Data Breach News

Void Arachne Threat Actor Group Targets Chinese Audience

Void Arachne utilizes multiple techniques to distribute malicious installers to covertly load the Winos backdoor on compromised systems.

by Alan J June 19th, 2024

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A new threat actor group called Void Arachne is conducting a malware campaign targeting Chinese-speaking users. The group is distributing malicious MSI installer files bundled with legitimate software like AI tools, Chinese language packs, and virtual private network (VPN) clients.

During installation, these files also covertly install the Winos 4.0 backdoor, which can fully compromise systems.

Void Arachne Tactics

Researchers from Trend Micro discovered that the Void Arachne group employs multiple techniques to distribute malicious installers, including search engine optimization (SEO) poisoning and posting links on Chinese-language Telegram channels.

  • SEO Poisoning: The group set up websites posing as legitimate software download sites. Through SEO poisoning, they pushed these sites to rank highly on search engines for common Chinese software keywords. The sites host MSI installer files containing Winos malware bundled with software like Chrome, language packs, and VPNs. Victims unintentionally infect themselves with Winos, while believing that they are only installing intended software.
  • Targeting VPNs: Void Arachne frequently targets Chinese VPN software in their installers and Telegram posts. Exploiting interest in VPNs is an effective infection tactic, as VPN usage is high among Chinese internet users due to government censorship.

    Source: trendmicro.com

  • Telegram Channels: In addition to SEO poisoning, Void Arachne shared malicious installers in Telegram channels focused on Chinese language and VPN topics. Channels with tens of thousands of users pinned posts with infected language packs and AI software installers, increasing exposure.
  • Deepfake Pornography: A concerning discovery was the group promoting nudifier apps generating nonconsensual deepfake pornography. They advertised the ability to undress photos of classmates and colleagues, encouraging harassment and sextortion. Infected nudifier installers were pinned prominently in their Telegram channels.
  • Face/Voice Swapping Apps: Void Arachne also advertised voice changing and face swapping apps enabling deception campaigns like virtual kidnappings. Attackers can use these apps to impersonate victims and pressure their families for ransom. As with nudifiers, infected voice/face swapper installers were shared widely on Telegram.

Winos 4.0 C&C Framework

The threat actors behind the campaign ultimately aim to install the Winos backdoor on compromised systems. Winos is a sophisticated Windows backdoor written in C++ that can fully take over infected machines.

The initial infection begins with a stager module that decrypts malware configurations and downloads the main Winos payload. Campaign operations involve encrypted C&C communications that use generated session keys and a rolling XOR algorithm. The stager module then stores the full Winos module in the Windows registry and executes shellcode to launch it on affected systems.

Source: trendmicro.com

Winos grants remote access, keylogging, webcam control, microphone recording, and distributed denial of service (DDoS) capabilities. It also performs system reconnaissance like registry checks, file searches, and process injection. The malware connects to a command and control server to receive further modules/plugins that expand functionality.

Several of these external plugins were observed providing functions such as collecting saved passwords from programs like Chrome and QQ, deleting antivirus software and attaching themselves to startup folders.

Concerning Trend of AI Misuse and Deepfakes

Void Arachne demonstrates technical sophistication and knowledge of effective infection tactics through their usage of SEO poisoning, Telegram channels, AI deepfakes, and voice/face swapping apps.

One particularly concerning trend observed in the Void Arachne campaign is the mass proliferation of nudifier applications that use AI to create nonconsensual deepfake pornography. These images and videos are often used in sextortion schemes for further abuse, victim harassment, and financial gain. An English translation of a message advertising the usage of the nudifier AI uses the word “classmate,” suggesting that one target market is minors:

Just have appropriate entertainment and satisfy your own lustful desires. Do not send it to the other party or harass the other party. Once you call the police, you will be in constant trouble! AI takes off clothes, you give me photos and I will make pictures for you. Do you want to see the female classmate you yearn for, the female colleague you have a crush on, the relatives and friends you eat and live with at home? Do you want to see them naked? Now you can realize your dream, you can see them naked and lustful for a pack of cigarette money.

Source: trendmicro.com

Additionally, the threat actors have advertised AI technologies that could be used for virtual kidnapping, a novel deception campaign that leverages AI voice-alternating technology to pressure victims into paying ransom. The promotion of this technology for deepfake nudes and virtual kidnapping is the latest example of the danger of AI misuse.

 

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