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Ukrainian Navy Focused in Phishing Marketing campaign Leveraging Drone Manuals

Sep 25, 2023THNCyber Assault / Phishing

Phishing Campaign

Ukrainian navy entities are the goal of a phishing marketing campaign that leverages drone manuals as lures to ship a Go-based open-source post-exploitation toolkit known as Merlin.

“Since drones or Unmanned Aerial Autos (UAVs) have been an integral software utilized by the Ukrainian navy, malware-laced lure recordsdata themed as UAVs service manuals have begun to floor,” Securonix researchers Den Iuzvyk, Tim Peck, and Oleg Kolesnikov stated in a report shared with The Hacker Information.

The cybersecurity firm is monitoring the marketing campaign below the identify STARK#VORTEX.

The start line of the assault is a Microsoft Compiled HTML Assist (CHM) file that, when opened, runs malicious JavaScript embedded inside one of many HTML pages to execute PowerShell code designed to contact a distant server to fetch an obfuscated binary.


The Home windows-based payload is decoded to extract the Merlin Agent, which, in flip, is configured to speak with a command-and-control (C2) server for post-exploitation actions, successfully seizing management over the host.

“Whereas the assault chain is sort of easy, the attackers leveraged some fairly advanced TTPs and obfuscation strategies so as to evade detection,” the researchers stated.

That is the primary time Ukrainian authorities organizations have been focused utilizing Merlin. In early August 2023, the Laptop Emergency Response Staff of Ukraine (CERT-UA) disclosed an analogous assault chain that employs CHM recordsdata as decoys to contaminate the computer systems with the open-source software.

Phishing Campaign

CERT-UA attributed the intrusions to a risk actor it displays below the identify UAC-0154.

“Recordsdata and paperwork used within the assault chain are very able to bypassing defenses,” the researchers defined.


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“Sometimes receiving a Microsoft assist file over the web can be thought of uncommon. Nonetheless, the attackers framed the lure paperwork to look as one thing an unsuspecting sufferer would possibly anticipate to look in a help-themed doc or file.”

The event arrives weeks after the CERT-UA stated it detected an unsuccessful cyber assault in opposition to an unnamed essential power infrastructure facility within the nation undertaken by the Russian state-sponsored crew known as APT28.

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