Category Archives: malware

Analyzing an Office Maldoc with a VBA Emulator

Today we were informed of another maldoc sample. After a quick look, we were convinced that this sample would be a good candidate for Philippe Lagadec’s VBA emulator ViperMonkey.

The maldoc in a nutshell: when the spreadsheet is opened, the VBA code builds a long JScript script and then executes it. This script contains base64 code for an executable (ransomware Petya GoldenEye version), which is written to disk and executed. The building of the script is done with heavily obfuscated VBA code, so we thought it would be a good idea to try ViperMonkey. ViperMonkey is a free, open-source VBA emulator engine written in Python. You can use it to emulate VBA code on different platforms without MS Office.

Taking a look with at this sample (md5 b231884cf0e4f33d84912e7a452d3a10), we see it contains a large VBA macro stream:



Here is the end of the VBA code:


Let’s analyze this with ViperMonkey: sample.vir

Since there are a lot of VBA statements, it will take ViperMonkey some time (couple of minutes) to parse this:


In the end we get this result:


ViperMonkey doesn’t identify any suspicious actions, but we see that the ActiveX object to be created is “MSScriptControl.ScriptControl”. This string was obfuscated with Chr concatenations, and ViperMonkey was able to parse it. To parse all obfuscated expressions like this, we provide option -e to ViperMonkey: -e sample.vir



We this information, we can understand what subroutine Workbook_Open does: it executes a JScript script stored in variable LQ3.

How to we get the value of LQ3? We can set ViperMonkey’s log level to debug, and log the emulation of all statements. This will produce a lot of output, so it’s beter to redirect this to file. -l debug sample.vir > output.log 2> debug.log

Searching for the last occurrence of string “setting LQ3” in debug.log, we find the JScript script:


This script decodes a BASE64 payload, writes it to disk and then executes it: it’s a new variant of Petya ransomware, GoldenEye.


Malicious Document Targets Belgian Users

In this blog post I want to show how a malicious document (maldoc) behaves and how it can be analyzed with free tools.

A couple of weeks ago many users in Belgium received an e-mail, supposedly from a courier company, informing them that a package was waiting for them (article in Dutch).

This is an example of the e-mail:


This e-mail contains a link to a Word document:


The Word document contains VBA macro code to download and execute malware (downloader behavior). But MS Word contains protection features that prevent the code from running when the document is opened in Word.

First of all, since the Word document was downloaded from the Internet, it will be marked as such, and MS Word will open the document in Protected View:


The user is social-engineered into clicking the Enable Editing button. Because the Word document contains VBA macros, another protection kicks in:


By default, MS Word disables macros for documents of untrusted sources. Only after the user clicks on the Enable Content button, will the VBA macros run.

The user is presented with an empty document, but meanwhile malware was downloaded and executed invisibly to the user:


The VBA macro code can be extracted with a free open-source tool:


When looking at the VBA code (streams 8 and 9), we find subroutine Document_Open in stream 9:


This subroutine is automatically executed when Word opens the document. Subroutine Document_Open contains a call to subroutine TvoFLxE in Module1:


Subroutine TvoFLxE removes the content of the document (this causes the document to become blank, see screenshot), saves the document and calls function HuEJcCj.


In this function we see a call to CreateObject. This is always interesting and requires further analysis. CreateObject takes a string as argument: the name of the object to be created. In this code, the string is returned by function JFZzIeCKcjgPWI which takes 2 arguments: 2 strings that look like gibberish. We see this often in maldocs (malicious documents): strings are obfuscated, e.g. made unreadable. Function JFZzIeCKcjgPWI is a string decoding function, taking strings “MWqSBYcnRrviVpGRtY.ASJhGneqYlVl”and “FYqRnVNvJB1GqMA” and converting them to a meaningful string.

In this maldoc, the string obfuscation method is rather simple. Function JFZzIeCKcjgPWI removes all characters found in string “FYqRnVNvJB1GqMA” from string “MWqSBYcnRrviVpGRtY.ASJhGneqYlVl”. Was is left is string “WScript.Shell”. This Shell object can be used to make Windows execute commands. So we need to deobfus.


When we deobfuscate these strings, we get this PowerShell command:


This PowerShell command downloads an executable (malware) to disk and executes it. The downloaded malware seems to be ransomware, we’ll write another blog post if it has interesting features.

To protect yourself from this kind of attacks, never activate the document (Enable Editing and Enable Content). Anti-virus can also protect you by 1) detecting the maldoc and 2) detecting the executable written to disk. When you don’t trust a document, you can always upload it to VirusTotal.