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The LockBit Ransomware Takes Responsibility for the Royal Mail Cyberattack


The LockBit ransomware operation has asserted responsibility for the cyberattack on Royal Mail, the UK's leading mail delivery service, which forced the company to stop its international shipping services due to "severe service disruption." 

This emerges after LockBitSupport, the public-facing representative of the ransomware group, earlier told BleepingComputer that the LockBit cybercrime group did not target Royal Mail. They instead blamed the attack on other threat actors who used the LockBit 3.0 ransomware builder, which was leaked on Twitter in September 2022. LockBitSupp did not clarify why printed Royal Mail ransom notes seen by BleepingComputer included links to LockBit's Tor negotiation and data leak sites rather than those operated by a different threat actor.

However, LockBitSupp validated LockBit's involvement in the attack in a post on a Russian-language hacking forum after discovering that one of their affiliates deployed the gang's ransomware payloads on Royal Mail's systems.

The representative of the ransomware gang also stated that they would only provide a decryptor and delete data stolen from Royal Mail's network after a ransom was paid. The entry for the Royal Mail attack on LockBit's data leak site currently states that stolen data will be published online on Thursday, February 9, at 03:42 AM UTC.

The attack was termed a "cyber incident"

On January 10, Royal Mail discovered the attack and hired outside forensic experts to assist with the investigation.

A Royal Mail spokesperson told BleepingComputer on January 11 when we reached out for more details, "Incident was detected yesterday, UK/ domestic mail remains unaffected."

"We're experiencing disruption to our international export services and are temporarily unable to despatch items to overseas destinations. Please do not post any export items while we work to resolve the issue. Sorry for any disruption this may cause," the company tweeted.

The incident was also reported to UK security agencies, and the company is investigating it alongside the National Crime Agency and the UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

However, Royal Mail has yet to acknowledge that it is the victim of a ransomware attack, which could result in a data breach because LockBit ransomware operators are known for stealing data and leaking it online if their ransom demands are not met.

For the time being, the company is still referring to the attack as a "cyber incident" and claims to have restored some of the services that were impacted by the attack. The incident last month follows a November 2022 outage that caused the Royal Mail's tracking services to be unavailable for more than 24 hours.

The Royal Mail's recurring IT problems come at a time when its mailing services are already under strain due to planned national strikes and ongoing talks with the Communication Workers Union.     

Ransomware Profits Shrink, as Victims Refuse to Pay


As per data from blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis, ransomware revenue for 2022 has dropped from $765.6 million to at least $456.8 million, representing a -40.3% year-over-year drop. The number of attacks is as high as it has ever been, but the number of victims who refuse to pay the ransom has increased as well. 

Working with Coveware, Chainalysis has observed a significant decrease in the number of ransomware victims willing to pay: 76% in 2019, but only 41% in 2022. According to Chainalysis, this is a "highly encouraging" trend that is likely influenced by a variety of factors. 

Ransomware victims have realized that even if they pay the ransom, there is no guarantee that their data will be handed back or that the ransomware actor will delete the "stolen" files instead of selling them on the dark web. But since the public perception of the ransomware phenomenon has matured, data leaks no longer pose the same risks to brand reputation as they did in previous years.

Companies and government agencies, which are the primary targets of modern ransomware operations, have also improved their backup strategies, making data recovery a much cleaner and easier process than it was only a few years ago.

Insurance companies are also much less likely to permit their customers to use an insurance payout to satisfy a ransom demand. Eventually, because many ransomware operations are based in Russia, victims who choose to pay may face harsh legal consequences as a result of the country's economic sanctions following the invasion of Ukraine.

Despite the fact that victims are not paying as much as they used to, the ransomware industry is far from dead: in 2022, the average lifespan of file-encrypting-malware strains has dropped from 153 days to just 70 days year on year. The "Conti" ransomware operation ended, while other ransomware-as-a-service (raas) operations, such as Royal, Play, and BlackBasta, went live. At the end of 2022, LockBit, Hive, Cuba, BlackCat, and Ragna were still in business (and still demanding ransom payments).

This Linux Malware Bombards Computers with DDoS Bots and Cryptominers


Security experts have discovered a new Linux malware downloader that uses cryptocurrency miners and DDoS IRC bots to attack Linux servers with weak security. After the downloader's shell script compiler (SHC) was uploaded to VirusTotal, researchers from ASEC found the attack. It appears that Korean users were the ones who uploaded the SHC, and Korean users are also the targets. 

Additional research has revealed that threat actors target Linux servers with weak security by brute-forcing their way into administrator accounts over SSH. Once inside, they'll either set up a DDoS IRC bot or a cryptocurrency miner. XMRig, arguably the most well-liked cryptocurrency miner among hackers, is the miner that is being used.

It generates Monero, a privacy-focused cryptocurrency whose transactions appear to be impossible to track and whose users are allegedly impossible to identify, using the computing power of a victim's endpoints.

Threat actors can use the DDoS IRC bot to execute commands like TCP Flood, UDP Flood, or HTTP Flood. They can execute port scans, Nmap scans, terminate various processes, clear the logs, and other operations. Malicious deployments are continuously thrown at Linux systems, most frequently ransomware and cryptojacking.

"Because of this, administrators should use passwords that are difficult to guess for their accounts and change them periodically to protect the Linux server from brute force attacks and dictionary attacks, and update to the latest patch to prevent vulnerability attacks," ASEC stated in its report. "Administrators should also use security programs such as firewalls for servers accessible from outside to restrict access by attackers."

The continued success of Linux services in the digital infrastructure and cloud industries, as well as the fact that the majority of anti-malware and cybersecurity solutions are concentrated on protecting Windows-based devices, according to a VMware report from February 2022, put Linux in a risky situation.

How Can Schools Minimize Cybersecurity Risks?


Cyberattacks are now a daily threat to K-12 schools, and the problem may worsen as educators rely more on technology for teaching and learning, and as hackers become more sophisticated. As per the K12 Security Information Exchange, a nonprofit dedicated to assisting schools in preventing cyberattacks, there have been over 1,330 publicly disclosed attacks since 2016, when the organization began tracking these incidents. Hackers have targeted municipalities of all sizes. 

Most notably, two central districts—Los Angeles Unified and New York City—will face cybersecurity challenges in 2022. Experts say that if the largest districts can be affected, anyone can. Smaller districts are especially vulnerable because they frequently lack the cybersecurity resources required to protect themselves.

Cyberattacks are costly to school districts. According to a recent GAO report, districts lose three to three weeks of instructional time on average after an attack, and recovery time can range from two to nine months. To prevent unnecessary costs, districts should ensure that their networks are secure.

Education Week has extensive coverage on what to do if your school or district is the victim of a cyberattack, as well as how to prevent attacks. Here is an accumulation of articles and videos on this topic published by Education Week that you can use to tackle this challenge.

Guidance from the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency discourages paying the ransom because it doesn't guarantee that the data hackers are holding ransom will be decrypted or that the systems will no longer be compromised. Despite this advice, the decision of whether or not to pay a ransom can be complicated.

Two district leaders also spoke with Education Week about how they handled the aftermath of a ransomware attack that shut down schools for two days. There is no magic formula that will entirely protect districts from cyberattacks, but there are steps that can be taken to mitigate the risks. In this special report, K-12 technology leaders and experts offer recommendations on how to prevent these incidents, particularly with the emergence of school-issued devices, as well as what districts' top cybersecurity priorities should be.  

Student data privacy concerns a wide range of issues, from students' smartphones to classroom applications discovered and adopted by teachers, to district-level data systems, to state testing programmes. Experts offer their perspectives on why schools struggle to protect student data.

Executives and Telemedicine: Targets of New Ransom Payment Schemes.


Ransomware developers are constantly coming up with new ways to infect victims and persuade them to pay up, but a couple of recent strategies appear especially cunning. The first involves targeting healthcare organizations that provide online consultations and sending them booby-trapped medical records for the "patient," while the second involves carefully editing email inboxes of public company executives to make it appear that some were involved in insider trading. Last month, the United States 

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a warning that Venus ransomware attacks were targeting a number of healthcare organizations in the United States. Venus, which was discovered in mid-August 2022, is known for hacking into victims' publicly exposed Remote Desktop services in order to encrypt Windows devices.

According to Holden, internal Venus group discussions show that this group has no trouble gaining access to victim organizations.

“The Venus group has problems getting paid,” Holden said. “They are targeting a lot of U.S. companies, but nobody wants to pay them.”

That could explain why their latest scheme focuses on framing executives at public companies for insider trading charges. Venus recently reported success with a method that entails carefully editing one or more email inbox files at a victim firm — to insert messages discussing plans to trade large volumes of the company's stock based on non-public information.

“We imitate correspondence of the [CEO] with a certain insider who shares financial reports of his companies through which your victim allegedly trades in the stock market, which naturally is a criminal offense and — according to US federal laws [includes the possibility of up to] 20 years in prison,” one Venus member wrote to an underling.

“You need to create this file and inject into the machine(s) like this so that metadata would say that they were created on his computer,” they continued. “One of my clients did it, I don’t know how. In addition to pst, you need to decompose several files into different places, so that metadata says the files are native from a certain date and time rather than created yesterday on an unknown machine.”

Planting emails into an inbox is difficult, according to Holden, but it is possible with Microsoft Outlook.pst files, which the attackers may also have access to if they have already compromised a victim network.

“It’s not going to be forensically solid, but that’s not what they care about,” he said. “It still has the potential to be a huge scandal — at least for a while — when a victim is being threatened with the publication or release of these records.”

According to Holden, the CLOP ransomware gang is currently experiencing a different issue: a lack of victims. According to the intercepted CLOP communication obtained by KrebsOnSecurity, the group boasted twice about successfully infiltrating new victims in the healthcare industry by sending infected files disguised as ultrasound images or other medical documents for a patient seeking a remote consultation.

CLOP members reported that one tried-and-true method of infecting healthcare providers involved accumulating healthcare insurance and payment data to use in submitting requests for a remote consultation on a patient with liver cirrhosis.

“Basically, they’re counting on doctors or nurses reviewing the patient’s chart and scans just before the appointment,” Holden said. “They initially discussed going in with cardiovascular issues, but decided cirrhosis or fibrosis of the liver would be more likely to be diagnosable remotely from existing test results and scans.”

While CLOP as a money-making collective is a relatively new organization, security experts say CLOP members come from a Threat Actor (TA) group known as "TA505", which MITRE's ATT&CK database describes as a financially motivated cybercrime group active since at least 2014. According to MITRE, "this group is known for frequently changing malware and driving global trends in criminal malware distribution."

In April 2021, KrebsOnSecurity detailed how CLOP helped pioneer another innovation aimed at convincing more victims to pay an extortion demand: directly emailing the ransomware victim's customers and partners and alerting that their data would be leaked to the dark web unless the victim firm paid up.

According to Tripwire, the HHS advisory on Venus states that multiple threat actor groups are likely distributing the Venus ransomware. Tripwire's advice for all organizations on avoiding ransomware attacks includes the following:
  • Making secure offsite backups.
  • Running up-to-date security solutions and ensuring that your computers are protected with the latest security patches against vulnerabilities.
  • Using hard-to-crack unique passwords to protect sensitive data and accounts, as well as enabling multi-factor authentication.
  • Encrypting sensitive data wherever possible.
  • Continuously educating and informing staff about the risks and methods used by cybercriminals to launch attacks and steal data.

Medibank: Hacker Gained Access to 9.7M Customers' Data and Refuses to Pay a Ransom


On Monday, Medibank Private Ltd (MPL.AX), Australia's largest health insurer, stated that no ransom payment will be made to the criminal responsible for a recent data theft in which the data of approximately 9.7 million current and former customers was compromised. 

Highlighting the findings of the firm's investigation thus far, Medibank confirmed that the data theft accessed the name, date of birth, address, phone number, and email addresses of approximately 9.7 million current and former customers. Cyber security issues in Australia have skyrocketed in recent years, according to a government report, with one attack occurring every seven minutes.

"Based on the extensive advice we have received from cybercrime experts we believe there is only a limited chance paying a ransom would ensure the return of our customers' data and prevent it from being published," Medibank CEO David Koczkar said.

Paying a ransom could encourage the hacker to directly extort customers, causing more people to suffer, according to Koczkar. The insurer reiterated that business operations remained normal during the cyberattack, with customers continuing to have access to health care.

Medibank has warned its customers to be cautious because the criminal may leak the data online or attempt to contact them directly.

In the last few weeks, Singapore Telecommunications' (STEL.SI) unit Optus disclosed a breach of up to 10 million customer accounts, and Woolworths (WOW.AX) revealed that the data of millions of customers using its bargain shopping website had been compromised.  

Medibank has announced that it will commission an external review in order to learn from the cyberattack, as well as expand its Cyber Response Support Program. 

Paying Off Hackers is Common, Says Top Australian Govt Cybersecurity Firm


Corporate insurers routinely pay hackers a ransom for the return of stolen customer data, according to a top Australian government cybersecurity provider, as the country's largest health insurer revealed the growing scope of a recent breach on  Oct 25. 

The claim from Macquarie Telecom, which manages cybersecurity for 42% of Australian federal employees, including the Australian Taxation Office, suggests a lack of preparedness in an industry that has been in the spotlight recently due to a wave of high-profile hacks.

"These are the largest corporations in the world, falling over themselves to pay criminals as fast as possible to cap their liability," Macquarie CEO David Tudehope told Reuters in an interview, referring to cyber insurance firms that he did not name. "In what other sphere of life do you see reputable corporates pay millions of dollars to criminals and somehow it's all okay?"

Insurers that paid ransom to hackers had no way of ensuring data deletion, which meant sensitive customer information remained at risk of being exposed online, according to Tudehope.

This month, Medibank Private, Australia's largest health insurer, revealed that a criminal had stolen the personal health data of 100 of its 4 million customers and demanded payment for the data's return. On Tuesday, Medibank announced that the criminal had revealed the personal information of another 1,000 customers, and that the number was likely to grow.

Optus, the country's No. 2 telco, said last month that a hacker demanded payment after stealing data from about 10 million customer accounts, equivalent to 40% of the Australian population.A person claiming to be the Optus hacker later withdrew the demand due to privacy concerns. Meanwhile, the federal government has announced that companies that suffer data breaches will face fines of up to A$50 million.

"This is an enormous wake-up call for the country," Cyber Security Clare O'Neil told parliament. "We need to do more as a country to step up."

O'Neill added that a national crisis management group formed during the COVID-19 outbreak was activated on Saturday and has met three times to discuss the Medibank hack. Tudehope, the CEO of Macquarie Telecom, declined to comment on specific incidents, but blamed underprepared cybersecurity chiefs who were too focused on internal stakeholder management and overly reliant on all-in-one protections such as firewall software.

"The challenge in cyber is it just changes so quickly and the people in senior management who, in many cases, do not have the background in cybersecurity because it wasn't a thing as they worked their way up through their career," Tudehope said.

"They're making decisions they don't have a strong understanding of in many cases," he added. "The people who have a deeper level of IT security (knowledge) are often at junior or middle levels of an IT department or government agency."

As per Tudehope, most businesses will face cyber attacks and should have a recovery plan in place, such as having confidential data backed up frequently in a separate location to ensure hackers cannot access it.

Ransomware Attacks Forced Organizations to Shut Down Operations Completely


Ransomware attacks have evolved constantly and now the spike in attacks is causing a massive concern for thousands of organizations worldwide. Hackers are taking advantage of security vulnerabilities and encrypting data belonging to all sorts of organizations: from private firms to healthcare facilities and governments. 

What motivates the ransomware attackers to become even more sophisticated and demand tens of millions of dollars is that numerous firms agree to pay the ransom and not reveal the attack. It usually happens because they are afraid of the devastating social consequences. 

Earlier this week, Trend Micro, a global cybersecurity leader, disclosed that a quarter of healthcare organizations hit by ransomware attacks were forced to shut operations completely. The study also revealed that 86% of global healthcare organizations impacted by ransomware attacks suffered operational outages. 

More than half of the global HCOs (57%) acknowledged being hit by ransomware attacks over the past three years. Of these, 25% were forced to shut down their operations, while 60% disclosed that some business processes were affected by an attack. 

On average, it took most responding organizations days (56%) or weeks (24%) to fully restore these operations. In a survey of 145 healthcare business and IT professionals, 60 percent of HCOs also suffered a data breach, potentially increasing compliance and reputational risk, as well as investigation, remediation, and clean-up costs. 

The good news is that most (95%) HCOs say they regularly update patches, while 91% limit email attachments to thwart malware risk. Many also employed detection and response tools for their network (NDR) endpoint (EDR) and across multiple layers (XDR). 

"In cybersecurity, we often talk in abstractions about data breaches and network compromise. But in the healthcare sector, ransomware can have a potentially genuine and very dangerous physical impact," Trend Micro Technical Director Bharat Mistry stated. 

"Operational outages put patient lives at risk. We can't rely on the bad guys to change their ways, so healthcare organizations need to get better at detection and response and share the appropriate intelligence with partners to secure their supply chains." 

The study published by cybersecurity firm Sophos in June revealed that HCOs spend nearly $1.85 million to recover systems after a ransomware attack, the second-highest across all sectors. The average ransom paid by healthcare organizations surged by 33% in 2021, an almost threefold increase in the proportion of victims paying ransoms of $1 million or more.

How Ransomware Turned Into the Stuff of Nightmares for Modern Businesses


Few cyberthreats have progressed as rapidly in recent years as ransomware, which has become a global scourge for businesses over the last two decades. 

Ransomware has evolved from simple infect and encrypt attacks to double- and now triple-extortion attacks, making it one of the most dangerous security threats of the modern era. Meanwhile, with the rise of ransomware-as-a-service, it has become more accessible to would-be cybercriminals as well.

Techradar spoke with Martin Lee, Technical Lead of Security Research at Cisco Talos, to learn more about the threat posed by ransomware and the steps businesses can take to protect themselves.

What characteristics make ransomware attacks so effective and difficult to counter?

Ransomware is essentially the 21st century equivalent of kidnapping. The criminal steals something valuable and demands payment in exchange for its return. The ransomware business model has progressed over time to become a highly efficient source of revenue for criminals.

A ransomware attack should not be taken lightly. Criminals attempt to evoke an immediate response by encrypting and rendering a system inaccessible. If a critical system is disrupted, the bad folks know that the victim will have a strong incentive to pay.

Ransomware attacks are launched through every possible entry point. Criminals will look for any vulnerability in perimeter defences in order to gain access. The profitability of ransomware drives criminals' tenacity; the attacks' ubiquity makes them difficult to defend against. To defend against such attacks, excellent defences and constant vigilance are required.

What are the most significant changes in ransomware operations since the days of simple infect and encrypt attacks?

Modern criminal ransomware attacks first appeared in the mid-2000s. Initially, these were mass-market' attacks in which criminals distributed as much malware as possible without regard for the nature or identity of the systems being targeted. Although the vast majority of malware would be blocked, a small percentage would be successful in infecting and encrypting systems, and a small number of these would result in payment of a ransom.

In 2016, ther noticed a change in the ransomware model. SamSam, a new ransomware variant, was distributed in an unusual manner. The group behind this malware planned ahead of time, exploiting vulnerabilities in externally facing systems to gain a foothold within the organisation. Once inside, they expanded their access, looked for key systems, and infected them with ransomware.

Criminals can significantly disrupt the operation of an organisation by researching their target and disrupting business critical systems. Criminals use this approach to demand a much higher ransom than if they compromise a single laptop, for example.

In what ways do you expect ransomware attacks to develop further in the years to come?

Ransomware has proven to be a reliable source of revenue for criminals. However, the success of the attacks is not guaranteed. The less profitable the activity becomes as more attacks are blocked.

Malicious emails and attempts to download malware can be blocked by perimeter defences. Filtering connections at the IP address or DNS layer can prevent malware from communicating with its command and control systems. End-point protection systems can detect and block malicious malware, and effective backup solutions can restore affected systems.

With a better understanding of the effects of ransomware and stronger defences, fewer successful attacks will be witnessed and ransomware will become unprofitable. However, as organisations become smarter, so do criminals, and ransomware will continue to exist.

North Korean Hackers Employ H0lyGh0st Ransomware to Target Businesses


Researchers from Microsoft’s Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) this week claimed that the North Korean hackers are employing the H0lyGh0st ransomware to target small and midsize businesses worldwide. 

The hacking group, which calls itself H0lyGh0st and is tracked by Microsoft as DEV-0530, has been employing ransomware since at least June 2021 and has successfully exploited multiple businesses since September 2021. 

The activities of DEV-0530 are similar to other ransomware gangs out there. The group engages in double extortion, threatening to publish personal data stolen from victims unless a ransom is paid. 

In recent years, North Korean hackers have siphoned hundreds of millions of dollars from foreign businesses to help their country which is struggling economically due to the U.S. sanctions and the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it is equally possible that the hackers are employing ransomware for personal gain, which could explain an “often-random selection of victims.” 

According to Microsoft, the activities of DEV-0530 are partially linked to a group known as Plutonium (also known as DarkSeoul or Andariel). Both groups have been spotted operating from the same infrastructure, employing custom malware controllers with similar names, and emailing accounts belonging to each other. 

“MSTIC has observed known DEV-0530 email accounts communicating with known PLUTONIUM attacker accounts. MSTIC has also observed both groups operating from the same infrastructure set, and even using custom malware controllers with similar names,” Microsoft says. 

The researchers also identified that the hacker’s activities are consistent with the UTC+9 time zone employed in North Korea. DEV-0530’s first malicious payload was spotted in June last year, BLTC_C.exe, which was classified as SiennaPurple, despite its lack of complexity compared to other variants in the same ransomware family. More powerful derivatives of the malware were released later, between October 2021 and May 2022, and were based on the Go programming language. 

In November 2021 DEV-0530 successfully exploited several small-to-midsized businesses in the manufacturing, finance, education, and event and meeting planning sectors in multiple nations. Likely opportunistic, the attacks exploited vulnerabilities such as CVE-2022-26352 on public-facing web assets for initial access. 

Subsequently, the hackers would steal “a full copy of the victims’ files” and then shift to encrypt the contents on the system, appending the .h0lyenc extension to impacted files. In addition to dropping a ransom note, the attackers emailed the victim to inform them that their data was stolen and encrypted by H0lyGh0st. 

“Based on our investigation, the attackers frequently asked victims for anywhere from 1.2 to 5 Bitcoins. However, the attackers were usually willing to negotiate and, in some cases, lowered the price to less than one-third of the initial asking price. As of early July 2022, a review of the attackers’ wallet transactions shows that they have not successfully extorted ransom payments from their victims,” Microsoft researchers explained.

Luna Moth: Hackers After the Subscription Scam 

Luna Moth is a brand-new data extortion group that has been breaking into businesses to spoof users' data. If the victims don't pay a ransom to prevent the information from being made public, hackers threaten to make the records publicly accessible. 

The hacker group adopted the alias Luna Moth and has been engaged in phishing efforts since at least March in which remote access tools (RAT) were distributed, enabling corporate data theft.

How does the scam work?

The Luna Moth ransomware gang has been analyzed by the incident response team at cybersecurity firm Sygnia, it was noted that the actor is attempting to establish a reputation under the name Silent Ransom Group (SRG).

In a report published, Sygnia claims that although the goal of Luna Moth, also known as TG2729, is to acquire key data, its method of operation is similar to that of a scammer.

The organization has been posing as Zoho MasterClass Inc. and Duolingo over the last three months, operating a widespread phishing scam.  The malicious emails are sent from Gmail accounts that were altered to look like official company email accounts, claiming to be from the Zoho Corporation or Duolingo.

Domains used

In April 2022, the first verified campaign-related domain was registered. Hostwinds, a service provider, hosts both the exfiltration and phishing domains, which are both listed under Namecheap.

The two primary sets of domains and IPs that make up Luna Moth infrastructure  can be tied to subscription fraud:

  • Domains with the XYZ TLD, such as maaays[.]xyz, are exfiltration domains. The organization uses these domains as the endpoint for the exfiltrated data when using the Rclone obfuscation method.
  • Phishing sites like masterzohoclass[.]com that pretend to be associated with Duolingo or Zoho. The majority of these domains only last for four hours or less.

Standard tools

Atera, Splashtop, Syncro, and AnyDesk are just a couple of good remote administration tools (RATs) that the hackers mainly employ to control compromised devices. These tools also give the hackers some flexibility and persistence: even if one of the RATs is taken out of the system, the others can still reinstall it. Furthermore, off-the-shelf tools like SharpShares, and SoftPerfect Network Scanner,  are being utilized by the group.

The tools are saved on spyware with fake names that make them appear to be legitimate These technologies enable threat actors to conduct basic reconnaissance tasks, acquire access to additional resources, and steal data from compromised networks in addition to RATs.

Maastricht University Retrieves Ransom Amount Paid in 2019


Earlier this month, the southern Maastricht University (UM) in Netherland with more than 22,000 students, revealed that it had retrieved the ransom paid after a ransomware assault that targeted its network in December 2019. 

After a detailed investigation of the incident, Fox-IT researchers attributed the attack to a financially motivated hacker gang tracked as TA505 (or SectorJ04). The hacking group has been active since at least 2014 and has primarily targeted retail and financial organizations. 

The hackers breached the university's systems through phishing e-mails in mid-October and installed Clop ransomware payloads on 267 Windows systems on December 23, after moving laterally via the network. 

After a week, the university decided to accede to the criminal gang's demand and paid a 30 bitcoin ransom (roughly €200,000 at the time) for the ransomware decryptor. This was partly because private data was in danger of being lost and students were unable to take an exam or work on their theses. Secondly, the rebuilding of all compromised systems from scratch or creating a decryptor were not viable options. 

"It is a decision that was not taken lightly by the Executive Board. But it was also a decision that had to be made," University explained in a blog post. "We felt, in consultation with our management and our supervisory bodies, that we could not make any other responsible choice when considering the interests of our students and staff."

However, as UM recently revealed, the local police traced and seized a wallet containing the cryptocurrency paid by the university as ransom in 2019.

"The investigation [..] eventually paved the way for the seizure of the cryptocurrency by the Dutch Public Prosecution Service. As early as February 2020, the investigation team froze a so-called wallet containing part of the paid ransom," UM said. The value of the cryptocurrencies found at that time was €40,000; at the current exchange rate, they are worth approximately €500,000."

Although this might appear like the university made a considerable profit within a relatively short time, the €500,000 seized by Netherlands' Public Prosecution Service represents significantly less than the damage inflicted during the ransomware attack. These seized funds are now in a bank account under the control of the law enforcement agents, and the Ministry of Justice has already initiated legal proceedings to transfer them to the university.

Dutch University Receives Bitcoin Ransom Paid in 2019


The southern Maastricht University in Netherland that fell victim to a major ransomware assault has partly received back its stolen money, a local news organization reported on Saturday. 

The Dutch University suffered a large cyberattack in 2019 that locked them, and their students, out of valuable data until they agreed to pay a €200,000 ($208,000) ransom in Bitcoin which hackers demanded to decrypt the data.

"The criminals had encrypted hundreds of Windows servers and backup systems, preventing 25,000 students and employees from accessing scientific data, library and mail," the daily De Volkskrant told. 

"After a week the university decide to accede to the criminal gang's demand," the paper said. This was partly because personal data was in danger of being lost and students were unable to take an exam or work on their theses.” 

As part of an investigation into the cyberattack, local police traced part of the ransom paid to an account belonging to a money launderer in Ukraine. In 2020, the authorities seized the perpetrator's account, which contained a number of different cryptocurrencies including part of the ransom money paid by Maastricht University. 

Earlier this week, the authorities were able to return the ransom back to the university. But the value of the Bitcoin held in the Ukrainian account has increased from its then-value of €40,000 to €500,000.

"When, now after more than two years, it was finally possible to get that money to the Netherlands, the value had increased from 40,000 euros to half-a-million euros," the paper further read. Maastricht University will now get the 500,000 euros ($521,000) back. 

"This money will not go to a general fund, but into a fund to help financially strapped students," Maastricht University ICT director Michiel Borgers stated. 

The administrators of Maastricht University should count themselves lucky as they were able to retrieve their stolen money. Last year, the University of California paid $1.14 million to NetWalker attackers after they encrypted data within its School of Medicine’s servers, and the University of Utah paid hackers $457,000 to prevent them from releasing data stolen during an attack on its network. 

In 2021, ransomware attackers targeted 58 U.S. education organizations and school districts, including 830 individual schools, according to the report published by Emsisoft threat analyst Brett Callow. Emsisoft estimates that in 2020, 84 incidents disrupted learning at 1,681 individual schools, colleges, and universities.

New Emotet Variant Capturing Users' Credit Card Data from Google Chrome


The Emotet botnet is now attempting to infect potential victims with a credit card stealer module designed to capture credit card information from Google Chrome user accounts. 

After obtaining credit card information (such as name, expiration month and year, and card numbers), the malware will transfer it to command-and-control (C2) servers that are not the same as those used by the Emotet card stealer module. 

The Proofpoint Threat Insights team said, "On June 6th, Proofpoint observed a new Emotet module being dropped by the E4 botnet. To our surprise, it was a credit card stealer that was solely targeting the Chrome browser. Once card details were collected they were exfiltrated to different C2 servers than the module loader." 

This shift in behaviour follows an increase in activity in April and a move to 64-bit modules, as discovered by the Cryptolaemus security research group. One week later, Emotet began using Windows shortcut files (.LNK) to run PowerShell instructions on victims' devices, abandoning Microsoft Office macros, which were disabled by default beginning in early April 2022. 

The re-emergence of Emotet malware:

In 2014, the Emotet malware was created and used in assaults as a banking trojan. It has developed into a botnet used by the TA542 threat group (also known as Mummy Spider) to deliver second-stage payloads. 

It also enables its operators to steal user data, conduct reconnaissance on compromised networks, and migrate laterally to susceptible devices. Emotet is renowned for deploying Qbot and Trickbot malware trojan payloads on infected PCs, which are then used to spread more malware, such as Cobalt Strike beacons and ransomware like Ryuk and Conti. Emotet's infrastructure was destroyed in early 2021 as part of an international law enforcement operation that also resulted in the arrest of two people.

When Emotet research organisation Cryptolaemus, computer security firm GData, and cybersecurity firm Advanced Intel all spotted the TrickBot malware being used to deliver an Emotet loader in November 2021, the botnet returned utilising TrickBot's previously established infrastructure.

According to ESET, Emotet's activity has increased more than 100-fold since the beginning of the year, with its activity rising more than 100-fold against T3 2021.

BlackCat Ransomware Group Demands $5Million to Unlock Austrian State


The BlackCat ransomware group, also known as ALPHV, has targeted the Austrian federal state Carinthia, demanding $5 million to open encrypted computer systems. The threat actor allegedly locked thousands of workstations during the attack on Tuesday, causing serious operational interruption to government services. 

The website and email service for Carinthia are temporarily down, and the government is unable to issue new passports or traffic penalties. Furthermore, the intrusion hampered the completion of COVID-19 testing and contact tracking through the region's administrative offices. 

For $5 million, the hackers offered to deliver a functioning decryption tool. Gerd Kurath, a state spokesperson, told Euractiv that the attacker's demands will not be fulfilled. 

According to the press spokesperson, there is presently no proof that BlackCat was able to take any data from the state's systems, and the aim is to restore the workstations using accessible backups. Kurath stated that the first of the 3,000 impacted systems are likely to be operational again soon. 

At the time of writing, there is no material from Carinthia on BlackCat's data leak site, where hackers post files taken from victims who did not pay a ransom. This might imply a recent incident or that discussion with the victim are still ongoing. 

In November 2021, the ALPHV/BlackCat ransomware group emerged as one of the more advanced ransomware attacks. They are a rebranded version of the DarkSide/BlackMatter gang, which is responsible for the Colonial Pipeline attack last year. 

BlackCat affiliates launched attacks on high-profile companies and brands such as the Moncler fashion firm and the Swissport airline freight handling services provider in early 2022. 

By the completion of the first quarter of the current year, the FBI issued a warning that BlackCat had breached at least 60 businesses globally, adopting the position that it was expected to achieve as one of the most active and dangerous ransomware projects out there. 

The attack on Carinthia and the hefty ransom demands demonstrate that the threat actor targets firms that can pay substantial sums of money to get their systems decrypted and prevent additional financial losses due to lengthy operational interruption.

Russian Group Attack on Bulgarian Refugee Agency


A ransomware group that shares strong ties with Russia warned on Wednesday that it will publicly post the files it has stolen from the Bulgarian government agency that is responsible for the refugee management.

LockBit 2.0 published a notice on the dark website saying it had files from the Bulgarian State Agency for Refugees under the Council of Ministers. “All available data will be published!” the notice read under the group’s trademark bright red countdown clock, which has a May 9 publication date. It's worth noting that there was no specific post for a ransom demand. 

According to the Sofia Globe, a news organization in the country’s capital, nearly 5.7 million Ukrainian refugees have fled their country since February and approximately 230,000 fled to Bulgaria, while 100,700 are remaining in the country. 

The official website of the agency remains active, however, a notice on the site’s home page reads, “due to network problems, the e-addresses of the State Agency for Refugees at the Council of Ministers are temporarily unavailable.”

Press contacted an official for a comment on the same matter but the agency didn’t immediately respond to the email. Later, a spokesperson at the Bulgarian embassy in Washington, D.C., said that he did not have information on the incident and would look into the matter. 

LockBit 2.0 is an updated version of LockBit, a ransomware variant that first was spotted in September 2019, as per the cybersecurity firm Emsisoft. Originally known as ABCD ransomware, LockBit is famous for the file extension appended to encrypted files, with the extension later updating to “LockBit”.  Moreover, in September, the group made headlines for launching its own leak website. 

“This is simply the latest in a very long list of hits on organizations which provide critical services...,” said Brett Callow, a threat analyst at Emsisoft. 

“...Hospitals, [search and rescue], fire departments, and charities for the disabled have all been targeted. The individuals involved with ransomware are conscienceless scumbags and the sooner we find a way to deal with the problem, the better.”

Hackers Expose 190GB of Alleged Samsung Data


Hackers that exposed secret information from Nvidia have now turned their attention to Samsung. The hacker group known as Lapsus$ is suspected of taking 190GB of data from Samsung, including encryption and source codes for many of the company's new devices. 

On Saturday, hackers launched an attack on Samsung, leaking critical data collected through the attack and making it accessible via torrent. The hackers shared the complete data in three sections in a note to their followers, as seen by Bleeping Computer, along with a text file that details the stuff available in the download. 

The exposed material includes "source code from every Trusted Applet" installed on every Samsung smartphone, as per the message. It also includes "confidential Qualcomm source code," algorithms for "all biometric unlock operations," bootloader source code for the devices, and source codes for Samsung's activation servers and Samsung account authentications, including APIs and services. 

In short, the Lapsus$ attack targets Samsung Github for critical data compromise: mobile defence engineering, Samsung account backend, Samsung pass backend/frontend, and SES, which includes Bixby, Smartthings, and store. 

The attack on Samsung comes after the cyber organisation attempted to extort money from Nvidia in a ransom scheme. It's worth noting that it's not a straightforward monetary request. Instead, the hackers have asked Nvidia to lift the restriction on Ethereum cryptocurrency mining that it has placed on its Nvidia 30-series GPUs. Nvidia's GPU drivers must be open-sourced forever, according to the hackers. 

The hackers are plainly looking for money from the disclosed data, as evidenced by the updates. For $1 million, one of them promised to sell anyone a bypass for the crypto nerf on Nvidia GPUs. Another communication from the group, according to The Verge, claimed that instead of making the data public, they are attempting to sell it straight to a buyer. 

Last Monday, Nvidia confirmed the breach, acknowledging a leak of "employee credentials" and "proprietary information." It, on the other hand, disputed that the attack was linked to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis and claimed that the cyberattack would have no impact on its operations. 

As of currently, there are no reports of Lapsus$ demanding a similar ransom from Samsung. If they do, however, Samsung is likely to suffer a significant setback, especially given the type of data that the hacking group now claims to have access to.

Swissport Ransomware Attack Delays Flights, Disturbs Operations


Swissport International, a supplier of aviation services, was struck by a ransomware attack that disrupted its operations. 

Swissport International Ltd. is an aviation services firm controlled by an international group of investors that provides airport ground, lounge hospitality, and cargo handling services. On behalf of 850 aviation clients, the corporation manages over 282 million passengers and 4.8 million tonnes of cargo each year. Swissport employs over 66,000 people at 307 locations across 50 countries and has combined operating revenue of EUR 2.8 billion. 

Swissport International was the victim of a ransomware assault that disrupted company operations and prompted aircraft delays. As per the German website Spiegel, the ransomware attack only affected a minor section of the corporation's global IT infrastructure, and a company spokesperson verified that the security breach occurred at 6 a.m. on Thursday. 

The attack has been substantially contained, according to the company, which is attempting to rectify the situation as swiftly as possible. 

A spokeswoman for Zurich Airport added, “Due to system problems at our airport partner Swissport, 22 flights were delayed by 3 to 20 minutes yesterday.”

The company spokesman added, “The attack has now been contained and everything is being done to solve the problem as quickly as possible and limit the impact on flight operations. Swissport can continue to provide ground services for airlines safely, but there may be delays in some cases.” 

On Friday afternoon, the Swissport website was unavailable. The organisation has not yet revealed information regarding the attack, such as the ransomware family that attacked its systems or if the attack resulted in a data leak. The attack on their leak sites was not claimed by any ransomware group. 

Other recent attacks in Europe have affected key infrastructure, such as the one that crippled Oiltanking GmbH, a German petrol distributor that supplies Shell gas stations across the country. The oil provider Mabanaft GmbH was also impacted by the attack, according to the media. The Marquard & Bahls group owns both companies. As per local media, the attacks could have compromised the country's fuel supplies. 

A cyberattack was launched this week on some of the main oil terminals in Western Europe's largest ports. The Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp oil trading centre, as well as the SEA-Tank Terminal in Antwerp, are among the affected port infrastructure.

REvil Ransomware Operations Seem Unaffected by Recent Arrests


According to threat intelligence firm ReversingLabs, the REvil (Sodinokibi) ransomware cooperative's operation has not reduced despite Russia's recent arrest of numerous suspected members of the group. 

The Russian law enforcement agency FSB declared the takedown of the REvil organisation "at the request of US authorities" two weeks ago, yet the ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) business is still running. 

After years of being accused of permitting malicious hackers to flourish within its borders as long as no Russian citizens or organisations are harmed, Russia appeared to be sending a distinct signal with the arrest of 14 members of the REvil group, even if some witnessed it as a political move amidst rising tensions along the Ukraine border. 

The high-profile arrests of affiliates, however, did not halt REvil operations, as ReversingLabs points out. In reality, the group is operating at the same speed as it was before the arrests. 

Europol reported the arrests of seven people engaged in the spread of REvil and GandCrab ransomware assaults in November 2021 (during seven months), at a time when ReversingLabs was seeing an average of 47 new REvil implants per day (326 per week). 

This was greater than September (43 new implants per day - 307 per week) and October (22 new daily implants - 150 per week), but far lower than July (87 per day - 608 per week) when the group went offline. Following the arrests in Russia, the number of REvil implants observed jumped from 24 per day (169 per week) to an average of 26 per day (180 per week). 

“While it's true that more time may be needed to assess the full impact of the arrests on REvil’s activity, the data so far would suggest that it is ‘business as usual’ for the ransomware gang,” ReversingLabs noted. ReversingLabs senior threat researcher Andrew Yeates stated.

“Threat groups exploit regionalised regulation and distributed organizational structure with sovereign state safe housing, all while leveraging a ‘no-rule’ borderless attack strategy. That makes it ever harder for national and international criminal policing organizations to put an end to threat groups such as REvil.” 

While synchronised action against REvil infrastructure may have had short-term repercussions on the RaaS's prevalence, much stronger action is required to truly stop the cybercrime ring's operations, especially given the group's corporation-like structure, where affiliates launch attacks and receive payments. 

As a result, removing simply affiliates does not affect the core of the RaaS, allowing it to continue operating. Affiliates, on the other hand, can either rebuild the enterprise or relocate to a new RaaS if only the core is removed, and this is relevant for other comparable cybercriminal groups as well.

Defense Contractor Hensoldt Confirms Lorenz Ransomware Attack


Hensoldt, a multinational defence contractor, disclosed that Lorenz ransomware has infected part of its UK subsidiary's systems. A spokesman for Hensholdt acknowledged the security vulnerability to BleepingComputer this week. 

Hensoldt's Head of Public Relations, Lothar Belz, told BleepingComputer, "I can confirm that a small number of mobile devices in our UK subsidiary has been affected." 

Belz, on the other hand, refused to provide any other specifics on the incident, adding, "for obvious reasons, we do not reveal any more facts in such cases." 

Since April, the Lorenz ransomware group has targeted several institutions around the world, demanding hundreds of thousands of dollars in ransom. Lorenz operators, like other ransomware groups, use a double-extortion approach, acquiring data before encrypting it and threatening victims if they don't pay the ransom. Ransom demands have been quite high, between $500.000 and $700.000.

Hensoldt AG emphasizes sensor technology for security and surveillance missions in the defence, security, and aerospace sectors. Radar, optoelectronics, and avionics are the company's core product areas, and it is listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. 

The defence multinational, which is listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and with a revenue of 1.2 billion euros in 2020, offers sensor solutions for defence, aerospace, and security applications. The corporation works with the US government on classified and sensitive contracts, and its products include and equip tanks, helicopter platforms, submarines, and Littoral Combat Ships, among other things. 

The Lorenz ransomware group has already published the names of the firms that have been compromised on their Tor leak site. The ransomware group claims to have already transferred 95 percent of all stolen files to its leak site as of this time of writing. The gang named the archive file "Paid," implying that someone else paid to keep the Hensoldt files from being exposed. 

Tesorion, a cybersecurity firm, studied the Lorenz ransomware and produced a decryptor that may allow victims to decrypt their files for free in some situations.