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GandCrab ransomware operation says it’s shutting down

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The creators of the GandCrab ransomware announced yesterday they were shutting down their Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) operation, ZDNet has learned.

The GandCrab RaaS is an online portal where crooks sign up and pay to get access to custom builds of the GandCrab ransomware, which they later distribute via email spam, exploit kits, or other means.

When an infected user pays a ransom demand, the original GandCrab author earns a small commission, while the rest of the money goes to the crook who distributed the ransomware.

Retirement plans

Yesterday night, a source in the malware community has told ZDNet that the GandCrab RaaS operator formally announced plans to shut down their service within a month.

The announcement was made in an official thread on a well-known hacking forum, where the GandCrab RaaS has advertised its service since January 2018, when it formally launched.

In the forum message, the GandCrab authors bragged about the ransomware having earned over $2 billion in ransom payments, with the operators making roughly $2.5 million per week and $150 million per year. It goes without saying that these numbers should be taken with a grain of salt.

“We successfully cashed this money and legalized it in various spheres of white business both in real life and on the Internet,” the GandCrab crew bragged.

“We are leaving for a well-deserved retirement,” they said. “We have proved that by doing evil deeds, retribution does not come.”

GandCrab forum ad

Our source tells ZDNet that this was the last step in a process that started earlier this week when the GandCrab crew announced RaaS customers via private emails about plans to shut down the service.

Renters of the GandCrab ransomware were told to wind down operations and cash out within the next month.

Plans to delete decryption keys

The forum thread also leaves an ominous message for GandCrab victims, as the GandCrab RaaS operators said they were planning to delete all decryption keys, making file recovery for infected victims impossible.

Some of the security researchers we approached have told ZDNet this could be a ploy to make victims panic and pay the ransom demand. However, they shifted their views when they learned that GandCrab RaaS customers were also told to wind down operations.

In the past, when ransomware operations have shut down, they usually tended to release all victim decryption keys for free so that users could recover their data. Something like this happened for victims of ransomware families such as TeslaCrypt, XData, Crysis, and FilesLocker.

Even the GandCrab crew showed some compassion in the past by releasing free decryption keys for all users infected in war-torn Syria.

GandCrab was on the decline

A chart shared with ZDNet by Michael Gillespie — the creator of ID-Ransomware, a service that lets ransomware victims identify the type of ransomware that has infected their systems — shows a steady decline in GandCrab activity this month.

GandCrab IDR stats

Image: Michael Gillespie

The chart shows that GandCrab was losing customers even before the shutdown announcement.

Over the past year, the GandCrab ransomware family has been one of the most active ransomware threats around. It was one of the few ransomware strains that were being mass-distributed via email spam and exploit kits, but also as part of targeted attacks against high-profile organizations (a tactic known as big-game hunting) at the same time.

The ransomware has seen frequent updates and is currently at version 5.2, at the time of today’s shutdown.

Cyber-security firm Bitdefender released GandCrab decryptors on three occasions over the past year. These are apps that allow victims to recover encrypted files without paying the ransom. The last one was released in February this year and could decrypt GandCrab versions up to version 5.1 (with the exemption of v2 and v3).

The GandCrab author also had a spat with South Korean security vendor AhnLab last summer after the security firm released a vaccine for the GandCrab ransomware. As retaliation, they included a zero-day for the AhnLab antivirus in the GandCrab code.

Recently, Sophos Labs has observed criminal groups scanning the internet for open MySQL databases running on Windows systems, which they tried to infect with GandCrab. Probably the most high-profile attack that GandCrab was behind is a series of infections at customers of remote IT support firms in the month of February.

If the GandCrab crew follows through on their plans and actually shuts down, their legacy remains as one of a ransomware strain that has dominated the ransomware landscape in the second half of 2018 and the first half of 2019, when it was, by far, the most active strain on the market.

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Adventist Risk Management Data Protection Infrastructure

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Companies always want to enhance their ability to quickly address pressing business needs. Toward that end, they look for new ways to make their IT infrastructures more efficient—and more cost effective. Today, those pressing needs often center around data protection and regulatory compliance, which was certainly the case for Adventist Risk Management. What they wanted was an end-to-end, best-in-class solution to meet their needs. After trying several others, they found the perfect combination with HYCU and Nutanix, which provided:

  • Ease of deployment
  • Outstanding ROI
  • Overall TCO improvement

Nutanix Cloud Platform provides a software-defined hyperconverged infrastructure, while HYCU offers purpose-built backup and recovery for Nutanix. Compared to the previous traditional infrastructure and data protection solutions in use at Adventist Risk Management, Nutanix and HYCU simplified processes, speeding day-to-day operations up to 75%. Now, migration and update activities typically scheduled for weekends can be performed during working hours and help to increase IT staff and management quality of life. HYCU further increased savings by providing faster and more frequent points of recovery as well as better DR Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO) by increasing the ability to do daily backups from one to four per day.

Furthermore, the recent adoption of Nutanix Objects, which provides secure and performant S3 storage capabilities, enhanced the infrastructure by:

    • Improving overall performance for backups
    • Adding security against potential ransomware attacks
    • Replacing components difficult to manage and support

In the end, Nutanix and HYCU enabled their customer to save money, improve the existing environment, and, above all, meet regulatory compliance requirements without any struggle.

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Secure Insight: GigaOm Partners with the CISO Series

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Don’t look now, but GigaOm, the analyst firm that enables smart businesses to future-proof their decisions, is forging new partnerships to extend its reach and better inform busy IT decision makers. On Thursday, the company announced it was teaming with the CISO Series to share content and better support the community of chief information security officers, security practitioners, and security vendors.

“The CISO Series is one we have admired for a while because they have a very similar aim: They help security professionals become more knowledgeable and understand how their roles are changing,” said Ben Book, GigaOm founder and CEO. “We saw a clear common interest and are delighted to be working together.”

The CISO Series brand has built a formidable reputation through its podcasts, blogs, video chats, and live events for the security community. It has added the extremely popular CyberSecurity Headlines podcast to its stable this year, which joins the CISO/Security Vendor Relationship and Defense in Depth podcasts. Every Friday at 10am Pacific Time, the CISO Series hosts its highly engaging and fun weekly live CISO Series Video Chat, which viewers can register for here.

The channel partnership connects two of the strongest, fastest-growing brands in enterprise IT content production. The agreement enables the CISO Series to share exclusive GigaOm reports with its audience ahead of publication, while GigaOm is able to share insights from the CISO Series’ various publications through its social channels and newsletters. The CISO Series joins other media firms, such as The Register and SDXCentral, as official GigaOm Channel Partners.

“We are delighted to be working with GigaOm because we’re not only both addressing the same audience, but we’re also both trying to bring education and understanding to both the security vendor and practitioner communities,” said David Spark, managing editor and executive producer at the CISO Series. “GigaOm is providing some excellent reports that we’re leaning on for our discussions and reporting across all of our shows.”

Spark continued: “We are always tweaking our programming to bring the best and most up-to-date resources and we’re really impressed with both the volume and quality GigaOm is delivering. Not only are we impressed with their editorial work, but we also appreciate their business branding. It’s something we felt comfortable about aligning with the CISO Series brand as well.”

Check out the CISO Series schedule at http://crowdcast.io/cisoseries, or visit cisoseries.com for more information about the CISO Series and its weekly Video Chats.

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Key Criteria for Evaluating Vulnerability Management Tools

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Vulnerability management tools scan your IT estate to help identify and mitigate security risks and weaknesses. These tools can facilitate the development of a more comprehensive vulnerability management program. Leveraging people, processes, and technologies, successful initiatives effectively identify, classify, prioritize, and remediate security threats.

A security vulnerability is a weakness that can compromise the confidentiality, integrity, and availability (CIA) of information. Attackers are constantly looking to exploit defects in software code or insecure configurations. Vulnerabilities can exist anywhere in the software stack, from web applications and databases to infrastructure components such as load balancers, firewalls, machine and container images, operating systems, and libraries. This includes code used in the CI/CD pipeline as well as the infrastructure-as-code (IAC) that defines the compute, network, and storage infrastructure.

Recent cybersecurity events have exposed widespread vulnerabilities involving the exploitation of zero-day malware and unknown weaknesses. Threat actors continually discover new exploitation tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to take advantage of weaknesses throughout integrated systems. Moreover, identifying breach paths is increasingly complicated due to the widespread adoption of ephemeral services.

Vulnerability management solutions should provide end-to-end visibility of the protect-surface by aggregating both platform and application risks in a single pane of glass, while leveraging prioritized remediation based on business risk and threat context for efficiency. Containerized workloads deployed via DevOps pipelines have unique security requirements that demand a fully integrated vulnerability assessment to be automated into cloud platform services running containerized workloads.

The path to a mature security posture starts with the ability to identify vulnerabilities in software code, third-party libraries, and at runtime. In addition, the cloud platform used to host your applications should be scanned for misconfigurations. This requires the use of policy configuration baselines, benchmarks, and compliance standards that apply to both the infrastructure and the code used to build it. As organizations implement security guardrails early in the software development lifecycle (SDLC), they can take advantage of cloud-native culture to ensure network and security tools are used throughout all phases of the SDLC.

This GigaOm report explores the key criteria and emerging technologies that IT decision makers should evaluate when choosing a vulnerability management solution. The key criteria report, together with the GigaOm radar report that evaluates relevant products, provides a framework to help organizations assess the solutions currently available on the market and how these tools fit with their requirements.

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.

Vendor 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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