This is not a “Game of Thrones”


“Game of Thrones” fans are very familiar with the Dyre Wolf.  I am not, however; referring to the Dyre Wolf that is the blood thirsty animal from the Pleistocene Age.  What it is though, is just as hungry and its prey is your money. Researchers at IBM recently released a white paper titled “Inside the Dyre Wolf Malware Campaign,”  which describes a sophisticated attack against bank accounts of major corporations worldwide.  This campaign was well funded, well planned and executed perfectly.  The attackers had a high level of knowledge regarding banking systems and websites.  The attack used a diverse combination of attack vectors including spear phishing, malware, complex process injections, and distributed denial of service (DDoS).

The Spear Phish

An email was sent to an employee within the targeted organization.  The email referenced an invoice and included an attached zip file.  Once the zip file was unpacked it contained what looked like a .pdf document.  Most users choose not to have their computer show all file extensions and so a user was unable to see the actual extension of the file—.scr.  Once clicked the script, which was actually a piece of malware called UPATRE (pronounced up-a-tree), ran and so began the infection.

First Stage Infection

UPATRE performs a DNS check to determine the public IP address of the infected machine.  Then, it contacts a STUN (Session Traversal Utilities for NAT) server to determine the type of NAT in use.  It determines if the infected computer is behind a proxy by contacting and makes contact with its command and control server to download the Dyre malware. Once Dyre is loaded, UPATRE then deletes itself.

Second Stage Infection

The Dyre malware creates a service called Google Update Service to establish persistence on the machine.  This service runs when the machine is started.  On restart Dyre injects malicious code into the SVCHOST.EXE process before stopping the Google Update Service.  Next, Dyre makes connections to several different I2P nodes and establishes encrypted peer-to-peer tunnels to send its information undetected.  Then, Dyre hooks the machines browsers in order to steal credentials.  It is only looking for credentials for specifically targeted banking sites.  If Microsoft Outlook is detected on the machine, Dyre attempts to replicate itself by sending the infecting message to addresses in the contact list.

Dyre uses three different methods to steal credentials.  In the first method, if the user browses to one of the targeted banking sites it uses server side injections to create additional fillable fields in order to capture personally identifiable information and two-factor authentication codes.  The second method involves routing the infected user’s traffic through a proxy to Dyre’s command and control server where a replica of the banking page is delivered to the user.  This fake site also contains the additional form fields used to capture banking credentials.  The third method is the most sophisticated.  Dyre intercepts responses from the banking website and using its own PHP server it serves code injected responses to the user in real time.  This means that the victim is communicating directly with the attackers, live.

For high value targets Dyre has one additional attack method.  When the victim attempts to browse to the targeted banking site Dyre injects the page with an error message.  The error contains a customer service number to contact.  This number is controlled by the attackers.  When the user calls to fix their access they are greeted by a well-trained and well-spoken individual who asks the user to provide their credentials and two-factor codes in order to fix their access to the site.  Once the attacker has all the information they need to access the account they then tell the user to wait 10 minutes for the system to update before attempting to log back into the account.  It is during this time the attackers log into the account and transfer large sums of money, values between $500,000 to over $1,000,000 have been reported.

The DDoS

Once the attackers complete the transfer they issue a DDoS attack against the targeted organization.  Researchers suspect that this serves to distract the organization, prevent the victim from logging into the banking site to discover the transfer, and to cause additional financial damage to the organization.

How can you prevent this?

First, organizations should strip executables from e-mail attachments.  Additionally, executables should be stripped from archive files like .zip.  Next, organizations should ensure that their antivirus products are updated regularly.  Organizations should also prevent executables from running inside temp directories.  This can be accomplished using Group Policy Objects in Active Directory.  Infected machines should be rebooted after remediation to prevent Dyre from running in memory.  Two-factor authentication should be used whenever possible, especially for internet banking websites.  Lastly, user education is important.  Users should regularly receive training regarding what is normal to see in the work environment, what actions should or shouldn’t be taken, and where and how to report anomalies.


Archetype SC’s security team is expert at helping companies navigate the complicated world of IT security and prevent attacks like the Dyre Wolf.  If you have concerns, give us a call.  Archetype SC, we do complicated.



© Copyright 2019 Archetype SC, Inc.