What is Angler Exploit Kit in Cyber Security?

Angler is one of the most well-known exploit kits used in cyber assaults, having been discovered in 2013. Angler has garnered a lot of momentum in its brief lifetime due to its unique traits. It has distributed ransomware, participated in malvertising, and even participated in hacktivism efforts.

  • According to the 2015 Trustwave Global Security Report, Angler was the second most often used exploit kit in 2014. It was responsible for 17% of infections, while Nuclear, the most often used exploit kit, was responsible for 23%.

  • Angler's landing page is divided into distinct sections.

    • There is some visible English language that is designed to deceive the exploit kit victim into believing they have arrived at a real page.

    • Second, it features a number of deobfuscation techniques that deobfuscate the dangerous programs themselves. These scripts are encoded in base64 and are found within p-class tags. The real obfuscated exploit kit code is revealed by decoding the base64 strings.

    • Finally, the landing page contains many encrypted strings with various URLs connecting to the vulnerabilities included in the kit (Flash, Silverlight, Internet Explorer).

  • Angler's main distinguishing characteristic is the use of encrypted URL routes. It encrypts and decrypts the data using basic transposition-based encryption (in layman's terms: scrambling the letters). The exploit kit's obfuscated portion contains the decryption function.

  • Angler also fingerprinted computers using the ActiveX XLMDOM vulnerability (CVE-2013-7331). This method is used to spot virtual machines, sandboxes, and security technologies that suggest the presence of a security researcher rather than a legitimate end-user.

  • Angler also used a Diffie-Hellman encryption key exchange to make each attack unique to a specific victim and prevent packet capture replay attempts.

Angler was one of the most technically difficult exploit kits for the reasons stated above. The Angler developers have demonstrated exceptional proficiency in incorporating the most recent patched vulnerabilities in a few days, if not hours, after they were resolved by the relevant software manufacturers.

Capabilities of Angler Exploit Kit

Let's see why the Angler Exploit Kit is popular among cybercriminals −

Simple to Utilize

It's simple to utilize for attackers who don't have a lot of technical understanding. The exploit kit may be purchased online by attackers who aren't IT or security specialists. They don't have to know how to make the kit, and they can still gain from it if they use it.

Angler, for example, comes with a user-friendly UI on occasion. This allows the attacker to keep track of the malware campaign's progress and tweak the parameters for better outcomes.

Available for Purchase

It's available for purchase in cybercriminal circles. Cybercrime-as-a-Service is nothing new. Angler exploit kits are offered for a reasonable price in cybercriminal circles. According to Sophos, there may even be a "pay-per-install" business model in which Angler designers only charge attackers for successful malware infections.

Can Be Programmed and Customized

Angler can be programmed to carry out a wide range of tasks. Angler is an exploit kit that may be used in a variety of ways. Cyber thieves can program the kit to do the following −

  • Install malware (financial – Tinba, Vawtrak; ransomware – CryptoWall, Teslacrypt, Torrentlocker) or

  • Collect confidential data (usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, etc.) and upload it to their servers, or

  • Connect the infected system to a botnet (a "zombie army" of computers used to deliver additional attacks)

Targets Outdated Software

Angler focuses on the flaws of out-of-date software. Angler's success in installing malware on customers' computers is mostly due to this feature.

Seeks to Avoid Detection

At each stage of the infection, it seeks to avoid detection. Angler's growth and development rely heavily on innovation. Its developers appear to take this extremely seriously since they are continuously changing their strategies in order to avoid being identified by the security software, particularly antivirus.

High Conversion Rate

Angler has a reputation for being a powerful malware infection vector. While there are no hard figures to back this up, Angler is said to have a high "conversion" rate. This might be a reason for Angler's popularity and why so many attackers employ it in their attacks.

Delivered Through Realistic Landing Pages

The exploit is delivered through plausible, well-built landing pages. Another important component in a malware campaign's ability to reach as many victims as feasible is its validity. The user is more likely to explore and click on items if the webpage the victim gets on appears to be legitimate. As a result, attackers have made it their objective to produce as realistic-looking phony websites as possible. It's not even that tough to blend in with all the terrible site design out there.

Uses Hijacked Credentials

To propagate further, Angler takes advantage of hijacked credentials obtained from data breaches. Following the numerous data breaches that have reached the headlines, millions of hacked passwords have landed on the dark web. These are also for sale.

For example, if your email address was compromised in one of the recent data breaches, it's very certainly for sale on the black web, along with your account, password, and even credit card information. On the basis of these clues, cybercriminals might obtain a lot more information.

How Do Cybercriminals Disseminate Angler?

So, how can cybercriminals disseminate Angler so that people like you and me might become infected? To reach as many PCs as possible, attackers employ three basic strategies −


When cyber thieves use internet advertising to spread malware, this is known as malvertising. They break into content distribution networks, which are in charge of placing online ads on websites. The servers that perform this are generally extremely insecure, making it easy for attackers to get access.


This is a method of incorporating material from another website into the one you're now viewing. As a result, when reading a story in The New York Times, the page might include dangerous material from another website. This form of malicious material will also link readers to Angler exploit kit pages, which will initiate the infection.

Code Injection

Malicious code is injected into a variety of websites by attackers. This code will also drive visitors to the websites created to propagate Angler and the malware infections that result from it.