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

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
AI Is Everywhere, but Don't Ignore the Basics
Howie Xu, Vice President of AI and Machine Learning at Zscaler,  9/10/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
7 Threats & Disruptive Forces Changing the Face of Cybersecurity
This Dark Reading Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at the biggest emerging threats and disruptive forces that are changing the face of cybersecurity today.
Flash Poll
The State of IT Operations and Cybersecurity Operations
The State of IT Operations and Cybersecurity Operations
Your enterprise's cyber risk may depend upon the relationship between the IT team and the security team. Heres some insight on what's working and what isn't in the data center.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-16349
PUBLISHED: 2019-09-16
Bento4 1.5.1-628 has a NULL pointer dereference in AP4_ByteStream::ReadUI32 in Core/Ap4ByteStream.cpp when called from the AP4_TrunAtom class.
CVE-2019-16350
PUBLISHED: 2019-09-16
ffjpeg before 2019-08-18 has a NULL pointer dereference in idct2d8x8() at dct.c.
CVE-2019-16351
PUBLISHED: 2019-09-16
ffjpeg before 2019-08-18 has a NULL pointer dereference in huffman_decode_step() at huffman.c.
CVE-2019-16352
PUBLISHED: 2019-09-16
ffjpeg before 2019-08-21 has a heap-based buffer overflow in jfif_load() at jfif.c.
CVE-2016-10967
PUBLISHED: 2019-09-16
The real3d-flipbook-lite plugin 1.0 for WordPress has XSS via the wp-content/plugins/real3d-flipbook/includes/flipbooks.php bookId parameter.