Recent News - ESET Research: Cyberespionage group Winnti creates a backdoor targeting Microsoft SQL server


2019-10-21

MONTREAL – ESET research has just analyzed a sample from a new backdoor called skip-2.0 by its authors. The backdoor is a recently discovered addition to the arsenal of the notorious cyberespionage group Winnti. Specifically, skip-2.0 targets MSSQL Server 11 and 12, allowing the attacker to connect to any MSSQL account with a magic password – while automatically hiding these connections from the logs. Such a backdoor could allow an attacker to stealthily copy, modify or delete database content. This could be used, for example, to manipulate in-game currencies for financial gain. The Winnti operators are known to have dabbled maliciously with databases of in-game currencies in the past.

“This backdoor allows the attacker not only to gain persistence in the victim's MSSQL Server through the use of a special password, but also to remain undetected thanks to the multiple log and event publishing mechanisms that are disabled when that password is used,” explains Mathieu Tartare, ESET researcher investigating the Winnti Group. “We tested skip-2.0 against multiple MSSQL Server versions and found that we were able to log in successfully using the special password only with MSSQL Server 11 and 12. Even though MSSQL Server 11 and 12 are not the most recent versions, they are the most common ones,” adds Tartare.

ESET has observed multiple similarities between skip-2.0 and other known tools from the Winnti Group’s arsenal, such as a VMProtected launcher, its custom packer, and an Inner-Loader injector using the same hooking procedure. “This leads us to think that skip-2.0 is also part of that toolset,” says Tartare.

ESET researchers have been tracking the activities of the Winnti Group for some time. The group has been active since at least 2012 and is held responsible for high-profile supply-chain attacks against the video game and software industry. ESET has recently published a whitepaper that updates our understanding of the arsenal of the Winnti Group and exposes a previously undocumented backdoor called PortReuse.

The blog post “Winnti Group's skip-2.0: a Microsoft SQL Server backdoor” offers technical details describing more functionalities of this backdoor, as well as its similarities to the Winnti Group’s known arsenal – in particular, with the PortReuse and ShadowPad backdoors.

Make sure to follow ESET research on Twitter for the latest news from ESET Research.

 



About Version 2 Limited
 

Version 2 Limited is one of the most dynamic IT companies in Asia. The company develops and distributes IT products for Internet and IP-based networks, including communication systems, Internet software, security, network, and media products. Through an extensive network of channels, point of sales, resellers, and partnership companies, Version 2 Limited offers quality products and services which are highly acclaimed in the market. Its customers cover a wide spectrum which include Global 1000 enterprises, regional listed companies, public utilities, Government, a vast number of successful SMEs, and consumers in various Asian cities.

About ESET

For 30 years, ESET® has been developing industry-leading IT security software and services for businesses and consumers worldwide. With solutions ranging from endpoint security to encryption and two-factor authentication, ESET’s high-performing, easy-to-use products give individuals and businesses the peace of mind to enjoy the full potential of their technology. ESET unobtrusively protects and monitors 24/7, updating defenses in real time to keep users safe and businesses running without interruption. Evolving threats require an evolving IT security company. Backed by R&D facilities worldwide, ESET became the first IT security company to earn 100 Virus Bulletin VB100 awards, identifying every single “in-the-wild” malware without interruption since 2003.

Previous News Next News

Return to the previous page