Pakistani APTs Escalate Attacks on Indian Gov. Seqrite Labs Unveils Threats and Connections

Estimated reading time: 13 minutes

In the recent past, cyberattacks on Indian government entities by Pakistan-linked APTs have gained significant momentum. Seqrite Labs APT team has discovered multiple such campaigns during telemetry analysis and hunting in the wild. One such threat group, SideCopy, has deployed its commonly used AllaKore RAT in three separate campaigns over the last few weeks, where two such RATs were deployed at a time in each campaign. During the same events, its parent APT group Transparent Tribe (APT36) continuously used Crimson RAT but with either an encoded or a packed version. Based on their C2 infrastructure, we were able to correlate these APTs, proving their sub-divisional relation once again. This blog overviews these campaigns and how a connection is established by looking at their previous attacks.

India is one of the most targeted countries in the cyber threat landscape where not only Pakistan-linked APT groups like SideCopy and APT36 (Transparent Tribe) have targeted India but also new spear-phishing campaigns such as Operation RusticWeb and FlightNight have emerged. At the same time, we have observed an increase in the sale of access to Indian entities (both government and corporate) by initial access brokers in the underground forums, high-profile ransomware attacks, and more than 2900 disruptive attacks such as DDoS, website defacement and database leaks by 85+ Telegram Hacktivist groups in the first quarter of 2024.

Threat Actor Profile

SideCopy is a Pakistan-linked Advanced Persistent Threat group that has been targeting South Asian countries, primarily the Indian defense and government entities, since at least 2019. Its arsenal includes Ares RAT, Action RAT, AllaKore RAT, Reverse RAT, Margulas RAT and more. Transparent Tribe (APT36), its parent threat group with the same persistent targeting, shares code similarity and constantly updates its Linux malware arsenal. Active since 2013, it has continuously used payloads such as Crimson RAT, Capra RAT, Eliza RAT and Oblique RAT in its campaigns.


So far, three attack campaigns with the same infection chain have been observed, using compromised domains to host payloads. Instead of side-loading the Action RAT (DUser.dll) payload, as seen previously, two custom variants of an open-source remote agent called AllaKore are deployed as the final payload.

Fig. 1 – Attack Chain of SideCopy

Infection Process

  1. Spear-phishing starts with an archive file containing a shortcut (LNK) in a double-extension format.
  2. Opening the LNK triggers the MSHTA process, which executes a remote HTA file hosted on a compromised domain. The stage-1 HTA contains two embedded files, a decoy and a DLL, that are base64 encoded.
  3. DLL is triggered to run in-memory where the decoy file is dropped & opened by it. As previously seen, the DLL creates multiple text files that mention the name “Mahesh Chand” and various other random texts.
  4. Later, the DLL will download two HTA files from the same compromised domain to begin its second stage process.
  5. Both the HTA contain embedded files, this time an EXE and two DLLs.
    1. One of the DLLs is executed in-memory, which drops the remaining two files into the public directory after decoding them. Persistence on the final payload is set beforehand via the Run registry key. One example:

REG ADD “HKCU\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run” /V “issas” /t REG_SZ /F /D “C:\Users\Public\issas\issas.exe”

Fig. 2 – Files dropped in one of the campaigns

  1. Lastly, both the final payloads, which is AllaKore RAT, are executed and connected with the same IP but different port numbers for C2 communication. The final DLL is not side-loaded but is completely legitimate and old file.

An in-depth analysis of each stage can be checked in our previous blogs and whitepapers. It contains timers for timeout, reconnection, clipboard, and separate sockets for desktop, files, and keyboard. The functionality of AllaKore includes:

  • Gathering system information
  • Enumerating files and folders
  • Upload and execute files
  • Keylogging
  • Steal clipboard data

The Delphi-based AllaKore RATs have the following details campaign-wise:

Campaign Internal Name Compiler Timestamp
1 msmediaGPview


2 msvideolib


3 msvideolib



Initially, the RAT sends and receives ping-pong commands, listening to the C2 for commands to know that the connection is alive. Both RAT payloads run together, complementing each other, as seen in the network traffic below. Their sizes are also different: one is 3.2 MB, and the other almost doubles to 7 MB, like Double Action RAT. A connection ID based on the system information is created for each instance.

Fig. 3 – Network traffic for port 9828

Fig. 4 – Network traffic for port 6663

List of encrypted strings used for C2 communication in smaller-sized payloads:

Encrypted Decrypted
7oYGAVUv7QVqOT0iUNI SocketMain
7o4AfMyIMmN Info
7ooG0ewSx5K PING
7oYCkQ4hb550 Close
7oIBPsa66QyecyD NOSenha
7oIDcXX6y8njAD Folder
7oIDaDhgXCBA Files
7ooD/IcBeHXEooEVVuH4BB DownloadFile
7o4H11u36Kir3n4M4NM UploadFile
Sx+WZ+QNgX+TgltTwOyU4D Unknown (Windows)
QxI/Ngbex4qIoVZBMB Windows Vista
QxI/Ngbex46Q Windows 7
QxI/Ngbex4aRKA Windows 10
QxI/Ngbex4KTxLImkWK Windows 8.1/10

Various file operations have been incorporated, including create, delete, execute, copy, move, rename, zip, and upload, which are part of the AllaKore agent. These commands were found in the bigger payload.

Fig. 5 – File move operation

Fig. 6 – Commands in the second payload

The DLL files dropped are not sideloaded by the AllaKore RAT, and they are legitimate files that could be later used for malicious purposes. These are Microsoft Windows-related libraries, but only a few contain a valid signature.

Dropped DLL Name



Compilation Timestamp
msdr.dll Windows.Management.Workplace.WorkplaceSettings.pdb Windows Runtime WorkplaceSettings DLL 2071-08-19
braveservice.dll dbghelp.pdb Windows Image Helper 2052-02-25
salso.dll D3d12core.pdb Direct3D 12 Core Runtime 1981-03-18
salso.dll OrtcEngine.pdb Microsoft Skype ORTC Engine 2020-01-07
salso.dll msvcp120d.amd64.pdb Microsoft® C Runtime Library 2013-10-05
FI_Ejec13234.dll IsAppRun.pdb TODO:<> 2013-10-15


Two decoy files have been observed, where one was used in previous campaigns in February-March 2023. The date in the document, “21 December 2022,” has been removed, and the bait’s name has been changed to indicate March 2024 – “Grant_of_Risk_and_HardShip_Allowances_Mar_24.pdf.” As the name suggests, it is an advisory from 2022 on allowance grants to Army officers under India’s Ministry of Defence. This is used in two of the three campaigns.

Fig. 7 – Decoy (1)

The second decoy is related to the same allowance category and mentions payment in arrears form. This is another old document used previously, dated 19 January 2023.

Fig. 8 – Decoy (2)

Infrastructure and Attribution

The compromised domains resolve to the same IP addresses used in previous campaigns, as seen with the passive DNS replication since last year.

IP Compromised Domain Campaign
151.106.97[.]183 inniaromas[.]com


November 2023 March 2024
vparking[.]online April 2024
162.241.85[.]104 ssynergy[.]in April 2023
elfinindia[.]com May 2023
occoman[.]com August 2023
sunfireglobal[.]in October 2023
masterrealtors[.]in November 2023
smokeworld[.]in March 2024

C2 servers of AllaKore RAT are registered in Germany to AS51167 – Contabo GmbH, commonly used by SideCopy. Based on the attack chain and arsenal used, these campaigns are attributed to SideCopy, which has high confidence and uses similar infrastructure to carry out the infection.


The following chart depicts telemetry hits observed for all three SideCopy campaigns related to AllaKore RAT. The first two campaigns indicate a spike twice in March, whereas the third campaign is observed during the second week of April.

Fig. 9 – SideCopy campaign hits

Transparent Tribe

Many Crimson RAT samples are seen regularly on the VirusTotal platform, with a detection rate of around 40-50. In our threat hunting, we have found new samples but have had very few detections.

Fig. 10 – Infection Chain of APT36

Analyzing the infection chain to observe any changes, we found that the Crimson RAT samples are not embedded directly into the maldocs as they usually are. This time, the maldoc in the XLAM form contained three objects: the decoy and base64-encoded blobs.

Fig. 11 – Additional Functions in Macro

After extracting the VBA macro, we see additional functions for reading a file, decoding base64, and converting binary to string. The macro reads and decodes the two base64 blobs embedded inside the maldoc. This contains archived Crimson RAT executed samples, after which the decoy file is opened.

Fig. 12 – VBA infection flow

Crimson RAT

The final RAT payloads contain the same functionality where 22 commands for C2 communication are used. As the detection rate is typically high for this Crimson RAT, we see a low rate for both these samples. These .NET samples have compilation timestamp of 2024-03-17 and PDB as:

“C:\New folder\mulhiar tarsnib\mulhiar tarsnib\obj\Debug\mulhiar tarsnib.pdb”

Fig. 13 – Detection count on VT

No major changes were observed when the C2 commands were checked along with the process flow. IP of the C2 is 204.44.124[.]134, which tries to check the connection with 5 different ports – 9149, 15597, 18518, 26791, 28329. Below, you can find C2 commands for some of the recent samples (compile-timestamp-wise) of Crimson RAT, which uses similar 22 to 24 commands. All of these are not packed (except the last two) and have the same size range of 10-20 MB.

Fig. 14 – C2 commands of Crimson RAT for recent samples

As seen in BinDiff, similarity with previous samples is always more than 75%. Changes in the order of the command interpreted by the RAT were only found with numerical addition or splitting the command in two.

Fig. 15 – Comparing similarity between Crimson RAT variants

Additionally, two new samples that were obfuscated with Eziriz’s .NET Reactor were also found which are named ‘ShareX’ and ‘Analytics Based Card.’ APT36 has used different packers and obfuscators like ConfuserEx, Crypto Obfusator, and Eazfuscator, in the past. Compared with the previous iteration, the regular ones contain 22-24 commands as usual, whereas the obfuscated one contains 40 commands. The C2, in this case, is juichangchi[.]online trying to connect with four ports – 909, 67, 65, 121. A few of these C2 commands don’t have functionality yet, but they are similar to the ones first documented by Proofpoint. The list of all 22 commands and their functionality can be found in our previous whitepaper on APT36.

Fig. 16 – Comparison after deobufscation


The maldoc named “Imp message from dgms” contains DGMS, which stands for India’s Directorate General of Mines Safety. The decoy document contains various points relating to land and urban policies associated with military or defense, showing its intended targeting of the Indian Government. Another maldoc named “All details” is empty but has a heading called posting list.

Fig. 17 – DGMS decoy

Crimson Keylogger

A malicious .NET file with a similar PDB naming convention to Crimson RAT was recently seen, with a compilation timestamp of 2023-06-14. Analysis led to a keylogger payload that captures all keyboard activity.

  • PDB: e:\vdhrh madtvin\vdhrh madtvin\obj\Debug\vdhrh madtvin.pdb

Apart from capturing each keystroke and writing it into a file, it collects the name of the current process in the foreground. Toggle keys are captured separately and based on key combinations; clipboard data is also copied to the storage file.

Fig. 18 – Crimson Keylogger


Similar to the code overlaps seen previously between SideCopy and APT36 in Linux-based payloads, based on the domain used as C2 by Transparent Tribe, we pivot to see passive DNS replications of the domain using Virus Total and Validin. The C2 for the above two packed samples resolved to different IPs – 176.107.182[.]55 and 162.245.191[.]214, as seen in the below timeline, giving us when they went live.

Fig. 19 – Timeline of C2 domain

This also leads us to two additional IP addresses: 155.94.209[.]4 and 162.255.119[.]207. The first one is communicating with a payload having detections of only 7/73 on Virus Total, whereas the latter is not associated with new malware. The malware seems to be another .NET Reactor packed payload with compile timestamp as 2039-02-24 but small (6.55 MB) compared to the Crimson RAT payloads.

Fig. 20 – Deobufscated AllaKore RAT

The default name of the sample is an Indian language word “Kuchbhi.pdb” meaning anything. After deobfuscation, we see C2 commands that are similar to the above Delphi-based AllaKore RAT deployed by SideCopy. Only this time it is in a .NET variant with the following five commands:

C2 Command Function
LIST_DRIVES Retrieve and send list of drives on the machine
LIST_FILES Enumerate files and folder in the given path
UPLOAD_FILE Download and execute file
PING Listening to C2 and send PONG for live status
getinfo Send username, machine name and OS information

Persistence is set in two ways, run registry key or through the startup directory.

Overlap of code usability was found in SideCopy’s Linux-based stager payload of Ares RAT and that of Transparent Tribe’s Linux-based python malware called Poseidon and other desktop utilities. Here we see similar code overlaps and possibly sharing of C2 infrastructure between the two groups. AllaKore RAT (open source) has been associated with SideCopy since its discovery in 2019 along with Action RAT payload. Similarly, Crimson RAT is linked to be an in-house toolset of APT36.

Infrastructure and Attribution

Looking at the C2, the same target names used previously by APT36 were identified that are running Windows Server 2012 and 2022 versions.

IP ASN Organization Country Name
204.44.124[.]134 AS8100 QuadraNet Inc United States WIN-P9NRMH5G6M8
162.245.191[.]214 AS8100 QuadraNet Inc United States WIN-P9NRMH5G6M8
155.94.209[.]4 AS207083 Quadranet Inc Netherlands WIN-P9NRMH5G6M8
176.107.182[.]55 AS47987 Zemlyaniy Dmitro Leonidovich Ukraine WIN-9YM6J4IRPC

Based on this correlation and previous attack chains, these campaigns are attributed to both APT36 and SideCopy groups with high confidence, establishing yet another strong connection between them.


Persistent targeting of the Indian government and defense entities by Pakistan-linked APT groups has continued, where new operations have emerged with similar threats. SideCopy has deployed its well—associated AllaKore RAT in multiple campaigns, whereas its parent group, Transparent Tribe (APT36), is continuously using Crimson RAT, T, making changes to evade detections.

As the threat landscape shifts due to various geopolitical events like the Israel-Iran conflict, India is bound to get targeted continuously. On the verge of India’s upcoming election, it is suggested that necessary precautions be taken and that people stay protected amidst the increasing cybercrime.

Seqrite Protection

  • SideCopy.48519
  • SideCopy.48674.GC
  • Trojan.48761.GC
  • SideCopy.S30112905
  • SideCopy
  • Downloader.48760.GC
  • Crimson



6cdc79655e9866e31f6c901d0a05401d jfhdsjfh34frjkfs23432.hta
dbf196ccb2fe4b6fb01f93a603056e55 flutter.hta
37b10e4ac08534ec36a59be0009a63b4 plugins.hta
d907284734ea5bf3bd277e118b6c51f0 bjihfsdfhdjsh234234.hta
2a47ea398397730681f121f13efd796f plugins.hta
6ab0466858eb6d71d830e7b2e86dab03 flutter.hta
ecc65e6074464706bb2463cb74f576f7 4358437iufgdshvjy5843765.hta
da529e7b6056a055e3bbbace20740ee9 min-js.hta
cadafc6a91fc4bba33230baed9a8a338 nodejsmin.hta
Embedded DLL
1e5285ee087c0d73c76fd5b0b7bc787c hta.dll
f74c59fd5b835bf7630fbf885d6a21aa hta.dll
3cc6602a1f8a65b5c5e855df711edeb0 hta.dll
990bfd8bf27be13cca9fa1fa07a28350 SummitOfBion.dll
29fa44d559b4661218669aa958851a59 SummitOfBion.dll
26bde2d6a60bfc6ae472c0e9c8d976e2 SummitOfBion.dll
eceb986d166526499f8f37fd3efd44db SummitOfBion.dll
2a680cf1e54f1a1f585496e14d34c7e9 SummitOfBion.dll
AllaKore RAT
76ca50a71e014aa2d089fed1251bf6cd issas.exe
71b285c8903bb38d16d97c1042cbeb92 quick.exe
9684bf8955b348540446df6b78813cdb cove.exe
48e1e695258a23742cd27586e262c55a salso.exe
4ba7ca56d1a6082f0303f2041b0c1a45 cove.exe
6cda3b5940a2a97c5e71efcd1dd1d2ca FI_Ejec1.exe


abeaa649bd3d8b9e04a3678b86d13b6b msdr.dll
b3a5e819e3cf9834a6b33c606fc50289 braveservice.dll
312923e0baf9796a846e5aad0a4d0fb6 salso.dll
1d7fc8a9241de652e481776e99aa3d46 salso.dll
760ff1f0496e78d37c77b2dc38bcbbe4 salso.dll
fa5a94f04e684d30ebdc4bf829d9c604 FI_Ejec13234.dll
Compromised Domains
revivelife[.]in 151.106.97[.]183
smokeworld[.]in 162.241.85[.]104
vparking[.]online 151.106.97[.]183
C2 and Ports
164.68.102[.]44 6663, 9828
213.136.94[.]11 6663, 7880


f436aa95838a92b560f4cd1e1c321fe7 All details.xlam
afb24ec01881b91c220fec8bb2f53291 Imp message from dgms.xlam
Base64-zipped Crimson RAT
7bb8f92770816f488f3a8f6fe25e71a7 oleObject1.bin
303b75553c5df52af087b5b084d50f98 oleObject2.bin
Crimson RAT
898df40a8f2a6702c0be059f513fab9d mulhiar tarsnib.exe
e3cf6985446cdeb2c523d2bc5f3b4a32 mulhiar tarsnib.exe
bb5b569b38affb12dfe2ea6d5925e501 ShareX.exe
7cdc81a0f5c5b2d341de040a92fdd23a Analytics Based Card.exe
81b436873f678569c46918862576c3e0 vdhrh madtvin.exe (keylogger)
AllaKore RAT (.NET)
e291fffbcb4b873b76566d5345094567 Mailbird.exe
9d337c728c92bdb227055e4757952338 All details.xlam.xlsx
d7b909f611e8f9f454786f9c257f26eb Imp message from dgms.xlam.xlsx
C2 and Ports
204.44.124[.]134 9149, 15597, 18518, 26791, 28329



909, 67, 65, 121
155.94.209[.]4 8888, 9009, 33678
C:\Users\<name>\Documents\mulhiar tarsnib.scr
C:\Users\<name>\AppData\mulhiar tarsnib.scr\mulhiar tarsnib.png


Tactic Technique ID Name
Resource Development T1583.001







Acquire Infrastructure: Domains

Compromise Infrastructure: Domains

Develop Capabilities: Malware

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

User Execution: Malicious Link

User Execution: Malicious File

Persistence T1547.001 Registry Run Keys / Startup Folder
Defense Evasion T1027.010








Command Obfuscation

Masquerading: Match Legitimate Name or Location

Masquerading: Double File Extension

Deobfuscate/Decode Files or Information

System Binary Proxy Execution: Mshta

Hijack Execution Flow: DLL Side-Loading

Obfuscated Files or Information: Embedded Payloads

Obfuscated Files or Information: Command Obfuscation

Discovery T1012





Query Registry

System Owner/User Discovery

Process Discovery

File and Directory 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



Sathwik Ram Prakki



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