Jason Jones

Author Archives: Jason Jones

Automating Intelligence: Discovering Recent PlugX Campaigns Programmatically

One of the hardest things to do when you are receiving malware that have “anonymized” (e.g. name-is-hash) names or general samples that lack any indication of the infection vector is to determine the origin of the file and its intended target. Even harder is when you do not receive telemetry data from products that contains information about infected machines. To that end, I have been working on automating ways to help ASERT better understand the context around samples so we can answer question about what may have been targeted, why it was targeted and when it was targeted. This post will use the PlugX malware as an example (PlugX is well known and has had its various iterations analyzed many times), due in part to its ongoing activity and will focus on  leveraging metadata from VirusTotal due to it being publicly accessible.

The How

Automation is king when processing malware and getting the configuration out of samples without analyst intervention is always ideal and we prefer to treat our various sandbox platforms as black boxes and extract what we can from them before doing our own normalization and post-processing tasks to collate all the information into our internal malware analysis system and Continue reading

MindshaRE: Statically Extracting Malware C2s Using Capstone Engine

It’s been far too long since the last MindshaRE post, so I decided to share a technique I’ve been playing around with to pull C2 and other configuration information out of malware that does not store all of its configuration information in a set structure or in the resource section (for a nice set of publicly available decoders check out KevTheHermit’s RATDecoders repository on GitHub). Being able to statically extract this information becomes important in the event that the malware does not run properly in your sandbox, the C2s are down or you don’t have the time / sandbox bandwidth to manually run and extract the information from network indicators.


To find C2 info, one could always just extract all hostname-/IP-/URI-/URL-like elements via string regex matching, but it’s entirely possible to end up false positives or in some cases multiple hostname and URI combinations and potentially mismatch the information. In addition to that issue, there are known families of malware that will include benign or junk hostnames in their disassembly that may never get referenced or only referenced to make false phone-homes. Manually locating references and then disassembling using a disassembler (in my case, Capstone Engine) can help Continue reading