Malware Analysis – AppleJeus: Ants2Whale

Fortify Security Team
Feb 18, 2021

This Malware Analysis Report (MAR) is the result of analytic efforts among the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and the Department of Treasury (Treasury) to highlight the cyber threat to cryptocurrency posed by North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), and provide mitigation recommendations. Working with U.S. government partners, FBI, CISA, and Treasury assess that Lazarus Group—which these agencies attribute to North Korean state-sponsored advanced persistent threat (APT) actors—is targeting individuals and companies, including cryptocurrency exchanges and financial service companies, through the dissemination of cryptocurrency trading applications that have been modified to include malware that facilitates theft of cryptocurrency.

This MAR highlights this cyber threat posed by North Korea and provides detailed indicators of compromise (IOCs) used by the North Korean government. The U.S. Government refers to malicious cyber activity by the North Korean government as HIDDEN COBRA. For more information on other versions of AppleJeus and recommended steps to mitigate this threat, see Joint Cybersecurity Advisory AA21-048A: AppleJeus: Analysis of North Korea’s Cryptocurrency Malware at

There have been multiple versions of AppleJeus malware discovered since its initial discovery in August 2018. In most versions, the malware appears to be from a legitimate-looking cryptocurrency trading company and website, whereby an unsuspecting individual downloads a third-party application from a website that appears legitimate.

The U.S. Government has identified AppleJeus malware version—Ants2Whale—and associated IOCs used by the North Korean government in AppleJeus operations.

Ants2Whale, discovered in October 2020, is a legitimate-looking cryptocurrency trading software that is marketed and distributed by a company and website—Ants2Whale and ants2whale[.]com, respectively—that appear legitimate. Some information has been redacted from this report to preserve victim anonymity.

For a downloadable copy of IOCs, see: MAR-10322463-7.v1.stix.

Submitted Files (3)

bb430087484c1f4587c54efc75681eb60cf70956ef2a999a75ce7b563b8bd694 (Ants2WhaleHelper)

d5ac680e14b013e0624470da7f46e84809d00b59a7544f6a42b110cf0e29254e (Ants2Whale)

[Redacted] (Ants2Whale.dmg)

Domains (2)

IPs (1)





Name Ants2Whale.dmg
Size [Redacted] bytes
Type zlib compressed data
MD5 [Redacted]
SHA1 [Redacted]
SHA256 [Redacted]
SHA512 [Redacted]
ssdeep [Redacted]
Entropy [Redacted]
Avira OSX/Agent.denpi
Ikarus OSX.Agent
Zillya! Downloader.Agent.OSX.390
[Redacted] Downloaded_By
[Redacted] Contains d5ac680e14b013e0624470da7f46e84809d00b59a7544f6a42b110cf0e29254e
[Redacted] Contains bb430087484c1f4587c54efc75681eb60cf70956ef2a999a75ce7b563b8bd694

This OSX program from the Ants2Whale site is an Apple DMG installer. The OSX program does not have a digital signature and will warn the user of that before installation. As all previous versions of AppleJeus, the Ants2Whale installer appears to be legitimate and installs “Ants2Whale”(D5AC680E14B013E0624470DA7F46E84809D00B59A7544F6A42B110CF0E29254E) in the “/Applications/” folder and a program named Ants2WhaleHelper (BB430087484C1F4587C54EFC75681EB60CF70956EF2A999A75CE7B563B8BD694) also in the “/Library/Application\ Support/Ants2WhaleSupport/” folder.

Similar to all previous OSX AppleJeus variants, there is a postinstall script and a plist file which creates a LaunchDaemon to automatically run the Ants2WhaleHelper program.

Relationships Downloaded [Redacted]

The website appears to show a legitimate cryptocurrency company and application, though it does contain multiple spelling and grammar mistakes indicating the creator may not have English as a first language. The website states that in order to download, a user must contact the administrator as their product is “premium package.”

The domain had a legitimately signed Sectigo Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate, which was “Domain Control Validated” just as all previous AppleJeus domain certificates. The certificate was is valid from 09/21/2020 – 09/21/2021.

The domain is registered with NameCheap at the IP address with ASN 22612. This IP is on the same ASN as the CoinGoTrade (AppleJeus variant 5 and Dorusio IP addresses (AppleJeus variant 6).


Figure 1 - Screenshot the site.

Figure 1 – Screenshot the site.

Figure 2 - Screenshot of how to download Ants2Whale.

Figure 2 – Screenshot of how to download Ants2Whale.




Name Ants2Whale
Size 77856 bytes
Type Mach-O 64-bit x86_64 executable, flags:<NOUNDEFS|DYLDLINK|TWOLEVEL|PIE>
MD5 022298cf16c0c44d7b01b5de2cf84023
SHA1 939ec41183bbe1f4fb65c924323543ee91a35dbf
SHA256 d5ac680e14b013e0624470da7f46e84809d00b59a7544f6a42b110cf0e29254e
SHA512 bda62d09606bbf5a0ee17dac06f1f3cfc77919f98e5fc14bd50b4f41f794df521aeced7b0f2a769a89498b7a6cd69be37689dab1652c3c16e7a8b1295c245ffa
ssdeep 768:jPoXPdCyI4jB5nvjILkTSF3TSFi5UeSj0OfpZDkm+UjnAT9vSs:cXPdLI6XbIOem0EpZDX+Ujnc9v3
Entropy 4.361681
d5ac680e14… Contained_Within [Redacted]
d5ac680e14… Connected_To

This OSX sample was contained within Apple DMG installer “Ants2Whale.dmg.” Ants2Whale is likely a copy of an open source cryptocurrency wallet application. When ran it loads a legitimate looking program which is fully functional and is very similar to the AppleJeus variant 5 “CoinGoTrade” application. Similar to CoinGoTrade there are references to “CryptoMex” in the Ants2Whale application.

Similarly to the CoinGoTrade application, the strings from Ants2Whale reveal the C2 hxxp[:]// Investigation revealed the IP address was hosted at Combahton GMH.


Figure 3 - Screenshot of the "Ants2Whale" application.

Figure 3 – Screenshot of the “Ants2Whale” application.



  • 3000 TCP

Queried with “-B″…

% Information related to ‘ –’

% Abuse contact for ‘ –’ is ‘[email protected]

inetnum: –
netname:        DE-COMBAHTON4-20190902
country:        DE
org:            ORG-CG252-RIPE
admin-c:        JH29913-RIPE
tech-c:         JH29913-RIPE
status:         ALLOCATED PA
mnt-by:         mnt-de-combahton4-1
mnt-by:         RIPE-NCC-HM-MNT
mnt-lower:     mnt-de-combahton4-1
mnt-routes:     mnt-de-combahton4-1
created:        2019-09-02T09:46:42Z
last-modified: 2019-09-02T09:46:42Z
source:         RIPE

organisation: ORG-CG252-RIPE
org-name:     combahton GmbH
country:        DE
org-type:     LIR
address:        Mitterfeld 47
address:        85419
address:        Mauern
address:        GERMANY
e-mail:         [email protected]
admin-c:        JH29913-RIPE
tech-c:         JH29913-RIPE
abuse-c:        AR55171-RIPE
mnt-ref:        mnt-de-combahton4-1
mnt-by:         RIPE-NCC-HM-MNT
mnt-by:         mnt-de-combahton4-1
created:        2019-08-30T08:08:51Z
last-modified: 2020-12-16T13:30:44Z
source:         RIPE
phone:         +4987642589890

person:         Joseph Hofmann
address:        Mitterfeld 47
address:        85419
address:        Mauern
address:        GERMANY
phone:         +4987642589890
nic-hdl:        JH29913-RIPE
mnt-by:         mnt-de-combahton4-1
created:        2019-08-30T08:08:51Z
last-modified: 2019-08-30T08:08:51Z
source:         RIPE

% Information related to ‘’

origin:         AS30823
mnt-by:         mnt-de-combahton4-1
created:        2019-09-02T09:57:36Z
last-modified: 2019-09-02T09:57:36Z
source:         RIPE

Relationships Connected_From d5ac680e14b013e0624470da7f46e84809d00b59a7544f6a42b110cf0e29254e

The C2 for Ants2Whale (D5AC680E14B013E0624470DA7F46E84809D00B59A7544F6A42B110CF0E29254E).




Name Ants2WhaleHelper
Size 69104 bytes
Type Mach-O 64-bit x86_64 executable, flags:<NOUNDEFS|DYLDLINK|TWOLEVEL|BINDS_TO_WEAK|PIE>
MD5 d4d1bcdfb67ee30303f30137db752b94
SHA1 34e134d614a0d5b0e4d94d63336aa8b898b0b104
SHA256 bb430087484c1f4587c54efc75681eb60cf70956ef2a999a75ce7b563b8bd694
SHA512 eb9b518f95658c605b1bb3a548d7bfe630f9bff93b1f84919476377f9aabcd187db28ead9bc504ffd5c982a3985d12708888505f3d70fa5eaa046c5ebf567c31
ssdeep 1536:W1mJaIKMXBmyIZFED2enSoTVIV/3MpJy5T:XagpIsjnPTV03MpJy5T
Entropy 4.831788
Avira OSX/Dldr.NukeSped.efijh
BitDefender Trojan.MAC.Generic.105439
ESET a variant of OSX/TrojanDownloader.NukeSped.B trojan
Emsisoft Trojan.MAC.Generic.105439 (B)
Ikarus Trojan-Downloader.OSX.Nukesped
Lavasoft Trojan.MAC.Generic.105439
McAfee OSX/Nukesped.h
Quick Heal MacOS.Trojan.40149.GC
Symantec OSX.Trojan.Gen
Zillya! Downloader.NukeSped.OSX.13
bb43008748… Contained_Within [Redacted]
bb43008748… Connected_To

This OSX sample was contained within Apple DMG installer “Ants2Whale.dmg.” Ants2WhaleHelper is similar to variants of AppleJeus. The Ants2WhaleHelper program contains the custom C++ “Barbeque” class for network communication as seen in the unioncryptoupater program. The C2 for this program is hxxps[:]//www[.]




Whois for had the following information:
Registrar: ENOM INC
Creation Date: 2020-08-11
Registrar Registration Expiration Date: 2021-08-11

Relationships Connected_From bb430087484c1f4587c54efc75681eb60cf70956ef2a999a75ce7b563b8bd694

The domain has a legitimately signed SSL certificate from cPanel. cPanel is a hosting platform and certificate authority which is a reseller for Sectigo. The domain is registered with NameCheap at the IP address with ASN 60117.

Relationship Summary

[Redacted] Downloaded_By
[Redacted] Contains d5ac680e14b013e0624470da7f46e84809d00b59a7544f6a42b110cf0e29254e
[Redacted] Contains bb430087484c1f4587c54efc75681eb60cf70956ef2a999a75ce7b563b8bd694 Downloaded [Redacted]
d5ac680e14… Contained_Within [Redacted]
d5ac680e14… Connected_To Connected_From d5ac680e14b013e0624470da7f46e84809d00b59a7544f6a42b110cf0e29254e
bb43008748… Contained_Within [Redacted]
bb43008748… Connected_To Connected_From bb430087484c1f4587c54efc75681eb60cf70956ef2a999a75ce7b563b8bd694


CISA recommends that users and administrators consider using the following best practices to strengthen the security posture of their organization’s systems. Any configuration changes should be reviewed by system owners and administrators prior to implementation to avoid unwanted impacts.

  • Maintain up-to-date antivirus signatures and engines.
  • Keep operating system patches up-to-date.
  • Disable File and Printer sharing services. If these services are required, use strong passwords or Active Directory authentication.
  • Restrict users’ ability (permissions) to install and run unwanted software applications. Do not add users to the local administrators group unless required.
  • Enforce a strong password policy and implement regular password changes.
  • Exercise caution when opening e-mail attachments even if the attachment is expected and the sender appears to be known.
  • Enable a personal firewall on agency workstations, configured to deny unsolicited connection requests.
  • Disable unnecessary services on agency workstations and servers.
  • Scan for and remove suspicious e-mail attachments; ensure the scanned attachment is its “true file type” (i.e., the extension matches the file header).
  • Monitor users’ web browsing habits; restrict access to sites with unfavorable content.
  • Exercise caution when using removable media (e.g., USB thumb drives, external drives, CDs, etc.).
  • Scan all software downloaded from the Internet prior to executing.
  • Maintain situational awareness of the latest threats and implement appropriate Access Control Lists (ACLs).

Additional information on malware incident prevention and handling can be found in National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication 800-83, “Guide to Malware Incident Prevention & Handling for Desktops and Laptops”.

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