The Dark Side of Discord: An In-Depth Look into Malware Exploitation

Discord has become a household name in the realm of online communication, offering a convenient platform for text, voice, and video interactions. Its accessibility and user-friendly interface have attracted an array of audiences, from gamers to business communities. Regrettably, it has also caught the attention of cybercriminals who exploit its features for their nefarious activities, including malware operations.

Discord: A Double-Edged Sword

Discord’s popularity has skyrocketed, boasting hundreds of millions of active users worldwide. However, as with any technology, its advantages are mirrored by potential threats. Cybercriminals have found a way to manipulate Discord’s architecture to their advantage, transforming it into a command and control server, data drop, and malware dissemination platform. One of the most alarming ways Discord has been exploited is through its use as a command and control (C2) server. A C2 server is a computer controlled by a cybercriminal, which sends commands to systems compromised by malware. In this setup, the criminal can remotely control the infected computers, stealing data, and executing malicious commands.

A remote access trojan (RAT), cryptically named “Abaddon”, is among the first malware to fully utilize Discord as a C2 server. Upon activation, Abaddon swiftly pilfers sensitive data such as cookies, saved credit card details, credentials, and Discord tokens. It then connects to the Discord C2 server to await further instructions, effectively turning the infected computer into a puppet controlled by the malevolent puppeteer.

Why Discord for C&C?

Hackers are increasingly turning to legitimate services like Discord, Facebook, and Twitter to host their C&C servers. Discord, in particular, has gained popularity among hackers for its ease of use, robust functionality, and widespread adoption, especially among gamers and tech-savvy users. One significant advantage of using platforms like Discord is that they are legitimate services used by millions of people worldwide. As a result, communication to and from these platforms is less likely to raise alarms or be blocked by security controls such as web filters in organizations. This stealth approach allows hackers to fly under the radar, carrying out their malicious activities without being detected.

Mechanisms of Discord as a C&C Server

So, how does a C&C server work on Discord? In essence, a hacker sets up a Discord server and uses it to communicate with malware installed on a victim’s computer. For example, let’s take a scenario where an employee unknowingly downloads a piece of malware onto their work computer.

Once the malware is installed, it connects to the hacker’s Discord server and awaits instructions. The hacker can then send commands to the malware, instructing it to execute specific activities such as stealing sensitive information, launching a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, or even downloading additional malware onto the infected computer. All of these communications occur over Discord, allowing the hacker to control the malware remotely.

Alternative Platforms for C&C Servers

Discord is not the only platform that has been abused as a C&C server. Twitter and Facebook are other popular platforms that hackers have exploited for similar purposes. For instance, hackers have used Twitter accounts to post encrypted commands that are then deciphered and executed by the malware on a victim’s computer. Similarly, Facebook posts or messages can be used to transmit instructions to compromised systems. Each platform offers its unique set of challenges and advantages for hackers. However, the underlying principle remains the same – leveraging legitimate services to avoid detection and carry out malicious activities seamlessly.

Discord as a Data Drop

The misuse of Discord’s features extends beyond its role as a C2 server. Cybercriminals have also taken advantage of its content delivery network (CDN) for data drops. Once a file is uploaded, it becomes globally accessible via a unique URL, which can persist indefinitely unless reported or deleted. This system, designed for seamless file sharing, has inadvertently facilitated malware distribution.

Furthermore, Discord provides an API that allows developers to create custom interactions with the platform. Unfortunately, this has been exploited by threat actors to create chat bots that act as C2 servers or to exfiltrate stolen information into private Discord servers or channels.

Malware Amplification: From Information Theft to Ransomware

The types of malware disseminated through Discord encompass a wide spectrum, ranging from information stealers to more versatile RATs. The primary focus of these malware is credential and personal information theft. However, in an alarming development, ransomware is increasingly becoming a part of the cybercriminal’s arsenal.

In the case of Abaddon, the RAT has been observed to be in the process of developing a ransomware feature. This could enable the malware to encrypt the victim’s computer and demand a ransom, significantly escalating the severity of the attack.

The Social Engineering Factor

The social engineering aspect is a critical component of the malware distribution process. Misleading file names and descriptions are often employed to lure unsuspecting users into downloading and executing malicious files. These files often masquerade as game cheats, license key generators, and software cracks, preying on the user’s desire for free or enhanced features.

Discord Users: An Attractive Target

The vast user base of Discord, which includes a significant number of gamers, becomes an attractive target for cybercriminals. Consequently, malware targeting Discord accounts is quite common. For instance, Discord token loggers are designed to steal the OAuth tokens used to authenticate Discord users, enabling the attackers to hijack accounts.

Discord and Android: A Malicious Combination

The misuse of Discord extends to the mobile ecosystem as well. Several malicious Android applications have been discovered on Discord’s CDN, ranging from banking-focused malware to spyware. These apps often disguise themselves as legitimate applications, tricking users into granting them extensive permissions.

Discord’s Response and the Road Ahead

Discord’s team has been responsive to take-down requests, and the company is reportedly making efforts to enhance its security posture. However, the platform remains a fertile ground for malware, and the Discord API continues to be leveraged for malicious command and control operations.

The onus also falls upon users to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity. The first line of defense is always awareness and caution. Users should refrain from downloading files from untrusted sources and should be wary of offers that seem too good to be true.


Discord’s popularity and versatile features have inadvertently made it an attractive platform for cybercriminals.

The stealth method of using legitimate platforms such as Discord, Twitter, and Facebook as C&C servers complicates the process of identifying and mitigating cybersecurity threats. One effective way to uncover these hidden threats is through meticulous monitoring of network traffic within an organization. For example, numerous GET requests to Discord from an internal employee’s computer during non-working hours can be a red flag that something is amiss.

In addition to monitoring, organizations can consider blocking access to common platforms like Facebook, Discord, and others through web filters. While this may seem like an extreme measure, it can significantly reduce the risk of these platforms being used as C&C servers within the corporate network.

User awareness training is another critical component of a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. Employees must be educated on the dangers of downloading and installing unknown files, as this is a common method hackers use to deploy malware.

Furthermore, information security teams must implement strict controls to prevent the downloading and execution of files or binaries from untrusted sources. This, coupled with regular updates for operating systems, browsers, and applications, creates a robust defense mechanism that can protect organizations from the evolving threats posed by hackers utilizing legitimate platforms for malicious activities.

Comments are closed.