More Than 35,000 Computers Infected by PseudoManuscrypt

  • By David Lukic
  • Published: Dec 25, 2021
  • Last Updated: Mar 18, 2022

PseudoManuscrypt has infiltrated a whopping 35,000+ computers in 2021. This malware botnet’s name is a reference to Manuscrypt malware.

Who is Behind the Attack?

Kaspersky digital security specialists believe Lazarus APT is responsible for the PseudoManuscrypt attack. It is believed the spyware is a component of the hacking collective’s attack toolset. The Kaspersky researchers have described the scope of the digital attack as mass-scale. 

Chinese characters were found within samples of the malware. Connections to C2 servers reveal Chinese is the malware’s preferred language. However, investigators are uncertain which specific party is behind the attack. The goal of the attack is also unclear. Digital forensics specialists are also unsure whether the Chinese government might be behind the attack or if it is a covert effort to steal information and sell it on the dark web.

When did the Attack Begin?

Though no one is entirely certain of the exact date when the PseudoManuscrypt attack started, Kaspersky’s researchers have a general estimate of its infiltration. Cybersecurity specialists believe the initial PseudoManuscrypt attack started in the summer. The initial detection of the first PseudoManuscrypt attack was in June of 2021.

Who Does PseudoManuscrypt Target?

This combination of spyware and malware targets governments, industrial organizations, and military-industrial complex enterprises. Slightly more than 7% of the computers hit by the malware are a component of industrial control systems, commonly referred to as ICS. These ICS computers are used in everything from water management to utilities, manufacturing, energy, construction, and automated building processes.

The locations of the targeted computers range from Russia to India and Vietnam. About one-third of the computers hit by the malware are non-ICS machines. These non-ICS machines are primarily located in Russia, Brazil, and India.

How Does PseudoManuscrypt Wreak Havoc?

PseudoManuscrypt relies on a loader. The loader moves into the user system through a MaaS platform. The malware is distributed through stolen software installation archives. A representative from Kaspersky’s ICS CERT group states one instance of the PseudoManuscrypt downloader distribution is performed through installation by way of the botnet known as Glupteba.

Glupteba operations suffered a blow when Google revealed it attempted to destroy the underlying infrastructure of the botnet. Google’s legal team even filed lawsuits against Russian nationals and more than another dozen yet-to-be-identified individuals who supposedly managed the malware.

The botnet’s cracked installers include the popular video game Call of Duty, Kaspersky’s antivirus programs, Microsoft Office, Garmin, Windows 10, SolarWinds’ Engineer’s Toolset, and Adobe Acrobat. The average computer user has at least one of these software programs or operating systems. The pirated software installation is catalyzed through the search poisoning method. This approach is centered on hackers using harmful websites and search engine optimization strategies to rank higher in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Upon installation, PsuedoManuscrypt invades targeted systems to control the infected system. The malware disables antivirus protections, records keystrokes, captures audio, steals VPN information, plucks data from clipboards, and captures screenshots. The PseudoManuscrypt loader is particularly threatening as it has 100+ unique versions.

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