Cobalt Strike Malware

Also Known As: Cobalt Strike virus
Type: Trojan
Distribution: Moderate
Damage level: Severe

Cobalt Strike virus removal guide

What is Cobalt Strike?

The Cobalt Strike tool is used to detect system penetration vulnerabilities. The tool itself is supposedly used for software testing to find bugs and flaws, however, cyber criminals often take advantage of such tools, and Cobalt Strike is no exception. Research shows that these people send hundreds of thousands of spam emails that contain malicious Microsoft Word attachments designed to inject Cobalt Strike into systems.

Cobalt Strike malware distributing attachment

Spam campaigns differ and often depend on recipients' locations. For instance, one spam campaign that targets Vietnam delivers an attachment called "Danh Sach Nhan Vien Bien Thu Tien Cong Ty.docx", which roughly translates to "List of Marine Employee Employees.docx". Another spam campaign, which targets Russian users, delivers an attachment called "Изменения в системе безопасности.doc Visa payWave.doc", which roughly translates to "Security Changes Visa payWave.doc". In any case, the opened attachment encourages users to "Enable Editing" (or to enable macro commands). Furthermore, once the attachment is opened, it immediately runs a number of PowerShell commands in the system background. These commands essentially connect to a remote server and, after performing a number of actions, ultimately download and install Cobalt Strike into the system. This tool allows cyber criminals to perform various malicious actions remotely (e.g., upload/download files, record keystrokes, etc.) You can find the full list of features below. In any case, note that the presence of Cobalt Strike can cause various issues. Firstly, cyber criminals might inject viruses into the system (e.g., trojans, ransomware, and so on). Furthermore, they can steal personal data (including accounts) by recording keystrokes. Criminals might gain access to banks, social networks, emails, and other accounts, thereby stealing victims' identities and money. Users with Cobalt Strike installed on their systems are at significant risk. If you have recently opened any of the aforementioned (or similar) email attachments, immediately scan the system with a reputable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite and eliminate all detected threats.

There are many viruses distributed using spam campaigns. The list of examples includes (but is not limited to) FormBook, TrickBot, Hancitor, Ursnif, Emotet, Adwind, and AZORult. These viruses are developed by different cyber criminals and their behavior might differ. Nevertheless, all pose a serious threat to your privacy, computer, and finances. Therefore, eliminate them immediately.

How did Cobalt Strike infiltrate my computer?

As mentioned above, Cobalt Strike is distributed using spam email campaigns. Criminals send emails to hundreds of thousands of users. These emails contain deceptive messages encouraging users to open an attached file (Microsoft Word document) - this results in malware infection. This is a very common technique for malware distribution, however, the attachment is not always an MS Office document. It might be a JavaScript file, PDF, archive, executable, and so on. Note that none of these infections can occur without users' manual intervention - the user must trigger the infection by opening the attached document. Therefore, lack of knowledge of these threats and careless behavior are the main reasons for computer infections. Some viruses are distributed using fake software update tools, software cracks, trojans, and unofficial software download sources. Fake software updaters infect computers by exploiting outdated software bugs/flaws or simply downloading and installing malware rather than updates/fixes. Cracking tools claim to allow users to activate software free of charge, however, they typically infiltrate malware into the system - the 'cracking' feature is a deceptive tactic. Trojans cause chain infections - they infiltrate computers and continue to inject additional malware. Third party download sources (peer-to-peer [P2P] networks, freeware download websites, free file hosting sites, etc.) are used to present viruses as legitimate software. In this way, criminals trick users into downloading and installing malware.

How to avoid installation of malware?

To prevent this situation, be very cautious when browsing the internet, and downloading, installing, and updating software. Carefully analyze each email attachment received. If the file (or attached link) seems irrelevant or the sender seem suspicious, do not open it. Furthermore, download apps from official sources only, using direct download links. Third party downloaders/installers often include rogue applications, and thus these tools should never be used. Software cracks should never be used, since cracking software is illegal and can lead to installing malware rather than activating any software. We strongly recommend that you keep installed applications updated. To achieve this, however, employ implemented features or tools provided by the official developer. We also strongly recommend that you have a legitimate anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed and running - these tools can detect and eliminate malware before it does any harm. If you believe that your computer is already infected, we recommend running a scan with Spyhunter for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

List of features that Cobalt Strike provides:

  • Execute commands
  • Lateral Movement
  • Log keystrokes
  • Mimikatz
  • Port scanning
  • Privilege escalation
  • SOCKS proxy
  • Upload/download files

Instant automatic removal of Cobalt Strike virus: Manual threat removal might be a lengthy and complicated process that requires advanced computer skills. Spyhunter is a professional automatic malware removal tool that is recommended to get rid of Cobalt Strike virus. Download it by clicking the button below:
▼ DOWNLOAD Spyhunter By downloading any software listed on this website you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. Free scanner checks if your computer is infected. To remove malware, you have to purchase the full version of Spyhunter.

Quick menu:

How to remove malware manually?

Manual malware removal is a complicated task - usually it is best to allow antivirus or anti-malware programs to do this automatically. To remove this malware we recommend using Spyhunter for Windows. If you wish to remove malware manually, the first step is to identify the name of the malware that you are trying to remove. Here is an example of a suspicious program running on a user's computer:

malicious process running on user's computer sample

If you checked the list of programs running on your computer, for example, using task manager, and identified a program that looks suspicious, you should continue with these steps:

manual malware removal step 1 Download a program called Autoruns. This program shows auto-start applications, Registry, and file system locations:

screenshot of autoruns application

manual malware removal step 2Restart your computer into Safe Mode:

Windows XP and Windows 7 users: Start your computer in Safe Mode. Click Start, click Shut Down, click Restart, click OK. During your computer start process, press the F8 key on your keyboard multiple times until you see the Windows Advanced Option menu, and then select Safe Mode with Networking from the list.

Safe Mode with Networking

Video showing how to start Windows 7 in "Safe Mode with Networking":

Windows 8 users: Start Windows 8 is Safe Mode with Networking - Go to Windows 8 Start Screen, type Advanced, in the search results select Settings. Click Advanced startup options, in the opened "General PC Settings" window, select Advanced startup. Click the "Restart now" button. Your computer will now restart into the "Advanced Startup options menu". Click the "Troubleshoot" button, and then click the "Advanced options" button. In the advanced option screen, click "Startup settings". Click the "Restart" button. Your PC will restart into the Startup Settings screen. Press F5 to boot in Safe Mode with Networking.

Windows 8 Safe Mode with networking

Video showing how to start Windows 8 in "Safe Mode with Networking":

Windows 10 users: Click the Windows logo and select the Power icon. In the opened menu click "Restart" while holding "Shift" button on your keyboard. In the "choose an option" window click on the "Troubleshoot", next select "Advanced options". In the advanced options menu select "Startup Settings" and click on the "Restart" button. In the following window you should click the "F5" button on your keyboard. This will restart your operating system in safe mode with networking.

windows 10 safe mode with networking

Video showing how to start Windows 10 in "Safe Mode with Networking":

 

manual malware removal step 3Extract the downloaded archive and run the Autoruns.exe file.

extract autoruns.zip and run autoruns.exe

manual malware removal step 4In the Autoruns application, click "Options" at the top and uncheck the "Hide Empty Locations" and "Hide Windows Entries" options. After this procedure, click the "Refresh" icon.

Click 'Options' at the top and uncheck 'Hide Empty Locations' and 'Hide Windows Entries' options

manual malware removal step 5Check the list provided by the Autoruns application and locate the malware file that you want to eliminate.

You should write down its full path and name. Note that some malware hides process names under legitimate Windows process names. At this stage, it is very important to avoid removing system files. After you locate the suspicious program you wish to remove, right click your mouse over its name and choose "Delete".

locate the malware file you want to remove

After removing the malware through the Autoruns application (this ensures that the malware will not run automatically on the next system startup), you should search for the malware name on your computer. Be sure to enable hidden files and folders before proceeding. If you find the filename of the malware, be sure to remove it.

searching for malware file on your computer

Reboot your computer in normal mode. Following these steps should remove any malware from your computer. Note that manual threat removal requires advanced computer skills. If you do not have these skills, leave malware removal to antivirus and anti-malware programs. These steps might not work with advanced malware infections. As always it is best to prevent infection than try to remove malware later. To keep your computer safe, install the latest operating system updates and use antivirus software.

To be sure your computer is free of malware infections, we recommend scanning it with Spyhunter for Windows.