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Game Over for GandCrab: New free decryption tool allows victims to unlock all versions of this ransomware

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Ransomware attacks up their game _ and ransom demands
The average ransom demand is up to almost $13,000, compared with $6,700 just a few months ago.

A new decryption tool that counters one of the most prolific families of ransomware by allowing victims to retrieve their files for free has been released in a collaborative effort by Europol, the FBI, cybersecurity company Bitdefender, and others.

The latest version of the GandCrab decryptor neutralises the most recent incarnations of the file-locking malware – GandCrab 5.0 through to GandCrab 5.2 – as well as allowing users to retrieve files encrypted by older versions of the ransomware.

It’s thought that over 1.5 million Windows users have been infected with GandCrab since it first emerged in January 2018, with both home and business networks falling victim to attacks by what Europol describes as “one of the most aggressive forms of ransomware”.

SEE: What is ransomware? Everything you need to know about one of the biggest menaces on the web

The cyber criminals behind GandCrab claim that the ransomware has extorted over $2 billion from victims who’ve given in and paid to receive the decryption key to get their files back – although researchers say the figure is likely an exaggeration.

Helped along by an affiliate model that allowed low-level cyber criminals to buy ready-made kits that made attacks easy to distribute, in exchange for 40% of the cut going to the authors, GandCrab at one point accounted for over half of all ransomware infections.

Several free decryption tools have been released to combat GandCrab over the past 18 months – something which Bitdefender and partner law enforcement agencies say has helped over 30,000 victims and prevented more than $50m being paid to the attackers.

The latest GandCrab decryptor has been released by Bitdefender in partnership with Europol, Romanian Police, DIICOT, FBI, the UK’s National Crime Agency and the Metropolitan Police, as well as police forces across Europe.

The tool is available to download from both Bitdefender Labs and the No More Ransom project. The latter is a joint scheme by a large number of cybersecurity companies, governments and law enforcement agencies, which provide free decryption tools for many different forms of ransomware.

The latest version of the GandCrab decryptor comes shortly after the creators of the ransomware announced that they plan to retire, claiming to have pocketed hundreds of millions from the malware.

“We can safely assume that 5.2 will be the last ransomware version ever from the GandCrab team”, Bogdan Botezatu, director of threat research and reporting at Bitdefender told ZDNet.

SEE: A winning strategy for cybersecurity (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)  

While affiliates can still distribute GandCrab for now, the shutdown of the operation means that it won’t be profitable for much longer. However, it could still potentially cause issues for victims, not only via causing infections, but once GandCrab operations have ceased, it means even if victims pay ransom demands, they won’t get their files back.

“The GandCrab team has stopped affiliates from accessing new versions of the malware and has urged them to prepare for an imminent shutdown. The shutdown will be followed by deletion of all keys, leaving the victims unable to retrieve the ransomed data even if they do pay the ransom,” said Botezatu.

Despite the end of GandCrab, ransomware remains a large threat to organisations, with several high-profile attacks in recent months highlighting the danger posed.

To avoid falling victim to ransomware in the first place, researchers recommend that all software and applications are patched and up-to-date to avoid attackers being able to take advantage of known vulnerabilities. It’s also recommended that organisations frequently backup their systems, so if a ransomware infection does occur, the network can be restored from a recent backup.

Cybersecurity companies and law enforcement agencies warn that victims shouldn’t give into the demands of attackers – not only does it fund crime, but attackers could label those who pay up as soft targets and strike again at a later date.

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Cloud Data Security

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Data security has become an immutable part of the technology stack for modern applications. Protecting application assets and data against cybercriminal activities, insider threats, and basic human negligence is no longer an afterthought. It must be addressed early and often, both in the application development cycle and the data analytics stack.

The requirements have grown well beyond the simplistic features provided by data platforms, and as a result a competitive industry has emerged to address the security layer. The capabilities of this layer must be more than thorough, they must also be usable and streamlined, adding a minimum of overhead to existing processes.

To measure the policy management burden, we designed a reproducible test that included a standardized, publicly available dataset and a number of access control policy management scenarios based on real world use cases we have observed for cloud data workloads. We tested two options: Apache Ranger with Apache Atlas and Immuta. This study contrasts the differences between a largely role-based access control model with object tagging (OT-RBAC) to a pure attribute-based access control (ABAC) model using these respective technologies.

This study captures the time and effort involved in managing the ever-evolving access control policies at a modern data-driven enterprise. With this study, we show the impacts of data access control policy management in terms of:

  • Dynamic versus static
  • Scalability
  • Evolvability

In our scenarios, Ranger alone took 76x more policy changes than Immuta to accomplish the same data security objectives, while Ranger with Apache Atlas took 63x more policy changes. For our advanced use cases, Immuta only required one policy change each, while Ranger was not able to fulfill the data security requirement at all.

This study exposed the limitations of extending legacy Hadoop security components into cloud use cases. Apache Ranger uses static policies in an OT-RBAC model for the Hadoop ecosystem with very limited support for attributes. The difference between it and Immuta’s attribute-based access control model (ABAC) became clear. By leveraging dynamic variables, nested attributes, and global row-level policies and row-level security, Immuta can be quickly implemented and updated in comparison with Ranger.

Using Ranger as a data security mechanism creates a high policy-management burden compared to Immuta, as organizations migrate and expand cloud data use—which is shown here to provide scalability, clarity, and evolvability in a complex enterprise’s data security and governance needs.

The chart in Figure 1 reveals the difference in cumulative policy changes required for each platform configuration.

Figure 1. Difference in Cumulative Policy Changes

The assessment and scoring rubric and methodology is detailed in the report. We leave the issue of fairness for the reader to determine. We strongly encourage you, as the reader, to discern for yourself what is of value. We hope this report is informative and helpful in uncovering some of the challenges and nuances of data governance platform selection. You are encouraged to compile your own representative use cases and workflows and review these platforms in a way that is applicable to your requirements.

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GigaOm Radar for Data Loss Prevention

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Data is at the core of modern business: It is our intellectual property, the lifeblood of our interactions with our employees, partners, and customers, and a true business asset. But in a world of increasingly distributed workforces, a growing threat from cybercriminals and bad actors, and ever more stringent regulation, our data is at risk and the impact of losing it, or losing access to it, can be catastrophic.

With this in mind, ensuring a strong data management and security strategy must be high on the agenda of any modern enterprise. Security of our data has to be a primary concern. Ensuring we know how, why, and where our data is used is crucial, as is the need to be sure that data does not leave the organization without appropriate checks and balances.

Keeping ahead of this challenge and mitigating the risk requires a multi-faceted approach. People and processes are key, as, of course, is technology in any data loss prevention (DLP) strategy.

This has led to a reevaluation of both technology and approach to DLP; a recognition that we must evolve an approach that is holistic, intelligent, and able to apply context to our data usage. DLP must form part of a broader risk management strategy.

Within this report, we evaluate the leading vendors who are offering solutions that can form part of your DLP strategy—tools that understand data as well as evaluate insider risk to help mitigate the threat of data loss. This report aims to give enterprise decision-makers an overview of how these offerings can be a part of a wider data security approach.

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Key Criteria for Evaluating Data Loss Prevention Platforms

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Data is a crucial asset for modern businesses and has to be protected in the same way as any other corporate asset, with diligence and care. Loss of data can have catastrophic effects, from reputational damage to significant fines for breaking increasingly stringent regulations.

While the risk of data loss is not new, the landscape we operate in is evolving rapidly. Data can leave data centers in many ways, whether accidental or malicious. The routes for exfiltration also continue to grow, ranging from email, USB sticks, and laptops to ever-more-widely-adopted cloud applications, collaboration tools, and mobile devices. This is driving a resurgence in the enterprise’s need to ensure that no data leaves the organization without appropriate checks and balances in place.

Keeping ahead of this challenge and mitigating the risk requires a multi-faceted approach. Policy, people, and technology are critical components in a data loss prevention (DLP) strategy.

As with any information security strategy, technology plays a significant role. DLP technology has traditionally played a part in helping organizations to mitigate some of the risks of uncontrolled data exfiltration. However, both the technology and threat landscape have shifted significantly, which has led to a reevaluation of DLP tools and strategy.

The modern approach to the challenge needs to be holistic and intelligent, capable of applying context to data usage by building a broader understanding of what the data is, who is using it, and why. Systems in place must also be able to learn when user activity should be classified as unusual so they can better interpret signs of a potential breach.

This advanced approach is also driving new ways of defining the discipline of data loss prevention. Dealing with these risks cannot be viewed in isolation; rather, it must be part of a wider insider risk-management strategy.

Stopping the loss of data, accidental or otherwise, is no small task. This GigaOM Key Criteria Report details DLP solutions and identifies key criteria and evaluation metrics for selecting such a solution. The corresponding GigOm Radar Report identifies vendors and products in this sector that excel. Together, these reports will give decision-makers an overview of the market to help them evaluate existing platforms and decide where to invest.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Solution Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

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