Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


Malware & Threats

Iranian Hackers Using New Windows Kernel Driver in Attacks

Iranian threat actors use a Windows kernel driver called ‘Wintapix’ in attacks against Middle East targets.

Iranian threat actors have been using a newly identified Windows kernel driver in attacks against Middle East targets since 2020, cybersecurity firm Fortinet reports.

Dubbed ‘Wintapix’, the driver uses the Donut, a position-independent code that enables in-memory loading of payloads through shellcode, using process hollowing or thread hijacking.

Wintapix appears to have been active since at least mid-2020, likely developed by an Iranian threat actor and primarily used in attacks against entities in Saudi Arabia, but also against targets in Jordan, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

According to Fortinet, the driver was likely used in some major campaigns in August and September 2022 and in February and March 2023, albeit it remained under the radar to date. Observed samples have compilation dates of May 2020 and June 2021, but were seen in the wild much later.

“Since Iranian threat actors are known to exploit Exchange servers to deploy additional malware, it is also possible that this driver has been employed alongside Exchange attacks. To that point, the compilation time of the drivers is also aligned with times when Iranian threat actors were exploiting Exchange server vulnerabilities,” Fortinet notes.

The threat actors likely use a legitimate but vulnerable driver to load Wintapix in the kernel. Once loaded, it injects into a local system process an embedded shellcode that loads and executes an encrypted .NET payload.

Before injecting the shellcode, Wintapix first looks for a suitable process, which should run with Local System privileges, should be 32-bit, and should not be on a block list.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Wintapix also achieves persistence on the victim system, by creating specific registry keys and a service for the driver, which is also set to load in Safe Boot, or Safe Mode, as an additional layer of persistence.

The driver uses a Windows kernel-mode function to monitor the created registry keys, which allows it to reset persistence if it has been removed from registry, and monitors its file’s location, to rewrite itself to disk if erased.

The injected shellcode, which is hardcoded in the binary, was created using the Donut project. It is self-contained and requires no dependencies.

The .NET payload that the shellcode loads is a piece of malware specifically designed to target Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS) servers, and which functions as a backdoor and as a proxy.

The malware creates a list of sites hosted by the IIS server and starts an HTTP listener on their URLs, looking for requests containing commands to execute. It can also download or upload files, if so instructed.

As a proxy, it can accept remote desktop protocol (RDP) configuration data, to open a connection to a target RDP server and proxy it to the attacker.

Related: Cybercrime Group Exploiting Old Windows Driver Vulnerability to Bypass Security Products

Related: BlackByte Ransomware Abuses Legitimate Driver to Disable Security Protections

Related: North Korean Hackers Exploit Dell Driver Vulnerability to Disable Windows Security

Written By

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

Click to comment

Daily Briefing Newsletter

Subscribe to the SecurityWeek Email Briefing to stay informed on the latest threats, trends, and technology, along with insightful columns from industry experts.

SecurityWeek’s Threat Detection and Incident Response Summit brings together security practitioners from around the world to share war stories on breaches, APT attacks and threat intelligence.


Securityweek’s CISO Forum will address issues and challenges that are top of mind for today’s security leaders and what the future looks like as chief defenders of the enterprise.


Expert Insights

Related Content


The changing nature of what we still generally call ransomware will continue through 2023, driven by three primary conditions.


A recently disclosed vBulletin vulnerability, which had a zero-day status for roughly two days last week, was exploited in a hacker attack targeting the...


No one combatting cybercrime knows everything, but everyone in the battle has some intelligence to contribute to the larger knowledge base.

Malware & Threats

Threat actors are increasingly abusing Microsoft OneNote documents to deliver malware in both targeted and spray-and-pray campaigns.

Malware & Threats

Unpatched and unprotected VMware ESXi servers worldwide have been targeted in a ransomware attack exploiting a vulnerability patched in 2021.

Malware & Threats

A vulnerability affecting IBM’s Aspera Faspex file transfer solution, tracked as CVE-2022-47986, has been exploited in attacks.


The recent ransomware attack targeting Rackspace was conducted by a cybercrime group named Play using a new exploitation method, the cloud company revealed this...

Application Security

Virtualization technology giant VMware on Tuesday shipped urgent updates to fix a trio of security problems in multiple software products, including a virtual machine...