Analyzing a Fresh Variant of the Dorkbot Botnet

This blog post was written by Sudhanshu Dubey.

At McAfee Labs, we have recently observed a new variant of the Dorkbot botnet. Dorkbot is a well-known bot, famous for its various capabilities including backdoor, password stealing, and other malicious behavior. Dorkbot relies on social networking as its infection vector. In this post, we offer our analysis of this new variant.

The malware downloads the file from api[.]wipmania[.]net, a site that provides geolocalization services. The following screen shows the network traffic of the downloader file.

Downloader network communications.

The downloaded file is a wrapper compiled using Microsoft Visual C/C++ (2008 version). During our analysis we studied the wrapper file and extracted the inner file from the malware.


Analyzing the core

The inner file is also complied with a Microsoft Visual C++. The core is 48KB and has strings related to virtual machine names, registry entries, encrypted URLs, etc. as shown in the following:

Strings and encrypted URLs in the core file.


Before performing any malicious activity, the malware executes code that checks for a virtual environment. It uses the SetupDiGetDeviceRegistryPropertyA() API, which helps in retrieving specified Universal Plug and Play device properties. A code snippet:

Searching for virtual machines using SetupDiGetDeviceRegistryPropertyA ().

As we see in the preceding snapshot, the malware passes the third argument as 0xC (SPDRP_FRIENDLYNAME), which retrieves the friendly name of the device. It then checks the device name with the strings related to virtual machines, for example, vbox, qemu, vmware, and virtual hd. If the malware finds any of these strings, indicating the presence of a virtual environment, it will terminate itself.

After passing the VM check, the malware checks the current working directory. It compares the file path with the desired path from %appdata% with the folder name in GUID format, for example, %appdata%/{GUID}. The following assembly code shows the malware code that checks the file path.

File execution path check.

If the file is executed from a different path, the malware considers the event as its first execution. In the first execution, the malware sets up its environment: file drop, registry entries, etc. The malware creates a directory in %appdata% and copies itself. It uses a custom function and the StringFromGUID2() API to get the folder name in GUID format. The dropped file and path is shown in the following:

The malware copies itself to %appdata%.

Dorkbot also creates a Run registry entry and task to persist on the system, setting the execution file path with the dropped file mentioned above. The registry entry created by the malware:

Dorkbot’s registry entry.

The malware also creates a task that triggers when the user logs on, executing the malware file.

After successful installation of registry and schedule tasks, the malware uses process hollowing to execute its code as svchost.exe and bypass application-level whitelists.

The malware creates svchost.exe.

After injecting itself into svchost.exe, Dorkbot calls ZwQueueApcThread(),an undocumented API used to queue an asynchronous procedure call (APC) routine (the malware’s remote code) on a current remote thread. (APCs are functions that execute asynchronously in the context of a particular thread.) ZwQueueApcThread allows the caller to specify three arguments that will be passed to the thread, including the thread routine. The malware sends a routine address different from the address of the entry point of the file, resulting in communication with the control server.

The injected code first executes the relocation code, making the injected code compatible with the new base address. After relocating the code, the malware ensures it is kept active in the system—even after being killed manually—by injecting a watchdog code in already running processes. One strange thing we observed is that before injecting the watchdog code, the malware checks for the process names TeamViewer and tv_w32.exe. If the malware finds either of them, it does not inject its code into that process.

Process enumeration and watchdog code injection.

Dorkbot enumerates the running processes and tries to open them with 0x10047A flag/permissions related to remote memory creation, reading and writing to memory. Definitions of the flags:

0x100000    => Synchronize
0x400     => QueryInformation
0x70     => VirtualMemoryRead + VirtualMemoryWrite + DuplicateHandle
0xA     => VirtualMemoryOperation + CreateThread

The watchdog code has some API calls that Dorkbot needs to update to make its code compatible with the remote process. Dorkbot updates the placeholders in the code that are related to API addresses and the malware’s process ID. Along with the watchdog code, the malware also inject its file path, referenced by the code, to restart the process. The following screen shows the watchdog code before and after modification:

Injected watchdog code: before and after modification.

The injected code uses the WaitForSingleObject() API to wait infinitely for malware process. It provides the malware’s process ID as the first argument and infinite time as the second argument. If the malware process is killed, Dorkbot signals to WaitForSingleObject () and the injected code proceeds. After getting the signal, the injected code executes CreateProcessW () API and again creates the malware process.

As we mentioned, the malware also injects the malware’s file path to the remote process to restart its execution if it is killed manually. But as we see in the preceding screen, we cannot find any address referencing the malware file path. This is because the malware passes the file path’s address as an argument to the CreateRemoteThread() API and in the code is referenced with the help of the EBP register ([EBP + 8]).

CreateRemoteThread arguments.

Network communications

For communications, the malware contains a list of encrypted URLs. The malware decrypts this list and generates a list of URLs in the format %s%u.%s, which is also present in the malware itself. Here the first “%s” signifies the string “con,” “%u” signifies integers 1 and 2, and the subsequent “%s” signifies the decrypted URL. Thus the malware adds the prefixes con1. and con2. to each of the decrypted URLs.

Decrypted URL:
Generated URLs: con1., con2.

Data sent by the malware to its control server.

The first 4 bytes of the data is the fixed dword value hardcoded in the malware. These 4 bytes are also used while checking the received data from the server. The fifth byte of the data represents operating system major and minor versions. The sixth byte defines whether the OS is 32- or 64-bit. The value for this byte is either 0x20 or 0x40, the hex representations of 32 and 64, respectively.

The next part is the hex data, defined as a character, for example, 0x41 stands for for “A” and is represented as 4 and 1. This part of the data is the union of the computer name and the calculated hash data separated by #. The malware uses the format specifier “%s#%s,” in which the first part is the computer name and the latter the hash value. Following this data is the word value (0x444E in this case), which is taken from the particular offset in the file. The last part of the data is derived from the current time and the output of the GetTickCount () API.

After sending the data to the server, the malware is ready to receive data. Because the URLs are not currently active, we did not receive any data from the server during our analysis. However, from the assembly code, we can see that the malware expects the data from the server in a particular format. The following assembly code snippet shows the checks performed by the malware on the received data.

Received data checks.

The WS2_32.recv () API receives data from a connected socket and returns the number of bytes received. The malware checks the return value of the API, which is the length of bytes received from server with the value 205; that is, the malware expects the data from control server to be 205 bytes in length. After checking the number of bytes, it evaluates the first 6 bytes of the data. It compares the first 4 bytes with the fixed dword value (18273645 in this case), which it used while sending the data. (See the screen of data sent to the control server.) The malware expects the fifth and sixth bytes to be 1 and 0, respectively.

The inactive URLs prevented us from going further with our analysis. We shall post new information when available.

McAfee products detect this variant of the malware.

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