What is Qakbot trojan malware and how it works?

What is Qakbot malware?

 First found in 2007, Qakbot, also known as Qbot, is a multi-purpose banking trojan malware designed to steal banking credentials such as login information and passwords. Also QBot has been active since it was first discovered and continues to threaten financial institutions and individual bank customers.

The Qakbot banking trojan, a phishing attack, is dangerous because it can masquerade as a conversation thread the recipient already has. This makes it difficult to detect, as the email may appear to come from a trusted sender. This attack can spread quickly as employees share infected email attachments.

The Qakbot malware is like a machine with different parts working together. The core engine is the primary component, and then there are other pieces it can download and add depending on what it needs. These extra pieces are called plugins, and they can be used to carry out different tasks – like stealing information or taking control of parts of the system.

How does QAKbot malware work?

Qakbot has become a go-to malware attack for threat actors because it provides many different capabilities. It can gather information and move laterally through networks, exfiltrate data, or deliver next-stage payloads such as ransomware on devices. Because it is so versatile, Qakbot malware has become a top threat that organizations must be aware of.

Qakbot malware analysis in 2022

Qakbot phishing malware contains 2 essential parts, namely

  • A URL and
  • An attachment

The URL contains information about malicious ZIP or any online drive link (e.g., Microsoft One Drive), whereas the attachment has an ISO image, HTMLs, and a DOC file. 

The Qakbot malware is pretty devious. It crawls through your email conversations and sends a “context-aware” reply-all message with a short sentence and a link to either a website or a zip file. The scariest part is that the message seems like it came from you convincingly. So, your friends and colleagues not only see the message but also think it’s coming from you.


The QakBot malware is known for being spread through spam emails (containing malicious links, attachments, or embedded images) that have Microsoft Office documents or password-protected files as attachments. The email would say that the attachment contains essential information and prompt a victim (Microsoft Windows users) to open it. Once the victim opens the attachment, their device will become infected with the malware.


The messages in QakBot malware email campaigns are designed to look like they come from a person or a company that you know. They come up with a call-to-action with brief text content, e.g. “please see attached document” or “click here to view a file”, followed by a ZIP file, to get you to open the file that would infect your computer with their malware.

When you open the password-protected zip file, there’s another file inside it with an ISO image. This ISO image file contains four different files.

  • lnk file
  • calc .exe
  • WindowsCodecs.dll·      
  • 7533.dll

Moreover, the Qakbot malware botnet infection chain is a serious threat to any network and constantly scans for weaknesses and vulnerabilities. This makes it very difficult to protect against.

Rise in cyberattacks with new QAKbot Threat techniques in 2022

From the initial delivery method of delivering XLM Macros, the Quakbot malware Since May 2022 has shifted to .LNK files. Windows use LNK files to create shortcuts to programs, and Qakbot takes advantage of this by infecting them with malicious code.

Qakbot has always been a sneaky little malware, but the newer versions are becoming more and more adept at hiding their tracks.

For example, the newer versions of the malware will insert this information directly into the registry instead of writing encrypted configuration information to a file where it could be easily found and traced back to the Qakbot infection. This makes it more difficult to find and remove the infection and makes it more likely that the Qakbot malware will be able to hijack email and browser data without being detected.

3 Best Practices to defend against Qakbot malware

The following 3 best practices will help protect your business from Qakbot malware, even in data-intensive environments.

Vulnerability scanning

The IT network environment of an organization can be likened to a city. Many entry points, or gateways, provide opportunities for threat actors to enter and orchestrate attacks. Qakbot malware is a threat actor that takes advantage of unsecured vulnerabilities to gain access and wreak havoc. By securing these vulnerabilities, organizations can better protect themselves against such attacks.

Web application vulnerability scanning, along with real-time alerts, is an important security measure for organizations. By identifying vulnerabilities, organizations can fix them before attackers exploit them.

Staff Awareness about threat source

It is always wise to make staff aware of the dangers of email phishing malware, like Qakbot, and how it operates. Qakbot is malware that can quickly spread through an organization via email attachments.

The best way to protect your organization from Qakbot is to educate your employees on how to spot spam emails, types of untrusted materials, files, and report them to IT.

Employ Virtual Patching

One of the most critical tasks security teams struggle with is how to keep their systems up-to-date with the latest security patches. Another big challenge is dealing with known vulnerabilities that have not yet been patched. And then there are the unknown vulnerabilities that could pop up anytime.

Using an effective virtual software patching solution should have a few critical components to it:

  • It needs to be able to inspect web traffic for signs of malicious activity.
  • It should be equipped to detect and prevent intrusions.
  • It should have the ability to deploy in either cloud-based or physical environments.


It is no secret that automated website scanning and malware removal are essential in preventing threats. However, what is often not discussed is how these tools can help prevent the spread of damage caused by these threats. By identifying and removing threats before they cause damage, website owners can help protect their sites from harmful attacks.

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