Beware of ‘Coronavirus Maps’ – It’s a malware infecting PCs to steal passwords

Cybercriminals will stop at nothing to exploit every chance to prey on internet users.

Even the disastrous spread of SARS-COV-II (the virus), which causes COVID-19 (the disease), is becoming an opportunity for them to likewise spread malware or launch cyber attacks.

Reason Cybersecurity recently released a threat analysis report detailing a new attack that takes advantage of internet users' increased craving for information about the novel coronavirus that is wreaking havoc worldwide.

The malware attack specifically aims to target those who are looking for cartographic presentations of the spread of COVID-19 on the Internet, and trickes them to download and run a malicious application that, on its front-end, shows a map loaded from a legit online source but in the background compromises the computer.

New Threat With An Old Malware Component

The latest threat, designed to steal information from unwitting victims, was first spotted by MalwareHunterTeam last week and has now been analyzed by Shai Alfasi, a cybersecurity researcher at Reason Labs.

It involves a malware identified as AZORult, an information-stealing malicious software discovered in 2016. AZORult malware collects information stored in web browsers, particularly cookies, browsing histories, user IDs, passwords, and even cryptocurrency keys.

With these data drawn from browsers, it is possible for cybercriminals to steal credit card numbers, login credentials, and various other sensitive information.

AZORult is reportedly discussed in Russian underground forums as a tool for gathering sensitive data from computers. It comes with a variant that is capable of generating a hidden administrator account in infected computers to enable connections via the remote desktop protocol (RDP).

Sample Analysis

Alfasi provides technical details upon studying the malware, which is embedded in the file, usually named as It's a small Win32 EXE file with a payload size of only around 3.26 MB.

Double-clicking the file opens a window that shows various information about the spread of COVID-19. The centerpiece is a "map of infections" similar to the one hosted by Johns Hopkins University, a legitimate online source to visualize and track reported coronavirus cases in the real-time.

Numbers of confirmed cases in different countries are presented on the left side while stats on deaths and recoveries are on the right. The window appears to be interactive, with tabs for various other related information and links to sources.

It presents a convincing GUI not many would suspect to be harmful. The information presented is not an amalgamation of random data, instead is actual COVID-19 information pooled from the Johns Hopkins website.

To be noted, the original coronavirus map hosted online by Johns Hopkins University or ArcGIS is not infect or backdoored in any way and are safe to visit.

The malicious software utilizes some layers of packing along with a multi-sub-process technique infused to make it challenging for researchers to detect and analyze. Additionally, it employs a task scheduler so it can continue operating.

Signs of Infection

Executing the results in the creation of duplicates of the file and multiple Corona.exe, Bin.exe, Build.exe, and Windows.Globalization.Fontgroups.exe files.


Additionally, the malware modifies a handful of registers under ZoneMap and LanguageList. Several mutexes are also created.

Execution of the malware activates the following processes: Bin.exe, Windows.Globalization.Fontgroups.exe, and These attempt to connect to several URLs.

These processes and URLs are only a sample of what the attack entails. There are many other files generated and processes initiated. They create various network communication activities as malware tries to gather different kinds of information.

How the Attack Steals Information

Alfasi presented a detailed account of how he dissected the malware in a blog post on the Reason Security blog. One highlight detail is his analysis of the Bin.exe process with Ollydbg. Accordingly, the process wrote some dynamic link libraries (DLL). The DLL "nss3.dll" caught his attention as it is something he was acquainted with from different actors.


Alfasi observed a static loading of APIs associated with nss3.dll. These APIs appeared to facilitate the decryption of saved passwords as well as the generation of output data.

This is a common approach used by data thieves. Relatively simple, it only captures the login data from the infected web browser and moves it to the C:\Windows\Temp folder. It's one of the hallmarks of an AZORult attack, wherein the malware extracts data, generates a unique ID of the infected computer, applies XOR encryption, then initiates C2 communication.

The malware makes specific calls in an attempt to steal login data from common online accounts such as Telegram and Steam.

To emphasize, malware execution is the only step needed for it to proceed with its information-stealing processes. Victims don't need to interact with the window or input sensitive information therein.

Cleaning and Prevention

It may sound promotional, but Alfasi suggests Reason Antivirus software as the solution to fix infected devices and prevent further attacks. He is affiliated with Reason Security, after all. Reason is the first to find and scrutinize this new threat, so they can handle it effectively.

Other security firms are likely to have already learned about this threat, since Reason made it public on March 9. Their antiviruses or malware protection tools will have been updated as of publication time.

As such, they may be similarly capable of detecting and preventing the new threat.

The key to removing and stopping the opportunistic "coronavirus map" malware is to have the right malware protection system. It will be challenging to detect it manually, let alone remove the infection without the right software tool.

It may not be enough to be cautious in downloading and running files from the internet, as many tend to be overeager in accessing information about the novel coronavirus nowadays.

The pandemic level dispersion of COVID-19 merits utmost caution not only offline (to avoid contracting the disease) but also online. Cyber attackers are exploiting the popularity of coronavirus-related resources on the web, and many will likely fall prey to the attacks.

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Critical Patch Released for ‘Wormable’ SMBv3 Vulnerability — Install It ASAP!

Microsoft today finally released an emergency software update to patch the recently disclosed very dangerous vulnerability in SMBv3 protocol that could let attackers launch wormable malware, which can propagate itself from one vulnerable computer to another automatically.

The vulnerability, tracked as CVE-2020-0796, in question is a remote code execution flaw that impacts Windows 10 version 1903 and 1909, and Windows Server version 1903 and 1909.

Server Message Block (SMB), which runs over TCP port 445, is a network protocol that has been designed to enable file sharing, network browsing, printing services, and interprocess communication over a network.

The latest vulnerability, for which a patch update (KB4551762) is now available on the Microsoft website, exists in the way SMBv3 protocol handles requests with compression headers, making it possible for unauthenticated remote attackers to execute malicious code on target servers or clients with SYSTEM privileges.

Compression headers is a feature that was added to the affected protocol of Windows 10 and Windows Server operating systems in May 2019, designed to compress the size of messages exchanged between a sever and clients connected to it.

"To exploit the vulnerability against a server, an unauthenticated attacker could send a specially crafted packet to a targeted SMBv3 server. To exploit the vulnerability against a client, an unauthenticated attacker would need to configure a malicious SMBv3 server and convince a user to connect to it," Microsoft said in the advisory.

At the time of writing, there is only one known PoC exploit that exists for this critical remotely exploitable flaw, but reverse engineering new patches could now also help hackers find possible attack vectors to develop fully weaponized self-propagating malware.

A separate team of researchers have also published a detailed technical analysis of the vulnerability, concluding a kernel pool overflow as the root cause of the issue.

As of today, there are nearly 48,000 Windows systems vulnerable to the latest SMB compression vulnerability and accessible over the Internet.

Since a patch for the wormable SMBv3 flaw is now available to download for affected versions of Windows, it's highly recommended for home users and businesses to install updates as soon as possible, rather than merely relying on the mitigation.

In cases where immediate patch update is not applicable, it's advised to at least disable SMB compression feature and block SMB port for both inbound and outbound connections to help prevent remote exploitation.

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10,000 Users Affected by Leak from Misconfigured AWS Cloud Storage and Massive U.S. Property and Demographic Database Exposes 200 Million Records

Welcome to our weekly roundup, where we share what you need to know about the cybersecurity news and events that happened over the past few days. This week, learn about how the data of train commuters in the U.K. who were using the free Wi-Fi in Network Rail-managed stations was unintentionally leaked due to an unsecured Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud storage. Also, read about how more than 200 million records containing property-related information on U.S. residents were exposed.

Read on:

Security Risks in Online Coding Platforms

As DevOps and cloud computing has gained popularity, developers are coding online more and more, but this traction has also raised the questions of whether online integrated development environments (IDEs) are secure. In this blog, learn about two popular cloud-based IDEs: AWS Cloud9 and Visual Studio Online.

Legal Services Giant Epiq Global Offline After Ransomware Attack

The company, which provides legal counsel and administration that counts banks, credit giants, and governments as customers, confirmed the attack hit on February 29. A source said the ransomware hit the organization’s entire fleet of computers across its 80 global offices.

Dissecting Geost: Exposing the Anatomy of the Android Trojan Targeting Russian Banks

Trend Micro has conducted an analysis into the behavior of the Geost trojan by reverse engineering a sample of the malware. The trojan employed several layers of obfuscation, encryption, reflection, and injection of non-functional code segments that made it more difficult to reverse engineer. Read this blog for further analysis of Geost.

Trend Micro Cooperates with Japan International Cooperation Agency to Secure the Connected World

Trend Micro this week announced new initiatives designed to enhance collaboration with global law enforcement and developing nations through cybersecurity outreach, support and training. The first agreement is with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), a government agency responsible for providing overseas development aid and nurturing social economic growth in developing nations.

Data of U.K. Train Commuters Leak from Misconfigured AWS Cloud Storage

The data of train commuters in the U.K. who were using the free Wi-Fi in Network Rail-managed stations was unintentionally leaked due to an unsecured Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud storage. Approximately 10,000 users were affected, and data thought to be exposed in the leak includes commuters’ travel habits, contact information such as email addresses, and dates of birth.

Critical Netgear Bug Impacts Flagship Nighthawk Router

Netgear is warning users of a critical remote code execution bug that could allow an unauthenticated attacker to take control of its Wireless AC Router Nighthawk (R7800) hardware running firmware versions prior to The warnings, posted Tuesday, also include two high-severity bugs impacting Nighthawk routers, 21 medium-severity flaws and one rated low.

FBI Working to ‘Burn Down’ Cyber Criminals’ Infrastructure

To thwart increasingly dangerous cyber criminals, law enforcement agents are working to “burn down their infrastructure” and take out the tools that allow them to carry out their devastating attacks, FBI Director Christopher Wray said this week. Unsophisticated cyber criminals now have the power to paralyze entire hospitals, businesses and police departments, Wray also said.

A Massive U.S. Property and Demographic Database Exposes 200 Million Records

More than 200 million records containing a wide range of property-related information on U.S. residents were left exposed on a database that was accessible on the web without requiring any password or authentication. The exposed data included personal and demographic information such as name, address, email address, age, gender, ethnicity, employment, credit rating, investment preferences, income, net worth and property-specific information.

How Human Security Investments Created a Global Culture of Accountability at ADP

Human security is what matters during a cybersecurity crisis, where skills and muscle memory can make the difference in make-or-break moments. Leaders and culture are the most important predictors of cyberattack outcomes, so it’s time to stop under-investing in human security.

Ransomware Attacks Prompt Tough Question for Local Officials: To Pay or Not to Pay?

There were at least 113 successful ransomware attacks on state and local governments last year, according to global cybersecurity company Emsisoft, and in each case, officials had to figure out how to respond. Read this article to find out how officials make the tough call.

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Suddenly Teleworking, Securely

So you suddenly have a lot of staff working remotely. Telework is not new and a good percentage of the workforce already does so. But the companies who have a distributed workforce had time to plan for it, and to plan for it securely.

A Lot of New Teleworkers All At Once

This event can be treated like a quick rollout of an application: there are business, infrastructure, and customer security impacts. There will be an increase of work for help desks as new teleworkers wrestle with remote working.

Additionally, don’t compound the problem. There is advice circulating to reset all passwords for remote workers. This opens the door for increased social engineering to attempt to lure overworked help desk staff into doing password resets that don’t comply with policy. Set expectations for staff that policy must be complied with, and to expect some delays while the help desk is overloaded.

Business continuity issues will arise as limited planning for remote workers could max out VPN licenses, firewall capacity, and application timeouts as many people attempt to use the same apps through a narrower network pipe.

Help Staff Make A Secure Home Office

In the best of times, remote workers are often left to their own devices (pun intended) for securing their work at home experience. Home offices are already usually much less secure than corporate offices: weak routers, unmanaged PCs, and multiple users means home offices become an easier attack path into the enterprise.

It doesn’t make sense to have workers operate in a less secure environment in this context. Give them the necessary security tools and operational tools to do their business. Teleworkers, even with a company-issued device, are likely to work on multiple home devices. Make available enterprise licensed storage and sharing tools, so employees don’t have to resort to ‘sketchy’ or weak options when they exceed the limits for free storage on Dropbox or related services.

A Secure Web Gateway as a service is a useful option considering that teleworkers using a VPN will still likely be split tunneling (i.e. not going through corporate security devices when browsing to non-corporate sites, etc.), unlike when they are in the corporate office and all connections are sanitized. That is especially important in cases where a weak home router gets compromised and any exfiltration or other ‘phone home’ traffic from malware needs to be spotted.

A simple way to get this information out to employees is to add remote working security tips to any regularly occurring executive outreach.

Operational Issues

With a large majority of businesses switching to a work-from-home model with less emphasis on in-person meetings, we also anticipate that malicious actors will start to impersonate digital tools, such as ‘free’ remote conferencing services and other cloud computing software.

Having a policy on respecting telework privacy is a good preventative step to minimize the risk of this type of attack being successful. Remote workers may be concerned about their digital privacy when working from home, so any way to inform them about likely attack methods can help.

Any steps to prevent staff trying to evade security measures out of a concern over privacy are likely a good investment.

Crisis Specific Risks

During any major event or crisis, socially engineered attacks and phishing will increase. Human engineering means using any lever to make it a little bit easier for targets to click on a link.

We’re seeing targeted email attacks taking advantage of this. Some will likely use tactics such as attachments named “attached is your Work At Home Allowance Voucher,” spoofed corporate guidelines, or HR documents.

Sadly, we expect hospitals and local governments will see increased targeting by ransomware due the expectation that payouts are likelier during an emergency.

But Hang On – It Is Not All Bad News

The good news is that none of these attacks are  new and we already have playbooks to defend against them. Give a reminder to all staff during this period to be more wary of phishing, but don’t overly depend on user education – back it up with security technology measures. Here are a few ways to do that.

  • Give your remote workers the security and productivity tools they need to protect themselves and their non-corporate IT resources.
  • Include an enterprise managed cloud storage account for work documents so employees don’t find free versions that may not be safe.
  • Enable customers and supply chain partners, who may also be teleworking, to interact with you securely.

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