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Medusa Reborn: A New Compact Variant Discovered

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Key Points

  • In May 2024, the Cleafy Threat Intelligence team tracked new fraud campaigns involving the Medusa (TangleBot) banking trojan, which had been under the radar for almost a year.
  • Medusa is a sophisticated malware family with RAT capabilities discovered in 2020. Its features include a keylogger, screen controls, and the ability to read/write SMS. Those capabilities enable Threat Actors (TAs) to perform one of the riskiest fraud scenarios: On-Device Fraud (ODF).
  • During these last months, it has been possible to identify some discrepancies between new Medusa samples and the previously known ones, including a lightweight permission set and new features, such as the ability to display a full-screen overlay and remotely uninstall applications.  
  • We identified five different botnets operated by several affiliates that show distinct characteristics regarding geographical targeting and decoy used. The results confirm previously known country targets, such as Turkey and Spain, but also new ones, such as France and Italy.  
  • We observed an apparent shift in the distribution strategy among the detected campaigns. TAs have started experimenting with “droppers” to distribute malware via fake update procedures.


In late May 2024, Cleafy's Threat Intelligence team observed a surge in installations of a previously unknown app called "4K Sports", whose characteristics didn't perfectly align with known malware families.

Initial investigations suggested a possible connection between the behaviour of the "4K Sports" app and the Medusa family. However, a more in-depth analysis revealed discrepancies between the app and previously documented variants. These differences highlighted an evolution in the Medusa malware, with significant changes in its command structure and overall capabilities.

Figure 1 - Sports 4K Activities (Cleafy telemetries)
Figure 1 - Sports 4K Activities (Cleafy telemetries)

Analysing the evolution of Medusa samples over the past few months, it is clear that TAs aim to enhance the efficiency of the available features while simultaneously strengthening the botnet by refactoring the permissions required during the installation phase. Because of the MaaS (Malware-as-a-Service) model carried out by Medusa, this phase of "optimisation" could be influenced by various factors. The entry of new affiliates has likely driven developers to create less detectable variants, potentially to test their reliability in previously unexplored geographical regions.

In this article, we will uncover the details of our findings and understand the full scope of Medusa's evolution, the latest detected variant, and their implications.

Historical Overview

First identified in 2020, the Turkish-linked Medusa banking Trojan has grown on the world stage to become a significant threat. Initially targeting Turkish financial institutions, Medusa's scope expanded rapidly by 2022, launching major campaigns in North America and Europe.

This RAT (Remote Access Trojan) grants TAs complete control of compromised devices by exploiting VNC for real-time screen sharing and accessibility services for interaction. These capabilities provide TAs the ability to perform On-Device Fraud (ODF). ODF is one of the most dangerous types of banking fraud since wire transfers are initiated from the victim’s device and can be adapted for manual or automatic approaches, such as Account Takeover (ATO) or Automatic Transfer System (ATS).

Figure 2 - VNC Service Routine
Figure 2 - VNC Service Routine

By exploiting accessibility services, Medusa extends its functionality beyond simple remote control. This allows the Trojan to automate several features commonly associated with modern banking Trojans, including continuous Key-Logging and Dynamic Overlay Attacks.

The following Figure represents a high-level overview of the network communications between an infected device (bot) and the assigned C2 infrastructure, taking the Key-Logging feature as an example:

Figure 3 - Key-logging in Action
Figure 3 - Key-logging in Action

The malware coordinates its functionalities through a Web Secure Socket connection to the TA's infrastructure. The C2 server URL is dynamically fetched from public social media profiles like Telegram, Twitter, and ICQ for enhanced obfuscation. This dynamic retrieval allows attackers to update the C2 server without modifying the malware, increasing its resilience against takedown attempts. Additionally, the malware employs backup channels on these social media platforms for further redundancy.

Figure 4 - C2 extracted from Social Media profiles (e.g., Telegram)
Figure 4 - C2 extracted from Social Media profiles (e.g., Telegram)

Recent Campaigns

Since July 2023, Medusa campaigns have been reborn with a new variant, changing TTPs and country targets. The following table represents all the high-level TTPs retrieved from recent analysis:

First Evidence July 2023
State Active (June 2024)
Affected Entities Data not available
Target OSs Android Devices
Target Countries CA, ES, FR, IT, UK, US, TK
Infected Chain Social Engineering (smishing) and Dropper -> Side-loading
Fraud Scenario On-Device Fraud (ODF)
Preferred Cash-Out Data not available
Amount handled (per transfer) Data not available
Figure 5 - Most used icons/names in recent Medusa campaigns

A characteristic of Medusa's campaigns has always been a high degree of adaptability: the malware's backend infrastructure is designed to support multiple botnets simultaneously, each differentiated by specific tags and operational goals.

This was confirmed in recent campaigns: Cleafy's investigations revealed five different active botnets, differing in the types of decoy used, distributional strategy, and geographical targets. In-depth analyses made it possible to obtain the identifiers of the botnets used by the affiliates, the countries targeted, and the decoys most frequently used in the campaigns:

Figure 6 - Characteristics of the five botnets

Analysis revealed two distinct Medusa botnet clusters, each with different operational characteristics:

  • Cluster 1 (AFETZEDE, ANAKONDA, PEMBE, TONY): these botnets primarily targeted users in Turkey, with some campaigns extending to Canada and the United States. They follow Medusa's traditional modus operandi, relying on methods like phishing campaigns to spread the malware. Interestingly, these variants often shared decoys, C2 servers, and campaign names, suggesting a potential connection to the same TAs.
  • Cluster 2 (UNKN): this botnet marks a shift in Medusa’s operational strategy. It mainly targets European users, with specific campaigns focusing on Italy and France. Unlike traditional variants, some instances of the innovative cluster were installed via droppers downloaded from untrusted sources. This suggests the TAs behind this botnet are experimenting with novel distribution methods beyond traditional phishing tactics.

Refer to the appendix for detailed information on botnet names, associated campaigns, dates, and decoy names.

One of the most intriguing aspects of these new campaigns is the strategic use of samples that employ a lightweight permission set, requiring only essential functionality for its core operations. Cleafy's investigations tracked the evolution of the permissions used over time for the most active botnets. As depicted in Figure 7, a negative trend was observed in all cases, especially in the botnets belonging to Cluster 1.

Figure 7 - Evolution of permission over time
Figure 7 - Evolution of permission over time

From a Threat Intelligence and malware analysis perspective, examining the refactoring of permissions at the Manifest level is crucial. This analysis can reveal significant insights into the TTPs employed by TAs. By reducing the number of permissions, the malware becomes less conspicuous during initial analysis, potentially bypassing automated security checks and manual inspections. This stealthier approach can significantly lower detection rates, allowing the malware to persist undetected for extended periods.

This refactoring of permissions indicates that TAs continuously evolve their methodologies to stay ahead of detection technologies. By understanding these changes, security researchers and practitioners can better anticipate future threats and develop more effective countermeasures.

In-depth analyses of the early Medusa campaigns indicated the presence of valuable permissions to perform complementary malware functionality, such as:

  • Camera and Microphone
  • GPS Location
  • Phone Call
  • Read and Send SMS
  • Read Contacts
  • Read Phone State
  • Write Settings

Instead, summarising all recent campaigns, we noticed that only permissions related to the malware's core functionality were requested. The minimum set of permissions is:

  • Accessibility Services
  • Broadcast SMS
  • Internet
  • Foreground Service
  • Query and Delete Packages

The following Figure depicts a side-by-side comparison of the Android manifest files from early and recent Medusa campaigns. On the left, the manifest from an early Medusa campaign illustrates the extensive set of permissions requested. On the right, the manifest from a more recent Medusa campaign shows a streamlined permissions set.

Figure 8 - Comparison of permissions required in early and recent campaigns
Figure 8 - Comparison of permissions required in early and recent campaigns

Capability Evolution

Cleafy's analysis revealed a significant change in the set of commands available in this new Medusa variant. Although the exact number of commands may vary, our investigation identified that 17 commands in the previous variant have been removed. This strategic reduction aligns with the earlier observed trend of minimising permissions in the manifest file, a move aimed at decreasing detectability and enhancing the overall stealth and reliability of the malware.

While many commands were removed, this new variant also introduces five new commands, showcasing an evolution in its capabilities:

Command Description
destroyo Uninstall Specific Application
permdrawover Request Drawing Over Permission
setoverlay Set Black Screen Overlay
take_scr Take Screenshot
update_sec Update User Secret

The removal of certain functionalities, alongside the introduction of these new commands, reflects a deliberate effort by the TAs to streamline Medusa's operations. By focusing on essential and more impactful features, they can ensure the malware remains effective while evading detection. This approach mirrors the earlier strategy of reducing the number of permissions requested during installation, further solidifying the botnet's robustness and adaptability.

In particular, commands like “set overlay” emphasise controlling the victim's device screen, facilitating more sophisticated phishing and social engineering attacks. This command allows the malware to display a black screen overlay on the victim's device. While the exact purpose remains under investigation, this functionality presents a potential threat: by obscuring the underlying screen content, the attacker can use this overlay to mask other malicious activities.

Figure 9 - Command “setoverlay” in action
Figure 9 - Command “setoverlay” in action

Interestingly, all the original functionalities have remained implemented even in campaigns without associated permissions. For example, commands such as “sendsms” or “getcontacts” are present in all samples (also in the recent ones), but their execution is blocked by Android in the case of missing permissions.

Figure 10 - Get Contacts Blocked
Figure 10 - Get Contacts Blocked

The following table shows the differences between the command sets of the previous version and those of the new version.

Medusa V2 Medusa V3
actallinj -
actpro -
blocall -
blonot -
blosms -
- destroyo
displaypro -
endcall -
forcedisplaypro -
hb -
permadmin -
- permdrawover
permnotify -
permvnc -
sendpresms -
- setoverlay
showalert -
shownot -
- take_scr
tranot -
traussd -
- update_sec


In conclusion, the latest Medusa variant demonstrates a strategic shift towards a lightweight approach. Minimising the required permissions evades detection and appears more benign, enhancing its ability to operate undetected for extended periods. Geographically, the malware is expanding into new regions, such as Italy and France, indicating a deliberate effort to diversify its victim pool and broaden its attack surface.

The recent adoption of droppers as a distribution method signals a significant evolution in Medusa's threat capabilities. While we have yet to observe these droppers on the Google Play Store, this does not preclude the possibility of future deployments via this channel. This distribution strategy, shared among other banking malware families like TeaBot and SharkBot, leverages the inherent trust associated with official app stores, resulting in broader distribution and higher infection rates.

The combination of reduced permissions, geographical diversification, and sophisticated distribution methods underscores Medusa's evolving nature. As the TAs refine their tactics, cyber-security experts and anti-fraud analysts must stay vigilant and adapt their defences to counter these emerging threats. The detailed findings presented in this article offer valuable insights into Medusa's current state, providing a foundation for continued monitoring and analysis.

Appendix 1: Active campaigns

Botnet Campaign C2 URL First Seen App Name
PEMBE Guncelke a2a2a2a[.]life 2023-07-05 Aidat İadesi
SONVERS 2023-07-31 Youtube Premium
reklam 2023-08-08 Cimer Aidat İadesi
reklam2 2023-08-15 İnat TV PRO Video Oynatici
AvastV1 2023-09-25 Avast Premium
17 Agustos reklami 2023-10-24 İnat TV Video Oynatici
reklam 3 2023-10-24 İnat TV PRO
propeller android pemmbebebebebebe[.]info 2024-03-20 Android 14 Guncellemesi
Mart19 2024-03-20 lnat Tv Video Oynatici
UNKN PUROFR1 a4a4a4a[.]life 2023-07-22 Purolator
TestTag 2023-07-22 Purolator
PURO1 2023-07-22 Purolator
FR-PURO 2023-07-22 Purolator
FFPR unkunknunkkkkk[.]info 2023-11-22 Purolator
99-CHR 2024-01-25 Actualizacion de Chrome
Lin-CHR 2024-02-01 Chrome
FFPR cincincintopcin[.]info 2024-03-05 Purolator
IT 2024-05-31 4K Sports
AFETZEDE ALEX-2 pembe1303sock[.]top 2024-03-14 İnat TV PRO
ANAKONDA drop1 tony1303sock[.]top 2024-03-15 lnat Tv Video Oynaticisi
inat1 2024-03-19 lnat Tv Video Oynaticisi
22mart 2024-03-23 lnat Tv Video Oynaticisi
TONY Chrome tony1303sock[.]top 2024-03-23 Chrome Güncelleme
Chrome baahhhs21[.]info 2024-05-03 Chrome Güncelleme

Appendix 2: Indicator of Compromise (IoC)

Medusa Variant

C2 URL App Name MD5
cincincintopcin[.]info 4K Sport b9ee66c96b110622f4608581e77b0e4d
5G 7031c88ea3a306c4e4d786d3b0625a20
Purolator 432cd820424c1a9ae0abac63a4f130c7
tonymayisayininfilancagunu[.]info lnat Tv Video Oynaticisi 1db5ce9cbb3932ce2e11e5b3cd900ee2
tonyttnnntnn1704[.]top lnat Tv Video Oynaticisi 97abc0aa3819e161ca1f7f3e78025e15
a6a6a6a6a6a6a6[.]info - -
pembe1303sock[.]top Chrome fb3d3bdc13f445df3f4dd55f547aa92a
İnat TV PRO 469dfea6446a8bb5fada116bd28483d7
pembemayisayininfilancazamani[.]info - -
pemmbebebebebebe[.]info Chrome 62faff68d6e3957973e91810a0abf166
Android 14 Guncellemesi e501752247d32e908e4db70f457ced42
lnat Tv Video Oynatici bbecdd2513981eb9573b163151747e3b
baahhhs21[.]info Chrome Güncelleme 185f8c23fd680cae560aad220e137886
bimtambir[.]top - -
tony1303sock[.]top Chrome Güncelleme 3b7df8e68eca9a4bcc559d79a2c5a4c7
lnat Tv Video Oynaticisi 4c12987ac5d56a35258b3b7cdc87f038
topisbim[.]top - -
tonyyyyyyyyyy[.]info - -
unkunknunkkkkk[.]info Chrome 5a807cb36fdb3eaa50004351cb83a348
Purolator 3ccb77a10497a32efcaa42ac646ca6cf
Google Chrome 8a4928ac9089adc4a153741d2f1c784a
5G cffad0170fc13756cab142d3989c26a9
Actualizacion de Chrome 29dd2f61f1d402ab46d963ed25c591d5
a2a2a2a[.]life İnat TV Video Oynatici 2ecce74a26fe3f76252d0fc29cdc3ed3
İnat TV PRO b2ae7eb30163c8b004dc354ebb973e49
İnat TV PRO Video Oynatici df29a4a16af5da6e24aa3361b204a664
Dilan Polat Resimleri 0f83a144483ba17f4e3154d717361381
Cimer Aidat İadesi 59735a4123c664f1795fb7154c95af67
Avast Premium 3dac7bb95b01676d24cb194c3c47029f
Youtube Premium d8e8eb2714c91b9968ffd409f771e7e1
Aidat İadesi 53970ff7dd8edaec7fc0cdd030c0b038
a4a4a4a[.]life Purolator cb1280f6e63e4908d52b5bee6f65ec63

Appendix 3: Social media profile

Social URL Target Apps
icq[.]im/AoLH58pXY8ejJTQiWg8 Inat TV, Avast
icq[.]im/AoLH58xYS0_leBOpXFI 4K Sports, Purolator, Chrome
icq[.]im/AoLH5bRXfAE6eCtbw1I Inat TV
t[.]me/anbsh26 Inat TV
t[.]me/anbshaa Inat TV
t[.]me/anbshbb Inat TV
t[.]me/bntona123 Chrome
t[.]me/kalnbsb Chrome
t[.]me/pempeppepepep Inat TV, Avast
t[.]me/unk22k2k2k2 4K Sports, Purolator, Chrome
t[.]me/unkppapeppappe 4K Sports, Purolator, Chrome
t[.]me/utabsg23 Chrome
t[.]me/xpembeppep2p2 Inat TV, Avast
t[.]me/zedezededeed Inat TV
twitter[.]com/doplghas Inat TV

Appendix 4: Dropper

Package Name Target App
appcodetest.stufioa.sporrrtv 4K Sports
bvxba.poiuytt.nbbvcf 4K Sports
cvxb.dhshuw.xnxbxvvxvxvxvxvxhzhs 4K Sports
hxbx.cisisis.sjsusus 4K Sports
getm.psks.sjshxh 4K Sports
gsgs.pwow.mpow 4K Sports
sportvv.iptvon.tvlock 4K Sports
vczbz.sksjs.fieoe 4K Sports
vontoner.pontoner.montoner 4K Sports
vxnxn.oeiue.dhow 4K Sports