Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Attacks/Breaches

2/15/2018
08:00 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Cybercrime Gang Ramps up Ransomware Campaign

In the last few weeks, Gold Lowell group has collected over $350K after infecting victims with SamSam crypto malware, researchers at Secureworks found.

A cybercrime gang known as Gold Lowell has been using scan-and-exploit tactics to opportunistically infect business networks with ransomware and extort money from the victim organizations.

The group - which has been around since at least 2015 - appears to have ramped up activity in the last few weeks in keeping with its previous pattern of escalating attacks during the end part through the beginning of the calendar year, Secureworks said in a report this week.

Between late December and mid-January alone, Gold Lowell managed to collect at least $350,000 in extortion money after infecting victims with a custom version of SamSam, a previously known ransomware tool. The group's victims include healthcare organizations, IT software providers, transportation companies, waste management firms, and business services organizations. Many of them have been small- to midsized organizations.

From a malware perspective itself, SamSam is little different from the slew of ransomware tools floating about in the wild currently. The tactic Gold Lowell has been using to install the malware on victim systems and networks is notable, however, notes Matthew Webster, senior security researcher at Secureworks’ Counter Threat Unit.

"SamSam ransomware is essentially as sophisticated as it needs to be," Webster says. "The main contrast between other ransomware capabilities is how it is deployed—after compromise of the victim’s systems and account credentials."

According to Secureworks, Gold Lowell has shown a tendency to scan Internet-facing systems for known vulnerabilities and exploits. The group's scanning has targeted systems and protocols like JBoss and RDP that are more likely to be used by organizations than by individuals. Early on, the threat group regularly targeted JBoss applications using an open source exploitation tool. In 2017, Gold Lowell began targeting legitimate Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) account credentials—often via brute force attacks, Secureworks said.

Once it gains at initial foothold on a network, Gold Lowell has shown a tendency to use both publicly available and proprietary tools and exploits in order to escalate privileges and find the most central and critical systems to exploit.

"[SamSam's] encryption methodology is strong and it carries out actions that make it more difficult for recovery and investigation," Webster says. Measures include wiping additional space on the disk and deleting itself, he says.

Gold Lowell typically demands a ransom of around $9,500 for decrypting files. But based on how effective the group has been at deploying SamSam inside breached networks, it is quite likely that some victims are paying up a lot more, according to Webster. In one campaign during mid-2017 that Secureworks researchers observed, the value of the ransom for decrypting the entire network of the victim organization was 28 bitcoins, or approximately $68,000 at the time, he says.

In at least one instance the threat actors doubled the decryption cost after a victim's initial payment barely missed the deadline set for it. "The doubling of the ransom really goes to highlight that once the decision has been made to pay the ransom, then as victim you are handing control over to the adversary," Webster says. Such incidents highlight the importance for organizations to have a well-tested data backup and incident response process in place, he notes.

Gold Lowell, however, generally takes steps to instill confidence that the victim will get their data back once payment has been received. It offers to decrypt files as a test, for instance, and advice on purchasing bitcoin and how to set up bitcoin wallet.

"Long-term ransomware campaigns only work if the victim is confident that they will get their data back, and the SamSam actors clearly take steps to instill that confidence," Webster says.

Related Content:

 

 

Black Hat Asia returns to Singapore with hands-on technical Trainings, cutting-edge Briefings, Arsenal open-source tool demonstrations, top-tier solutions and service providers in the Business Hall. Click for information on the conference and to register.

Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 7/6/2020
Russian Cyber Gang 'Cosmic Lynx' Focuses on Email Fraud
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  7/7/2020
Lessons from COVID-19 Cyberattacks: Where Do We Go Next?
Derek Manky, Chief of Security Insights and Global Threat Alliances, FortiGuard Labs,  7/2/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
This report describes some of the latest attacks and threats emanating from the Internet, as well as advice and tips on how your organization can mitigate those threats before they affect your business. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-3931
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-08
Buffer overflow exists in Geovision Door Access Control device family, an unauthenticated remote attacker can execute arbitrary command.
CVE-2020-15600
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-07
An issue was discovered in CMSUno before 1.6.1. uno.php allows CSRF to change the admin password.
CVE-2020-15599
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-07
Victor CMS through 2019-02-28 allows XSS via the register.php user_firstname or user_lastname field.
CVE-2020-8916
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-07
A memory leak in Openthread's wpantund versions up to commit 0e5d1601febb869f583e944785e5685c6c747be7, when used in an environment where wpanctl is directly interfacing with the control driver (eg: debug environments) can allow an attacker to crash the service (DoS). We recommend updating, or to res...
CVE-2020-12821
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-07
Gossipsub 1.0 does not properly resist invalid message spam, such as an eclipse attack or a sybil attack.