual content.” This file is 316 Kb in measurement. The info throughout the file stays in an unreadable or unintelligible format.

Determine 13: Downloaded textual content file

In Determine 11, at marker 2, the contents of the “textual content” variable are reversed and overwritten in the identical variable. Subsequently, at marker 3, the info saved within the “textual content” variable is subjected to base64 decoding. Following this, we decided that the file is a .NET compiled executable.

Determine 14: Remaining payload

In Determine 11, one other exercise is obvious at marker 3, the place the method path for the upcoming course of injection is specified. The designated course of path for the method injection is :


Since RegAsm.exe is a reliable Home windows device, it’s much less more likely to elevate suspicion from safety options. Injecting .NET samples into it permits attackers to successfully execute their malicious payload inside a trusted context, making detection and evaluation more difficult.

Course of injection includes utilizing Home windows API calls to insert code or a payload into the reminiscence house of a operating course of. This permits the injected code to execute throughout the context of the goal course of. Widespread steps embody allocating reminiscence, writing code, making a distant thread, and executing the injected code. On this context, the DLL performs a sequence of API calls to realize course of injection:

Determine 15: Course of Injection

By obscuring the sequence of API calls and their meant actions via obfuscation methods, attackers purpose to evade detection and make it more durable for safety researchers to unravel the true habits of the malicious code. The perform ‘hU0H4qUiSpCA13feW0’ is used for changing content material. For instance,

“kern!”.Exchange(“!”, “el32”)  à  kernel32

Class1.hU0H4qUiSpCA13feW0(“qllocEx”, “q”, “VirtualA”) à VirtualAllocEx

In consequence, these features translate into the next API calls:

  1. CreateProcessA : This API name is usually employed to provoke the creation of a brand new course of, somewhat than for course of injection. Within the context of course of injection, the main target is usually on focusing on an current course of and injecting code into it.
  2. VirtualAllocEx: That is typically utilized in course of injection to allocate reminiscence throughout the goal course of to host the injected code.
  3. ReadProcessMemory: That is used to learn the reminiscence of a goal course of. It’s usually utilized in reflective DLL injection to learn the contents of a DLL from the injector’s reminiscence and write it into the goal course of.
  4. GetThreadContext: This API is used to retrieve the context (registers, flags, and many others.) of a thread inside a goal course of. It’s helpful for modifying thread execution circulate throughout injection.
  5. Wow64GetThreadContext: That is like GetThreadContext, but it surely’s used when coping with 32-bit processes on a 64-bit system.
  6. SetThreadContext: This API is used to set the context of a thread inside a goal course of. This may be helpful for modifying the execution circulate.
  7. Wow64SetThreadContext: Like SetThreadContext, however for 32-bit processes on a 64-bit system.
  8. ZwUnmapViewOfSection: That is used to unmap a bit of a course of’s digital handle house, which may probably be used to take away a DLL loaded right into a goal course of throughout injection.
  9. WriteProcessMemory: That is used to jot down information into the reminiscence of a goal course of. It’s generally used for injecting code or information right into a distant course of.
  10. ResumeThread: That is used to renew the execution of a suspended thread, typically after modifying its context or injecting code.

Upon profitable injection of the malware into RegAsm.exe, it initiates its meant operations, primarily targeted on information theft from the focused system.

The final word executable is closely obfuscated. It employs an intensive array of swap circumstances and superfluous code, strategically meant to mislead researchers and complicate evaluation. Lots of the features make the most of both swap circumstances or their equal constructs, to defend detection. Following snippet of code depicts the identical.

Determine 16: Obfuscation

Assortment of knowledge:


Agent Tesla collects information from compromised gadgets to realize two key targets: firstly, to mark new infections, and secondly, to ascertain a singular ‘fingerprint’ of the sufferer’s system. The collected information encompasses:

  • Pc Identify
  • IP data
  • Win32_baseboard
  • Serial quantity
  • win32_processor
  • processorID
  • Win32_NetworkAdapterConfiguration
  • MacAddress

Internet Browsers:

Agent Tesla initiates the method of gathering information from numerous net browsers. It makes use of swap circumstances to deal with completely different browsers, decided by the parameters handed to it. All of those features are closely obscured via obfuscation methods. The next figures depict the browser information that it tried to retrieve.

Determine 17: Opera browser

Determine 18: Yandex browser

Determine 19: Iridium browser

Determine 20: Chromium browser

Equally, it retrieves information from almost all doable browsers. The captured log beneath lists all of the browsers from which it tried to retrieve information:

Determine 21: Consumer information retrieval from all browsers -1

Determine 22: Consumer information retrieval from all browsers – 2

Mail Purchasers:

Agent Tesla is able to stealing numerous delicate information from e mail purchasers. This contains e mail credentials, message content material, contact lists, mail server settings, attachments, cookies, auto-complete information, and message drafts. It may possibly goal a variety of e mail providers to entry and exfiltrate this data. Agent Tesla targets the next e mail purchasers to collect information:

Determine 23: Mail purchasers


Agent Tesla employs vital obfuscation methods to evade preliminary static evaluation makes an attempt. This technique conceals its malicious code and precise targets. Upon profitable decoding, we have been capable of scrutinize its inside operations and functionalities, together with using SMTP for information exfiltration.

The noticed pattern makes use of SMTP as its chosen methodology of exfiltration. This protocol is incessantly favored because of its minimal overhead calls for on the attacker. SMTP reduces overhead for attackers as a result of it’s environment friendly, extensively allowed in networks, makes use of current infrastructure, causes minimal anomalies, leverages compromised accounts, and seems much less suspicious in comparison with different protocols. A single compromised e mail account can be utilized for exfiltration, streamlining the method, and minimizing the necessity for advanced setups. They’ll obtain their malicious objectives with only a single e mail account, simplifying their operations.

Determine 24: Operate calls made for exfiltration.

That is the process by which features are invoked to facilitate information extraction through SMTP:

  1. A selected worth is supplied as a parameter, and this worth is processed throughout the features. In consequence, it finally determines the port quantity to be utilized for SMTP communication. On this case, port quantity 587 is used for communication.

Determine 25: Port quantity

  1. Subsequent, the malware retrieves the hostname of the e-mail handle it intends to make the most of i.e., corpsa.internet.

Determine 26: Area retrieval

  1. Subsequently, the e-mail handle via which communication is meant to happen is revealed.

Determine 27: Electronic mail handle used

  1. Lastly, the password for that e mail handle is supplied, in order that attacker can log in and might begin sending out the info.

Determine 28: Password

The SMTP course of as outlined includes a sequence of systematic steps. It begins with the processing of a selected parameter worth, which subsequently determines the port quantity for SMTP communication. Following this, the malware retrieves the related area of the meant e mail handle, revealing the handle itself and finally offering the corresponding password. This orchestrated sequence highlights how the malware establishes a connection via SMTP, facilitating its meant operations.

Following these steps, the malware effectively establishes a login utilizing acquired credentials. As soon as authenticated, it commences the method of transmitting the harvested information to a chosen e mail handle related to the malware itself.


The an infection technique of Agent Tesla includes a number of phases. It begins with the preliminary vector, typically utilizing e mail attachments or different social engineering techniques. As soon as executed, the malware employs obfuscation to keep away from detection throughout static evaluation. The malware then undergoes decoding, revealing its true performance. It orchestrates a sequence of PowerShell instructions to obtain and course of a hidden picture containing encoded directions. These directions result in the extraction of a .NET DLL file, which subsequently injects the ultimate payload into the reliable course of ‘RegAsm.exe’ utilizing a sequence of API requires course of injection. This payload carries out its function of knowledge theft, together with focusing on browsers and e mail purchasers for delicate data. The stolen information is exfiltrated through SMTP communication, offering stealth and leveraging e mail account. Total, Agent Tesla’s an infection course of employs a posh chain of methods to realize its data-stealing targets.

Indicators of compromise (IoC):

VBS filee2a4a40fe8c8823ed5a73cdc9a8fa9b9e7a157ba1819d7af9a5f66aa9e161cce68d20792d117a90332ff797cbbd8aaa5
JPEG fileec8dfde2126a937a65454323418e28da21c5d3ef06d8cff43816a10a37ba1804a764b7b31fe1eb3b82c144515297875f
DLL fileb257f83495996b9a79d174d60dc02caab2d667caa6f3deec506e27a5f40971cb344b6edcfe6182002f1e91ce9167327f
Remaining payloaddd94daef4081f63cf4751c3689045213abe5c5bb02865ac405e08438642fcd0d38abd949a18341fc79d2e8715f0f6e42

Desk 1:Indicators of Compromise

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