A new variant of MegaCortex ransomware is making its way across Europe and the United States, leaving blackmail demands worth millions in its wake.
Accenture iDefense researchers described campaigns making use of MegaCortex v.2 in a blog post on Monday. According to Leo Fernandes, Senior Manager of the Malware Analysis and Countermeasures (MAC) team, the operators behind the ransomware are focusing on corporate targets — and are in it to hit the criminal jackpot.
During recent, targeted attacks, the operators of the C++ malware have focused on infiltrating servers containing corporate resources in order to encrypt them and any connected network hosts.
Malwarebytes believes that Qbot, Emotet, and Rietspoof Trojans may have a hand in distributing the malware. Other security experts have tracked the ransomware through Rietspoof loaders.
See also: DealPly adware abuses Microsoft, McAfee services to evade detection
Originally, MegaCortex contained a payload protected by a password only made available during a live infection. The researchers say this feature did make reverse-engineering more difficult, but also made widespread distribution a challenge as operators would need to monitor infection and manually finish up once the damage was done.
Now, in the new version of MegaCortex, the malicious code self-executes and the live password requirement has been quashed; instead, the password is now hard-coded.
There is also a range of other changes which Accenture says can be considered a trade of “some security for ease of use and automation.” These include a switch from the manual execution of batch files to automatically kill and stop antivirus solutions and other PC processes.
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In addition, the main payload was once executed by rundll32.exe and is now decrypted and executed from memory.
After infection, the malware performs a scan on the infected system and compares running processes to a ‘kill’ list, in order to terminate anti-analysis software. A list of drives is then drawn up and files are encrypted with the extension .megacortex. Shadow files are deleted and the ransom message is dropped in the C: directory.
An RSA public key, hardcoded into the malware, is used to encrypt files.
MegaCortex ransom demands have ranged from two to 600 Bitcoins, or roughly $20,000 to $5.8 million. The ransom note says, in part:
“We are working for profit. The core of this criminal business is to give back your valuable data in the original form (for ransom of course). We don’t do charity!”
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“With a hard-coded password and the addition of an anti-analysis component, third parties or affiliated actors could, in theory, distribute the ransomware without the need for an actor-supplied password for the installation,” the researchers say. “Indeed, potentially there could be an increase in the number of MegaCortex incidents if the actors decide to start delivering it through email campaigns or dropped as secondary stage by other malware families.”
Previous and related coverage
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The Five Pillars of (Azure) Cloud-based Application Security
This 1-hour webinar from GigaOm brings together experts in Azure cloud application migration and security, featuring GigaOm analyst Jon Collins and special guests from Fortinet, Director of Product Marketing for Public Cloud, Daniel Schrader, and Global Director of Public Cloud Architecture and Engineering, Aidan Walden.
These interesting times have accelerated the drive towards digital transformation, application rationalization, and migration to cloud-based architectures. Enterprise organizations are looking to increase efficiency, but without impacting performance or increasing risk, either from infrastructure resilience or end-user behaviors.
Success requires a combination of best practice and appropriate use of technology, depending on where the organization is on its cloud journey. Elements such as zero-trust access and security-driven networking need to be deployed in parallel with security-first operations, breach prevention and response.
If you are looking to migrate applications to the cloud and want to be sure your approach maximizes delivery whilst minimizing risk, this webinar is for you.
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This free 1-hour webinar from GigaOm Research brings together experts in data management and security, featuring GigaOm Analyst Enrico Signoretti and special guest from RackTop Systems, Jonathan Halstuch. The discussion will focus on data storage and how to protect data against cyberattacks.
Most of the recent news coverage and analysis of cyberattacks focus on hackers getting access and control of critical systems. Yet rarely is it mentioned that the most valuable asset for the organizations under attack is the data contained in these systems.
In this webinar, you will learn about the risks and costs of a poor data security management approach, and how to improve your data storage to prevent and mitigate the consequences of a compromised infrastructure.
CISO Podcast: Talking Anti-Phishing Solutions
Simon Gibson earlier this year published the report, “GigaOm Radar for Phishing Prevention and Detection,” which assessed more than a dozen security solutions focused on detecting and mitigating email-borne threats and vulnerabilities. As Gibson noted in his report, email remains a prime vector for attack, reflecting the strategic role it plays in corporate communications.
Earlier this week, Gibson’s report was a featured topic of discussions on David Spark’s popular CISO Security Vendor Relationship Podcast. In it, Spark interviewed a pair of chief information security officers—Mike Johnson, CISO for SalesForce, and James Dolph, CISO for Guidewire Software—to get their take on the role of anti-phishing solutions.
“I want to first give GigaOm some credit here for really pointing out the need to decide what to do with detections,” Johnson said when asked for his thoughts about selecting an anti-phishing tool. “I think a lot of companies charge into a solution for anti-phishing without thinking about what they are going to do when the thing triggers.”
As Johnson noted, the needs and vulnerabilities of a large organization aligned on Microsoft 365 are very different from those of a smaller outfit working with GSuite. A malicious Excel macro-laden file, for example, poses a credible threat to a Microsoft shop and therefore argues for a detonation solution to detect and neutralize malicious payloads before they can spread and morph. On the other hand, a smaller company is more exposed to business email compromise (BEC) attacks, since spending authority is often spread among many employees in these businesses.
Gibson’s radar report describes both in-line and out-of-band solutions, but Johnson said cloud-aligned infrastructures argue against traditional in-line schemes.
“If you put an in-line solution in front of [Microsoft] 365 or in front of GSuite, you are likely decreasing your reliability, because you’ve now introduced this single point of failure. Google and Microsoft have this massive amount of reliability that is built in,” Johnson said.
So how should IT decision makers go about selecting an anti-phishing solution? Dolph answered that question with a series of questions of his own:
“Does it nail the basics? Does it fit with the technologies we have in place? And then secondarily, is it reliable, is it tunable, is it manageable?” he asked. “Because it can add a lot overhead, especially if you have a small team if these tools are really disruptive to the email flow.”
Dolph concluded by noting that it’s important for solutions to provide insight that can help organizations target their protections, as well as support both training and awareness around threats. Finally, he urged organizations to consider how they can measure the effectiveness of solutions.
“I may look at other solutions in the future and how do I compare those solutions to the benchmark of what we have in place?”
Listen to the Podcast: CISO Podcast
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