CobaltStrike Threat Group Threat Intelligence Advisory

CloudSEK threat intelligence advisory on CobaltStrike threat group, new attack vectors they exploit, TTPs, IOCs, their impact and mitigation.
Updated on
April 19, 2023
Published on
February 2, 2021
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Adversary Intelligence
CobaltStrike Group/Carbanak
Targeted System
Windows Infrastructure

Executive Summary

APTs carry out campaigns with a very high operational security. As a result, it is tedious to keep track of their activities. CloudSEK threat researchers have detected interesting patterns and changes in the way these actors are operating currently. Prominent threat groups are forming alliances with other such actors to maximise the impact and profit. There are new attack vectors in the wild that are elusive in nature so as to not tip off any security solutions deployed in the target environment.  


FIN7-RYUK Association
Based on the intelligence we were able to gather from various reliable sources, FIN7 attack infrastructure was used by a threat actor to gain initial access in an enterprise network that would later pave the way to a RYUK ransomware attack. The threat actor’s Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs) and the use of CARBANAK RAT can be traced back to FIN7. This strengthens our assumption about the collaboration between FIN7 and  WIZARD SPIDER/ FIN6 dubbed RYUK.  

New Attack Vectors Exploited by CobaltStrike APTs

Vector A
Template injection with delayed payload execution & malleable Cobalt C2 CloudSEK Threat Intelligence team has observed a new attack vector employed by the actor to evade security by launching spear phishing attacks against targets. It weaponizes a Word document that is capable of staging the download of the Cobalt beacon via template injection. The adversary employs .NET assemblies to provide auxiliary functions that help in accomplishing the actor’s objectives.  
Anadia Waleed resume.doc 259632b416b4b869fc6dc2d93d2b822dedf6526c0fa57723ad5c326a92d30621
Remote Template: indexa.dotm 7f1325c5a9266e649743ba714d02c819a8bfc7fd58d58e28a2b123ea260c0ce2
Remote Template Url https://yenile[.]asia/YOOMANHOWYOUDARE/
C2 time.updateeset[.]com
Ecmd.exe aeb4c3ff5b5a62f5b7fcb1f958885f76795ee792c12244cee7e36d9050cfb298 dcaaffea947152eab6572ae61d7a3783e6137901662e6b5b5cad82bffb5d8995 5f49a47abc8e8d19bd5ed3625f28561ef584b1a226df09d45455fbf38c73a79c
cf.ini 0eba651e5d54bd5bb502327daef6979de7e3eb63ba518756f659f373aa5f4f8b
Cf.ini shell-code after decryption 5143c5d8715cfc1e70e9db00184592c6cfbb4b9312ee02739d098cf6bc83eff9
CobaltStrike downloaded shellcode 8cfd023f1aa40774a9b6ef3dbdfb75dea10eb7f601c308f8837920417f1ed702
CobaltStrike payload 7963ead16b6277e5b4fbd5d0b683593877d50a6ea7e64d2fc5def605eba1162a
Vector B
Image encoded Cobalt payload delivery CloudSEK Threat Intelligence team has observed unusual delivery of the beacon encoded in a PNG image, hosted on the image hosting platform Imgur. When the embedded macros are executed, it launches a Powershell script which further downloads a second Powershell script which is then hosted on Github. The Powershell script then downloads an image (PNG) from the image hosted on Imgur, which is in turn an encoded CobaltStrike payload. After downloading the image the Powershell script decodes the payload which inturn enables the CobaltStrike beacon to connect to the attackers’ infrastructure.  
File hash d1c7a7511bd09b53c651f8ccc43e9c36ba80265ba11164f88d6863f0832d8f81
Domain:Port Mazzion1234-44451[.]portmap[.]host:44451
URL hxxp://

Miscellaneous Intelligence on CobaltStrike Actors

A new ransomware strain known as CRING has been identified using the “Cobalt beacon” in their campaigns to carry out post exploitation and lateral movement phases of the kill chain. CobaltStrike post  


  • As the Cobalt beacon is capable of using various tactics such as process injection methods to evade security systems and remain in the target environment undetected, even legitimate processes running on the target device can get infected. 
  • Exfiltration of data and C2 communication can be hidden in innocent looking network traffic by utilising malleable C2 capabilities.
  • An attacker can integrate other popular frameworks like Metasploit/ Empire and Mimikatz to carry out post exploitation phases including lateral movement and privilege escalation.
  • The threat actor can gain control over the target OS leading to disk access with read/write/execute permissions.
  • An attacker can make changes to system services and registries which are crucial elements in any Windows system, to enable persistence.
  • CobaltStrike can stage a VNC server to control the victim remotely.
  • Integration with PowerShell gives the attacker easy means for further reconnaissance and post exploitation tactics like DLL loading to use custom programs made by attackers to further the attack.
  • Two factor authentication can be bypassed by using attack forms like Browser Pivot, to hijack a compromised user’s authenticated session and mimic the target.
  • Advanced tunnelling capabilities built into Cobalt let attackers perform pivoting into other segments of the network via compromised footholds.


  • Sandboxes should emulate named pipes to detect the presence of Cobalt shellcode as CobaltStrike hides shellcode over named pipes.
  • Very strict network traffic examination to detect Cobalt C2 communication. The challenge is that it is a malleable C2 system that can use any profile of legitimate applications dictated by the operator to evade security and detection. The security team should specifically focus on HTTPS traffic as it is the default channel for C2 communication.
  • Frequency analysis of network traffic helps in identifying bot traffic from human generated traffic as the latter one will not be uniform.
  • If the HOST header of the traffic does not match with that of the destination address, it is likely to be a malicious one.
  • Check the URI against various CobaltStrike URI Indicators of Compromise to confirm the presence of the Cobalt beacon.
  • Enforce the rule of “least privilege” to domain accounts to restrict a user from having more privilege than they need.
  •  Effective utilisation of SIEM systems to monitor ingress and egress traffic.
  • Proper isolation and segmentation of the network to protect critical assets.
  • Security administrators need to implement effective vulnerability management programmes to roll out patches and keep the systems updated.
  • Make users aware of phishing campaigns and client-side attacks to save themselves from phishing attacks. 

Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (CobaltStrike)

Initial Access
T1078.002 Domain Accounts
T1078.003 Local Accounts
T1059.001 PowerShell
T1059.006 Python
T1059.005 Visual Basic
T1059.003 Windows Command Shell
T1106 Native API
T1569.002 Service Execution
T1047 Windows Management Instrumentation
T1197 BITS Jobs
T1543.003 Windows Service
T1078.002 Domain Accounts
T1078.003 Local Accounts
Privilege Escalation
T1548.002 Bypass User Account Control
T1134.003 Make and Impersonate Token
T1134.004 Parent PID Spoofing
T1134.001 Token Impersonation/Theft
T1543.003 Windows Service
T1068 Exploitation for Privilege Escalation
T1055 Process Injection
T1055.012 Process Hollowing
T1078.002 Domain Accounts
T1078.003 Local Accounts
Defense Evasion
T1548.002 Bypass User Account Control
T1134.003 Make and Impersonate Token
T1134.004 Parent PID Spoofing
T1134.001 Token Impersonation/Theft
T1197 BITS Jobs
T1070.006 Timestomp
T1027.005 Indicator Removal from Tools
T1055 Process Injection
T1055.012 Process Hollowing
T1550.002 Pass the Hash
T1078.002 Domain Accounts
T1078.003 Local Accounts
Credential Access
T1056.001 Keylogging
T1003.002 Security Account Manager
T1087.002 Domain Account
T1046 Network Service Scanning
T1135 Network Share Discovery
T1057 Process Discovery
T1018 Remote System Discovery
T1016 System Network Configuration Discovery
Lateral Movement
T1021.003 Distributed Component Object Model
T1021.001 Remote Desktop Protocol
T1021.002 SMB/Windows Admin Shares
T1021.004 SSH
T1021.006 Windows Remote Management
T1550.002 Pass the Hash
T1005 Data from Local System
T1056.001 Keylogging
T1185 Man in the Browser
T1113 Screen Capture
Command and Control
T1071 Application Layer Protocol
T1071.004 DNS
T1071.001 Web Protocols
T1572 Protocol Tunneling
T1090.001 Internal Proxy
T1029 Scheduled Transfer

Indicators of Compromise


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