by chebbi abir


Cybereason’s Active Monitoring and Hunting teams have uncovered a severe threat that uses the Emotet trojan and the TrickBot trojan to deliver the Ryuk ransomware. During the past few weeks, the Cybereason Active Monitoring team has encountered multiple incidents of attempted TrickBot infection. Among these incidents and investigations, the team observed Ryuk ransomware infection attempts as well. The nature of Ryuk deployment and execution tactics, techniques, and procedures can vary across incidents. However, the Cybereason Active Monitoring team was able to identify that machines infected with TrickBot were susceptible to a future infection with Ryuk.

Though TrickBot is known as a banking trojan, in this campaign its banking capabilities are one of many abilities. In this instance, it is able to communicate with a C2 server to collect and exfiltrate a range of sensitive data. It is also able to deploy the Ryuk ransomware, which encrypts files throughout the network and increases the damage to the end user. These threats result in brand degradation, damage to an organization, and damage to the individual.


  • Educate your team on how to correctly handle suspicious emails to prevent initial downloading or dropping of malware.
  • In order to protect against lateral movement, do not use privileged accounts, avoid RDPs without properly terminating the session, do not store passwords in plain text, deploy good authentication practices, disable unnecessary share folders, and change the names of the default share folders used in your organization.
  • Make sure you systems are patched, especially CVE-2017-0144, to prevent the propagation of TrickBot and other malware.
  • Disable macros across the environment.
  • Follow Microsoft’s security advisory update on improving credentials protection and management in your organization.
  • Proactively approach security by performing hunts and searching for suspicious behavior before an incident starts.
  • Remove any persistence mechanisms that may have been used by any of the malware mentioned here in order to mitigate the threat.



Ryuk ransomware was first detected in August 2018 in targeted attacks through an unknown infection method. The ransomware scoped out a target, gained access via Remote Desktop Services or other direct methods, stole credentials, and then targeted high-profile data and servers to extort the highest ransom possible. By January 2019, an active campaign of the Ryuk ransomware was discovered targeting victims who were previously attacked by TrickBot. Another recently discovered campaign of Emotet-TrickBot-Ryuk was used to deploy and initiate the Ryuk ransomware. That differs from the campaign mentioned in this research, as this campaign describes each phase of the attack in detail, as well as the use of TrickBot to steal sensitive information before deploying Ryuk to ransom victims data.

Although trojans typically target individuals to steal bank account credentials, the TrickBot trojan was being used to deliver secondary malware in a similar way to what is detailed in this research. The difference from the campaign mentioned in this research is that as this campaign uses TrickBot to steal sensitive information, it also deploys Ryuk to ransom victims data. Criminals targeting large enterprises used spam emails to deliver the Emotet trojan in order to distribute the TrickBot malware. Once a machine is infected with the TrickBot malware, it begins to steal sensitive information and the criminal group tries to determine if the company is an industry target. If so, they deliver the Ryuk ransomware.

Emotet was discovered in 2014 and used as a trojan by threat actors to steal banking credentials. More recently, it has been used as a dropper of other sophisticated malware.
Emotet has introduced several advanced capabilities over the years using a modular structure that features multiple modules including an installation module, a banking module, and a DDoS module. Emotet’s main distribution method remains phishing emails, which use various social engineering techniques to fool a user into clicking a malicious link or downloading a malicious Microsoft Office file.




Flow of the attack as Emotet delivers TrickBot, which delivers Ryuk.

The first stage of the attack starts with a weaponized Microsoft Office document attached to a phishing email. This file contains a malicious, macro-based code. Once the user opens the document, the malicious file will run cmd and execute a PowerShell command. The PowerShell command attempts to download the Emotet payload.


Macro-embedded Microsoft Word document.

In recent attacks, Cybereason’s research team has spotted Emotet adapting in order to be used as a dropper for the TrickBot banking trojan. This is an expansion from its previous information-stealing capabilities.

The execution flow of Emotet starts within outlook.exe, where the phishing email was received. Following that, winword.exe opens the malicious attachment from the email and executes a cmd to run PowerShell. This command downloads and executes the Emotet payload.


The Emotet process tree in the Cybereason Platform.[…]

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