In 2014 the actors behind global cyber espionage campaign “Operation NetTraveler” celebrate ten years of activity. NetTraveler has targeted more than 350 high-profile victims in 40 countries. So it is high time we make our research public .We were able to attribute Netravler to PLA[People liberation Army] military camp in Lanzhou. We provide our analysis in the form of a PPT slide.
I was privilaged to publish my research papers in many prominent Security conferecnes.
Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) APT is a set of stealthy and continuous computer hacking processes, often orchestrated by human(s) targeting a specific entity. APT usually targets organizations and or nations for business or political motives. So if ever your organization is attacked , this talk would be useful in tracking the culprits.
Is NetTraveler APT managed by PLA Military Camp in Lanzhou [China] ???.
Lessons learned tracking an APT team
Advance Persistent Threats
[APT] Tracking for Dummies
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Netravler APT Attribution
This talk would be on how we attributed the APT team
behind Netravler .
How we did it and how you could do the same.
Tracking an APT Team
Information gathering .
Finding security bugs in attacker infrastructure.
Taking over attacker Command and Controller
What ever mentioned in the talk today is based on data collected
over an year. This research was done with active participation
from g4h members
Spear-phishing :Comes form Spoofed email
address via email.
Watering hole technique (browser exploits, drive
by downloads) to infect victims surfing the web
Step 1: Email header analysis .
Evidences to Collect.
1) Collect sender time, return path, SMTP address etc.
Step 2: Exploit Analysis
The objective is to identify/extract the malware dropped using
Collect Metadata embedded in the exploit .
Find any piece of information that would help in attribution.
Identify CVE using virustotal.com helps when the exploit is
not a 0-day .
Automated: MS-office exploit
These sites should help.
Extracting Malware out of
Manual: MS-office exploit analysis.
Run the document file in a virtual machine and use process
monitor to watch system level changes [drops at temp file].
Use Sandboxie to execute the document file and extract the
Load office in a debugger and put breakpoints at file write API.
Evidences Collected from Step
Sent from a spoofed email address .
The email contained a malicious attachment, which exploited cve-
2010-333 rtf exploit .
Based on initial analysis the same malware samples were used to
attacks Korea and Russia.
Campaign that have been active since 2009 .
Opening the exploit drops a legitimate file with
File Name: Jallianwala Bagh massacre a deeply shameful act.doc
It drops the following binaries:
Step 3: Malware Analysis
Evidences to Collect.
Command and Control Domain names/ IP address.
Whois Information about the IP address.
Registrant Email Address
Interesting strings in Malware .
Analysis. Reversing Malware:
• Normally controller
information would be
encrypted or encoded
inside the malware.
• Just run the malware in a
debugger and then
analyze the heap for IP
address / Domain patters.
• Alternately put breakpoint
at Winsock Functions and
analyze the stack .
• You can figure out
• The current malware
compressed data and then
base64 encoded them
before sending them to
attacker controlled servers.
• Registry / File system
values malwares write for
Evidences Collected from Step 3.
Request: Compressed+B64 encoded Get request
IP address 220.127.116.11 hosted many
Also each domains we identified were
behind the fast flux domain.
Registrant email ID were found using
whois and was used to reverse query
We wrote a Fast Flux
• Collected all IP address associated with
• Created another program to get whois
info of all these IP address registration
Step 4: Offensive Attacks on
Collect information about victims.
Find information about attackers .
Identify stolen information .
Collect tools used by attackers.
Learn about attacker tools and tactics.
Some time you find 0-days on these server, this would give
“The only real defense is offensive defense” (Mao
On the C&C application .
On the hosted server .
Or what ever evil ways you could think about.
We found a lame bug in the controller application and we had our first non-interactive shell on the
Huge no of C&C servers were under control.
Lot of evidences to collect.
They looked for :
- .ppt(x) , .xls(x) .doc(x) .pdf
• The contents were
• Decompression was
needed to convert it
back to a usable
Lots of Data and Lots of
Webserver logs, System logs .
Activity and admin login logs.
IP address and Mac Address.
1. Attackers where behind a proxy.
2. Military like working pattern identified
3. The controller admins showed lack of
technicalskills. (So the developers of
Nettravler is not themaintainers of the
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M T W T F S SU
Retaliation by AttackersGarage4Hackers
While analyzing the data on the
controllers, we were attacked by the
attackers. The attacker attacked from
18.104.22.168 IP and tried to sent Ms08-
067 exploit .
61.178.77.* is a notorious IP range and
is attributed in many attacks against
governments around the world.
Some advance googling, we stumbled
upon an interesting discovery, soldiers
from PLA Lanzhou camp talking about
their experiences and the above IP was
The Lanzhou Military Region is one of
seven military regions in the People's
Republic of China.
Huge amount spent for the malware infrastructure
24/7 Working hours [Military working hours] .
Low technical skills, developers of Netravler were
different from the maintainers [ Trained users not core
IP address attribution to PLA[People liberation Army]
All evidences were leading to PLA IT department
Tracking the SMTP server. Garage4Hackers
Finger print IP address of SMTP server from Email
header analysis .
Identified an Exploit/Phishing mailer kit named Chilly
Go to step 4, identify vulnerabilities in the server
hosting the exploit kit.
Chilly Fisher Exploit Kit
The kit had a frontend and Backend code .
The function of the Front end code was to send mass
phishing/exploit emails to targets.
The front end code allowed attackers to mass include target
emails, subject and email content.
The phishing email sent has a hyperlink with unique callback
to the backend code.
The kit contained a phishing and browser exploit module .
The backend database used is MS-Access . All collected
information is stored in this database.
Chillyfisher instance had "Loginlog" table having
information's about ChillyFisher admins who logged into the
All the logged in Admins were from China.
There were around 10,000 unique IP address found in target