Colin Mc Hugo

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Colin Mc Hugo
Security Engineer Manager & CEO at Quantum Infinite Solutions Group Ltd.
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Operation NightScout: Supply‑chain attack targets online gaming in Asia

February 2, 2021

ESET researchers uncover a supply-chain assault utilized in a cyberespionage operation focusing on on-line‑gaming communities in Asia

Throughout 2020, ESET analysis reported numerous supply-chain assaults, such because the case of WIZVERA VeraPort, utilized by authorities and banking web sites in South Korea, Operation StealthyTrident compromising the In a position Desktop chat software program utilized by a number of Mongolian authorities companies, and Operation SignSight, compromising the distribution of signing software program distributed by the Vietnamese authorities.

In January 2021, we found a brand new supply-chain assault compromising the replace mechanism of NoxPlayer, an Android emulator for PCs and Macs, and a part of BigNox’s product vary with over 150 million customers worldwide.

This software program is usually utilized by players as a way to play cell video games from their PCs, making this incident considerably uncommon.

Three totally different malware households have been noticed being distributed from tailor-made malicious updates to chose victims, with no signal of leveraging any monetary achieve, however reasonably surveillance-related capabilities.

We noticed similarities in loaders we now have been monitoring prior to now with a few of the ones used on this operation, equivalent to cases we found in a Myanmar presidential workplace web site supply-chain compromise on 2018, and in early 2020 in an intrusion right into a Hong Kong college.

About BigNox

BigNox is an organization primarily based in Hong Kong, which supplies numerous merchandise, primarily an Android emulator for PCs and Macs known as NoxPlayer. The corporate’s official website claims that it has over 150 million customers in additional than 150 nations talking 20 totally different languages. Nevertheless, it’s necessary to notice that the BigNox follower base is predominantly in Asian nations.

BigNox additionally wrote an intensive blogpost in 2019 on the usage of VPNs along side NoxPlayer, exhibiting the corporate’s concern for his or her customers’ privateness.

We have now contacted BigNox in regards to the intrusion, they usually denied being affected. We have now additionally provided our assist to assist them previous the disclosure in case they determine to conduct an inner investigation.

Am I compromised?

  • Who’s affected: NoxPlayer customers.
  • The right way to decide if I obtained a malicious replace or not: examine if any ongoing course of has an lively community reference to identified lively C&C servers, or see if any of the malware primarily based on the file names we offered within the report is put in in:
    • C:ProgramDataSandboxieSbieIni.dat
    • C:ProgramDataSandboxieSbieDll.dll
    • C:ProgramDataLoGiTechLBTServ.dll
    • C:Program FilesInternet Explorerieproxysocket64.dll
    • C:Program FilesInternet Explorerieproxysocket.dll
    • a file named %LOCALAPPDATApercentNoxupdateUpdatePackageSilence.exe not digitally signed by BigNox.
  • The right way to keep protected:
    • In case of intrusion – customary reinstall from clear media.
    • For non-compromised customers: don’t obtain any updates till BigNox notifies that it has mitigated the risk.


Based mostly on ESET telemetry, we noticed the primary indicators of compromise in September 2020, and exercise continued till we uncovered explicitly malicious exercise on January 25th, 2021, at which level we reported the incident to BigNox.


Compared to the general variety of lively NoxPlayer customers, there’s a very small variety of victims. Based on ESET telemetry, greater than 100,000 of our customers have Noxplayer put in on their machines. Amongst them, solely 5 customers obtained a malicious replace, exhibiting that Operation NightScout is a extremely focused operation. The victims are primarily based in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka.

Determine 1. Asia victimology map

We have been unsuccessful discovering correlations that will recommend any relationships amongst victims. Nevertheless, primarily based on the compromised software program in query and the delivered malware exhibiting surveillance capabilities, we imagine this may occasionally point out the intent of accumulating intelligence on targets someway concerned within the gaming neighborhood.

It is very important spotlight that, in distinction with related earlier operations such because the Winnti Group activity targeting the gaming industry in 2019, we haven’t discovered indicators that will recommend indiscriminate proliferation of malicious updates amongst a big quantity NoxPlayer customers, reinforcing our perception that it is a extremely focused operation.

Replace mechanism

With a view to perceive the dynamics of this supply-chain assault, it’s necessary to know what vector was used as a way to ship malware to NoxPlayer customers. This vector was NoxPlayer’s replace mechanism.

On launch, if NoxPlayer detects a more recent model of the software program, it’ll immediate the person with a message field (Determine 2) to supply the choice to put in it.

Determine 2. NoxPlayer replace immediate

That is executed by querying the replace server through the BigNox HTTP API ( as a way to retrieve particular replace data, as seen in  Determine 3.

Determine 3. NoxPlayer consumer replace API request

The response to this question incorporates update-specific data such because the replace binary URL, its measurement, MD5 hash and different extra associated data as seen in Determine 4.

Determine 4. NoxPlayer server API reply

Upon urgent the “Replace now” button from Determine 1, the primary NoxPlayer binary utility Nox.exe will provide the replace parameters obtained to a different binary in its toolbox NoxPack.exe, which is in control of downloading the replace itself, as will be seen in Determine 5.

Determine 5. NoxPlayer execution chain on replace

After that is executed, the progress bar within the message field will replicate the state of the obtain (Determine 6), and when accomplished the replace has been carried out.

Determine 6. NoxPlayer replace ongoing through NoxPack.exe

Provide-chain compromise indicators

We have now ample proof to state that the BigNox infrastructure ( was compromised to host malware, and in addition to recommend that their HTTP API infrastructure ( may have been compromised. In some instances, extra payloads have been downloaded by the BigNox updater from attacker-controlled servers. This implies that the URL subject, offered within the reply from the BigNox API, was tampered with by the attackers. The intrusion circulate noticed is depicted in Determine 7.

Determine 7. Intrusion circulate sequence diagram

An summary of what’s proven within the sequence diagram above is the next:

  1. On launch, the first NoxPlayer executable Nox.exe will ship a request through the API to question replace data.
  2. The BigNox API server responds to the consumer request with particular replace data, together with the URL to obtain the replace from BigNox professional infrastructure.
  3. Nox.exe supplies the suitable parameters to NoxPlayer.exe to obtain the replace.
  4. The professional replace saved in BigNox infrastructure may have been changed with malware, or it might be a brand new filename/URL not utilized by professional updates.
  5. Malware is put in on the sufferer’s machine. Opposite to professional BigNox updates, the malicious information usually are not digitally signed, strongly suggesting that the BigNox construct system was not compromised, however simply its methods that distribute updates.
  6. Some reconnaissance of the sufferer is carried out and data despatched to the malware operators.
  7. The perpetrators tailor malicious updates to particular victims of curiosity primarily based on some unknown filtering scheme.
  8. Nox.exe will carry out sporadic replace requests.
  9. The BigNox API server responds to the consumer with replace data, which states that the replace is saved within the attacker-controlled infrastructure.
  10. Additional malware will get delivered to chose victims.

With this data we are able to spotlight a number of issues:

  • Authentic BigNox infrastructure was delivering malware for particular updates. We noticed that these malicious updates have been solely going down in September 2020.
  • Moreover, we noticed that for particular victims, malicious updates have been downloaded from attacker-controlled infrastructure subsequently and all through the tip of 2020 and early 2021.
  • We’re extremely assured that these extra updates have been carried out by Nox.exe supplying particular parameters to NoxPack.exe, suggesting that the BigNox API mechanism might have additionally been compromised to ship tailor-made malicious updates.
  • It may additionally recommend the chance that victims have been subjected to a MitM assault, though we imagine this speculation is unlikely because the victims we found are in numerous nations, and attackers already had a foothold on the BigNox infrastructure.
  • Moreover, we have been in a position to reproduce the obtain of the malware samples hosted on from a check machine and utilizing https. This discards the chance {that a} MitM assault was used to tamper the replace binary.

It’s also necessary to say that malicious updates downloaded from the attacker-controlled infrastructure mimicked the trail of professional updates:

  • Malicious replace to attacker-controlled infrastructure:
  • Authentic NoxPlayer replace:

Moreover, registered attacker-controlled domains mimicked the BigNox CDN community area identify, that being cloudfront.web.

These indicators recommend that attackers have been attempting to keep away from detection in order that they might stay underneath the radar and obtain long-term persistence.


A complete of three totally different malicious replace variants have been noticed, every of which dropped totally different malware. These variants are the next:

Malicious Replace variant 1

This variant is likely one of the preliminary updates pointing to compromised BigNox infrastructure. Our evaluation relies on the pattern with SHA-1 CA4276033A7CBDCCDE26105DEC911B215A1CE5CF.

The malware delivered doesn’t appear to have been documented earlier than. It isn’t extraordinarily complicated, but it surely has sufficient capabilities to observe its victims. The preliminary RAR SFX archive drops two DLLs into C:Program FilesInternet Explorer and runs considered one of them, relying on structure, through rundll32.exe. The names of those DLLs are the next:

  • ieproxysocket64.dll
  • ieproxysocket.dll

It additionally drops a textual content file named KB

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