Threat Research

The Little Signature That Could: The Curious Case of CZ Solution

Malware authors are always looking for new ways to masquerade their actions. Attackers are looking for their malware to be not only fully undetectable, but also appear valid on a system, so as not to draw attention. Digital signatures are one way malware authors keep under the radar. Digital signatures are an easy, quick way to verify the authenticity of an application utilizing the signature.

Threat actors routinely steal digital signing certificates to hide in plain sight. There are recent reports of banking Trojans such as Zeus, using valid signatures to get past both automated and human defenses. Part of performing accurate threat intelligence is continually looking to the past to help better predict the future. This is proven in the samples we will be discussing in this blog. Many of the samples throughout this blog are from the summer of 2013. These particular samples however, piqued our interest because of the mass distribution of RATs in a particular targeted region. It also reminded us of a recent XtremeRAT blog we published earlier in 2014.

The Little Signature That Could

While investigating an uptick in Spy-Net spam campaigns, we came across a malware binary that was digitally signed that struck our interest. Spy-Net allows an attacker to interact with the victim via a remote shell to upload/download files, interact with the registry, running processes and services as well as capture images of the desktop and record form the webcam and audio. It also contains functionality to extract saved passwords and turn the victim into a proxy server. During the build process, an attacker can choose to enable a keylogger and evasion functionality designed to stop the information process if a debugger or virtual machine is found.

We noticed that one of the Spy-Net binary files, sc2.exe (MD5: 6a56f6735f4b16a60f39b18842fd97d0), upon closer inspection, was utilizing a valid digital signature, from a company called CZ Solution Co. Ltd.


Figure 1: Signature Details of sc2.exe

Looking closer at the signature, we noticed that all of the details were intact, and appeared to be valid. There are two additional code-signing certificates issued to CZ Solution Co. Ltd.


Figure 2: Additional Signature Details

Investigation of sc2.exe showed typical Spy-Net behaviors. The sample beaconed out to From here, we decided to pivot off the CZ Solution signature and see what we could find.

Connections Emerge

As we started to pivot off the CZ Solution signature, we started to see some interesting commonalities. Pivoting proved that the CZ Solution signature was not just used in Spy-Net binaries. We quickly found that this signature was being used with XtremeRAT, a popular RAT that cybercriminals and targeted attackers use regularly. The code of XtremeRAT is shared amongst several other Delphi RAT projects including Spy-Net, CyberGate, and Cerberus.

XtremeRAT allows an attacker to:

  • Interact with the victim via a remote shell
  • Upload/download files
  • Interact with the registry
  • Manipulate running processes and services
  • Capture images of the desktop
  • Record from connected devices, such as a webcam or microphone

One binary for instance, m.exe (MD5: c27232691dacf4cff24a4d04b3b2896b) which was XtremeRAT, was seen beaconing out to http://omegaphotography.[co].uk, /1234567890.functions, and[plugin].xtr.

Likewise, we saw multiple samples of the Zeus Trojan utilizing the CZ Solution signature. Zeus modifiers can tune Zeus to steal information they are interested in; typically login credentials for online social networkse-mail accountsonline banking or other online financial services. Zeus is commonly seen targeting customers of financial institutions.

One of the Zeus samples, uk.exe (MD5: dcd3e45d40c8817061f716557e7a05b6) that was utilizing the CZ Solution signature, was beaconing out to

Looking at the three samples show that CZ Solution was used to create and sign Spy-Net, XtremeRAT, and Zeus samples. Graphing out the connections between the samples we profiled, you can quickly see how fast this web of similarities continue.

cz3Figure 3: Connection Profile of Binaries Using CZ Solution

The French Connection and C2 overlap

Attribution of actors and/or campaigns can often be a difficult and tedious task. However, since we were dealing with so many inter-twining binaries, we could start to draw some parallels between samples.

When looking at the overall connections between the CZ solution signature, you can start to see a trend emerge.  First, there is some C2 overlap. For instance Dllsv.exe (MD5: 3f042fd6b9ce7e23b3c84c6f7323dd75) communicates out to, using the same CZ Solution cert. This malware is flagged as BozokRAT; a user-friendly RAT that can upload and download files to and from a computer, modify registry entries, and perform other typical RAT functions. That same C2,, is also seen used by the aforementioned Spy-Net binary, sc2.exe (MD5: 6a56f6735f4b16a60f39b18842fd97d0).

In another example of C2 overlap, a file named uk.exe, (MD5: 9c11ef09131a3373eef5c9d83802d56b) uses its C2 as This sample is an active Zeus binary. That same C2 is used with a file named x.exe, (MD5: c27232691dacf4cff24a4d04b3b2896b), an active XtremeRAT binary.

Next, we needed to identify at least one infection vector to ensure we could track how one of the binaries using the CZ Solution signature was getting into environments.

In one case, we found the infection vector for an XtremeRAT binary that was using the CZ Solution certificate. The binary came in the form of phished email (MD5: 7c00ba0fcbfee6186994a8988a864385) purportedly from Armani regarding an order.


The email was in French and the headers were interesting, as the same sender has been seen in multiple French spam runs.


The attachment in the email is using the RTLO trick to disguise a 7zip file as a PDF.

While looking at the all the samples we correlated and pivoted off of, we found that a majority of both the language and C2’s being used all revolved around the French language. The domains that were part of the C2 infrastructure were almost all exclusively French, as was the registrant information for the domains in question.

Spy-Net C2 Protocol Analysis

As we have already shared some analysis details of XtremeRAT in a previous blog, we decided to share some information and tools we built regarding Spy-Net this time. This information is based on our analysis of Spy-Net version 2.6 specifically. Other versions of Spy-Net may have significant changes to the protocol. Spy-Net 2.6 utilizes a homegrown protocol like many other publicly available RATs. It’s an ASCII based, pipe-delimited protocol utilizing Portuguese keywords that employs two totally different forms of obfuscation: one for outbound communication to the attacker and another for inbound communication to the implant. The outbound communications are compressed with zlib and encrypted with RC4. The RC4 key is hard-coded and is updated with version changes. For example, the RC4 key for Spy-Net 2.6 is njkvenknvjebcddlaknvfdvjkfdskv, while for CyberGate 1.07, which has a similar (if not the same) protocol the key is njgnjvejvorenwtrnionrionvironvrnvcg107 and CyberGate 1.18’s key is njgnjvejvorenwtrnionrionvironvrnvcg117.

The astute reader may have noticed that the last three numbers of the CyberGate keys (roughly) represent the version number of CyberGate. The inbound communication to the implant employs an ASCII encoding scheme similar to Base64.  This protocol begins with a simple authentication scheme where the implant sends an authentication password that is validated by the client. This password is configurable by the attacker and defaults to abcd1234.  The implant then proceeds to send the entirety of its configuration information, as configured by the attacker, to the client so it can be displayed on its “Configuration” tab.


Implant->Client: mypassword|Y|

Configuration Request and Response

Client->Implant: configuracoesdoserver|

Implant->Client: configuracoesdoserver|configuracoesdoserver||#myID|mypassword|C:\WINDOWS\install\server.exe|C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe| | |{0OP8GNN1-GIWW-CC7M-AJ0I-6Y554UOJJ241}|Policies|FALSE|TRUE|TRUE|TRUE|***MUTEX***| | |TRUE|FALSE| | | | | | |FALSE|FALSE|FALSE|FALSE|FALSE|FALSE|FALSE|FALSE|FALSE|FALSE|FALSE|FALSE|FALSE|server.exe#crack.exe#|FALSE|

The outbound communications from the implant to the client are prepended with an ASCII representation of the length of the payload followed by a pipe character and a new line character.


There is a noticeable lack of sophistication in Spy-Net’s code. For example, in some cases the length indicator is followed by a pipe and a single new line (\n) character as seen in *nix based operating systems. In other cases, the indicator is followed by the carriage return and new line characters (\r\n), as seen in Windows operating systems. This lack of conformity is also witnessed in how there are two totally different schemes used for obfuscation, and in how obfuscation is not used for file transfers as it is otherwise used throughout the protocol.

Spy-Net Protocol Decoder

Since Spy-Net is a publicly available RAT that we see in use quite often, we decided to build a ChopShop module for it and share it in cooperation with our friends at MITRE.  The module is now available as a standard part of the framework available on GitHub.  We are also sharing a Spy-Net configuration dumping pycommand for Immunity Debugger.  While hunting for related samples in VirusTotal, we came across a pcap that had captured the initial infection and subsequent communication of the Spy-Net binary we initially mentioned, (MD5: 6a56f6735f4b16a60f39b18842fd97d0). This gave us a great opportunity to test our new decoder. One thing that Spy-Net implants will commonly send out automatically is a thumbnail image of the user’s desktop. This is displayed on the client.


Our decoder can extract such images from the pcap and what we found gave us a further hint that we may be dealing with attacks focused in France. Although difficult to read due to the very low resolution of the thumbnail, our pcap decoder was able to tell us that the title of the browser window currently open in this screenshot is “Football - MAXIFOOT l'actualit  foot et transfert - Windows Internet Explorer.”


Distribution via Malicious Java Applet

According to the details of the pcap we decoded, this French football Web site ( was apparently compromised and had an iframe inserted into it that pointed to another compromised Web site, a Canadian addiction recovery resource:

<iframe width="1px" height="1px" src="hxxp://" style="display: block;" ></iframe>

The latter site hosted a malicious Java applet that downloaded the Pony/Fareit malicious downloader. The downloader then proceeded to install ZeuS and download and execute the aforementioned Spy-Net binary. All of these binaries were signed with the stolen digital certificate. The malicious Java applet used to install the Pony downloader was created by Foxxy Software and had been previously written about by ESET.

RAT Configuration Details

We assembled a compilation of the meaningful configuration data found in the XtremeRAT and Spy-Net samples we came across in our analyses. You can observe some similarities between the samples’ configurations.

f5e6c0a2c9000311513521947a76cb4bSpy-Net 2.6C:\WINDOWS\system32\conhost\conhost.exeUpdater2014NAR5438NM5abcd1234
6a56f6735f4b16a60f39b18842fd97d0Spy-Net 2.6C:\WINDOWS\system32\Winini\taskhost.exeUframerNAA7TF5Wabcd1234
7416ec2889227f046f48c15c45c102daXtremeRAT 3.5 PrivateInstallDirSpaMSPAMeyA8znpcNA
2e776e18dec61cf6ccd68fbacd55fab3XtremeRAT 3.5 PrivatesvhostDieselDiesellNFAH0NA
be47ec66d861c35784da527bf0f2e03aXtremeRAT 3.5 PrivatesvhostIdSecUSA3lNFAH0NA
c27232691dacf4cff24a4d04b3b2896bXtremeRAT 3.5 PrivateInstallDirIdSecidsectioneyA8znpcNA
e79636e4c7418544d188a29481c100bbXtremeRAT 3.5 PrivatesvhostIdSecUSA3lNFAH04NA
bd70a7cae3ebf85cf1edd9ee776d8364XtremeRAT 3.5 PrivatesvhostIdSecIdSeclNFAH0NA
0be3b0e296be33903bf76b8cd9cf52caXtremeRAT 3.5 PrivatesvhostCiTaIdSecx4KybsbMNA


The usage of digital signatures isn’t going to decrease anytime soon- especially by threat actors. It gives them a quick, easy way to bypass traditional security controls since certificates and signatures are typically trusted by default. In this blog, we are shown that this trend still true. We looked towards the past in this blog, to better understand motivations and trends going forward. We can accurately say, based on the information attributed, that the CZ Solution signatures were being utilized by an individual or group of individuals using French assets and infrastructure.

These particular actors didn’t show a significant level of expertise, but did show collective resources with knowledge in at least Zeus, Spy-Net, and XtremeRAT. We can say accurately that it is likely these actor(s) were using the same signature to send out a wide range of binaries, possibly even outside of the realm of the four families discussed here. As we wrote this blog, we couldn’t help but be reminded of the spam run focused in Colombia and Central America that we wrote about back in February of this year. A spam run that is regionally focused, but with no apparent targeting in nature, utilizing a mix of ZeuS and off-the-shelf RATs.

Helping protect your organization from threats using valid digital signatures can include verification of the signature’s serial number. In this case, the serial number: 6e 7b 63 95 ac 5b 5c 8a 2a ec c4 52 8d 9e 65 10, is the identifier to locate in regards to this publisher. Also, if you’re running your own internal certificate authority, ensure you are adequately revoking certificates that may have been compromised. This will help ensure compromised certificates are not utilized in attacks.