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Beware the Bait: Java RATs Lurking in Tax Scam Emails

BY eSentire Threat Response Unit (TRU)

February 26, 2024 | 5 MINS READ


Threat Intelligence

Threat Response Unit

TRU Positive/Bulletin

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Adversaries don’t work 9-5 and neither do we. At eSentire, our 24/7 SOCs are staffed with Elite Threat Hunters and Cyber Analysts who hunt, investigate, contain and respond to threats within minutes.

We have discovered some of the most dangerous threats and nation state attacks in our space – including the Kaseya MSP breach and the more_eggs malware.

Our Security Operations Centers are supported with Threat Intelligence, Tactical Threat Response and Advanced Threat Analytics driven by our Threat Response Unit – the TRU team.

In TRU Positives, eSentire’s Threat Response Unit (TRU) provides a summary of a recent threat investigation. We outline how we responded to the confirmed threat and what recommendations we have going forward.

Here’s the latest from our TRU Team…

What did we find?

Tax season is a critical time for organizations across all sectors, as the rush of tax document preparation and submission presents an opportunity for finance-themed cybersecurity threats. During this period, threat actors are particularly active, seeking to exploit the heightened urgency and volume of tax-related communications through various phishing strategies.

In early February 2024, the eSentire Threat Response Unit (TRU) uncovered a phishing campaign leveraging tax themes within the Business Services sector. This article explores two instances of such threats, each deploying JAVA-based RAT malware from distinct families: Ratty RAT and Sorillus RAT.

In the first observed phishing attempt, threat actors employed HTML smuggling (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Email containing the malicious HTML attachment

The HTML attachment contains a Base64-encoded blob that decodes to random text and the embedded URL hosting the malicious ZIP archive named “Tax_documents_PDF.zip” (MD5: a988632f9a684e4fccb7a905eba02f43) (Figure 2). The ZIP archive contains the JAR file, which we have determined to be Sorillus RAT (Remote Access Trojan).

You can read more about Sorillus RAT in our previous blogs here and here.

Figure 2: Contents of HTML attachment

In the second case we analyzed, although the phishing email from the incident was not retrieved, our investigation uncovered a JAR payload within the ZIP file named “2023-FILES-MY1040-w2-IRS-letter-1099r_PDF.zip” (MD5 checksum: 00b986c09855eedfe4deb72d0d2e048d).

This payload was identified as Ratty RAT, an open-source Java-based RAT developed by an individual known by the pseudonym “Sogomn”.

Figure 3: Ratty panel

Upon loading the RAT into the decompiler, we notice that the code is heavily obfuscated (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Obfuscated code

The method signature public static void startClient(String address, int port) {} is responsible for starting the RAT client with the address and port (Figure 5).

Figure 5: C2 IP and port

Part of the Ratty configuration can be observed in Figure 6, the threat actor can configure the chat and keylogger options.

Figure 6: Chat and keylogger values

The chat feature supports both text and voice communication with the infected machine (Figure 7).

Figure 7: Snippet of the class that is responsible for voice transmission

Ratty also has the capability for screen capture (Figures 8-9). The rendering capabilities are used to capture the screen contents.

Figure 8:Snippet responsible for graphical rendering
Figure 9: Screenshot capture

The snippet in Figure 10 is responsible for downloading additional payloads from the internet using the user-agent “Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:45.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/45.0”.

Figure 10: Snippet of code responsible for retrieving additional payloads from the internet

Apart from the mentioned features, Ratty is also capable of achieving and removing persistence via Startup and Registry Run Keys on the host, hiding the malicious file with “attrib +H %s”, restarting, and shutting down the host (Figure 11).

Figure 11: Additional Ratty capabilities

What can you learn from this TRU Positive?

What did we do?

Our 24/7 SOC Cyber Analysts investigated the suspicious activities, notified the clients and isolated the affected devices.

Recommendations from our Threat Response Unit (TRU):

Indicators of Compromise

You can access the indicators of compromise here.


eSentire Unit
eSentire Threat Response Unit (TRU)

The eSentire Threat Response Unit (TRU) is an industry-leading threat research team committed to helping your organization become more resilient. TRU is an elite team of threat hunters and researchers that supports our 24/7 Security Operations Centers (SOCs), builds threat detection models across the eSentire XDR Cloud Platform, and works as an extension of your security team to continuously improve our Managed Detection and Response service. By providing complete visibility across your attack surface and performing global threat sweeps and proactive hypothesis-driven threat hunts augmented by original threat research, we are laser-focused on defending your organization against known and unknown threats.

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