Malware descriptions

FinSpy: unseen findings

FinSpy, also known as FinFisher or Wingbird, is an infamous surveillance toolset. Kaspersky has been tracking deployments of this spyware since 2011. Historically, its Windows implant was distributed through a single-stage installer. This version was detected and researched several times up to 2018. Since that year, we observed a decreasing detection rate of FinSpy for Windows. While the nature of this anomaly remained unknown, we began detecting some suspicious installers of legitimate applications, backdoored with a relatively small obfuscated downloader. We were unable to cluster those packages until the middle of 2019 when we found a host that served these installers among FinSpy Mobile implants for Android. Over the course of our investigation, we found out that the backdoored installers are nothing more than first stage implants that are used to download and deploy further payloads before the actual FinSpy Trojan.

Apart from the Trojanized installers, we also observed infections involving usage of a UEFI or MBR bootkit. While the MBR infection has been known since at least 2014, details on the UEFI bootkit are publicly revealed in this article for the first time.

We decided to share some of our unseen findings about the actual state of FinSpy implants. We will cover not only the version for Windows, but also the Linux and macOS versions, since they have a lot of internal structure and code similarities.

The full details of this research, as well as future updates on FinSpy, are available to customers of the APT reporting service through our Threat Intelligence Portal.


UEFI infection

During our research, we found a UEFI bootkit that was loading FinSpy. All machines infected with the UEFI bootkit had the Windows Boot Manager (bootmgfw.efi) replaced with a malicious one. When the UEFI transfers execution to the malicious loader, it first locates the original Windows Boot Manager. It is stored inside the efi\microsoft\boot\en-us\ directory, with the name consisting of hexadecimal characters. This directory contains two more files: the Winlogon Injector and the Trojan Loader. Both of them are encrypted with RC4. The decryption key is the EFI system partition GUID, which differs from one machine to another.

Sample contents of the \efi\microsoft\boot\en-us\ directory

Sample contents of the \efi\microsoft\boot\en-us\ directory

Once the original bootloader is located, it is loaded into memory, patched and launched. The patched launcher:

  • Patches the function of the OS loader that transfers execution to the kernel
  • The patched function hooks the kernel’s PsCreateSystemThread function, which, when called for the first time, creates an additional thread that decrypts the next loader stage and launches it.

The next stage:

  • Locates the Trojan loader file on the EFI partition and decrypts it
  • Waits until a user logs on and injects the Trojan loader into exe.

The Trojan loader:

  • Extracts the Trojan from resources and drops it under the name dll
  • Decrypts the Trojan with a XOR-based cipher and unpacks it with aPLib
  • Reflectively loads and launches the Trojan.

MBR infection

Older machines that do not support UEFI can be infected through the MBR. When the victim machine starts up, the infected MBR copies the initial loader code from the last megabyte of the hard drive to the highest available memory located before the EBDA1. This code hooks the 13h and 15h BIOS interrupts and then launches the original MBR. The 15h interrupt makes sure that the Windows loader does not overwrite the copied code. When this interrupt is called to get the size of the area before the EBDA, the hook will reduce the amount of available memory. As for the 13h interrupt hook (which manages reading information from disk), it patches the OS loader when it is read from disk. Just as in the case with the EFI infection, the hooked functions place their own hooks on further OS loading stages. The last hook in the chain creates a thread in the kernel that injects the next stage into winlogon.exe.

In case the infection is installed on a 32-bit machine, the process of injecting code into winlogon.exe is more complex than the one observed in the UEFI infection. It is as follows:

  • A thread with trampoline shellcode is created inside exe.
  • This shellcode duplicates the exe process handle and transfers it to explorer.exe.
  • The shellcode injects another trampoline shellcode in Explorer.
  • The second shellcode makes exe inject the Trojan loader back into winlogon.exe.

This roundabout way of injecting code is intended to trick security solutions.

The injected Trojan loader is the same as the UEFI one.

User Mode Infection


This infection is by far the most complex. In short, the attack scenario is as follows:

  • The victim downloads a Trojanized application and executes it.
  • During its normal course of operation the application connects to a C2 server, downloads and then launches a non-persistent component called the Pre-Validator. The Pre-Validator ensures that the victim machine is not used for malware analysis.
  • The Pre-Validator downloads Security Shellcodes from the C2 server and executes them. In total, it deploys more than 30 shellcodes. Each shellcode collects specific system information (e.g. the current process name) and uploads it back to the server.
  • In case a check fails, the C2 server terminates the infection process. Otherwise, it continues sending shellcodes.
  • If all security checks pass, the server provides a component that we call the Post-Validator. It is a persistent implant likely used to ensure that the victim is the intended one. The Post-Validator collects information that allows it to identify the victim machine (running processes, recently opened documents, screenshots) and sends it to a C2 server specified in its configuration.
  • Depending on the information collected, the C2 server may command the Post-Validator to deploy the full-fledged Trojan platform or remove the infection.

Overview of the user mode infection

Overview of the user mode infection

Trojanized applications

Throughout our research, we identified numerous legitimate applications backdoored with FinSpy. Examples include software installers (e.g. TeamViewer, VLC Media Player, WinRAR) as well as portable applications.

All observed backdoored application samples have their original digital signature. It is invalid, which indicates that the application has been patched. While the entry point function of the application looks clear, inspection of the executable’s PE file sections does reveal anomalies: the backdoored application has its last section (.rsrc on the screenshot below) expanded by 51 KB.

Sections of the original (left) and backdoored (right) application

Sections of the original (left) and backdoored (right) application

Apart from that, a part of code from the .text section (roughly 8 KB) is overwritten with heavily obfuscated code, with the original application code placed in the expanded last section.

When the backdoored application launches, it runs as normal, i.e. the inserted obfuscated code does not impact the application workflow. At some point the application executes a jump instruction that redirects execution to the obfuscated trampoline in the .text section. This instruction appears to be placed randomly in the code. For example, a call to the CreateWindowExW function has been replaced:

The original (left) and patched (right) code of the backdoored application

The original (left) and patched (right) code of the backdoored application

This trampoline is protected with an obfuscator that we dubbed FinSpy Mutator. It launches a code that:

  • Decrypts and launches a slightly modified Metasploit Reverse HTTPS stager. The decryption procedure:
    • Is obfuscated with FinSpy Mutator
    • Involves applying 10 operations (ADD, SUB, XOR, ROL, ROR) to every byte of the stager
    • Is different in every backdoored installer.
  • Restores the code in the .text section that was overwritten with the malicious code (recall that the original code is saved in the resource section)
  • Resolves relocations in the restored code
  • Restores the instruction that has been overwritten with a jump
  • Jumps to the restored instruction, thus resuming the execution of the original application.

The Metasploit stager connects to a configured C2 server using HTTPS for communication. In the case of 5EDF9810355DE986EAD251B297856F38, the stager sends the following GET request to the C2 server:

The C2 server replies with a component that we called the Pre-Validator in response to the GET request. The Metasploit stager launches it.

The Pre-Validator

The Pre-Validator is a shellcode obfuscated with FinSpy Mutator. On startup, it:

  • Hooks the NtTerminateProcess and ExitProcess functions to make sure the Pre-Validator continues working if the backdoored application is closed. The hooked functions close all the application’s windows but do not terminate its process.
  • Makes an initial POST request to the C2 server. Example of the request URL: https://45[.]86[.]163[.]138/blog/index.asp?attachmentid=a46dee635db8017962741f99f1849471&d=5d7e89e6b4874d0df95141bd923556f8 (all parts of this URL vary between samples). All communications between the server are encrypted with RC4.

The reply to the initial POST request contains a shellcode that we called a Security Shellcode. On receiving it, the Pre-Validator:

  • Decrypts and executes the received Security Shellcode
  • Sends the shellcode execution results to the C2 server via a POST request.
  • Receives the next Security Shellcode from the C2 server and repeats the steps above.

The nature of these shellcodes indicates that they are used to fingerprint the system and verify that it is not used for malware analysis. It is important to highlight that the shellcodes only collect the data, all the checks are performed server-side. In case a shellcode uploads suspicious execution results (e.g. the Pre-Validator is running on a virtual machine), the server provides a shellcode that terminates the Pre-Validator.

The received shellcodes are protected with either FinSpy Mutator, an obfuscator resembling OLLVM or both these protectors. In total, we observed 33 Security Shellcodes provided by the server (listed in execution order):

Shellcode # Description
1 Attempts to detect a hypervisor with the CPUID (EAX = 1) instruction. If detected, returns the hypervisor name (EAX = 0x40000000), otherwise returns zero bytes.
2 Checks whether the current process needs to be impersonated (for example, if an unprivileged user runs the backdoored application as administrator).
3 Returns the user’s profile folder (e.g. C:\Users\username)
4 Returns the short form of the user’s profile folder (e.g. C:\Users\abcdef~1)
5 Returns the type of the drive containing the backdoored application (e.g. removable drive)
6 Returns process names of the current process tree (i.e. the current process, the parent process, the grandparent process, etc.)
7 Returns the path to the ‘Program Files’ folder.
8 For the system drive, returns:

  • Overall available space
  • Space available to current user (may be less than overall available space due to quotas)
  • Disk capacity
9 Returns the path to the user’s temporary folder.
10 Returns the list of network adapter types, IP and MAC addresses assigned to them.
11 Returns the list of running processes
12 Returns ProcessDebugPort value returned by NtQueryInformationProcess for current process.
13 Returns ProcessDebugObjectHandle value returned by NtQueryInformationProcess for current process.
14 Returns TotalNumberOfObjects and TotalNumberOfHandles values of objects created by NtCreateDebugObject.
15 Returns the current user’s SID.
16 Returns the list of images (EXE/DLL files) loaded into the current process.
17 Returns OSVERSIONINFOEXW and SYSTEM_INFO structures.
18 Returns information about the machine’s BIOS.
19 Returns the list of object names in the \GLOBAL?? directory.
20 Returns information about the operating system.
21 Returns the current user’s name, computer name, path to the current executable, its name and command line path.
22 Returns the list of loaded drivers.
23 Returns the list of PDB paths of loaded drivers
24 Returns the first 16 bytes of the first exported Zw* function of ntdll.dll (ZwAcceptConnectPort)
25 Verifies the signature of the parent process.
26 Returns information about connected Plug and Play devices.
27 Returns information about the computer system (from SELECT * FROM Win32_ComputerSystem WMI query)
28 Returns the list of connected PCI devices.
29 Returns names of shortcuts in the Desktop directory.
30 Returns the list of top-level and child window class names not owned by the current or parent process.
31 Returns the list of top-level and child window titles not owned by the current or parent process.
32 Returns the current domain SID.
33 Cleans  API functions potentially hooked by security solutions: Nt* functions in ntdll.dll and all exported functions in kernel32.dll, kernelbase.dll and advapi32.dll.

Once all security checks are passed, the C2 server sends a shellcode that downloads and runs the Post-Validator Installer.

The Post-Validator Installer

This module is an obfuscated shellcode. It:

  • Creates a subdirectory (name differs between samples) in the C:\ProgramData directory
  • Drops two files in the newly created subdirectory:
    • The Post-Validator Loader DLL
    • A shellcode with the Post-Validator itself.

    The file names are hardcoded in the dropper but are unique for each sample and appear to be randomly generated.

  • Creates a scheduled task that runs at system startup and launches the Post-Validator Loader via regsvr32 (task action: %windir%\syswow64\regsvr32.exe /s “<path to the Loader DLL>”)

After the Post-Validator is installed, the Pre-Validator shuts down.

The Post-Validator Loader

The Post-Validator Loader is a huge (3-9 MB) obfuscated DLL. The Task Scheduler launches it at system startup through regsvr32.exe. Its main function is several megabytes in size, but despite that, its purpose is simple: read and execute a shellcode that is stored in the same directory as the Post-Validator Loader.

Sample scheduled task properties

Sample scheduled task properties

The launched shellcode decrypts the Post-Validator (it is stored in the same file with the shellcode) with RC4 (key: domain SID) and reflectively loads it.

The Post-Validator

The Post-Validator is a DLL obfuscated with VMProtect. This module uses the same communication protocol that is used in the main Trojan component:

  • The TLV (type-length-value) format to exchange data with C2 servers
  • TLV type constants that are found in the Trojan
  • The Trojan’s Cryptography Library to encrypt/decrypt exchanged data

On startup, the Post-Validator verifies that it is not launched inside a sandbox environment. It then starts communication with C2 servers specified in its configuration, sending heartbeat messages with 15-minute intervals. Each heartbeat includes brief information about the victim machine.

The heartbeat reply may contain different commands.

TLV ID Command purpose (inferred from the main Trojan) Implementation of command in the Post-Validator
0x8030A0 Retrieves the implant configuration.
0x8070A0 Retrieve the list of files with data prepared for exfiltration. Sends back three strings in a TLV: 243a, 201a and 201b (‘virtual’ data file names)
0x8072A0 Upload a prepared file with a specified name to the C2 server. If the prepared file name is:

  • 201a, obtains the list of processes and sends it to the C2 server.
  • 201b, gets the list of recent files and sends it to the C2 server.
  • 243a, takes a screenshot and uploads it to the C2 server.
0x8054A0, 0x805BA0, 0x8056A0, 0x805DA0, 0x8057A0, 0x805EA0 Commands are used to download and install plugins. Commands are used to download and run the Trojan Installer.
0x801530, 0x801630, 0x801730, 0x8018A0 Uninstall the Trojan. Uninstall the Pre-Validator.
0x7502A0 Disconnect from the C2 server.

When the Post-Validator receives the Trojan Installer (which is a DLL), it:

  • Reflectively loads and launches the Installer
  • Depending on the configuration, either uninstalls itself (by deleting its directory and the scheduled task) or goes to sleep until system reboot.

Based on the data collected by the Post-Validator, it is most likely that:

  • The Post-Validator is deployed to ensure that the infected victim is the intended one.
  • The C2 server operator manually analyzes data received from the victim and commands to either remove the Post-Validator or infect the machine with the Trojan.

The Post-Validator is another obstacle for researchers. Even if they manage to pass all the checks of the Pre-Validator, the C2 server operator may refuse to infect a suspicious machine.

The Trojan Installer

The Installer creates the working directory (path: %localappdata%\Microsoft\<two concatenated English words>) and sets it as being accessed, modified and created a year earlier. Afterwards, it drops the following files to it:

File name Description
<4 random hexadecimal characters>.cab The setup configuration file, which is encrypted with RC4 (key: the name of the working directory).
Names differ between samples The encrypted VFS file.
The Initial Loader.
msvcr90.dll The Trojan bundle, encrypted with XOR and compressed with aPLib.
msvcr120d.dll 64-bit Trojan loader. The executable is prepended with 0x4000 random bytes and encrypted with RC4 (key: machine GUID)
msvcr140d.dll 32-bit Trojan loader, also prepended with random bytes and encrypted with RC4.

The timestamps of dropped files are set to one year earlier than the current date. Once the working directory is prepared, the Installer launches the Trojan.

The Initial Loader

The Initial Loader is a DLL that is launched on every startup by rundll32.exe (the Trojan adds it to the HKCU\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run key, the value name is unique for each sample). The size of the Initial Loader exceeds 5 MB. It is obfuscated with a protector resembling the open source OLLVM obfuscator. Despite its size, the only functionality of the Initial Loader is to decrypt and launch the 32-bit Trojan Loader.

The Trojan Loader

The 32-bit Trojan Loader, which is launched regardless of the victim machine architecture, checks if it is running on a 64-bit system. If so, it reads the 64-bit loader (msvcr120d.dll) from disk and runs it as a shellcode.

The Trojan Loader (either the 32-bit or the 64-bit one):

  • Reads the Trojan bundle file (dll), decrypts it with XOR and unpacks with aPLib.
  • Injects the Trojan DLL into exe by either calling CreateRemoteThread or using the KernelCallbackTable technique.

MacOS Infection

The macOS version of the malware is not as complicated as the Windows one. It is written in Objective-C. An obfuscator similar to OLLVM is used to protect FinSpy for Mac. Additionally, Objective-C selectors that may reveal information about method names contain junk.

The macOS version of FinSpy has the following components:

  • The Installer. Unlike the Windows version that features numerous installers, the macOS version has only one installer type.
  • The Initial Loader.
  • The Trojan Loader.
  • The Trojan that consists of the Orchestrator, the Cryptography Library and plugins.

The Installer

When the victim executes the malicious app, an executable located at the <malicious application name>.app/Contents/MacOS/installer path is launched. On startup, it checks the environment for debuggers and virtual machines. It drops the following files to the machine:

Path Description
/Library/Frameworks/Storage.framework A directory with the Trojan inside
/private/etc/logind The Trojan loader that runs as a launch agent. This file is executed on startup.


The configuration of the logind agent. The Trojan needs it in order to maintain persistence.

All copied files are timestomped (modification date is the timestamp of The Installer sets their owner to root:wheel. It additionally sets the SUID and SGID bits of the /private/etc/logind file.

By copying the logind.plist file to the /Library/LaunchAgents directory the Installer configures the Trojan to load at startup.

The Installer then launches the logind executable (Trojan Loader) with the launchctl utility.

The Initial Loader

The Initial Loader (/private/etc/logind) launches every time when the operating system boots up. Once launched, The Initial Loader launches the Trojan Loader (/Library/Frameworks/Storage.framework/Contents/MacOS/logind).

The Trojan Loader

The Trojan Loader has a constructor function that is invoked before main. It sets hooks on functions that load application bundles. These hooks allow the Trojan to load plugins while decrypting them on the fly.

Once the hooks are placed, the Trojan Loader launches the Orchestrator (/Library/Frameworks/Storage.framework/Contents/Resources/dataPkg). The Orchestrator (as well as plugins) are packed with aPLib and encrypted with AES. When the Orchestrator is unpacked, it is reflectively loaded.

Linux Infection

The Linux version of FinSpy is protected with an obfuscator similar to OLLVM. It has the same components as in the macOS version (Initial Loader, Trojan Loader, Orchestrator and plugins).

The Installer

Infection vectors used to deliver FinSpy for Linux are unknown. The leaked FinFisher support questions database suggests physical access could be used to infect machines:

A question related to Linux infection which was submitted to FinFisher support in 2013

A question related to Linux infection which was submitted to FinFisher support in 2013

The initial stage of the Installer is the following shell script:

This script determines the victim machine architecture. Depending on it, the script extracts either the 32-bit or the 64-bit second stage installer to the /tmp/udev2 file and launches it. Both versions of the installer executable are appended to the Bash script. The 32-bit version is delimited from the script with the __x86xx__ string, and the __x64xx__ string delimits the 64-bit version from the 32-bit one.

The launched executable first checks if it is running in a virtual machine with:

  • The CPUID assembly instruction
  • The lspci command
  • The dmesg command

In case a virtual machine is detected and the installed Trojan cannot be launched in a VM, the installer exits. The working directory is located at the ~/<directory #1>/<directory #2> path.  Directory #1 and #2 can take the following names that are selected randomly:

Directory #1 names Directory #2 names

The installer then drops the Trojan to the working directory. The name of the Trojan Loader file is one of the following:

  • cpuset
  • kthreadd
  • ksnapd
  • udevd
  • dbus-daemon
  • atd
  • crond
  • hald

The plugin files have the <module ID>.so name, and the names of their configurations are <module ID>C.dat.

After dropping the files, the Installer sets up persistence. On KDE, it copies a Bash script to either ~/.kde4/Autostart/ or ~/.kde/Autostart/ On other desktop environments , it appends the same script to the ~/.profile file.

The Initial Loader

The Initial Loader is the following shell script:

This script decodes the directory path and the Trojan Loader from hexadecimal and executes the “cd <working directory path> && ./<loader filename> > /dev/null 2>&1 && cd – > /dev/null 2>&1″ command, thus launching the Trojan Loader.

The Trojan Loader

When launched, the Trojan Loader:

  • Checks if it is being debugged with the ptrace function and exits if it is.
  • Reads the Orchestrator file from disk and unpacks it with aPLib.
  • Reflectively loads and launches the Orchestrator.

The Trojan

Overview of the Windows Trojan components

The Windows version of the Trojan consists of the following components:

  • The Hider, the first launched component. It starts the Orchestrator and conceals memory areas that contain the Trojan components’ code and data.
  • The Orchestrator, a DLL which is responsible for managing installed plugins and preparing data to be sent to the C2 server
  • Plugins, DLL modules that perform malicious activities on the victim machine
  • The virtual file system (VFS) which allows the Orchestrator and other plugins to seamlessly interact with plugins and their configurations
  • The ProcessWorm module which intercepts system activity. Similar to a network worm which infects machines in the local network, the ProcessWorm is injected into all running processes. Once a process is infected, the ProcessWorm spreads to its children.
  • The Communicator module which sends data to the C2 server and receives replies

The Hider

The Hider is the first launched component of the Backdoor. It is a valid PE file protected with the FinSpy VM. On startup, the Hider loads a clean copy of ntdll.dll from disk, which is used when calling API functions from this library.  After that, it decrypts the Orchestrator, which is stored in the Hider’s resource section. It is encrypted with a 256-byte RC4 key. which is unscrambled at runtime using addition, subtraction and XOR operations. The key may vary from one sample to another.

A snippet of the RC4 key generation function

A snippet of the RC4 key generation function

After decrypting and unpacking the Orchestrator, the Hider reflectively loads it.

The hiding functionality

Before transferring execution to the Orchestrator’s entry point, the Hider activates its concealing functionality. It works as follows:

  • The Hider encrypts the Orchestrator’s pages with a cipher based on XOR and ROL operations and assigns the PAGE_NOACCESS attribute to them
  • When the Orchestrator accesses hidden pages, the operating system generates an ACCESS_VIOLATION exception
  • The Hider detects the generated exception through the hook of the KiUserExceptionDispatcher function, which handles dispatching of all exceptions
  • The hooked function decrypts the hidden page and assigns it the PAGE_EXECUTE_READWRITE attribute, thus handling the exception
  • The Hider conceals the unhidden pages again within 30 seconds.

The Hider also protects plugins loaded by the Orchestrator.

The Orchestrator

The Orchestrator is the core module of the Trojan that controls all plugins and manages C2 server communications.

When the Orchestrator starts up, it:

  • Hooks its own IAT (import address table) to alter the behavior of WinAPI file manipulation functions. The Orchestrator needs these hooks to interact with the VFS.
  • Sets up persistence by creating an entry in the HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run registry key.
  • Reads the Orchestrator configuration and loads installed plugins.

An interesting fact about the Orchestrator is that it erases its PE structures and code of initialization procedures. This trick is designed to make it more difficult to detect this component in memory and conduct analysis of its dumps.

Once initialized, the Orchestrator launches its following components, which we will detail below:

  • The application watcher that looks for specific processes and notifies the C2 server when they are started or stopped
  • The ProcessWorm injector that injects the ProcessWorm into processes that are not infected with this component
  • The recording manager thread that controls data to be exfiltrated to the C2 server
  • The C2 server communicator thread.

The application watcher

The application watcher regularly examines all the processes on the system, looking for applications specified in the Orchestrator configuration. When it detects a starting first (or a stopping last) instance of a process from the list in the configuration, an appropriate event will be reported to the C2 server during heartbeat time. It is notable that the application watcher acquires handles for all running processes on the system, which results in either winlogon.exe or explorer.exe obtaining numerous process handles.

Process handles acquired by explorer.exe on a clean system (left) and on an infected system with the Orchestrator residing inside the explorer.exe process (right)

Process handles acquired by explorer.exe on a clean system (left) and on an infected system with the Orchestrator residing inside the explorer.exe process (right)

The ProcessWorm injector

The ProcessWorm injector thread ensures that the ProcessWorm is running in every process which can be accessed by the Orchestrator. Just like the application watcher, the injector regularly obtains the list of running processes. For every process, it verifies whether the ProcessWorm is running inside it and injects the ProcessWorm if needed.

The recording manager

Over the course of their execution, plugins may save recording files in the working directory (e.g. keylogs, screenshots or printed files). The recording manager is tasked with two duties:

  • Periodically checking whether there are recording files available to be sent to the C2 server
  • Preparing recording files to be uploaded when their download is requested by the C2 server.

Every recording file stored in the working directory has the following name format:

<plugin prefix><recording type prefix><five-digit random number>.<extension>

The plugin prefix, the extension and the recording type prefix depend on the ID of the plugin that created the recording. The Orchestrator has arrays which converts IDs to prefixes and extensions.

Possible plugin prefixes: auth, avi, cert, crt, com, mem, sxs, msvc, dmem, mtx, net, nls, odbc, ole, pnp, ssl, win, vm, vsc, ntos, user, run, cvs, cvg, con, ssy

Recording type prefixes: inf, sys, doc, mem, vmx, net, run, dat, dll.

Filename extensions used: doc, vmx, net, xls, zip.

The C2 server communication thread

This thread is responsible for maintaining communication with the C2 server. In particular, it contacts the C2 server, sends heartbeats messages and receives commands. The thread dispatches received commands to plugins and sends their execution results back to the server.

Below is a list of the Orchestrator commands:

Command ID Description
Commands related to recordings
0x8072A0 Upload a recording file with a specified name to the C2 server.
0x8076A0, 0x807AA0 Delete a recording with a given filename from the system.
0x8078A0 Retrieve the list of all the recordings present on the victim machine.
0x8070A0 Retrieve the list of recordings made by a plugin with the specified ID.
Commands related to the configuration
0x8030A0 Send the current configuration to the server.
0x8032A0 Change the Orchestrator configuration.
Commands related to plugins
0x8009A0 Send a list of installed plugins to the server.
0x8054A0, 0x805BA0 Commence the plugin installation process by creating a temporary file in the working directory.
0x8056A0, 0x805DA0 Append a plugin body chunk to the temporary plugin file created by the previous command.
0x8057A0, 0x805EA0 Finalize the plugin installation process. This command moves the contents of the temporary file to the virtual file system and loads the new plugin.
0x8059A0 Uninstall a plugin from the machine. This command unloads the specified plugin and removes it from the VFS.
Miscellaneous commands
0x8018A0 Uninstall the backdoor. This command wipes all the files and registry keys created by the backdoor, as well as restores the MBR and the EFI Windows Boot Manager (provided they were infected) from backups.
0x807DA0 Close the current C2 server connection.
0x7502A0 Terminate all livestreams.

The Communicator module

The malware configuration includes one or multiple C2 servers which it can connect to. In case one of the servers is down, the backdoor uses one of the fallback addresses. FinSpy does not communicate with C2 servers directly from winlogon.exe or explorer.exe. Instead, it spawns a default browser process with a hidden window and injects the Communicator module in it. This is done to make communications look legitimate.

The Virtual File System component

The Virtual File System is the place where all the plugin executables and their configurations hide. All the virtual files are stored in a single “real” file, which is encrypted with RC4 and has the following structure:

File offset Description
0x0 CRC32 checksum of the file (the checksum computation starts from offset 4)
VFS entry #1
0x4 ID of the plugin corresponding to the file. The Orchestrator configuration is stored on the VFS with ID 0xFFFFFFFE.
0x8 0x0 if the file is a plugin configuration, 0x2 if it is a plugin executable.
0xC File size.
0x10 File size again.
0x14 File body bytes.
VFS entry #2
The last VFS entry has the ID equal to 0xFFFFFFFF and zero size. It serves as the VFS end marker.
EndOfFile – 0x10 0xFFFFFFFF
 EndOfFile  – 0xC 0x0
EndOfFile – 0x8 0x0
EndOfFile – 0x4 0x0

The VFS is accessed via file management functions hooked by the Orchestrator. For example, virtual files can be created or opened via the hooked CreateFileW API. The return value of the hooked file creation function is a VFS handle, which is a number of the format 0xFF000XXX.

The ProcessWorm

The malware injects the ProcessWorm into all processes running on the system. Its main purpose is to extract specific information about running processes and send it to the Orchestrator or the plugins.

The ProcessWorm is a DLL wrapped in a shellcode and obfuscated with FinSpy VM. The ProcessWorm can be injected to processes in two ways – either by spawning a remote thread with the shellcode or by creating an APC (Asynchronous Procedure Call) with the procedure address pointing to the start of the shellcode. The latter one is used when the ProcessWorm is injected into newly created processes.

The loader code behaves differently depending on the chosen injection type. While the loader used with the first injection method is simple, the one invoked in case of APC injections is rather interesting. The asynchronous procedure places a hook on the NtTestAlert function and then exits. When the process executable is loaded, ntdll.dll will call the NtTestAlert function. Its modified version will first call the original NtTestAlert function and then invoke the ProcessWorm reflective loader.

The ProcessWorm reflective loader comes with a twist. When it processes imports, it does not assign a function pointer to each entry in the IAT. Instead, IAT entries point to buffers of randomly generated junk code. This code obtains the address of the destination API function by XOR-ing two numbers and then jumps to it.

Example of junk code created by the ProcessWorm loader, useful instructions are highlighted in yellow

Example of junk code created by the ProcessWorm loader, useful instructions are highlighted in yellow

While executing its worm-like activity, the ProcessWorm injects itself into processes created by the process that are already infected with this component. To do that, it places a hook on the CreateProcessInternalW API function. If the new process is not created with a DEBUG_PROCESS or a DEBUG_ONLY_THIS_PROCESS flag, the hooked process creation function clears a possible hook of the  NtQueueAPCThread function and then uses it to create an APC procedure in the new process. When the new process starts up, the ProcessWorm will be loaded with the help of the APC injection loader.

Depending on the malware configuration, the ProcessWorm may hide the presence of FinSpy on the victim machine. It can conceal the malware’s working directory, services, registry keys, C2 server addresses, as well as filter out event logs related to the malicious activity. The ProcessWorm achieves stealth by hooking low-level API functions (such as NtEnumerateValueKey or NtQuerySystemInformation)

The rest of the malicious activity is dispersed across hooks of various WinAPI functions. They are placed in order to provide information to the plugins bundled with the malware. Examples of such information are typed keystrokes or documents sent to the printer.

The macOS and Linux Orchestrator

The macOS/Linux orchestrator is a simplified version of the Windows orchestrator. Unlike the Windows version, it does have the following components:

  • The Virtual File System (plugins and configurations are stored in separate files)
  • The ProcessWorm (its functionality is embedded into plugins)
  • The communicator module (the Orchestrator exchanges data with C2 servers without additional modules)
  • The application watcher (the Orchestrator does not report started or stopped processes to C2 servers)

The functionalities of the Orchestrator remain the same: exchanging information with the C2 server, dispatching commands to plugins and managing recording files.

Plugins overview

In the chart below we summarize information about plugins.

Plugin type and ID Features
FileManager (0x02) Upload, download, search, delete files. Create file listing recordings
CommandShell (0x04) Create remote shell sessions
TaskScheduler (0x05) Create different types of recordings (file listings, microphone, screen, webcam) at a specified time by dispatching commands to appropriate plugins
MicRecorder (0x10) Livestream the victim’s microphone or capture its recordings.
KeyLogger (0x12) Livestream or record keystrokes
SkypeStealer (0x14) Intercept Skype contacts, chats, calls and transferred files
FileModificationRecorder (0x16) Record files which have been modified
FileAccessRecorder (0x17) Record files which have been accessed
PrintedFilesRecorder (0x18) Steal files which are printed by the victim
FileDeletionRecorder (0x19) Record removed files
ForensicLauncher (0x20) Gather forensic data by downloading and executing specific utilities. (Windows only)
VoIPRecorder, VoIPLite (0x21, 0x26) Eavesdrop on, and take screenshots during, online conversations. (Windows only)
ClickRecorder (0x22) Capture the screen area around mouse click locations
WebcamRecorder (0x23) Take webcam images with a specified frame rate, and livestream or record them.
ScreenRecorder (0x24) Take screenshots with a specified frame rate, and livestream or record them.
BlackberryInfect (0x25) Infect Blackberry mobile devices with a malicious application. (Windows only)
EmailRecorder (0x27) Steal email from Thunderbird, Outlook, Apple Mail and Icedove
WiFiRecorder (0x28) Monitor available Wi-Fi networks
RemovableRecorder (0x29) Record files on inserted removable media
CryptoKeyRecorder (0x30) Capture encryption keys: SSL keys, S/MIME certificates, GPG/PGP keychains along with their passphrases. (Windows only)

The full details of this research, as well as future updates on FinSpy, are available to customers of the APT reporting service through our Threat Intelligence Portal.


The following IoC list is not complete. If you want more information about the APT discussed here, a full IoC list and YARA rules are available to customers of Kaspersky Threat Intelligence Reports. Contact:

File Hashes


File Paths

\efi\microsoft\boot\en-us\%HEXNUMS% – on EFI disk partition
/Library/Frameworks/Storage.framework – for Mac OS version









Domains and IPs


1 Extended BIOS Data Area (

FinSpy: unseen findings

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  1. Brian Richardson

    For UEFI, is the bootloader infection blocked when UEFI Secure Boot is enabled? I don’t see any info on if this feature was enabled or disabled on target machines.

    1. Securelist

      Secure Boot prevents the UEFI bootkit (and Windows as well) from starting in case of the bootloader infection. However, the attacker may manually disable Secure Boot if there is physical access to the machine and no BIOS/UEFI password is set.

  2. Lynn Ream

    Microsoft Windows 10 Pro ship with trojans.

    I bought Microsoft Windows 10 Pro USB 3.0 brand new almost a year ago. Soon after I could tell something wasn’t right.
    Reinstalled this OS to many time to count at this point.
    Here we are today after another reinstall. I decided for the first time to look at the files on the Windows OS USB. What I found disgusting to say the least.
    This Windows OS shipped packed full of viruses. Over the past year it all makes sense. What I would see pop up in my the network connections, doing reverse search on strange ip address’s. No matter how many times you wipe your drive and reinstall windows, you’re reinstalling the virses/trojans right along with the os.
    I submitted file, after file to Virustotal.

    Microsoft operating systems mass produced with pre-installed trojans/viruses.

    1. alex

      Maybe, This would be an attack by “supply chain”, it reminds me of a analysis about an infection I suffered (Regin 64 bits, Lamberts and Equation Group).
      Lamberts is both GRAYFISH, the rootkit of Equationgroup, but also stage 2 of 32-bit Regin “In Registry” and also white Lamberts, (considering that Black Lamberts is also Regin 64-bit, Kaspersky is not very talkative about Lamberts ), using a vulnerability of security solution,via a container, with SYSTEM privileges.

      It is as if the attackers behind regin and Equation Group collaborate, and one of the attackers behind Equation Group collaborates with Lamberts.

      Indeed, the troubles appear shortly after the acquisition of the laptop, like an America whose troubles appear two days after the purchase of the computer, and attackers a create xbox account with a name,with a funny humor. The attackers surely exploited a flaw in a SpeedFan driver, because appears in specific folders, but the user did not install it, as in my case with VMware. Attackers infects the UEFI 2.3.1 errata C ( computers shipped with Windows 8) , even if secureboot is enabled, so you have to reflash the UEFI completely to delete infection. (because it’s vulnerable, and the manufacturer never wanted to repair the flaws).
      Another hypothesis, it can come from a USB key or an external hard disk, and I already infected via a old computer. for my case, we observe that the end of the physical hard disk is not consistent. We detect hidden and corrupted partitions of FAT type, but by hypothesis, this is perhaps due to the NTFS file system (to be studied)


APT trends report Q1 2024

The report features the most significant developments relating to APT groups in Q1 2024, including the new malware campaigns DuneQuixote and Durian, and hacktivist activity.

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