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Ransomware: New file-encrypting attack has links to GandCrab malware, say security researchers

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Ransomware: 11 steps to help keep hackers at bay
Falling victim to ransomware could put your vital business or personal data at risk of being lost forever. These steps can help bolster your defences.

A new form of ransomware shares a number of links with the GandCrab malware according to security company researchers, even though the developers of that infamous piece of ransomware earlier this year claimed to have retired.

GandCrab was one of the most successful families of ransomware during 2018 and 2019, with its authors offering it out ‘as-as-service’ in exchange for a cut for the profits. In June, they suddenly announced they were retiring, claiming to have earned over $2 billion since GandCrab first emerged in January 2018.

Many were sceptical as to whether the GandCrab crew had really ceased operations and now researchers have uncovered technical links between GandCrab and another form of ransomware – REvil – which suggest that the two forms of malware have the same authors.

REvil – also known as Sodinokibi – first emerged shortly before GandCrab ceased operation and has gone onto become one of the most prominent families of ransomware of 2019.

Now security researchers in the Secureworks Counter Threat Unit have detailed what they believe to be links which demonstrate that the developers of GandCrab – who they refer to as Gold Garden – are also responsible for REvil, which could have started life as a new version of GandCrab.

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

“It certainly shares some code overlap with GandCrab and there are even artefacts in there which suggest that it was intended to be an evolution of GandCrab and they decided that GandCrab was ripe for a reband and relaunch,” Rafe Pilling, information security researcher at Secureworks told ZDNet.

Analysis of REvil found that the string decoding functions employed by REvil and GandCrab are nearly identical, suggesting a strong link between the two forms of ransomware. REvil and GandCrab also share URL building functionality which produces the same URL patterns for command and control servers.

“When we see things like that, it’s a tell-tale which suggests the code has been shared,” said Pilling.

There’s also evidence that REvil was initially just intended to be a new version of GandCrab ransomware, as analysis of a beta version of REvil reveals that there are lines in the code which appear to be references to GandCrab. These include ‘gcfin’, which researchers believe stands for ‘GandCrab Final’, and ‘gc6’ which is believed to stand for GandCrab 6.

With those behind GandCrab famous for running a slick operation, it’s likely that these references to their original ransomware are a mistake – but it has enabled researchers to directly link REvil to the same group.

In addition to the similarities in the code, both REvil and GandCrab whitelist certain keyboard layouts so as to not infect Russian-based hosts. While this doesn’t directly link the two operations, it does suggest they are based in the same region.

When Gold Garden pulled GandCrab it was still running a successful operation, with a new build of the ransomware having only recently been released to counter a free decryption tool. However, it’s possible that the attackers introduced REvil to refresh their operations in an effort to keep one step ahead of law enforcement and security professionals.

REvil has already become one of the most high profile forms of ransomware and researchers warn that it’s set to replace GandCrab as the widespread ransomware threat.

To limit the damage of ransomware attacks, it’s recommended that organisations regularly backup their data and to patch systems to protect against cyber attacks which spread by exploiting old vulnerabilities.

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The Five Pillars of (Azure) Cloud-based Application Security

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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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Data Management and Secure Data Storage for the Enterprise

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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.

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CISO Podcast: Talking Anti-Phishing Solutions

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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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