New Ryuk Ransomware Sample Targets Webservers

- Marc Elias, Security Researcher, McAfee Advanced Threat Research

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Executive Summary

Ryuk is a ransomware that encrypts a victim’s files and requests payment in Bitcoin cryptocurrency to release the keys used for encryption. Ryuk is used exclusively in targeted ransomware attacks.

Ryuk was first observed in August 2018 during a campaign that targeted several enterprises. Analysis of the initial versions of the ransomware revealed similarities and shared source code with the Hermes ransomware. Hermes ransomware is a commodity malware for sale on underground forums and has been used by multiple threat actors.

To encrypt files Ryuk utilizes a combination of symmetric AES (256-bit) encryption and asymmetric RSA (2048-bit or 4096-bit) encryption. The symmetric key is used to encrypt the file contents, while the asymmetric public key is used to encrypt the symmetric key. Upon payment of the ransom the corresponding asymmetric private key is released, allowing the encrypted files to be decrypted.

Because of the targeted nature of Ryuk infections, the initial infection vectors are tailored to the victim. Often seen initial vectors are spear-phishing emails, exploitation of compromised credentials to remote access systems and the use of previous commodity malware infections. As an example of the latter, the combination of Emotet and TrickBot, have frequently been observed in Ryuk attacks.

Coverage and Protection Advice

Ryuk is detected as Ransom-Ryuk! [partial-hash].

Defenders should be on the lookout for traces and behaviours that correlate to open source pen test tools such as win PEAS, Lazagne, Bloodhound and Sharp Hound, or hacking frameworks like Cobalt Strike, Metasploit, Empire or Covenant, as well as abnormal behavior of non-malicious tools that have a dual use. These seemingly legitimate tools (e.g., ADfind, PSExec, PowerShell, etc.) can be used for things like enumeration and execution. Subsequently, be on the lookout for abnormal usage of Windows Management Instrumentation WMIC (T1047). We advise everyone to check out the following blogs on evidence indicators for a targeted ransomware attack (Part1, Part2).

  • Looking at other similar Ransomware-as-a-Service families we have seen that certain entry vectors are quite common among ransomware criminals:
  • E-mail Spear phishing (T1566.001) often used to directly engage and/or gain an initial foothold. The initial phishing email can also be linked to a different malware strain, which acts as a loader and entry point for the attackers to continue completely compromising a victim’s network. We have observed this in the past with the likes of Trickbot & Ryuk or Qakbot & Prolock, etc.
  • Exploit Public-Facing Application (T1190) is another common entry vector, given cyber criminals are often avid consumers of security news and are always on the lookout for a good exploit. We therefore encourage organizations to be fast and diligent when it comes to applying patches. There are numerous examples in the past where vulnerabilities concerning remote access software, webservers, network edge equipment and firewalls have been used as an entry point.
  • Using valid accounts (T1078) is and has been a proven method for cybercriminals to gain a foothold. After all, why break the door down if you already have the keys? Weakly protected RDP access is a prime example of this entry method. For the best tips on RDP security, please see our blog explaining RDP security.
  • Valid accounts can also be obtained via commodity malware such as infostealers that are designed to steal credentials from a victim’s computer. Infostealer logs containing thousands of credentials can be purchased by ransomware criminals to search for VPN and corporate logins. For organizations, having a robust credential management and MFA on user accounts is an absolute must have.

When it comes to the actual ransomware binary, we strongly advise updating and upgrading endpoint protection, as well as enabling options like tamper protection and Rollback. Please read our blog on how to best configure ENS 10.7 to protect against ransomware for more details.

Summary of the Threat

  • Ryuk ransomware is used exclusively in targeted attacks
  • Latest sample now targets webservers
  • New ransom note prompts victims to install Tor browser to facilitate contact with the actors
  • After file encryption, the ransomware will print 50 copies of the ransom note on the default printer