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North Korea: Maui Ransomware Attacks Healthcare Services

Only 2% of those who paid the ransom in 2021 received their whole data recovered, according to the Sophos.

 

North Korean state-sponsored hackers are using Maui to encrypt computers and data for vital healthcare services, including electronic health records, diagnostics, imaging, and intranet. A joint advisory from the FBI, the Treasury Department, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) describes a ransomware campaign that Pyongyang has been executing at least since May 2021. 

Traits of threat actors

It is unknown how these threat actors enter organizations through the initial access vector. The less well-known ransomware family stands out, according to cybersecurity firm Stairwell, since it lacks numerous essential characteristics typically found in ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) groups. Stairwell's findings served as the basis for the alert. 

The lack of an "embedded ransom letter to provide recovery instructions or automated means of transferring encryption keys to attackers" is one analogy of this, according to security expert Silas Cutler in a technical analysis of the ransomware.

Instead, Maui sample analysis indicates that the malware is made to be manually executed by a remote actor using a command-line interface, utilizing it to target particular files on the compromised machine for encryption, as recently seen in the case of Bronze Starlight.

Each of these keys is then encrypted with RSA using a key pair generated for the first time when Maui is launched, in addition to encrypting target files with AES 128-bit encryption with a new key. The RSA keys are encrypted using a hard-coded, particular-to-each-campaign RSA public key as a third-degree of security.

The fact that Maui is not provided as a service to other affiliates for use in exchange for a cut of the money earned is another thing that sets it apart from other conventional ransomware products. 

Why is DPRK targeting healthcare?

Ransomware is highly hazardous in the healthcare industry. Such businesses often don't provide cybersecurity much attention or funds. Hospitals and other similar organizations also own critical medical and health data prone to abuse. Furthermore, such facilities cannot afford to be shut down for an extended period, which increases the possibility that they might pay the ransom to resume services.

Although these North Korean-sponsored ransomware operations targeting healthcare companies have been occurring for a year, iboss claims that they have increased significantly and become more sophisticated since then. It's the most recent example of how North Korean enemies are changing their strategies to shadily produce an ongoing flow of income for the country's struggling economy. 

The ransomware attacks are alleged to have temporarily or permanently affected health services in several cases. It is currently uncertain what infection vector was first used to carry out the incursions. Only 2% of those who paid the ransom in 2021 received their whole data recovered, according to the Sophos' State of Ransomware in Healthcare 2022 report. This compares to the global average of 46%. 

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