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DarkGate Malware Campaign Exploits Windows Security Flaws | Trend Micro Analysis

In mid-January 2024, security researchers observed a malicious campaign known as DarkGate. This campaign utilized a recently patched security flaw in , known as a zero-day exploit, and used fake software installers to lure unsuspecting victims.

According to Trend Micro, the campaign began with the distribution of PDFs containing Google DoubleClick Digital Marketing (DDM) open redirects. These redirects led victims to compromised websites hosting the exploit, known as CVE-2024-21412, which allowed attackers to bypass 's SmartScreen protection.

With a CVSS score of 8.1, this vulnerability allowed attackers to trick victims into clicking on a specially crafted file, ultimately leading to the installation of the DarkMe . This , also known as DarkGate version 6.1.7, was used by a threat actor, Water Hydra or DarkCasino, to target financial institutions.

The campaign also utilized another now-fixed bypass flaw in SmartScreen, CVE-2023-36025, with a CVSS score of 8.8. Threat actors have used this vulnerability to distribute such as Phemedrone Stealer and Mispadu.

In addition to these exploits, the DarkGate campaign also utilized Google Ads to increase the reach and scale of its attacks. By using fake software installers, such as Apple iTunes, Notion, and , the attackers were able to infect a larger number of victims.

Using fake software installers and open redirects is a potent combination that can lead to widespread infections. Users should remain vigilant and only download software from official sources.

This discovery follows other recent campaigns, such as the distribution of information stealers like LummaC2 and the XRed backdoor through counterfeit installers for Adobe Reader, Notion, and Synaptics.

In conclusion, the DarkGate campaign is a prime example of how threat actors constantly evolve and find new ways to exploit vulnerabilities and distribute . Users must stay informed and cautious when downloading software from unknown sources. 

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