FBI sounds the alarm over virulent new ransomware strain

A virulent new ransomware strain has infected at least 60 different organizations in the last two months, the FBI has warned.

In a Flash report, published late last week, the intelligence agency said that BlackCat, a known ransomware-as-a-service actor, compromised these organizations using a strain written in RUST.

This is somewhat unusual given that most ransomware is written in C or C++. However, the FBI believes these particular threat actors opted for RUST as it’s considered to be a “more secure programming language that offers improved performance and reliable concurrent processing.”

Mitigations and defenses

BlackCat, also known as ALHPV, usually demands payment in Bitcoin and Monero in exchange for the decryption key, and although the demands are usually “in the millions”, has often accepted payments below the initial demand, the FBI says.

BlackCat also has strong ties to Darkside (aka Blackmatter), the FBI further explains, suggesting that the group has “extensive networks and experience” in operating malware and ransomware attacks. 

The attack usually starts with an already compromised account, which gives the attackers initial access to the target endpoint. The group then compromises Active Directory user and administrator accounts, and uses Windows Task Scheduler to configure malicious Group Policy Objects (GPOs), to deploy the ransomware.

Initial deployment uses PowerShell scripts, in conjunction with Cobalt Strike, and disables security features within the victim’s network.

The attackers are then said to download as much data as possible, before locking up the systems. And they even look to pull data from any cloud hosting providers they could find. 

Finally, with the help of Windows scripting, the group seeks to deploy ransomware onto additional hosts.

The FBI has also created a comprehensive list of recommended mitigations, which include reviewing domain controllers, servers, workstations, and active directories for new or unrecognized user accounts; regularly backing up data, reviewing Task Scheduler for unrecognized scheduled tasks, and requiring admin credentials for any software installation processes.


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