Hackers Exploit Google Ads to Spread IP Scanner with Concealed Backdoor

In Cybersecurity News - Original News Source is cybersecuritynews.com by Blog Writer

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Malicious actors are distributing a new backdoor, MadMxShell, through a Google Ads campaign that impersonates an IP scanner. This Windows backdoor leverages DNS MX queries for communication with its command-and-control server. 

The technique involves encoding data within subdomains of DNS MX queries to send information to the attacker and receiving commands encoded within the response packets.

MadMxShell allows the attacker to collect system data, execute commands through the command prompt, and manipulate files on the compromised machine. 

network tab shows attempts to make DNS requests to C2

Advertisers are using malvertising, placing malicious ads disguised as legitimate software, to spread a sophisticated Windows backdoor called MadMxShell for the first time, which highlights a new tactic for delivering advanced malware. 


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The attackers exploited Google Ads by registering domains imitating popular IP scanner software, tricking users into downloading the backdoor, bypassing traditional malware detection methods and emphasizing the need for increased vigilance against malvertising.  

Diagram of the infection chain. Source: Zscaler

An attacker leverages social engineering tactics to deceive a user searching for legitimate IP scanning tools, where the user is tricked into clicking on a malicious Google ad that directs them to a typosquatted domain mimicking a popular download site. 

Upon clicking the download button on this fake site, a malicious ZIP archive disguised as a legitimate IP scanner (“Advanced-ip-scanner.zip”) is downloaded. 

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The archive contains two malicious files: “IVIEWERS.dll” and “Advanced-ip-scanner.exe”, which are likely designed to exploit vulnerabilities in the user’s system or establish persistence to maintain unauthorized access for malicious purposes.

Advanced-ip-scanner.exe leverages DLL side-loading to inject the malicious IVIEWERS.dll during execution, which then employs process hollowing to replace the legitimate memory of Advanced-ip-scanner.exe with its own malicious shellcode. 

According to ANY.RUN, process hollowing allows malware to hijack a process effectively, allowing it to run undetected under the guise of a legitimate application. 

The process graph displays the relationship between processes launched by MadMxShell in ANY.RUN

MadMxShell, a backdoor malware, injects into Advanced-ip-scanner.exe and unpacks two files: a legitimate OneDrive.exe and a malicious Secur32.dll. It leverages OneDrive.exe’s trusted status to sideload Secur32.dll, which creates a persistent scheduled task and executes the backdoor shellcode. 

To evade detection, MadMxShell employs multiple techniques, including DNS tunnelling for covert communication with its command-and-control server and multi-stage DLL loading to delay analysis, also runs a ping command through a separate Cmd.exe process, potentially slowing down analysis in automated sandboxes with limited lifespans. 

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