Ransomware deploys virtual machines to hide itself from antivirus software

The operators of the RagnarLocker ransomware are installing the VirtualBox app and running virtual machines on computers they infect in order to run their ransomware in a “safe” environment, outside the reach of local antivirus software.

RagnarLocker
Background: https://news.sophos.com/en-us/2020/05/21/ragnar-locker-ransomware-deploys-virtual-machine-to-dodge-security/

This latest trick has been spotted and detailed today by UK cyber-security firm Sophos and shows the creativity and great lengths some ransomware gangs will go to avoid detection while attacking a victim.

WHAT’S RAGNARLOCKER?

Avoiding detection is crucial because RagnarLocker is not your typical ransomware gang. They’re a group that carefully selects targets, avoiding home consumers, and goes after corporate networks and government organizations only.

Sophos says the group has targeted victims in the past by abusing internet-exposed RDP endpoints and has compromised MSP (managed service provider) tools to breach companies and gain access to their internal networks.

On these networks, the RagnarLocker group deploys a version of their ransomware — customized per each victim — and then demands an astronomical decryption fee in the tune of tens and hundreds of thousands of US dollars.

Because each of these carefully planned intrusions represents a chance to earn large amounts of money, the RagnarLocker group has put a primer on stealth and has recently come up with a novel trick to avoid detection by antivirus software.

THE VIRTUAL MACHINE TRICK

The “trick” is actually pretty simple and clever when you think of it.

Instead of running the ransomware directly on the computer they want to encrypt, the RagnarLocker gang downloads and installs Oracle VirtualBox, a type of software that lets you run virtual machines.

The group then configures the virtual machine to give it full access to all local and shared drives, allowing the virtual machine to interact with files stored outside its own storage.

The next step is to boot up the virtual machine, running a stripped-down version of the Windows XP SP3 operating system, called MicroXP v0.82.

The final phase is to load the ransomware inside the virtual machine (VM) and run it. Because the ransomware runs inside the VM, the antivirus software won’t be able to detect the ransomware’s malicious process.

From the antivirus software’s point of view, files on the local system and shared drives will suddenly be replaced with their encrypted versions, and all the file modifications appear to come from a legitimate process — namely the VirtualBox app.

Mark Loman, director of engineering and threat mitigation at Sophos told ZDNet today that this is the first time he’s seen a ransomware gang abuse virtual machines during an attack.

“In the last few months, we’ve seen ransomware evolve in several ways. But, the Ragnar Locker adversaries are taking ransomware to a new level and thinking outside of the box,” he added.

An overview of the entire RagnarLocker ransomware, including its VM trick, is available in Sophos’ recent report here:

https://news.sophos.com/en-us/2020/05/21/ragnar-locker-ransomware-deploys-virtual-machine-to-dodge-security/

Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/ransomware-deploys-virtual-machines-to-hide-itself-from-antivirus-software/

By: By Catalin Cimpanu for Zero Day

Microsoft’s Linux love continues as PowerShell Core comes to Snap Store

‘Microsoft loves Linux’, the company’s CEO Satya Nadella declared in 2014.

Evidence of that newfound affection has been evident throughout 2018: with Ubuntu 18.04 being made available in the Microsoft Store, Windows File Explorer gaining the ability to launch a Linux Shell and a new option to install Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) distros from the command line. That’s without mentioning Microsoft’s release of the Linux-based Azure Sphere operating system.

Now Microsoft has released its command-line shell and scripting language PowerShell Core for the Ubuntu Snap Store, as part of PowerShell Core’s release as a snap package.

PowerShell Core in the Snap Store
Image: Canonical / Microsoft

Snap packages are containerized applications that can be installed on many Linux distributions, which Joey Aiello, PM for PowerShell at Microsoft, says has several advantages.

“Snap packages carry all of their own dependencies, so you don’t need to worry about the specific versions of shared libraries installed on your machine,” he said, adding updates to Snaps happen automatically, and are “safe to run” as they don’t interact with other applications or system files without your permission.

To install PowerShell Core as a snap package on a Linux-based OS, first install snapd and then run the command snap install powershell —classic. Then run the command pwsh from the terminal.

Microsoft continues to make regular improvements to the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), which allows Windows 10 to run various GNU/Linux distros from the Windows Store, providing access to Ubuntu, openSUSE, Fedora, Kali Linux, and Debian, and other distros to be added over time.

WSL distros run with a command line shell, rather than offering graphical desktops, and support a range of command line tools, as well as applications such as Apache web server and Oracle MySQL.

WSL allows different Linux distros to run side-by-side within Windows and Microsoft has previously stated that its aim with the WSL is to provide “the best development environment, regardless of the technologies that developers use, or the platforms they wish to target”.

However, at present, the WSL also has many disadvantages over a running a dedicated GNU/Linux system. Microsoft doesn’t support desktop environments or graphical applications running on WSL, and also says it is not suitable for running production workloads, for example an Apache server supporting a website.

This year saw Microsoft improve WSL to add support for Unix sockets allowing for communication between Windows, as well as for the curl and tar commands

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • Microsoft has released its command-line shell and scripting language PowerShell Core for the Ubuntu Snap Store, as part of PowerShell Core’s release as a snap package.
  • Snap packages are containerized applications that can be installed on many Linux distributions.

Ref: https://www.techrepublic.com/article/microsofts-linux-love-in-continues-as-powershell-core-comes-to-ubuntu-snap-store/

By: Nick Heath

Coinhive Now Affecting 23% of the World’s Organizations

Crypto-mining malware has continued to grow globally, with 23% of organizations worldwide affected by the Coinhive variant during January.

That’s according to Check Point’s Global Threat Impact Index, which shows three different variants of crypto-mining code in its top 10 most-prevalent rankings. In addition to Coinhive impacting more than one in five organizations, JSEcoin (a JavaScript miner that can be embedded in websites) was in fifth place and Cryptoloot (which targets PCs) was in ninth.

Coinhive, January’s No. 1 most-prevalent malware, performs online mining of Monero cryptocurrency when a user visits a web page. Implanted JavaScript uses the computational resources of the end user’s machines to mine coins, impacting system performance. While it’s offered as a legitimate service for webmasters looking for a monetization alternative to advertising, criminals often embed it into websites without the site knowing, and unscrupulous websites use it without letting site visitors know.

“Over the past three months crypto-mining malware has steadily become an increasing threat to organizations, as criminals have found it to be a lucrative revenue stream,” said Maya Horowitz, threat intelligence group manager at Check Point. “It is particularly challenging to protect against, as it is often hidden in websites, enabling hackers to use unsuspecting victims to tap into the huge CPU resource that many enterprises have available. As such, it is critical that organizations have the solutions in place that protect against these stealthy cyber-attacks.”

In addition to crypto-miners, Check Point researchers also discovered that 21% of organizations have still failed to deal with machines infected with the malware. Fireball, which came in at No. 2 in the rankings, manipulates victims’ browsers and turns their default search engines and homepages into fake search engines, which simply redirect the queries to either yahoo.com or google.com to generate ad revenue. It also can be used as a full-functioning malware downloader capable of executing any code on victims’ machines. It was first discovered in May 2017 and severely impacted organizations during summer of 2017.

The Rig Exploit Kit came in third for January, impacting 17% of organizations. Rig delivers exploits for Flash, Java, Silverlight and Internet Explorer.

On the mobile front, Lokibot, an Android banking Trojan, was the most popular malware used to attack organizations’ mobile estates. The code steals information, but it can also turn into a ransomware that locks the phone.

Lokibot was followed by the Triada and Hiddad mobile malwares in January. Triada is a modular backdoor for Android, which grants superuser privileges to downloaded malware. Hiddad is also an Android malware, focused on trojanizing legitimate apps then releasing them to a third-party store.

Source: https://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/news/coinhive-cryptominer-now-affecting/

By:  Tara Seals US/North America News Reporter, Infosecurity Magazine