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Blog > Cybercrime > The Shadow Brokers’s “Trick or Treat” Leak Exposes International Stage Server Infrastructure

The Shadow Brokers’s “Trick or Treat” Leak Exposes International Stage Server Infrastructure

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Key Takeaways

  • The hacker collective known as “The Shadow Brokers” has published another leak related to the “Equation Group” — a group of hackers believed to be operated by the National Security Agency (NSA). The group posted an archive titled “trickortreat,” leaking the pair (redirector) keys allegedly connecting stage servers of numerous covert operations conducted by the NSA. The Shadow Brokers’ most recent leak is related to the server stage infrastructure used by the various exploits from the group’s previous leak.

 

  • Though the exact relationship between the Equation Group and the NSA is undefined, malware allegedly made by the Equation Group was either created for the NSA, made to resemble NSA zero-day malware, or stolen from the NSA. The general consensus is that the leaked information was stolen from a third-party NSA contractor, is legitimate, and belongs to the Equation Group.

 

  • The Shadow Brokers collective appears to be financially motivated, but also criticized the US for misguided democratic principles as well as its perceived double standards regarding cyberattacks and retribution.

 

  • The group leaked the configuration associated with the exploit tools entitled “Jackladder,” “Dewdrop,” “Stoicsurgeon,” “Incision,” “Orangutan,” “Patchicillin,” “Sidetrack,” and “Reticulum.” The covert operations, according to the timestamps in the configuration names, were carried out between 2000 and 2010.


Background

A hacker collective going by the name “The Shadow Brokers” published another leak related to the “Equation Group,” a group of hackers believed to be operated by the National Security Agency (NSA). The group posted an archive along with its manifesto entitled “trickortreat,” leaking the pair (redirector) keys allegedly connecting stage servers of numerous covert operations conducted by the NSA. A previous The Shadow Brokers Medium post included a Q&A portion in which the group attempted to clear up some misconceptions surrounding its information auction. In the Q&A, the group clarified the price of the exploits, which it is selling for $1,000,000 USD.

In the manifesto accompanying the most recent leak, The Shadow Brokers – though seemingly financially motivated – criticized the US government for misguided democratic principles as well as its perceived double standards regarding cyberattacks and retribution. In the statement, the group appeared to mock the cyberattack operation allegedly launched by the CIA in response to alleged Russian involvement in various hacking incidents intended to subvert the 2016 US elections. The group mockingly described US democracy as “Free as in Free Beer.” Notably, this exact quote was recently used by Russian President Vladimir Putin, when he pre-emptively addressed allegations of Russian interference in US elections, and questioned the legitimacy of US democracy during a panel discussion at the St Petersburg Economic Forum. Overall, the group echoes Putin’s rhetoric, accusing the US of playing political games rather than addressing the internal issues concerned with its perceived double standards and flawed election process.

Orthography analysis reveals that the manifesto is riddled with incorrect grammar and written in the style of a non-native English speaker, and reveals possible attribution false flags. The statement appears to try to mimic the Russian way of saying “American” as “Amerikanskis”; however, this appears to be a failed attempt to sound like a native Russian speaker, and reveals a shaky command of the Russian language — the more natural way to spell this would be “Amerikansky,” without the “s” at the end.

Data Leak Analysis

The Shadow Brokers leaked the exploit stage server configuration information in two files entitled “intonation” and “pitchimpair.”

According to the group, the leaked files contain:

…equation group pitchimpair (redirector) keys, many missions into your networks is/was coming from these ip addresses. Is being unfortunate no peoples is already owning eqgrp_auction_file. Auction file is having tools for to making connect to these pitchimpairs.

The portion of the “eggrp” exploits was previously leaked by the group and included various zero-days impacting firewall vendors, including Fortinet, Cisco PIX/ASA, Juniper Netscreen, TOPSEC, and WatchGuard.

The servers were likely designed for Computer Network Exploitation (CNE) related to a Computer Network Operations (CNO) covert reconnaissance operation, perhaps performed by the NSA sometime between 2000 and 2010. If the last eight digits implicate the date of the exploit stage server usage, then the earliest one can be traced back to Intonation’s exploit server on August 22, 2000, while the latest stage server is traceable to Pitchimpair’s server on July 22, 2010.

Further analysis reveals that these exploits were mainly staged at “Sun Solaris” Linux servers.

sb1

Image 1: The Shadow Brokers leaked two folders, “intonation” and “pitchimpair,” containing apparent covert operation names such as “Incision,” “Orangutan,” and “Reticulum.”

Image 2: The content of the leaked files reveals various mail configuration setup export configurations, including IPs.

Image 2: The content of the leaked files reveals various mail configuration setup export configurations, including IPs.

Stage Server: Exploit Analysis

The following list of default exploits was uncovered by Flashpoint as part of the leaked documents:

I. Jackladder
INTONATION___dmn2[.]bjpeu[.]edu[.c]n___202[.]204[.]193[.]1___20010929-205746() {
## JACKLADDER Version:2.0 OS:sparc-sun-solaris2.6
}
II. Dewdrop
INTONATION___gate[.]technopolis[.]kirov[.]ru___217[.]9[.]148[.]61___20060912-073905() {
## DEWDROP Version:1.0.1.1 OS:sparc-sun-solaris2.9
export CV=”NOT KEYED”
}
III. Stoicsurgeon
INTONATION___gate[.]technopolis[.]kirov[.]ru___217[.]9[.]148[.]61___20060912-073905() {
## STOICSURGEON Version:STOICSURGEON v1.0.5.3 sparc-sun-solaris2.9 OS:sparc-sun-solaris2.9
export CV=”NOT KEYED”
}
IV. Incision
INTONATION___mail[.]zzu[.]edu[.]cn___222[.]22[.]32[.]88___20050203-113356() {
## INCISION Version:4.10 OS:sparc-sun-solaris2.8
export TARG_AYT=”3ddb2dd5 9ae410c0 c26b2cf6″
}
V. Orangutan
INTONATION___mail[.]zzu[.]edu[.]cn___222[.]22[.]32[.]88___20050203-113356() {
## ORANGUTAN Version:1.6.1 OS:sparc-sun-solaris2.8
export CONFIG_KEYS=”9e85f449 4d688f75 22a06798″
}
VI. Patchicillin
INTONATION___mail[.]zzu[.]edu[.]cn___222[.]22[.]32[.]88___20050203-113356() {
## PATCHICILLIN Version:1.1.2.1 OS:sparc-sun-solaris2.8
export CV=”fba44a5f 754b08f6 7cc77c45″
}
VII. Sidetrack
INTONATION___mail[.]zzu[.]edu[.]cn___222[.]22[.]32[.]88___20050203-113356() {
## SIDETRACK Version:2.1 OS:sparc-sun-solaris2.8
export CV=”b7dcaa08 f9854202 0f3c4142 98732f90″
}
VIII. Reticulum
INTONATION___bj02[.]cww[.]com___202[.]84[.]16[.]34___20020808-173544() {
#
# RETICULUM Version:6.6 OS:sparc-sun-solaris2.6
#
set host bj02.cww.com
set ip 202.84.16.34
set hostType “Solaris26”
set len 476
set cv0 1ec7534a
set cv1 139c5180
set cv2 a36c9614
set timeout 10
set retries 5
set baduids { }
set maxdelay 1.5
set mindelay 1.0
#
#
set hand [ targsetup $host $ip $len $cv0 $cv1 $cv2 $hostType $mindelay $maxdelay $baduids $timeout $retries ]
}

Domain Distribution Analysis

While most of the servers that were used as exploit-staging servers were based in Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan, Spain, and Russia, analysis of the leaked domains reveals that the actors attempted to mimic some “.gov” domains as stage servers as well:

  • hccc[.]gov[.]tw
  • counsellor[.]gov[.]cn
  • hangzhouit[.]gov[.]cn
  • minaffet[.]gov[.]rw
  • platino[.]gov[.]ve
  • nic[.]gov[.]jo
Image 3: The distribution of the country domains reveals the prevalence of Chinese domains.

Image 3: The distribution of the country domains reveals the prevalence of Chinese domains.

 

For information regarding the indicators of compromise (IoCs) of the exploit infrastructure, please contact us to speak with a Flashpoint expert. 

About the author: Vitali Kremez

Vitali is a Director of Research at Flashpoint who specializes in researching and investigating complex cyber attacks, network intrusions, data breaches, and hacking incidents mainly emanating from the Eastern European cybercriminal ecosystem. He has earned the majority of major certifications available in the information technology, information security, and digital forensics fields. Previously, Vitali enjoyed a successful career as a Cybercrime Investigative Analyst for the New York County District Attorney's Office partnering with the United States Secret Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, City of London (UK) Police, New York Police Department, and Spanish Civil Guardia. His work helped the New York County District Attorney's Office and other offices deliver successful indictments of many high-profile investigations involving data breaches, network intrusions, ransomware, computer hacking, intellectual property theft, credit card fraud, money laundering, and identity theft.