What is QakBot Trojan

What is a Trojan?

A Trojan, also known as a Trojan horse, is a type of malicious software or program that appears to be legitimate or harmless but actually contains malicious code. It derives its name from the ancient Greek story of the Trojan War, where the Greeks used a large wooden horse to deceive the Trojans and gain entry into the city of Troy.
Similarly, in the context of computer security, a Trojan is designed to trick users into installing or executing it on their systems, usually by disguising itself as a legitimate file or program. Once installed, the Trojan can perform a variety of malicious activities without the user’s knowledge or consent.
Trojans often carry out actions such as stealing personal information, such as login credentials or credit card details, installing additional malware, allowing unauthorized access to the infected system, or even taking control of the computer. They can also create backdoors, which are hidden entry points that allow attackers to access the compromised system remotely.
Trojans can be distributed through various methods, including email attachments, malicious downloads, compromised websites, or even disguised as legitimate software downloads. They exploit vulnerabilities in the operating system or applications to gain access and execute their malicious activities.

QakBot Trojan

QakBot, also known as Qbot or Pinkslipbot, is a sophisticated Trojan malware that primarily targets Windows-based systems. It is designed to steal sensitive information from infected computers, with a focus on online banking credentials and financial data. QakBot has been active since around 2009 and has undergone several updates and modifications over the years to enhance its capabilities and evade detection.
Once a computer is infected with QakBot, the malware establishes persistence and takes control of various system functions. It uses multiple techniques to propagate and remain hidden within the infected system. QakBot often spreads through email attachments, malicious links, or via exploit kits. It can also be distributed through other malware infections or through botnets.
The primary goal of QakBot is to harvest sensitive information, particularly online banking credentials. It achieves this by employing various techniques:

  1. Keystroke logging: QakBot captures keystrokes made by the user, including usernames, passwords, and other sensitive information entered on the infected system.
  2. Network monitoring: The malware monitors network traffic, allowing it to intercept and extract data transmitted over the network. This includes capturing banking-related information and other confidential data.
  3. Web injection: QakBot injects malicious code into the victim’s web browser, altering web pages and manipulating online banking sessions. This technique enables the malware to modify transaction details, redirect funds, and carry out fraudulent activities.
  4. Remote control: QakBot operates as part of a botnet, allowing remote control by the attackers. This enables them to issue commands, update the malware, and potentially distribute additional malware or carry out other malicious activities.
    QakBot is known for its polymorphic nature, constantly changing its code and employing obfuscation techniques to evade detection by security software. It also exhibits worm-like behavior, attempting to spread to other systems on the network and removable drives.

History of QakBot Trojan

QakBot, also known as Qbot or Pinkslipbot, has a history spanning several years. Here is an overview of its key milestones and notable events:

  1. Emergence (2009-2011): QakBot was first detected in the wild around 2009. During its initial years, it primarily targeted online banking credentials and financial information. It used various propagation methods, including email attachments and exploit kits, to infect computers.
  2. Worm-like Behavior (2012-2014): In 2012, QakBot incorporated worm-like capabilities, allowing it to spread to other computers on the network and removable drives. This self-replication feature helped the malware expand its reach and infect more systems.
  3. Enhanced Persistence and Polymorphism (2014-2016): QakBot evolved to incorporate advanced persistence mechanisms, making it difficult to remove from infected systems. It also became increasingly polymorphic, constantly changing its code and employing obfuscation techniques to evade detection by security software.
  4. Proxy Module Addition (2016-2017): Around 2016, a significant update to QakBot introduced a proxy module. This module enabled the malware to act as a proxy server on the infected machine, allowing attackers to route their malicious traffic through the compromised system, making attribution and detection more challenging.
  5. Addition of Banking Fraud Capabilities (2018-2019): QakBot expanded its capabilities beyond information theft and started targeting banking institutions directly. It employed web injection techniques to modify online banking sessions, manipulate transactions, and redirect funds to attacker-controlled accounts. This shift marked a significant increase in the financial threat posed by QakBot.
  6. Collaboration with Emotet (2019-2020): QakBot formed a symbiotic relationship with another notorious malware, Emotet. Both malware families frequently collaborated in distribution campaigns, with Emotet delivering QakBot as a secondary payload. This partnership led to an increase in QakBot infections and further expansion of its botnet.
  7. Continued Evolution (2021-Present): QakBot has continued to evolve and adapt to evade detection and maintain its malicious operations. The malware has shown resilience in its ability to update and change its techniques, ensuring its longevity and effectiveness in carrying out cybercriminal activities.
    Throughout its history, QakBot has remained a persistent and dangerous threat, targeting individuals, businesses, and financial institutions. Its polymorphic nature, advanced propagation methods, and evolving capabilities have made it a challenging malware to combat.
    It is worth noting that the specific details and timeline of QakBot’s history may vary due to the dynamic nature of malware and the ever-changing tactics employed by cybercriminals.

What to do if you think you have QakBot Trojan?

If you suspect that your computer may be infected with the QakBot Trojan or any other malware, it’s important to take immediate action to mitigate the potential damage. Here are the steps you should follow:

  1. Disconnect from the Internet: Disconnect your computer from the network immediately. This will help prevent the malware from communicating with its command-and-control servers and minimize the risk of further data theft or unauthorized access.
  2. Scan your system with security software: Run a full scan of your computer using reputable antivirus or anti-malware software. Make sure your security software is up to date with the latest virus definitions. If the software detects and removes the malware, follow any additional instructions provided.
  3. Change passwords: Since QakBot specifically targets online banking credentials, it’s essential to change your passwords for all your online accounts, especially those related to banking and financial services. Ensure that you use strong, unique passwords for each account.
  4. Monitor financial accounts: Keep a close eye on your bank and financial accounts for any suspicious activity. Report any unauthorized transactions or signs of fraudulent activity to your financial institution immediately.
  5. Restore from backup: If you have recent backups of your important files and data, consider restoring your computer to a previous clean state. This can help remove any traces of the malware and restore your system’s integrity.
  6. Seek professional assistance: If you are unsure about how to proceed or if the malware persists even after scanning and removal attempts, it’s advisable to seek assistance from a professional IT security service or a knowledgeable computer technician. They can provide expert guidance and help ensure the thorough removal of the malware.
  7. Strengthen security measures: Take this opportunity to review and enhance your overall security measures. Update your operating system, applications, and security software to the latest versions. Enable automatic updates to stay protected against known vulnerabilities. Additionally, consider implementing a firewall, using strong and unique passwords, and practicing safe browsing habits.

How to protect yourself and avoid infection by QakBot Trojan

To protect yourself and minimize the risk of infection by QakBot Trojan or other malware, follow these best practices:

  1. Use reputable security software: Install and regularly update a reliable antivirus and anti-malware software on your computer. This software can help detect and block known threats, including QakBot. Enable automatic updates to ensure you have the latest virus definitions and security patches.
  2. Keep your operating system and software up to date: Regularly install updates and patches for your operating system, web browsers, plugins, and other software. These updates often address security vulnerabilities that malware can exploit.
  3. Exercise caution with email attachments and links: Be vigilant when opening email attachments or clicking on links, especially if they are from unknown or suspicious sources. Verify the legitimacy of the sender before opening any attachments. Be wary of email messages that contain urgent requests, grammatical errors, or unusual email addresses.
  4. Enable spam filters: Activate spam filters on your email client or service to reduce the chances of malicious emails reaching your inbox. These filters can help block phishing attempts and emails containing malware attachments.
  5. Practice safe browsing habits: Be cautious when visiting websites and avoid clicking on suspicious links. Stick to reputable websites and avoid downloading files from unverified sources. Implement browser extensions that can help block known malicious websites.
  6. Use strong, unique passwords: Create strong and unique passwords for all your online accounts, including banking and financial services. Use a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Consider using a password manager to securely store and generate complex passwords.
  7. Enable a firewall: Activate the firewall on your computer to monitor incoming and outgoing network traffic. A firewall can provide an additional layer of defense against unauthorized access and malicious activities.
  8. Regularly back up your data: Maintain regular backups of your important files and data. Store these backups on separate storage devices or in the cloud. In case of a malware infection, you can restore your system to a previous clean state without losing your data.
  9. Educate yourself about phishing and social engineering: Be aware of common phishing techniques and social engineering tactics used by attackers to trick you into revealing sensitive information. Be cautious when providing personal or financial details online or over the phone.
  10. Stay informed: Keep up to date with the latest cybersecurity news and trends. This knowledge can help you stay informed about emerging threats and take necessary precautions to protect yourself.
    By following these preventive measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of infection by QakBot Trojan or other malware. Remember that maintaining good security practices and being vigilant is crucial in safeguarding your digital devices and personal information.


In conclusion, the QakBot Trojan, also known as Qbot or Pinkslipbot, is a persistent and dangerous malware that primarily targets Windows-based systems. It is designed to steal sensitive information, particularly online banking credentials and financial data. QakBot has a history spanning several years and has undergone various updates and modifications to enhance its capabilities and evade detection.
If you suspect your computer may be infected with QakBot or any other malware, it’s essential to take immediate action. Disconnect from the internet, scan your system with reputable security software, change your passwords, monitor your financial accounts, and seek professional assistance if needed. Additionally, implementing preventive measures like using reputable security software, keeping your software up to date, exercising caution with email attachments and links, and practicing safe browsing habits can help protect you from QakBot and other malware infections.
Remember to stay informed about the latest cybersecurity trends, educate yourself about phishing and social engineering techniques, and maintain regular backups of your important data. By following these best practices and being vigilant, you can reduce the risk of infection and maintain the security of your digital devices and personal information.

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