More Malware Found Hidden in Chinese Tax Software

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A malware campaign hiding backdoors in mandatory Chinese corporate tax software is far more extensive than at first thought, according to researchers from Trustwave.

The vendor warned last month that it discovered several clients had unwittingly installed the GoldenSpy backdoor after agreeing to download the Intelligent Tax software product, produced by Aisino Corporation.

China’s banks require all companies to download software from either Aisino or Baiwang to comply with its Golden Tax VAT scheme, indicating that the malware campaign has either direct sponsorship from the government, or is happening with its blessing.

Soon after Trustwave reported on the powerful GoldenSpy backdoor, which it said could not be removed, an uninstaller appeared out of the blue which directly negates the threat.

Now the vendor has discovered a second piece of malware, dubbed GoldenHelper, which dates back to before GoldenSpy. It’s found in the Golden Tax Invoicing Software (Baiwang edition), which is digitally signed by a subsidiary of Aisino, Nou Nou Technologies.

The malware, while functionally different to GoldenSpy, has a similar delivery mechanism, according to Trustwave’s VP of cyber-threat detection and response, Brian Hussey. It utilizes three DLL files to: interface with the Golden Tax software; bypass Windows security and escalate privileges; and download and execute arbitrary code with system-level privileges.

It also uses multiple techniques to hide its presence and activity, including randomization of name whilst in transit and of file system location, timestomping, IP-based Domain Generation Algorithm (DGA), and UAC bypass and privilege escalation.

Active from January 2018 to July 2019, the malware delivered a final payload of “taxver.exe,” although Hussey admitted his team has yet to get hold of a sample for analysis.

“Several individuals report receiving an actual Windows 7 computer (Home edition) with this Golden Tax software (and GoldenHelper) preinstalled and ready to use. This deployment mechanism is an interesting physical manifestation of a Trojan horse,” he continued.

“Trustwave SpiderLabs understands that the VAT tax invoice software is a government requirement and recommends that any system hosting third-party applications with a potential for adding a gateway into your environment, be isolated and heavily monitored with strict processes and procedures in their usage.”

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