Xeno RAT: A New Remote Access Trojan with Advance Capabilities

Published On : 2024-02-23
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Xeno RAT: A New Remote Access Trojan with Advance Capabilities


At CYFIRMA, we are dedicated to providing current insights into prevalent threats and strategies utilized by malicious entities, targeting both organizations and individuals. This in-depth examination focuses on the proliferation of Xeno RAT; an intricately designed malware, crafted with advanced functionalities, conveniently accessible at no cost on GitHub. The research explores the array of evasion tactics employed by threat actors to evade detection, while also illuminating the procedures involved in crafting resilient malware payloads. Significantly, the report underscores the adaptive characteristics of these threats, emphasizing the imperative for enhanced security protocols and user vigilance to effectively mitigate associated risks.


In an era where cyber threats evolve at an unprecedented pace, understanding and combatting sophisticated malware like Xeno RAT is paramount. This study provides a concise overview of Xeno RAT; a potent malware written in C#, boasting advanced capabilities. Delving into its dissemination, evasion techniques, and resilient payload generation processes, this paper aims to shed light on the dynamic nature of contemporary cyber threats, emphasizing the urgent need for heightened security measures and user awareness in safeguarding against such malicious entities.


  • Xeno RAT possesses sophisticated functionalities and characteristics of advanced malware.
  • The malware’s developer opted to maintain it as an open-source project and made it accessible via GitHub.
  • A threat actor customized its settings and disseminated it via the Discord CDN.
  • The primary vector in the form of a shortcut file, disguised as a WhatsApp screenshot, acts as downloader.
  • The downloader downloads the zip archive from Discord CDN, extracts and executes the next stage payload.
  • A multi-step process is employed to generate the ultimate payload of the malware.
  • It looks for the debuggers, monitoring, and analysis tools before executing the final stage.
  • Utilizes anti-debugging techniques and follows a stealth operation process.
  • Malware adds itself as scheduled task for persistence.
  • Leverages the DLL search order functionality in Windows to load the malicious DLL into a trusted executable process.
  • Injects the malicious code (process injection) in the legit windows process.
  • Performs continuous monitoring of the compromised systems.
  • Employes extensive obfuscation techniques within files/code to evade detection effectively.
  • Uses obfuscated network traffic to receive instructions and updates.
  • Communicates with C2 with status updates and receives instructions at regular intervals.


The developer of the Xeno RAT opted to open-source the code and made it available for free on GitHub:

The developer also pledges to continuously provide updates over time, incorporating additional features into the malware.

The Xeno RAT Server includes a builder module that enables the creation of a customized version of the malware.

A threat actor utilized this capability to develop and distribute their own version of the malware via the Discord CDN. They employed a shortcut file acting as a downloader, responsible for fetching and executing subsequent payloads.

The analysis identified the domain internal-liveapps[.]online, which is linked to the threat actor and resolves to the IP address 45[.]61[.]139[.]51. Both the domain and IP address have lower detection rates.:

No known threat actor association has been identified with this Domain/IP address.

Threat Landscape: from an external threat landscape standpoint, the presence of freely available malware with advanced capabilities, such as Xeno RAT, which undergoes active development to enhance its features, highlights a concerning trend. Cyfirma’s research team highlights the evolving tactics of threat actors, who leverage open-source malware to craft customized creations to compromise their targets.

The developer of the original malware binaries showcases adaptability by employing diverse techniques to obfuscate the malicious sample, with the goal of maintaining undetected for an extended period. This underscores the necessity for ongoing vigilance and the implementation of advanced detection measures to effectively combat these dynamic threats.


File Analysis
File Name Screenshot_2024-01-30_w-69-06-18264122612_DCIM.png.lnk
File Size 3.21 KB (3,293 bytes)
Signed Not signed
MD5 13b1d354ac2649b309b0d9229def8091
SHA-256 848020d2e8bacd35c71b78e1a81c669c9dc63c78dd3db5a97200fc87aeb44c3c
Date Modified 17-10-2022

The primary malware sample is delivered as a shortcut file (.lnk) labeled with the description “WhatsApp_2023-12-12_12-59-06-18264122612_DCIM.png”:

The file functions as a downloader, utilizing the Windows command shell to retrieve, extract, and execute the payload from a zip archive, located at the Discord CDN URL. The target field of the file contains obfuscated command line arguments:


1st Stage Execution:
The de-obfuscated command reveals downloads from two shortened URLs, both pointing to Discord CDN URLs. The first URL in the command downloads a non-malicious image, while the payload is retrieved from the second URL.

As indicated in the de-obfuscated argument, the zip archive is downloaded and extracted in the directory “C:\Users\user\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Drivers”.

The zip archive:

File Name Sys.zip
File Size 2.13 MB (2232447 bytes)
Signed Not signed
MD5 6f9e84087cabbb9aaa7d8aba43a84dcf
SHA-256 4d0d8c2696588ff74fe7d9f8c2097fddd665308fccf16ffea23b9741a261b1c0
Date Modified 17-02-2024

The zip archive contains three files, two portable executable (exe and DLL) files and one unknown file named as ‘LICENSE’:

The Windows executable “ADExplorer64.exe” is the Active Directory Explorer provided by Windows Sysinternals, serving as an advanced Active Directory (AD) viewer and editor:

Filename: ADExplorer64.exe
MD5: 2661f8272ada236cf3aeb9ce9323626c
SHA-256: e451287843b3927c6046eaabd3e22b929bc1f445eec23a73b1398b115d02e4fb
Signature: Signed file (valid signature)
File version: 1.52

The DLL file “samcli.dll” is the malicious payload. It mimics the name of the genuine DLL file “Security Accounts Manager Client DLL,” which is typically located in the C:\Windows\System32 directory on Microsoft Windows systems:

File Name Samcli.dll
File Size 292.92 KB (299952 bytes)
Signed Signed
MD5 7704241dd8770b11b50b1448647197a5
SHA-256 1762536a663879d5fb8a94c1d145331e1d001fb27f787d79691f9f8208fc68f2
Date Modified 12-02-2024

While the file is signed, the certificate within the signature cannot be verified:

The LICENSE file contains obfuscated text with read/write permission:

File Size 2.26 MB (2370164 bytes)
Signed No
MD5 0aa5930aa736636fd95907328d47ea45
SHA-256 96b091ce5d06afd11ee5ad911566645dbe32bfe1da2269a3d3ef8d3fa0014689
Date Modified 12-02-2024

2nd Stage Execution:
During the second stage of execution, the command from the .lnk file initiated the Active Directory Explorer (ADExplorer64.exe) without any prompts (command: ADExplorer64.exe /accepteula /snapshot faa -noconnection).

ADExplorer64.exe relies on samcli.dll, typically found in the Windows\System32 directory, for its functionality. In this scenario, the threat actor exploited the DLL search order functionality of the Windows operating system by positioning the malicious DLL with the same name in the current working directory. Consequently, the malicious samcli.exe is loaded into the process of ADExplorer64.exe.

In the subsequent operation, ADExplorer64.exe also reads the obfuscated file LICENSE:

Furthermore, ADExplorer64 creates a suspended process named “hh.exe”, writes into its memory (process injection), and then resumes the thread:

ADExplorer64.exe modifies (decoded for its own function) the content that is read from the LICENSE file and injects them into the process memory of hh.exe:

ADExplorer64.exe also created two shortcut files in the current working directory:

The Support.url file points to the Giude.lnk file, which runs the command that executed the ADExplorer64.exe at initial stage, as shown in the above screenshot.

3rd Stage Execution:
During the third stage of execution, the hh.exe process generates a suspended colorcpl.exe process and subsequently writes into its memory (process injection):

The hh.exe process terminates and colorcpl.exe process resumes under the explorer.exe (parent process):

The injected process hh.exe employs defensive measures to evade analysis:

Final Stage Execution:
In the final stage, the execution of colorcpl.exe commences. It performs a check to ascertain if there is any installation of the Xeno RAT on the victim machine:

After confirming the nonpresence of Xeno RAT (on an uninfected host), process starts communicating with the the domain “internal-liveapps[.]online” which resolves to the IP address :45[.]61[.]139[.]51:

It sends and receives obfuscated content over the network continuously, exhibiting a pattern resembling to Remote Access Trojan (RAT) activity:

The mapped memory of the colorcpl.exe process reveals its capabilities, including communication with a command-and-control (C2) server over a SOCKS proxy, receipt of commands, transmission of updates, addition and removal from the startup, and the ability to uninstall itself:

Xeno RAT also adds itself to the scheduled task for persistance:


The examination of the Xeno RAT yields valuable insights and unveils its operational characteristics. Drawing from this analysis and the data extracted, the subsequent points outline the capabilities of this remote access trojan:

  • Monitors victim’s activity.
  • Operates covertly.
  • Use defensive measures to evade analysis.
  • Uses Hidden Virtual Network Computing to access the compromised systems.
  • Uses scoks5 proxy to connect with C2 server.
  • Persistence using scheduled task.
  • Utilizes process injection to target legit Windows process (hh.exe and colorcpl.exe)
  • Uses obfuscation in codes and network traffic.
  • Receives and executes the commands from C2.
  • Employs measures against debugging and actively avoids detection mechanisms.
  • Sends status update to C2 at regular intervals.
  • It can add and remove from the systems startup.
  • It can uninstall itself from the compromised system.


In summary, Xeno RAT is a dynamically evolving malware, boasting advanced capabilities coded in C#. It is freely accessible on GitHub, where threat actors leverage it to infiltrate targets through diverse tactics, such as distributing free content and phishing emails. Additionally, the developer pledges ongoing updates to enhance its functionality.

To reduce the risks associated with Xeno RAT malware, users should exercise caution when opening files from untrustworthy sources or clicking on unfamiliar links, particularly those offering questionable software or content. Furthermore, deploying robust cybersecurity measures, including utilizing reputable antivirus software, ensuring software is regularly updated, and staying vigilant against social engineering tactics, can significantly bolster protection against such threats.

It’s imperative for both platform providers and users to stay vigilant in detecting and reporting suspicious activities. Collaboration between cybersecurity professionals and platform administrators is crucial for promptly identifying and addressing such threats, leading to a safer online environment. Education and awareness campaigns are also vital in equipping individuals with the knowledge to recognize and evade such malware, ultimately fostering a more resilient and secure online ecosystem.


S/N Indicators Type Context
1 13b1d354ac2649b309b0d9229def8091 File Screenshot_2024-01-30_w-69-06-18264122612_DCIM.png.lnk
2 848020d2e8bacd35c71b78e1a81c669c9dc63c78dd3db5a97200fc87aeb44c3c File Screenshot_2024-01-30_w-69-06-18264122612_DCIM.png.lnk
3 6f9e84087cabbb9aaa7d8aba43a84dcf File Sys.zip
4 4d0d8c2696588ff74fe7d9f8c2097fddd665308fccf16ffea23b9741a261b1c0 File Sys.zip
5 7704241dd8770b11b50b1448647197a5 File Samcli.dll
6 1762536a663879d5fb8a94c1d145331e1d001fb27f787d79691f9f8208fc68f2 File Samcli.dll
7 0aa5930aa736636fd95907328d47ea45 File LICENSE
8 96b091ce5d06afd11ee5ad911566645dbe32bfe1da2269a3d3ef8d3fa0014689 File LICENSE
9 45[.]61[.]139[.]51 IP address C2
10 internal-liveapps[.]online Domain C2


No. Tactic Technique
1 Execution (TA0002) T1059.003: Windows Command Shell
    T1053.005: Scheduled Task
    T1204.001: Malicious Link
    T1024.002: Malicious File
2 Persistence (TA0003) T1053.005: Scheduled Task
3 Defense Evasion (TA0005) T1622: Debugger Evasion
    T1497:Virtualization/Sandbox Evasion
    T1055: Process Injection
4 Discovery (TA0007) T1622: Debugger Evasion
    T1497:Virtualization/Sandbox Evasion
5 Command and Control (TA0011) T1071.001: Web Protocols
4 Discovery (TA0007) T1622: Debugger Evasion
    T1497:Virtualization/Sandbox Evasion


  • Implement threat intelligence to proactively counter the threats associated with Xeno RAT malware.
  • To protect the endpoints, use robust endpoint security solutions for real-time monitoring and threat detection, such as Antimalware security suit and host-based intrusion prevention system.
  • Continuous monitoring of the network activity with NIDS/NIPS and using the web application firewall to filter/block the suspicious activity provides comprehensive protection from compromise, due to encrypted payloads.
  • Configure firewalls to block outbound communication to known malicious IP addresses and domains associated with Xeno RAT command and control servers.
  • Implement behavior-based monitoring to detect unusual activity patterns, such as suspicious processes attempting to make unauthorized network connections.
  • Employ application whitelisting to allow only approved applications to run on endpoints, preventing the execution of unauthorized or malicious executables.
  • Conducting vulnerability assessment and penetration testing on the environment periodically helps in hardening the security by finding the security loopholes, followed by remediation process.
  • Use of security benchmarks to create baseline security procedures and organizational security policies is also recommended.
  • Develop a comprehensive incident response plan that outlines steps to take in case of a malware infection, including isolating affected systems and notifying relevant stakeholders.
  • Security awareness and training programs help to protect from security incidents, such as social engineering attacks. Organizations should remain vigilant and continuously adapt their defenses to mitigate the evolving threats posed by Xeno-RAT malware.
  • Update security patches which can reduce the risk for potential compromise.