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Wednesday, 24 March 2021 11:22

Yet another Windows ransomware strain appears on the scene Featured

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Yet another Windows ransomware strain appears on the scene Pixabay

Close on the heels of the DearCry Windows ransomware, that appeared earlier this month and attacked Microsoft Exchange Server flaws, another strain, known as Black Kingdom, has emerged to take advantage of the same vulnerabilities.

The global security firm Sophos said in a blog post that it had begun noticing the new Windows ransomware on 18 March as it took aim at Exchange boxes that still had not been patched to fix the ProxyLogon vulnerabilities disclosed by Microsoft on 3 March.

Mark Loman, a director of Engineering for Next-Gen Technologies at Sophos, said the new ransomware did not have the most sophisticated of payloads.

"In fact, our early analysis reveals that it is somewhat rudimentary and amateurish in its composition, but it can still cause a great deal of damage," he said.

"It may be related to a ransomware of the same name that appeared last year on machines that, at the time, were running a vulnerable version of the Pulse Secure VPN concentrator software."

Loman said Sophos researchers had found the origin of Black Kingdom was a remote server geolocated to Germany, while the attacker's IP also came from the same country. But as both addresses belong to a Tor exit node, he said the physical location of the attacker could not be pinpointed.

His blog post, to which Sophos' Vikas Singh, Alex Vermaning and Gabor Szappanos also contributed, included detailed technical analysis of how Black Kingdom worked.

"It's been three weeks since the release of security patches for the ProxyLogon vulnerabilities, and adversaries are racing against time to target still unpatched Exchange servers," Loman said.

"As we saw with DearCry ransomware, this can lead to the release of prototype, rushed or poor quality code created by less experienced developers. Today we report on another example of this, perpetrated by the operators behind Black Kingdom ransomware.

"The Black Kingdom ransomware targeting unpatched Exchange servers has all the hallmarks of being created by a motivated script-kiddie. The encryption tools and techniques are imperfect but the ransom of $10,000 in bitcoin is low enough to be successful. Every threat should be taken seriously, even seemingly low-quality ones.

"Defenders should take urgent steps to install Microsoft's patches to prevent exploitation of their Exchange Server. In addition, the Exchange server should be scanned for web shells that allow attackers run commands on the server. If this is not possible, the server should be disconnected from the internet or closely monitored by a threat response team."

Meanwhile, British security boffin Kevin Beaumont posted a tweet showing the ransom note from the new ransomware on one of his personal servers that functions as a honeypot.

"Black Kingdom ransomware on my personal servers. It does indeed encrypt files. They exclude c:\windows. However my storage drivers were in a different folder and it encrypted those... meaning the server doesn't boot any more. If you're reading Black Kingdom, exclude *.sys files," he said.


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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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