Colin Mc Hugo

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Colin Mc Hugo
Security Engineer Manager & CEO at Quantum Infinite Solutions Group Ltd.
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Cyber Security Incident Response
Management & Architecture of Cyber Security Teams
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Hackers Turning to ‘Exotic’ Programming Languages for Malware Development

July 27, 2021
malware programming languages

Risk actors are more and more shifting to “unique” programming languages similar to Go, Rust, Nim, and Dlang that may higher circumvent standard safety protections, evade evaluation, and hamper reverse engineering efforts.

“Malware authors are recognized for his or her capability to adapt and modify their abilities and behaviors to make the most of newer applied sciences,” said Eric Milam, Vice President of menace analysis at BlackBerry. “That tactic has a number of advantages from the event cycle and inherent lack of protection from protecting merchandise.”

On the one hand, languages like Rust are safer as they provide ensures like memory-safe programming, however they can be a double-edged sword when malware engineers abuse the identical options designed to supply elevated safeguards to their benefit, thereby making malware much less vulnerable to exploitation and thwart makes an attempt to activate a kill-switch and render them powerless.

Stack Overflow Teams

Noting that binaries written in these languages can seem extra complicated, convoluted, and tedious when disassembled, the researchers stated the pivot provides extra layers of obfuscation, just by advantage of them being comparatively new, resulting in a state of affairs the place older malware developed utilizing conventional languages like C++ and C# are being actively retooled with droppers and loaders written in unusual options to evade detection by endpoint safety programs.

Earlier this yr, enterprise safety agency Proofpoint found new malware written in Nim (NimzaLoader) and Rust (RustyBuer) that it stated had been being utilized in lively campaigns to distribute and deploy Cobalt Strike and ransomware strains by way of social engineering campaigns. In the same vein, CrowdStrike final month observed a ransomware pattern that borrowed implementations from earlier HelloKitty and FiveHands variants, whereas utilizing a Golang packer to encrypt its foremost C++-based payload.

Enterprise Password Management

A number of the outstanding examples of malware written in these languages over the previous decade are as follows –

  • Dlang – DShell, Vovalex, OutCrypt, RemcosRAT
  • Go – ElectroRAT, EKANS (aka Snake), Zebrocy, WellMess, ChaChi
  • Nim – NimzaLoader, Zebrocy, DeroHE, Nim-based Cobalt Strike loaders
  • Rust – Convuster Adware, RustyBuer, TeleBots Downloader and Backdoor, NanoCore Dropper, PyOxidizer

“Applications written utilizing the identical malicious strategies however in a brand new language aren’t often detected on the similar fee as these written in a extra mature language,” BlackBerry researchers concluded.

“The loaders, droppers and wrappers […] are in lots of circumstances merely altering the primary stage of the an infection course of fairly than altering the core parts of the marketing campaign. That is the newest in menace actors transferring the road simply outdoors of the vary of safety software program in a means which may not set off on later phases of the unique marketing campaign.”

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