Lazarus hacker group is known for its attack on Sony Pictures in 2014, the group is financially motivated and know to be active since 2009.
The Lazarus Group believed to be operated by the North Korean government, the group is designated as an advanced persistent threat due to intended nature, threat, and a wide array of methods.
Starting from the year 2020, targeted ransomware attacks are on the rise, researchers discovered the recent ransomware strain, called VHD, associated with an unfamiliar source.
APT Tactics with VHD Ransomware Attacks
Researchers observed a new ransomware campaign that uses APT groups spreading techniques deployed only in a limited number of instances.
Attackers use piggyback methods to spread the infection into the victim’s network and once they gain understanding about the target’s finances and IT structures they process the encryption.
Kaspersky researchers observed an incident in Europe that features the new ransomware family VHD and it uses written in C++ distributed APT group spreading technique.
The ransomware has nothing special, like other ransomware it “crawls all connected disks to encrypt files and delete any folder called System Volume Information. Also, it blocks process locking important files.”
The files are encrypted in the combination of AES-256 in ECB mode and RSA-2048 and it also includes a mechanism to resume ransomware if interested.
The ransomware also includes a spreading utility that propagates ransomware inside the network, the spreading utility contains a list of admin credentials that used to brute-force SMB service on every machine.
“Whenever a successful connection was made, a network share was mounted, and the VHD ransomware was copied and executed through WMI calls. This stood out to us as an uncharacteristic technique for cybercrime groups; instead, it reminded us of the APT campaigns Sony SPE, Shamoon and OlympicDestroyer, three previous wipers with worming capabilities.”
Researchers felt that attack did “not fit the usual modus operandi of known big-game hunting groups, also limited public samples found.”
In another incident, the attackers exploit a vulnerable VPN gateway that allows attackers to admin access and they deploy a backdoor to take over the Active Directory server and to deploy the ransomware.
“The data we have at our disposal tends to indicate that the VHD ransomware is not a commercial off-the-shelf product; and as far as we know, the Lazarus group is the sole owner of the MATA framework.”
The ransomware attacks now become an easy and malicious way of robbing individuals and company’s can cost billions of dollars not to mention the privacy and safety implications.