In this article, we explore TrickBot targets in configuration version 1000024 (“v24”), which was operating in June 2017. F5 Security Operations Center (SOC) researchers continually track TrickBot target and publish reports in conjunction with F5 Labs researchers. Our efforts are to understand the malware author’s behavior and notify the targeted institutions so they can be on alert for TrickBot fraud within their environments.
Key data points from v24 analysis:
- 95% of TrickBot v24 URLs were identical to those targeted by Dyre in 2015, adding to the growing list of commonalities between Dyre and TrickBot.
- 62% of the targets in v24 were also targeted in v18 and v19, which were active in May, suggesting the target list always started from Dyre targets.
- v24 included a spike in Nordic targets—primarily UK, Sweden, Switzerland, Finland and Norway targets, as well as a large reduction in URLs in Australia and New Zealand.
- Clear focus on wealth management financial institutions that service individuals and businesses.
- Targeting both retail (personal accounts) and commerce (business accounts) banks.
- Targeting Islamic banks in UAE, UK, and Jordan.
TrickBot infects its victims much like any other banking trojan that begins with social engineering attacks, such as phishing or malvertizing, to trick unassuming users into clicking malware links or downloading malware files. Once a user engages with the malware and it’s able to exploit the user’s system (because of out-of-date patches and AV software—the exception would be zero-day malware), the malware installs and controls the host via commands from its command and control (C&C) server.
Figure 1: Initial TrickBot attack path
TrickBot’s Dynamically Updating DLL Module
TrickBot has a basic configuration file that is written when the malware initially infects a victim’s system. This configuration file specifies the malware’s version, its C&C servers (that are set up on compromised IoT devices, specifically wireless routers1), and modules to be fetched and installed by the malware.
“injectDll” module is the core banking module that contains the malware’s banking functionality, the list of targeted URLs, and servers to which the legitimate bank content is sent for modification upon receipt by the user. These files are updated frequently by the malware authors and dynamically deployed to TrickBot's infected systems.
These configuration versions and the URL targets within them are what the F5 SOC and Labs researchers analyze to understand the malware author’s targets. There have been at least 29 new configuration files in the DLL module since September of 2016.
Figure 2: TrickBot configuration versions since September 2016
Figure 3: TrickBot post-infection attack path
TrickBot v24 Targets
There was a large expansion in targets from the previous configurations (v18 and v19) we analyzed2 that were active in May. Configurations v18 and v19 included 210 and 257 targeted URLs across 13 countries and 155 businesses. Configuration v24 targeted 618 URLs, a 240% growth in target URLs over v19, across 34 countries and 177 businesses (see Appendix A for list of target businesses).
Figure 4: v24 country targets by URL count
European banks were the focus of TrickBot’s targets in v24, comprising 81% of the URL targets. The primary targets were in the UK, Switzerland, and the Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Finland, and Norway; the UK and Sweden were collectively nearly 50% of the targets. Some of the banks targeted in those countries are foreign banks where the localized country domain was targeted, indicating the attackers are going after customers of those banks in those countries rather than targeting every country in which the bank operates.
Figure 5: v24 European targets: URL count by country
Ninety-eight percent of the targets were financial institutions, including public and private banks focusing on both retail and commerce, wealth management services, retirement and investment firms, co-ops, internet banking, Islamic banking, savings banks, loan providers and clearing banks. The CRMs and payment processors are consistent from previous configurations, the insurance brokers are new since v18 and v19, however, those insurance brokers had banking divisions in the past. It could be that since these targets were pulled from Dyre circa 2015, it’s likely they were targeting the banking division.
Figure 6: Targets by Industry
Notable Target Drops
European banks have continually been a top target of TrickBot, and although there was growth in targets in that region, Europe stands out more in this configuration because Australia and New Zealand targets dropped off, thereby boosting Europe’s portion of the pie. There were no New Zealand targets in this configuration, and only four in Australia.
Another notable drop was PayPal, which drove a significant portion of US interest in previous configurations. Because PayPal was not targeted this time, the US dropped in overall % of targets.
TrickBot Targets are Directly from Dyre Circa 2015
What’s most interesting about the URL targets is that they replicate Dyre’s targets from 2015.3 Ninety-five percent of the URLs in TrickBot v24 were also targeted by Dyre in 2015. It is widely believed that TrickBot and Dyre were written by the same authors because of code similarities. Specifically, they have the same loaders, encryption and decryption routines, structure of configuration files, and inter-process communication. The fact that both trojans target the same URLs just adds to the parallels and resulting conclusion that the same actors are likely behind both trojans.
Although almost all of TrickBot’s URLs came from Dyre, not all of the Dyre URLs are present in this TrickBot configuration. In fact, TrickBot has some URL formulations that target a specific subdomain of a bank, but it doesn’t use all the URLs for that subdomain that exist in the Dyre target list. This suggests someone is selectively choosing which URLs from the Dyre list to use.
In researching the Dyre–TrickBot connection, we noticed that Salesforce and Reynolds & Reynolds appeared on the Dyre target list in the same formulation. Therefore, it’s not actually surprising that TrickBot “expanded” into CRMs. This has been a behavior of financial malware for quite some time.
Some URLs in the TrickBot list do not appear on any published Dyre list that we found. Most of these are variations on URLs that can be found in the Dyre list. This suggests that the TrickBot authors are attempting to improve at least some of the Dyre URLs—although there are still many URLs that don’t resolve anymore. Most of the “improvements” from Dyre to TrickBot are to UK and Swedish banks.
Almost Thirty Percent of Targets Have Wealth Management Specialties
Fifty of the 177 businesses targeted specialize in or offer wealth management services. Wealthy individuals are more likely to have multiple card holders on one account (who could be in multiple global positions at the same time), and process high value transactions frequently. These types of customers also have low patience for fraud holds. This type of behavior profile makes it more difficult for banks to implement the standard behavioral-based fraud controls that most financial institutions rely on now. This could make them a great target for attackers, and perhaps is one of the reasons why the targets have remained consistent over the years, beginning with Dyre in 2015.
|Institutions with a Wealth Management Focus and/or Services||Country|
|Baltic International Bank||Latvia|
|Erik Penser Bank||Sweden|
|Bank von Roll||Switzerland|
|Neue Helvetische Bank||Switzerland|
|Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank||UAE|
|United Arab Bank||UAE|
|Adam and Company||UK|
|C. Hoare & Co||UK|
|Close Brothers Asset Management||UK|
|Gerrard Investment Management||UK|
|Hargreaves & Lansdown||UK|
|St. James's Place Bank||UK|
|Standard Life Savings Limited||UK|
Figure 7: Financial institutions targeted that specialize in wealth management
Islamic Bank Targets
Twelve Islamic banks were targeted in the Middle East and UK, all of which were also targeted by Dyre.
|Al Rayan Bank||UK|
|Commercial Bank of Dubai||UAE|
|Dubai Islamic Bank||UAE|
|Emirates NBD Bank||UAE|
|United Arab Bank||UAE|
|United Bank UK||UK|
Figure 8: Islamic banking targets
Over 50% of the C&C addresses being used are owned by two ASNs: OVH (in France and Canada), and JSC in Russia.
|C&C Address||Port||Service||Location||ASN Owner|
|126.96.36.199||443||HTTPS||UK||Hydra Communications Ltd|
|188.8.131.52||443||HTTPS||Panama||Cable & Wireless Panama|
|184.108.40.206||443||HTTPS||Russia||IT Expert LLC|
|220.127.116.11||443||HTTPS||Czech Republic||Liberty Global Operations B.V|
|18.104.22.168||443||HTTPS||Russia||OOO "Network of data-centers "Selectel"|
Banking trojan authors rely on social engineering to trick banking customers into opening phishing emails and malicious files, clicking on malicious links in text messages, or clicking on malvertizing ads. Yet, it’s still not common practice for banks to provide security awareness training to their customers. This is likely due to legal concerns and the potential flood of costly customer service calls. In reviewing TrickBot's banking targets in this configuration, it’s clear that some banks, especially Islamic banks, have overcome the hurdle of offering security advice to customers on their websites. Security professionals within banks who are trying to fight the good fight should use these banks as examples in conversations with their legal teams and continue to push for security awareness training to their customer base. That includes the need for security controls on systems like anti-virus and patching, not just general social engineering or phishing awareness.
Security awareness, however, is a double-edged sword. It’s very important to educate the largely uninformed public on modern-day cyber fraud, but studies and real-world experience will both tell you that it’s not going to solve your problem, it will just help. No matter how much you train users, they will still click on spear-phishing emails. This is where advanced web protection services come in, especially for banks, where specialty services understand the specifics of how each banking trojan works, and offer customized detection and mitigation for customers. The customer’s device might be infected, but their session isn’t going to get hijacked, and their credentials aren’t going to get collected. For financial institutions who don’t want to invest in these types of experts in-house, outsourcing these types of services are a good idea.
Appendix A: All Businesses Targeted by v24
|Financial Institution||URL Count||Country|
|Credit Suisse||36||Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Brazil, France, Hong Kong, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, Monaco, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, UK, US|
|Nordea||35||Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, Norway, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland|
|Danske Bank||32||Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, Norway, UK|
|SEB||18||Finland, Germany, Norway, Sweden|
|Barclays Bank||15||UK, Switzerland|
|Lloyd's Banking Group PLC||14||UK|
|HSBC Bank||13||Hong Kong, Singapore, UK|
|The Co-operative Bank||10||UK|
|Ulster Bank||10||Ireland, UK|
|Royal Bank of Scotland||9||UK|
|Bank of Scotland||8||UK|
|Isle of Man Bank||5||UK|
|Allied Irish Banks||4||Ireland|
|Bank of Ireland||4||Ireland|
|Banque Cantonale Vaudoise||4||Switzerland|
|ICICI Bank||4||India, UK|
|Investec||4||South Africa, UK|
|Paragon Bank||4||UK, US|
|Royal Bank of Canada||4||Canada, US|
|United Overseas Bank||4||Singapore|
|The Bank of East Asia||3||UK|
|Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank||2||UAE|
|Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank||2||UAE|
|Adam and Company||2||UK|
|Airdrie Savings Bank||2||UK|
|Al Rayan Bank||2||UK|
|Baltic International Bank||2||Latvia|
|Bank of Cyprus||2||UK|
|Banque Nationale du Canada||2||Canada|
|Blue Orange Bank||2||Latvia|
|Buckinghamshore Building Society||2||UK|
|C. Hoare & Co||2||UK|
|Cambridge and Counties Bank||2||UK|
|Chorley Building Society||2||UK|
|Close Brothers Asset Management||2||UK|
|Commercial Bank of Dubai||2||UAE|
|Coventry Building Society||2||UK|
|Cumberland Building Society||2||UK|
|Dubai Islamic Bank||2||UAE|
|Emirates NBD Bank||2||UAE|
|Erik Penser Bank||2||Sweden|
|First International Bank of Israel||2||Israel|
|First Trust Bank||2||UK|
|GE Artesia Bank||2||Netherlands|
|Gerrard Investment Management||2||UK|
|Hampshire Trust Bank||2||UK|
|Hargreaves & Lansdown||2||UK|
|National Bank of Abu Dhabi||2||UAE|
|Neue Aargauer Bank||2||Switzerland|
|Neue Helvetische Bank||2||Switzerland|
|Newbury Building Socety||2||UK|
|Reynolds & Reynolds||2||US|
|Secure Trust Bank||2||UK|
|Silicon Valley Bank||2||US|
|St. James's Place Bank||2||UK|
|Standard Life Savings Limited||2||UK|
|State Bank of India||2||Singapore|
|Steinbach Credit Union||2||Canada|
|The Access Bank||2||UK|
|United Arab Bank||2||UAE|
|United Bank UK||2||UK|
|Unity Trust Bank||2||UK|
|Yorkshire Building Society||2||UK|
|Bank von Roll||1||Switzerland|
|Nationwide Building Society||1||UK|