The campaigns were spotted by Brad Duncan with both the SANS Internet Storm Center and Palo Alto Networks’ Unit 42. He said the attacks relate to similar malware campaigns, dubbed EITest, that date back to December 2016.
In all cases victims are lured to a booby-trapped website that generates a bogus popup message informing the user the webpage they are trying to view cannot display correctly because the browser is missing the correct “HoeflerText” font (see below).
In another case, he said a Chrome HoeflerText font update delivers the file “Font_Chrome.exe” file. When executed, it retrieves follow-up malware that installs a NetSupport Manager RAT, according to researchers.
“This is significant, because it indicates a potential shift in the motives of this adversary,” Duncan wrote. “It’s yet to be determined why EITest HoeflerText popups changed from pushing ransomware to pushing a RAT. Ransomware is still a serious threat, and it remains the largest category of malware we see on a daily basis from mass-distribution campaigns.”
He theorizes RATs are becoming more popular with threat actors behind the campaign because they give attackers more capabilities on infected PCs and are more flexible than single-purpose ransomware.
Driving traffic to those malicious webpages are a number of spam campaigns.
“In recent days, I’ve noticed multiple waves of malspam every weekday. It gets a bit boring after a while, but as 2017-08-31 came to a close, I noticed a different technique from this malspam,” Duncan said.
Duncan said using Internet Explorer or Microsoft Edge on booby-trapped webpages did not trigger the HoeflerText’ popup. Rather, “victims who use Microsoft Internet Explorer as their web browser will get a fake anti-virus alert with a phone number for a tech support scam.”
Emails were botnet-based and originated from various IP addresses around the world and spoof the Dropbox firstname.lastname@example.org email address, according to the research.
A sample subject line read: “Please verify your email address”. The body of the message also states, “We just need to verify your email address before your sign up is complete.” A “verify your email” button masks the URL address that links to the malicious site that triggers the EITest HoeflerText popups.
“Users should be aware of this ongoing threat. Be suspicious of popup messages in Google Chrome that state: The ‘HoeflerText’ font wasn’t found. Since this is a RAT, infected users will probably not notice any change in their day-to-day computer use. If the NetSupport Manager RAT is found on your Windows host, it is probably related to a malware infection,” Duncan said.