Hackers Weaponizing MSC Files In Targeted Attack Campaign

Hackers utilize MSC or Microsoft Management Console files in themed attack campaigns as these files contain commands and scripts that enable them to perform different administrative tasks on the target system. 

By mimicking legitimate files, MSC files can evade various security properties and access overview and control of the vulnerable system with privileges, consequently resulting in unauthorized access to its data and other malicious deeds.

Cybersecurity researchers at NTT recently identified that hackers are weaponizing the MSC files in targeted attack campaigns.

Hackers Weaponizing MSC Files

In late May 2024, DarkPeony took over the MSC file exploitation already reported on by Kimsuky through Operation Control Plug.

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These attacks could have been against military and government organizations in Myanmar, the Philippines, Mongolia as well as Serbia.

By taking advantage of the fact that MSC file abuse is not easily detected and is obscurely carried out, the attackers devised several stages for infection, in which deserves to be looked at

Attack flow (Source – NTT)

Operation Control Plug initiates its attack chain through malicious MSC files that, when opened, display a screen prompting users to click a link executing a PowerShell script. 

This script fetches and runs an MSI package containing a legitimate executable capable of DLL side-loading.

The side-loaded DLL decodes and loads a malicious DAT payload, ultimately deploying the PlugX malware. 

Threat actors abuse the innocuous-looking MSC (Microsoft Common Console Document) format by leveraging its “Console Taskpad” feature to camouflage malicious PowerShell commands as seemingly harmless links, tricking users into enabling the infection sequence.

Websites distributing MSI files with Operation Control Plug may use Cloudflare to control access, presumably to block researchers and analysis engines from accessing the MSI files while distributing them to targeted organizations. 

This article introduced DarkPeony’s Operation Control Plug, which uses MSC files as the starting point of attacks and infects computers with PlugX to carry out intrusions. 

Although there are few attacks using MSC files, they are used by multiple targeted attack groups and may become more active in the future.

Researchers recommend that you verify whether your organization can detect attacks.


MSC File

  • 1cbf860e99dcd2594a9de3c616ee86c894d85145bc42e55f4fed3a31ef7c2292
  • 54549745868b27f5e533a99b3c10f29bc5504d01bd0792568f2ad1569625b1fd
  • f0aa5a27ea01362dce9ced3685961d599e1c9203eef171b76c855a3db41f1ec6
  • 8c9e1f17e82369d857e5bf3c41f0609b1e75fd5a4080634bc8ae7291ebe2186c
  • e81982e40ee5aaed85817343464d621179a311855ca7bcc514d70f47ed5a2c67

MSI File Download Site

  • versaillesinfo[.]com
  • lifeyomi[.]com
  • profilepimpz[.]com
  • lebohdc[.]com

PlugX C2 Server

  • shreyaninfotech[.]com
  • buyinginfo[.]org
  • gulfesolutions[.]com

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Author: Tushar Subhra Dutta