Josh Lefkowitz
Chief Executive Officer
Josh Lefkowitz executes the company’s strategic vision to empower organizations with Business Risk Intelligence (BRI). He has worked extensively with authorities to track and analyze terrorist groups. Mr. Lefkowitz also served as a consultant to the FBI’s senior management team and worked for a top tier, global investment bank. Mr. Lefkowitz holds an MBA from Harvard University and a BA from Williams College.
Evan Kohlmann
Chief Innovation Officer
Evan Kohlmann focuses on product innovation at Flashpoint where he leverages fifteen years’ experience tracking Al-Qaida, ISIS, and other terrorist groups. He has consulted for the US Department of Defense, the US Department of Justice, the Australian Federal Police, and Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command, among others. Mr. Kohlmann holds a JD from the Univ. of Pennsylvania Law School and a BSFS in International Politics from the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown Univ.
Josh Devon
Chief Operating Officer / VP Product
Josh Devon focuses on product vision and strategy at Flashpoint while ensuring the company’s departments function synergistically during its rapid growth. He also works to ensure that customers receive best in class products, services, and support. Previously, Mr. Devon co-founded the SITE Intelligence Group where he served as Assistant Director. He holds an MA from SAIS at Johns Hopkins Univ. At the Univ. of Pennsylvania, he received a BS in Economics from the Wharton School and a BA in English from the College of Arts and Sciences.
Jennifer Leggio
Chief Marketing Officer / VP Operations
Jennifer Leggio is responsible for Flashpoint’s marketing, customer acquisition, and operations. Ms. Leggio has more than 20 years of experience driving marketing, communications and go-to-market strategies in the cybersecurity industry. She’s previously held senior leadership roles at Digital Shadows, Cisco, Sourcefire, and Fortinet. She’s been a contributor to Forbes and ZDNet, and has spoken on the importance of coordinated disclosure at DEF CON and Hack in the Box, and on threat actor “publicity” trends at RSA Conference, Gartner Security Summit, and SXSW Interactive.
Chris Camacho
Chief Strategy Officer
Chris Camacho leads the company’s client engagement and development team, which includes customer success, business development, strategic integrations and the FPCollab sharing community. With over 15 years of cybersecurity leadership experience, he has spearheaded initiatives across Operational Strategy, Incident Response, Threat Management, and Security Operations to ensure cyber risk postures align with business goals. Most recently as a Senior Vice President of Information Security at Bank of America, Mr. Camacho was responsible for overseeing the Threat Management Program. An entrepreneur, Mr. Camacho also serves as CEO for NinjaJobs: a career-matching community for elite cybersecurity talent. He has a BS in Decision Sciences & Management of Information Systems from George Mason University.
Lisa Iadanza
Chief People Officer
Lisa M. Iadanza leads all functional areas of People Operations at Flashpoint, including human resources, talent acquisition & management, employee engagement, and developing high performance teams. In addition to collaborating with the executive team to drive strategic growth, she plays an integral role in fostering Flashpoint’s culture and mission. Driven by her passions for mentorship, employee advocacy, and talent development, Ms. Iadanza has more than twenty years of experience in building, scaling, and leading human resources functions. Prior to Flashpoint, she held leadership roles at Conde Nast, Terra Technology, and FreeWheel. She is a member of the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) and holds a bachelor’s degree in management with concentrations in human resources and marketing from State University of New York at Binghamton.
Rob Reznick
VP of Finance and Corporate Development
Rob Reznick leads the finance, accounting, and corporate development teams at Flashpoint. Rob previously served as Director of Finance & Accounting for 1010data (acquired by Advance/Newhouse), and Director of Finance for Financial Guard (acquired by Legg Mason) after prior work in forensic accounting and dispute consulting. Mr. Reznick is a Certified Public Accountant and holds an MBA and MAcc from the Fisher College of Business at the Ohio State University, and a BBA from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.
Lance James
Chief Scientist / VP Engineering
Lance James is responsible for leading Flashpoint’s technology development. Prior to joining Flashpoint in 2015, he was the Head of Cyber Intelligence at Deloitte & Touche LLP. Mr. James has been an active member of the security community for over 20 years and enjoys working creatively together with technology teams to design and develop impactful solutions that disrupt online threats.
Brian Costello
SVP Global Sales and Solution Architecture
Brian Costello, a 20-year information technology and security solutions veteran, is responsible for leading the Global Sales, Solution Architecture, and Professional Services teams at Flashpoint. Throughout his career, Brian has successfully built security and cloud teams that have provided customers with innovative technology solutions, exceeded targets and consistently grown business year over year. Prior to Flashpoint, Brian led a global security and cloud vertical practice for Verizon. Brian also held senior leadership roles at Invincea, Risk Analytics and Cybertrust. Brian received his B.A. from George Mason University.
Tom Hofmann
VP Intelligence
Tom Hofmann leads the intelligence directorate that is responsible for the collection, analysis, production, and dissemination of Deep and Dark Web data. He works closely with clients to prioritize their intelligence requirements and ensures internal Flashpoint operations are aligned to those needs. Mr. Hofmann has been at the forefront of cyber intelligence operations in the commercial, government, and military sectors, and is renowned for his ability to drive effective intelligence operations to support offensive and defensive network operations.
Jake Wells
VP, Client Engagement & Development
Jake Wells leads strategic integrations and information sharing as part of the client engagement & development team, which serves as an internal advocate for our government and commercial clients to ensure Flashpoint’s intelligence solutions meet their evolving needs. He leverages a decade of experience running cyber and counterterrorism investigations, most recently with the NYPD Intelligence Bureau, to maximize the value customers generate from our products and services. Mr. Wells holds an MA from Columbia University and a BA from Emory University.
Brian Brown
VP Business Development
Brian Brown is responsible for the overall direction of strategic sales and development supporting Flashpoint’s largest clients. In his role, Mr. Brown focuses on designing and executing growth-oriented sales penetration strategies across multiple vertical markets, including both Government and Commercial, supporting Flashpoint’s Sales and Business Development Teams. An experienced entrepreneur, Mr. Brown also serves as CSO for NinjaJobs, a private community created to match elite cybersecurity talent with top tier global jobs and also advise growth-stage cybersecurity companies.
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FIN7 Revisited: Inside Astra Panel and SQLRat Malware

March 20, 2019

By Joshua Platt and Jason Reaves

Despite the arrests of three prominent members of the FIN7 cybercrime gang beginning in January 2018, attacks targeting businesses and customer payment card information did not cease.

The latest evidence involves the discovery of a new administrative panel and previously unseen malware samples that Flashpoint analysts are linking to this notorious group. Activity from this campaign dates from May to July 2018, but could go back farther to January 2018.

FIN7 has been active since at least 2015, targeting more than 100 U.S.-based companies in 47 states, as well as businesses in Europe and Australia. The U.S. companies affected were operating primarily in the hospitality, restaurant, and gaming industries, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release last Aug. 1 announcing the arrest of three Ukrainian nationals alleged to be members of FIN7. Two were arrested in January in Germany and Poland, while the third—an alleged supervisor—was arrested in June in Spain.

FIN7, which has also used a backdoor linked to Carbanak—another prolific cybercrime outfit responsible for billions in losses in the financial services industry—has stolen more than 15 million payment card records from American businesses. The group, which operated behind a front company called Combi Security, has infiltrated more than 6,500 individual point-of-sale terminals at more than 3,600 business locations, according to the DoJ.

New Attack Panel and Malware Samples

Flashpoint analysts recently uncovered a new attack panel used by this group in campaigns they have called Astra. The panel, written in PHP, functions as a script-management system, pushing attack scripts down to compromised computers.

Analysts discovered references to the FIN7 front company Combi Security in the Astra panel’s backend PHP code, connecting the group to these campaigns. According to the DoJ indictments, Combi Security purported itself as a penetration-testing and security services company based in Russia and Israel. The DoJ alleges FIN7 portrayed Combi Security as a legitimate business in order to recruit other hackers to their operation.

The attackers gain an initial foothold on targeted machines via phishing emails containing malicious attachments. The emails are often industry-specific and crafted to entice a victim to open the message and execute the attached document.

One of the documents spreads what analysts are calling SQLRat, previously unseen malware that drops files and executes SQL scripts on the host system. The use of SQL scripts is ingenious in that they don’t leave artifacts behind the way traditional malware does. Once they are deleted by the attackers’ code, there is nothing left to be forensically recovered. This technique has not been observed in previous campaigns associated with FIN7.

The second new malware sample discovered is a multiprotocol backdoor called DNSbot, which is used to exchange commands and push data to and from compromised machines. Primarily, it operates over DNS traffic, but can also switch to encrypted channels such as HTTPS or SSL, Flashpoint analysts discovered.

The campaigns maintain persistence on machines by creating two daily scheduled task entries. The code, meanwhile, is still controlled by the FIN7 actors and may be leveraged in future attacks by the group.

SQLRat Technical Details

SQLRat campaigns typically involved a lure document that included an image overlayed by a VB Form trigger. The documents contained a message asking the user to “Unlock Protected Contents,” below, while showing a message box displaying “US SEC Unlock document service.”

Image 1: An image of a document used in a typical campaign.
Image 1: An image of a document used in a typical campaign.

Once a user has double-clicked the embedded image, the form executes a VB setup script. The script writes files to the path %appdata%\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates\, then creates two task entries triggered to run daily.

Image 2: Executing scripts on disk.
Image 2: Executing scripts on disk.

The scripts are responsible for deobfuscating and executing the main JavaScript file The file uses a character insertion obfuscation technique, making it appear to contain Chinese characters.

Image 3: Obfuscated mspromo file.
Image 3: Obfuscated mspromo file.

After deobfuscating the file, the main JavaScript is easily recognizable. It contains a number of functions designed to drop files and execute scripts on a host system.

Image 4: Deobfuscated mspromo script.
Image 4: Deobfuscated mspromo script.=

The SQLRat script is designed to make a direct SQL connection to a Microsoft database controlled by the attackers and execute the contents of various tables. The script retrieves an item from the bindata table and writes the file to disk. This file appears to primarily be a version of TinyMet—an open source Meterpreter stager—but the actors have the option to store and execute any binary loaded into the table.

Image 5: Code responsible for downloading from the database.
Image 5: Code responsible for downloading from the database.

Files associated with the SQLRat campaigns were all SFX RAR files. The files were 32/64-bit versions of a custom-built TinyMet along with a recon.js file. The 32-bit file contained an XOR embedded .exe file. The file was decoded out using the following:

Image 6: Deobfuscate embedded “TiniMet,” a customized version of TinyMet.
Image 6: Deobfuscate embedded “TiniMet,” a customized version of TinyMet.

The result is a customized version of TinyMet. This version has limited usage; it does reverse TCP, XOR decodes the data retrieved for execution of the stager, and looks for TrendMicro processes. This file calls itself TiniMet:

Image 7: TiniMet looking for TrendMicro processes.
Image 7: TiniMet looking for TrendMicro processes.

Analysts also uncovered a “TinyPS” stager:

After decoding out the blob, analysts found a PowerShell script. This script was similar to what was previously documented in the Trustwave report “Operation Grand Mars: Defending Against Carbanak Cyber Attacks.” The script contained the same XOR key but does not achieve persistence. It is only intended to create the Meterpreter session. The following is the PowerShell version of TiniMet:

Image 9: TinyPS PowerShell stager snippet.
Image 9: TinyPS PowerShell stager snippet.

DNSbot Technical Details

Analysts also uncovered subsequent campaigns associated with this panel. These campaigns were similar, but leveraged a document containing an embedded JavaScript-based DNSbot. The document contained the same MsgBox display, but this time there was a single file and task. The task name is similar to “Microsoft update service,” but the obfuscated JS file is dropped in %localappdata%\Storage:

Image 10: DNSBot drop location.
Image 10: DNSBot drop location.

Additionally, the same US SEC Unlock document service is displayed, though the Microsoft update service task is deleted and replaced with the DNSbot.

Image 11: DNSbot task update.
Image 11: DNSbot task update.

The JavaScript is heavily obfuscated. The first variable—a—is an array of obfuscated values. The second line contains a function to deobfuscate the values, while the call to that function is the second variable, b:

Image 12: DNSbot obfuscation.
Image 12: DNSbot obfuscation.

A deobfuscated version of the DNS script is:

Image 13: DNSbot deobfuscated.
Image 13: DNSbot deobfuscated.

A second deobfuscated testing script also matched components of the JavaScript embedded in the ASTRA docs, demonstrating the script’s multiprotocol use. The domain stats25-google[.]com was included in a report released by FireEye earlier in the year:

Image 14: Script relation to other reporting.
Image 14: Script relation to other reporting.

The ASTRA backend was installed on a Windows server with Microsoft SQL. The panel was written in PHP and managed the content in the tables. It functioned as a script management system.

Image 15: ASTRA attack panel partially redacted.
Image 15: ASTRA attack panel partially redacted.
Image 16: FIN7 front company name.
Image 16: FIN7 front company name.
Image 17: The file types that were inserted, along with a table layout of the database with partial redaction.
Image 17: The file types that were inserted, along with a table layout of the database with partial redaction.


Flashpoint recommends watching for newly added Windows tasks, specifically those with a JScript switch. Also, monitor for attempts to delete the Microsoft update service.

Flashpoint also recommends implementing host-based detections for new files in %appdata%\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates\ with a dot extension, as well as implementing host-based detections for files in %appdata%\local\Storage\.

Attachments and Downloads

The indicators of compromise (IOCs) for ASTRA panel, SQLRat, and DNSbot are available for download here.


Jason Reaves

Principal Threat Researcher

Jason Reaves is a Principal Threat Researcher at Flashpoint who specializes in malware reverse-engineering. He has spent the majority of his career tracking threats in the Crimeware domain, including reverse-engineering data structures and algorithms found in malware in order to create automated frameworks for harvesting configuration and botnet data. Previously, he worked as a software developer and unix administrator in the financial industry and also spent six years in the U.S. Army. Jason holds multiple certifications related to reverse-engineering and application exploitation and has published numerous papers on topics such as writing malware scripts pretending to be a bot, unpackers, configuration data harvesters and covert channel utilities. He enjoys long walks in IDA and staring at RFCs for hours.


Joshua Platt

Principal Threat Researcher

Joshua Platt is a Principal Threat Researcher at Flashpoint who specializes in investigating complex financial crimeware families. As a former network security engineer, he first began reversing malware while working in the financial services industry nearly 10 years ago. Joshua graduated from the University of North Texas with a B.S. in criminal justice and has earned multiple certifications within the security industry related to reverse engineering and penetration testing.

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