Earlier this month, researchers from AlienVault and Intego reported a new malware attack targeting Tibetan NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations). The attack consisted of luring the victim into visiting a malicious website, which then would drop a malicious payload on the target’s computer using Java vulnerability CVE-2011-3544 and execute it. The webserver would serve a platform-specific JAR (Java Archive) dropper based on the browser’s UserAgent String to infect the user’s Windows or OS X system.

The OS X-specific dropper is also served to Linux clients. Since the dropped payload is designed for OS X only, Linux clients will not be infected.

This analysis is focused on the OS X payload and the network protocol it used to communicate with its Command and Control (C&C) server.

OS X uses the Mach-O file format for its executable files. For OSX/Lamadai.A, the Mach-O executable was compiled for 64-bit only, which is unusual since Mach-O binaries normally contain both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of the executable.

Upon execution, the threat copies itself to /Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/AudioServer and adds a launcher script named ~/Library/LaunchAgents /com.apple.DockActions.plist pointing to the copied file to ensure it is executed whenever the current user logs in.

Note that by default, on OS X 10.7.2, regular users do not have write permissions to /Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/AudioServer, meaning this threat is not persistent (i.e. it won’t survive a reboot). We are unsure if older versions of OS X have different filesystem permissions. Nonetheless, using another location under the user’s home directory would have worked better for the attacker.

Afterwards, the threat will try to contact its C&C server by resolving dns.assyra.com ( at the time of analysis, the domain now points to and establishing a TCP connection to port 8008. The server will respond with a TCP RST unless it has some instructions to communicate. The infected system then falls into a busy wait loop, trying to reconnect at random intervals ranging from 0 to 10 seconds.

The server may issue one of the three following instructions to the infected system:

  1. Upload a file: the C&C sends the path to upload, the client responds with the file content;

  2. Download a file: the C&C sends the file path and content, the client creates the file with permissions set to 777 (-rwxrwxrwx);

  3. Start a remote shell: the C&C sends an arbitrary shell command, the client responds with the output.

All communications between the client and the C&C are encrypted with AES and XOR. The crypto seems to be performed with a slightly modified implementation of AES and SHA1 from the PolarSSL library. The AES keys are generated from the first forty (40) bytes coming from the C&C. While the keys are constant during the entire communication, two different hardcoded XOR keys are used, one for incoming traffic and one for outgoing traffic.

Furthermore, the malware will not act upon any instruction unless the first packet received from the C&C matches a hardcoded key 16 bytes long, as seen in the picture below. The client will also add that key to the first response it will send to the C&C.

Finally, a custom SHA1-based hash is appended to every information packet going to and from the C&C for authentication and integrity checking purposes:

hash = SHA1(key1 + sha1(key2 + encrypted_packet_content + packet_number)) where key1 and key2 are two 64-byte strings derived from the first XOR key

During our investigation, we observed a live dialog between the C&C and our test machine. The timing and nature of the instructions received from the C&C lead us to believe that they were being manually typed by a human. Here are a few interesting pieces:



After some filesystem browsing, the C&C issued two File Upload instructions targeting one Keychain file and the Safari’s cookies store. The purpose here clearly is information stealing.

A lot of effort has been put into the network protocol, which is quite involved. The operators seemed to have a real interest in hiding the raw communication from a network dump so as to make reverse engineering more difficult. However, the use of symmetric cryptography makes it so that it is totally possible to reproduce the encryption and decryption routines and analyze the communication on-the-fly.

This attack is another reminder to stay current with OS patches as Apple patched this vulnerability in Java for Mac OS X 10.7 Update 1 and Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update in November 2011.

ESET security software (including ESET Cybersecurity for Mac) since signature update 7001 detects this threat as OSX/Lamadai.A. Some AV vendors flagged the file as OSX/Olyx, a previous Mac malware. We did not find any relation between the two threats, the network protocol and obfuscation techniques being different.

MD5 of the files analyzed:
39084b60790ca3fdebe1cd93a4764819  file-mac.tmp (OSX payload)

MD5 of related files
7f7cbc62c56aec9cb351b6c1b1926265  file-win.tmp (Win32 payload)
dd7421fb6ca03c5752a06cffb996285a  index.jar (OSX/Linux dropper)
2d86dce83851f76493ba0492d066c095  default.jar (Win32 dropper)
4b6eb782f9d508bbe0e7cfbae1346a43  index.html (HTML serving the droppers)

Thanks to Marc-Étienne M. Léveillé who performed the technical analysis.

Alexis Dorais-Joncas