ToddyCat: Unveiling an Unknown APT Actor Attacking High-Profile Entities in Europe and Asia


ToddyCat is a relatively new APT actor, its main distinctive signs are two formerly unknown tools called ‘Samurai backdoor’ and ‘Ninja Trojan’. The group started its activities in December 2020, compromising selected Exchange servers in Taiwan and Vietnam using an unknown exploit that led to the creation of a well-known China Chopper web shell, which was in turn used to initiate a multi-stage infection chain. In that chain Kaspersky observed a number of components that include custom loaders used to stage the final execution of the passive backdoor Samurai.

Based on the code logic, it appears that Ninja Trojan is a collaborative tool allowing multiple operators to work on the same machine simultaneously. It provides a large set of commands, which allow the attackers to control remote systems, avoid detection and penetrate deep inside a targeted network. Some capabilities are similar to those provided in other notorious post-exploitation toolkits. For example, Ninja has a feature like Cobalt Strike pivot listeners, which can limit the number of direct connections from the targeted network to the remote C2 and control systems without internet access. It also provides the ability to control the HTTP indicators and camouflage malicious traffic in HTTP requests that appear legitimate by modifying HTTP header and URL paths. This feature provides functionality that are similar to the Cobalt Strike Malleable C2 profile.

This tool was designed to take full control of a remote system and provide the attacker with the ability to operate deeply within the targeted network. The attacker can use a number of different commands that provide the following capabilities:

  • Enumerate and manage running processes;
  • Manage the file system;
  • Start multiple reverse shell sessions;
  • Inject code in arbitrary processes;
  • Load additional modules (probably plugins) at runtime;
  • Provide proxy functionalities to forward TCP packets between the C2 and a remote host.

The affected organizations, both governmental and military, show that this group is focused on very high-profile targets and is probably used to achieve critical goals, likely related to geopolitical interests.

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ToddyCat: Unveiling an Unknown APT Actor Attacking High-Profile Entities in Europe and Asia
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