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The CatB Ransomware: A new threat using DLL search order hijacking



The CatB ransomware operation has been using a technique called DLL search order hijacking to evade detection and launch the payload. CatB, also referred to as CatB99 and Baxtoy, emerged late last year and is said to be an "evolution or direct rebrand" of another ransomware strain known as Pandora based on code-level similarities. It's worth noting that the use of Pandora has been attributed to Bronze Starlight (aka DEV-0401 or Emperor Dragonfly), a China-based threat actor that's known to employ short-lived ransomware families as a ruse to likely conceal its true objectives. One of the key defining characteristics of CatB is its reliance on DLL hijacking via a legitimate service called Microsoft Distributed Transaction Coordinator (MSDTC) to extract and launch the ransomware payload. "Upon execution, CatB payloads rely on DLL search order hijacking to drop and load the malicious payload," SentinelOne researcher Jim Walter said in a report published last week. "The dropper (versions.dll) drops the payload (oci.dll) into the System32 directory." The dropper is also responsible for carrying out anti-analysis checks to determine if the malware is being executed within a virtual environment, and ultimately abusing the MSDTC service to inject the rogue oci.dll containing the ransomware into the msdtc.exe executable upon system restart.

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