Researchers have spoted a new malspam campaign that is abusing icon files to trick victims into executing the NanoCore remote access Trojan. This campaign uses. Zipx file attachments format

The messages claim to be from a “Purchase Manager” of organizations that are being spoofed by attackers, they use an attachment named “NEW PURCHASE ORDER.pdf*.zipx” which is actually an image binary file.

“The attachments, which have a filename format “NEW PURCHASE ORDER.pdf*.zipx”, are actually image (Icon) binary files, with attached extra data, which happens to be RAR. This file format abuse is similar to what we have seen previously.” reads the analysis published by Trustwave.The binary files have attached extra data in a .RAR format.

The attackers are using an icon file to avoid any scanning email gateways.

A prerequisite for the success of this campaign is that the victim has installed an unzip tool that can extract the executable file inside the attachment. Upon clicking on the attachment, an executable file is extracted.

7Zip can also extract the content of the latest .zipx sample. 7Zip initially tries to open the files as a ZIP archive and fails, but afterward, 7Zip recognizes the .zipx files as Rar5 archives and can get their contents unpacked. “The executables we gathered have a similar name to that of the .zipx attachment, “NEW PURCHASE ORDER*.exe”. Also, the icon at the start of the .zipx files is actually the icon used on the EXE files within the archive.”

The analysis of the EXE files employed in the campaign revealed that the threat actors attempted to install the NanoCore RAT version 1.2.2.0 on the victims’ systems. Nanocore RAT is a “general purpose” malware with specific client factories available to everyone and easily accessible. The RAT implements information stealer and keylogger capabilities, it also allows to deliver of additional payloads on the victim’s system.

The Nanocore RAT creates copies of itself in the AppData folder and is able to inject its malicious code at RegSvcs.exe process.

“The recent malspams have the same goal like the ones we investigated almost two years ago and that is to effectively hide the malicious executable from anti-malware and email scanners by abusing the file format of the “.zipx” attachment, which in this case is an Icon file with added surprises.” concludes the report.