Ransomware: The Threat is Real…

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Ransomware is a growing criminal activity involving numerous variants. Since 2012 when police locker ransomware variants first emerged, ransomware variants have become more sophisticated and destructive. Some variants encrypt not just the files on the infected device, but also the contents of shared or networked drives, externally attached storage media devices, and cloud storage services that are mapped to infected computers. These variants are considered destructive because they encrypt users’ and organizations’ files, and render those files useless until a ransom is paid. Recent federal investigations by the FBI reveal that ransomware authors continue to improve ransomware code by using anonymizing services like “Tor 3 ” for end-to-end communication to infected systems and Bitcoin virtual currency to collect ransom payments. Currently, the top five ransomware variants targeting U.S. companies and individuals are:

  • CryptoWall

  • CTBLocker

  • TeslaCrypt

  • MSIL/Samas (SamSam)

  • Locky

New ransomware variants are continually emerging.

CryptoWall

CryptoWall and its variants have been actively used to target U.S. victims since April 2014. CryptoWall was the first ransomware variant that only accepted ransom payments in Bitcoin. The ransom amounts associated with CryptoWall are typically between $200 and $10,000. Following the takedown of the CryptoLocker botnet, CryptoWall has become the most successful ransomware variant with victims all over the world. Between April 2014 and June 2 For more information on Ransomware variants and other resources, visit https://www.uscert.gov/ncas/alerts/TA16-091A 3 Tor is free software for enabling anonymous communication. Tor directs Internet traffic through a free, worldwide, volunteer network consisting of more than 7,000 relays to conceal a user’s location and usage from anyone conducting network surveillance or traffic analysis. (The name derives from the original software project name, The Onion Router.) Protecting Your Networks from Ransomware • • • 7 2015, IC3 received 992 CryptoWall-related complaints, with victims reporting losses totaling over $18 million.4 CryptoWall is primarily spread via spam email but also infects victims through drive-by downloads5 and malvertising6 .

CTB-Locker

 CTB-Locker emerged in June 2014 and is one of the first ransomware variants to use Tor for its C2 infrastructure. CTB-Locker uses Tor exclusively for its C2 servers and only connects to the C2 after encrypting victims’ files. Additionally, unlike other ransomware variants that utilize the Tor network for some communication, the Tor components are embedded in the CTBLocker malware, making it more efficient and harder to detect. CTB-Locker is spread through drive-by downloads and spam emails.

TeslaCrypt

TeslaCrypt emerged in February 2015, initially targeting the video game community by encrypting gaming files. These files were targeted in addition to the files typically targeted by ransomware (documents, images, and database files). Once the data was encrypted, TeslaCrypt attempted to delete all Shadow Volume Copies and system restore points to prevent file recovery. TeslaCrypt was distributed through the Angler, Sweet Orange, and Nuclear exploit kits.

MSIL or Samas (SAMSAM)

MSIL or Samas (SAMSAM) was used to compromise the networks of multiple U.S. victims, including 2016 attacks on healthcare facilities that were running outdated versions of the JBoss content management application. SAMSAM exploits vulnerable Java-based Web servers. SAMSAM uses open-source tools to identify and compile a list of hosts reporting to the victim’s active directory. The actors then use psexec.exe to distribute the malware to each host on the network and encrypt most of the files on the system. The actors charge varying amounts in Bitcoin to provide the decryption keys to the victim.

Locky

 In early 2016, a destructive ransomware variant, Locky, was observed infecting computers belonging to businesses globally, including those in the United States, New Zealand, Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom. Locky propagates through spam emails that include malicious Microsoft Office documents or compressed attachments (e.g., .rar, .zip) that were previously associated with banking Trojans such as Dridex and Pony. The malicious attachments contain macros or JavaScript files to download the Locky files. Recently, this ransomware has also been distributed using the Nuclear Exploit Kit.

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