In a concerning development, the notorious Emotet malware now installs Cobalt Strike beacons directly, giving immediate network access to threat actors and making ransomware attacks imminent.
Cobalt Strike is very popular among threat actors who use cracked versions as part of their network breaches and is commonly used in ransomware attacks.
Today, Emotet research group Cryptolaemus warned that Emotet is now skipping their primary malware payload of TrickBot or Qbot and directly installing Cobalt Strike beacons on infected devices.
“Emotet itself gathers a limited amount of information about an infected machine, but Cobalt Strike can be used to evaluate a broader network or domain, potentially looking for suitable victims for further infection such as ransomware.”
“While the Cobalt Strike sample was running, it attempted to contact the domain lartmana[.]com. Shortly afterward, Emotet uninstalled the Cobalt Strike executable.”
This is a significant change in tactics as after Emotet installed its primary payload of TrickBot or Qbot, victims typically had some time to detect the infection before Cobalt Strike was deployed.