Ukraine’s CERT-UA warns of espionage activity conducted by UAC-0063

The Computer Emergency Response Team of Ukraine (CERT-UA) warns of a cyberespionage campaign targeting state bodies in the country.

The Computer Emergency Response Team of Ukraine (CERT-UA) has warned of cyber attacks targeting state bodies in the country as part of an espionage campaign conducted by a threat actor tracked as UAC-0063.

The nation-state actor on April 18, 2023 and April 20, 2023, sent spear-phishing emails to the department’s e-mail address, supposedly from the official mailbox of the Embassy of Tajikistan in Ukraine.

The CERT-UA believes that the mailbox of the Embassy of Tajikistan may have been compromised in a previous attack. The email used in the attacks contained respectively a weaponized document and a reference to the same document.

“If the document is downloaded and the macro is activated on the PC, a DOCX file “SvcRestartTaskLogon” will be created and opened, which also contains a macro, which will create another file with the “WsSwapAssessmentTask” macro.” reads the report published by CERT-UA. “The purpose of the latter is to create a “SoftwareProtectionPlatform” file classified as HATVIBE and a scheduled task to run it. HATVIBE is presented as an encoded VBScript (VBE) file, which functionally provides the ability to load and run other files.”

Upon enabling the macro in the Microsoft Word document, an encoded VBScript called HATVIBE is launched. The script then is used used to drop additional malicious payloads, including a keylogger (LOGPIE) and the CHERRYSPY backdoor. Both Python-based malware are protected using the PyArmor utility.

The threat actors also used the STILLARCH malware to search and exfiltrate files, including the results of the LOGPIE keylogger operation (file extension: “.~tmp”)

Threat actors also employed the sophisticated malware strain DownEx, which was recently involved in attacks aimed at Government organizations in Central Asia.

Ukrainian government experts reported that the analysis of the attack infrastructure lead them into believing that the attack was aimed at organizations from Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Israel, and India. 

CERT-UA recommends that user accounts should be restricted from running “mshta.exe”, running Windows Script Host (“wscript.exe”, “cscript.exe”) and the Python interpreter.

Ukraine’s CERT also shared Indicators of Compromise (IoCs).

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