Roaming Mantis gang evolves and broadens its operations

Pierluigi Paganini May 21, 2018

Roaming Mantis malware initially targeting Android devices, now has broadened both its geographic range and its targets.

Security experts from Kaspersky Lab discovered that the operators behind the Roaming Mantis campaign continue to improve their malware broadening their targets, their geographic range and their functional scope.

Roaming Mantis surfaced in March 2018 when hacked routers in Japan redirecting users to compromised websites. Investigation by Kaspersky Lab indicates that the attack was targeting users in Asia with fake websites customized for English, Korean, Simplified Chinese and Japanese. Most impacted users were in Bangladesh, Japan, and South Korea.

“Our research revealed that the malware (sic) contains Android application IDs for popular mobile banking and game applications in South Korea. The malware is most prevalent in South Korea, and Korean is the first language targeted in HTML and test.dex. Based on our findings, it appears the malicious app was originally distributed to South Korean targets. Support was then added for Traditional Chinese, English, and Japanese, broadening its target base in the Asian region.”

The dreaded DNS hijacking malware was originally designed to steal users’ login credentials and the secret code for two-factor authentication from Android devices, it has evolved and recently was spotted targeting iOS devices as well as desktop users.

“In April 2018, Kaspersky Lab published a blog post titled ‘Roaming Mantis uses DNS hijacking to infect Android smartphones’. Roaming Mantis uses Android malware which is designed to spread via DNS hijacking and targets Android devices.” reads the analysis published by Kaspersky.

“In May, while monitoring Roaming Mantis, aka MoqHao and XLoader, we observed significant changes in their M.O. The group’s activity expanded geographically and they broadened their attack/evasion methods. Their landing pages and malicious apk files now support 27 languages covering Europe and the Middle East. In addition, the criminals added a phishing option for iOS devices, and crypto-mining capabilities for the PC.”

Operators behind the Roaming Mantis malware recently added the support for 27 languages to broaden their operations.

The versions of the Roaming Mantis malware continue to be spread via DNS hijacking, attackers used rogue websites to serve fake apps infected with banking malware to Android users, phishing sites to iOS users, and redirect users to websites hosting cryptocurrency mining script.

To evade detection, malicious websites used in the campaign generate new packages in real time.

“Aside from the filename, we also observed that all the downloaded malicious apk files are unique due to package generation in real time as of May 16, 2018.It seems the actor added automatic generation of apk per download to avoid blacklisting by file hashes.” continues the analysis.

“This is a new feature. According to our monitoring, the apk samples downloaded on May 8, 2018 were all the same.”

According to Kaspersky, the recent malicious apk now implements 19 backdoor commands, including the new one “ping” and sendSms, setWifi, gcont, lock, onRecordAction, call, get_apps,

Owners of iOS devices are redirected to a phishing site (http://security[.]apple[.]com/) that mimics the Apple website in the attempt of stealing user credentials and financial data (user ID, password, card number, card expiration date and CVV number).

Roaming Mantis

The Roaming Mantis operators have recently started targeting PC platforms, users are redirected to websites running the Coinhive web miner scripts.

The level of sophistication of the operations conducted by the Roaming Mantis gang and the rapid growth of the campaign lead the researchers into believing that the group has a strong financial motivation and is well-funded.

“The evasion techniques used by Roaming Mantis have also become more sophisticated. Several examples of recent additions described in this post include a new method of retrieving the C2 by using the email POP protocol, server side dynamic auto-generation of changing apk file/filenames, and the inclusion of an additional command to potentially assist in identifying research environments, have all been added.” concludes Kaspersky.
“The rapid growth of the campaign implies that those behind it have a strong financial motivation and are probably well-funded.”

Further details, including IoCs are available in the report published by Kaspersky.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – Roaming Mantis, cybercrime)

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