September 22, 2023

Cobalt Strike is one of the major penetration testing product used that allows an attacker to deploy an agent named ‘Beacon’ on the victim machine. The Beacon has functionality for the attacker, including, but not limited to command execution, key logging, file transfer, SOCKS proxying, privilege escalation, mimikatz, port scanning and lateral movement.

Google Cloud researchers announced to have discovered 34 different Cobalt Strike hacked release versions with a total of 275 unique JAR files across these versions.

Researchers developed a set of YARA rules to detect hacked variants in the wild with a high degree of accuracy. The researchers noticed that each Cobalt Strike version contains approximately 10 to 100 attack template binaries

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The experts were able to locate versions of the Cobalt Strike JAR file starting with version way back in 2012, 1.44 up to the latest version at the time of publishing the analysis, Cobalt Strike 4.7 and they cataloged the stagers, beacons.

Researxhers noticed that the cracked versions of the post-exploitation tool used in the attack in the wild are not the latest versions from the vendor Fortra, but are typically at least one release version behind.

The activity conducted by Google aims at improving the detection of malicious activities involving hacked version of the tool. It is an important work that did not impact legitimate versions of the tools used by penetration testing and “red teams”.

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