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Egregor ransomware: Gone but not forgotten

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14
Jul 2021
14
Jul 2021
Ransomware groups are popping up every week, returning with new names and new variants. Learn how Darktrace detected Egregor ransomware in a customer environment, without the use of any signatures.

Ransomware groups are coming and going faster than ever. In June alone we saw Avaddon release its decryption keys unprompted and disappear from sight, while members of CLOP were arrested in Ukraine. The move follows increasing pressure from the US intelligence community and Ukrainian authorities, who took down Egregor ransomware back in February. Egregor had only been around since September 2020. It survived less than six months.

But these gangs aren’t going away – they are simply going underground. Despite ‘closures’, cases of ransomware continue to rise and new threat actors and independent hackers pop up on the Dark Web every day.

As malware actors lay low and resurface with new variants, keeping up with the stream of signatures and new strains has become untenable. This blog studies the techniques, tools and procedures (TTPs) observed from a real-life Egregor intrusion last autumn, which showcases how Self-Learning AI detected the attack without relying on signatures.

Egregor: Maze reloaded

150 companies
worldwide have fallen victim to Egregor.

Law enforcement authorities have been busy this year. Aside from Egregor and CLOP, actions were taken against Netwalker in Bulgaria and the US, while Europol announced that an international operation had disrupted the core infrastructure of Emotet, one of the most prominent botnets of the past decade.

All parties – from governments down to individual businesses – are taking the threat of ransomware more seriously. In response to this added pressure, cyber-criminals often prefer to shut up shop rather than hang around long enough to be arrested.

DarkSide famously closed down after the Colonial Pipeline attacks, only nine months after it had been created. An admin from the Ziggy gang announced that it would issue refunds and was looking for a job as a threat hunter.

“Hi. I am Ziggy ransomware administrator. We decided to publish all decryption keys.

We are very sad about what we did. As soon as possible, all the keys will be published in this channel.”

Take this apology with a pinch of salt. The players which have ‘closed down’ have not had a change of heart, they’ve just changed tack. Different names and new infrastructure can help keep the heat off and circumvent US sanctions or federal scrutiny. PayloadBIN (a new ransomware which cropped up last month), WastedLocker, Dridex, Hades, Phoenix, Indrik Spider… all just aliases for one single group: Evil Corp.

The FBI are becoming more aggressive in their methods of infiltration and disruption, so it is likely we will see more of these U-turns and guerrilla-style tactics. Temporary pop-up gangs are an emerging trend in place of large, established enterprises like REvil, whose websites also vanished following the attack against Kaseya. And there is no doubt we will continue to witness these ‘exit scams’, where groups retire and re-brand, like Maze did last September, when it came back as Egregor.

Darktrace detects malware regardless of the name or strain. It stopped Maze last year, and, as we shall see below, it stopped its successor Egregor, even though the code and C2 endpoints used in the intrusion had never been seen before.

30%
of ransom profits are taken by Egregor developers.

Egregor ransomware attack

Back in November 2020, Egregor was in full bloom, targeting major organizations and exfiltrating data in ‘double extortion’ attacks. At a logistics company in Europe with around 20,000 active devices, during a Darktrace Proof of Value (POV) trial, Egregor struck.

Figure 1: Timeline of the attack. The overall dwell time — from first C2 connection to encryption — was five days.

As a Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) gang, it appears Egregor had partnered with botnet providers to facilitate initial access. In this case, the compromised device carried signs of prior infection. It was seen connecting to an apparent Webex endpoint, before connecting to the Akamai doppelganger, amajai-technologies[.]network. This activity was followed by a number of command and control (C2) and exfiltration-related breaches.

Three days later, Darktrace observed lateral movement over HTTPS. Another device – a server – was seen connecting to the amajai host. This server wrote unusual numeric exectuables to shared SMB drives and took new service control. A third host then made a ~50GB upload to a rare IP.

Figure 2: Cyber AI Analyst summarizes the initial C2 and unusual SMB writes in a similar incident, followed later by a large upload to a rare external endpoint.

After two days, encryption began. This triggered multiple hosts breaches. On the final day, the attacker made large uploads to various endpoints, all from ostensibly compromised hosts.

Retrospective analysis

$4m
is the highest recorded cost of an Egregor ransom.

If the attack had not been neutralized at this point, it could have resulted in significant financial loss and reputational damage for the company. The two-pronged attack enabled Egregor both to encrypt critical resources and to exfiltrate them, with a view to publicizing sensitive data if the victims refused to pay up.

The affiliates who deployed the ransomware in this case were highly skilled. They leveraged a number of sophisticated techniques including the use of a large number of C2 endpoints, with doppelgangers and off-the-shelf tools.

The adoption of HTTPS for lateral movement and reconnaissance reduced lateral noise for scans and enumeration. The complex C2 had numerous endpoints, some of which were doppelgangers of legitimate sites. Furthermore, some malware was downloaded as masqueraded files: the mimetype Octet Streams were downloaded as ‘g.pixel’. These three tactics helped obfuscate the attacker’s movements and trick traditional security tools.

Ransomware attacks are occurring at a speed that even five years ago was unimaginable. In this case, the overall dwell time was less than a week, and part of the attack happened out of office hours. This highlights the need for Autonomous Response, which can keep up with novel threats and does not rely on humans being in the loop to contain cyber-attacks.

Gone today, here tomorrow

Egregor was busted in February, but we may well see it resurface under a different name and with modified code. If and when this happens, signatures will be of no use. Catching never-before-seen ransomware, which employs novel methods of intrusion and extortion, requires a different approach.

The endpoint in the case study above is now associated via open-source intelligence (OSINT) with Cobalt Strike. But at the time of the investigation, the C2 was unlisted. Similarly, the malware was unknown to OSINT and thus evaded signature-based tools.

Despite this, Self-Learning AI detected every single stage of the in-progress attack. No action was taken as it was only a trial POV so Darktrace had no remote access in the environment. However, after seeing the power of the technology, the organization decided to implement Darktrace across its digital estate.

Thanks to Darktrace analyst Roberto Romeu for his insights on the above threat find.

Learn how Darktrace stops Egregor and all forms of ransomware

Darktrace model detections:

  • Agent Beacon to New Endpoint
  • Agent Beacon (Long Period)
  • Agent Beacon (Medium Period)
  • Agent Beacon (Short Period)
  • Anomalous Octet Stream
  • Anomalous Server Activity / Outgoing from Server
  • Anomalous SMB Followed By Multiple Model Breaches
  • Anomalous SSL without SNI to New External
  • Beaconing Activity To External Rare
  • Beacon to Young Endpoint
  • Data Sent To New External Device
  • Data Sent to Rare Domain
  • DGA Beacon
  • Empire Python Activity Pattern
  • EXE from Rare External Location
  • High Volume of Connections with Beacon Score
  • High Volume of New or Uncommon Service Control
  • HTTP Beaconing to Rare Destination
  • Large Number of Model Breaches
  • Long Agent Connection to New Endpoint
  • Low and Slow Exfiltration
  • Multiple C2 Model Breaches
  • Multiple Connections to New External TCP Port
  • Multiple Failed Connections to Rare Endpoint
  • Multiple Lateral Movement Model Breaches
  • Network Scan
  • New Failed External Connections
  • New or Uncommon Service Control
  • Numeric Exe in SMB Write
  • Rare External SSL Self-Signed
  • Slow Beaconing Activity To External Rare
  • SMB Drive Write
  • SMB Enumeration
  • SSL Beaconing to Rare Destination
  • SSL or HTTP Beacon
  • Suspicious Beaconing Behaviour
  • Suspicious Self-Signed SSL
  • Sustained SSL or HTTP Increase
  • Quick and Regular Windows HTTP Beaconing
  • Uncommon 1 GiB Outbound
  • Unusual BITS Activity
  • Unusual Internal Connections
  • Unusual SMB Version 1 Connectivity
  • Zip or Gzip from Rare External Location

INSIDE THE SOC
Darktrace cyber analysts are world-class experts in threat intelligence, threat hunting and incident response, and provide 24/7 SOC support to thousands of Darktrace customers around the globe. Inside the SOC is exclusively authored by these experts, providing analysis of cyber incidents and threat trends, based on real-world experience in the field.
AUTHOR
ABOUT ThE AUTHOR
Justin Fier
SVP, Red Team Operations

Justin is one of the US’s leading cyber intelligence experts, and holds the position of SVP, Red Team Operations at Darktrace. His insights on cyber security and artificial intelligence have been widely reported in leading media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, CNN, The Washington Post, and VICELAND. With over 10 years’ experience in cyber defense, Justin has supported various elements in the US intelligence community, holding mission-critical security roles with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman Mission Systems and Abraxas. Justin is also a highly-skilled technical specialist, and works with Darktrace’s strategic global customers on threat analysis, defensive cyber operations, protecting IoT, and machine learning.

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Email

Looking Beyond Secure Email Gateways with the Latest Innovations to Darktrace/Email

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09
Apr 2024

Organizations Should Demand More from their Email Security

In response to a more intricate threat landscape, organizations should view email security as a critical component of their defense-in-depth strategy, rather than defending the inbox alone with a traditional Secure Email Gateway (SEG). Organizations need more than a traditional gateway – that doubles, instead of replaces, the capabilities provided by native security vendor – and require an equally granular degree of analysis across all messaging, including inbound, outbound, and lateral mail, plus Teams messages.  

Darktrace/Email is the industry’s most advanced cloud email security, powered by Self-Learning AI. It combines AI techniques to exceed the accuracy and efficiency of leading security solutions, and is the only security built to elevate, not duplicate, native email security.  

With its largest update ever, Darktrace/Email introduces the following innovations, finally allowing security teams to look beyond secure email gateways with autonomous AI:

  • AI-augmented data loss prevention to stop the entire spectrum of outbound mail threats
  • an easy way to deploy DMARC quickly with AI
  • major enhancements to streamline SOC workflows and increase the detection of sophisticated phishing links
  • expansion of Darktrace’s leading AI prevention to lateral mail, account compromise and Microsoft Teams

What’s New with Darktrace/Email  

Data Loss Prevention  

Block the entire spectrum of outbound mail threats with advanced data loss prevention that builds on tags in native email to stop unknown, accidental, and malicious data loss

Darktrace understands normal at individual user, group and organization level with a proven AI that detects abnormal user behavior and dynamic content changes. Using this understanding, Darktrace/Email actions outbound emails to stop unknown, accidental and malicious data loss.  

Traditional DLP solutions only take into account classified data, which relies on the manual input of labelling each data piece, or creating rules to catch pattern matches that try to stop data of certain types leaving the organization. But in today’s world of constantly changing data, regular expression and fingerprinting detection are no longer enough.

  • Human error – Because it understands normal for every user, Darktrace/Email can recognize cases of misdirected emails. Even if the data is correctly labelled or insensitive, Darktrace recognizes when the context in which it is being sent could be a case of data loss and warns the user.  
  • Unclassified data – Whereas traditional DLP solutions can only take action on classified data, Darktrace analyzes the range of data that is either pending labels or can’t be labeled with typical capabilities due to its understanding of the content and context of every email.  
  • Insider threat – If a malicious actor has compromised an account, data exfiltration may still be attempted on encrypted, intellectual property, or other forms of unlabelled data to avoid detection. Darktrace analyses user behaviour to catch cases of unusual data exfiltration from individual accounts.

And classification efforts already in place aren’t wasted – Darktrace/Email extends Microsoft Purview policies and sensitivity labels to avoid duplicate workflows for the security team, combining the best of both approaches to ensure organizations maintain control and visibility over their data.

End User and Security Workflows

Achieve more than 60% improvement in the quality of end-user phishing reports and detection of sophisticated malicious weblinks1

Darktrace/Email improves end-user reporting from the ground up to save security team resource. Employees will always be on the front line of email security – while other solutions assume that end-user reporting is automatically of poor quality, Darktrace prioritizes improving users’ security awareness to increase the quality of end-user reporting from day one.  

Users are empowered to assess and report suspicious activity with contextual banners and Cyber AI Analyst generated narratives for potentially suspicious emails, resulting in 60% fewer benign emails reported.  

Out of the higher-quality emails that end up being reported, the next step is to reduce the amount of emails that reach the SOC. Darktrace/Email’s Mailbox Security Assistant automates their triage with secondary analysis combining additional behavioral signals – using x20 more metrics than previously – with advanced link analysis to detect 70% more sophisticated malicious phishing links.2 This directly alleviates the burden of manual triage for security analysts.

For the emails that are received by the SOC, Darktrace/Email uses automation to reduce time spent investigating per incident. With live inbox view, security teams gain access to a centralized platform that combines intuitive search capabilities, Cyber AI Analyst reports, and mobile application access. Analysts can take remediation actions from within Darktrace/Email, eliminating console hopping and accelerating incident response.

Darktrace takes a user-focused and business-centric approach to email security, in contrast to the attack-centric rules and signatures approach of secure email gateways

Microsoft Teams

Detect threats within your Teams environment such as account compromise, phishing, malware and data loss

Around 83% of Fortune 500 companies rely on Microsoft Office products and services, particularly Teams and SharePoint.3

Darktrace now leverages the same behavioral AI techniques for Microsoft customers across 365 and Teams, allowing organizations to detect threats and signals of account compromise within their Teams environment including social engineering, malware and data loss.  

The primary use case for Microsoft Teams protection is as a potential entry vector. While messaging has traditionally been internal only, as organizations open up it is becoming an entry vector which needs to be treated with the same level of caution as email. That’s why we’re bringing our proven AI approach to Microsoft Teams, that understands the user behind the message.  

Anomalous messaging behavior is also a highly relevant indicator of whether a user has been compromised. Unlike other solutions that analyze Microsoft Teams content which focus on payloads, Darktrace goes beyond basic link and sandbox analysis and looks at actual user behavior from both a content and context perspective. This linguistic understanding isn’t bound by the requirement to match a signature to a malicious payload, rather it looks at the context in which the message has been delivered. From this analysis, Darktrace can spot the early symptoms of account compromise such as early-stage social engineering before a payload is delivered.

Lateral Mail Analysis

Detect and respond to internal mailflow with multi-layered AI to prevent account takeover, lateral phishing and data leaks

The industry’s most robust account takeover protection now prevents lateral mail account compromise. Darktrace has always looked at internal mail to inform inbound and outbound decisions, but will now elevate suspicious lateral mail behaviour using the same AI techniques for inbound, outbound and Teams analysis.

Darktrace integrates signals from across the entire mailflow and communication patterns to determine symptoms of account compromise, now including lateral mailflow

Unlike other solutions which only analyze payloads, Darktrace analyzes a whole range of signals to catch lateral movement before a payload is delivered. Contributing yet another layer to the AI behavioral profile for each user, security teams can now use signals from lateral mail to spot the early symptoms of account takeover and take autonomous actions to prevent further compromise.

DMARC

Gain in-depth visibility and control of 3rd parties using your domain with an industry-first AI-assisted DMARC

Darktrace has created the easiest path to brand protection and compliance with the new Darktrace/DMARC. This new capability continuously stops spoofing and phishing from the enterprise domain, while automatically enhancing email security and reducing the attack surface.

Darktrace/DMARC helps to upskill businesses by providing step by step guidance and automated record suggestions provide a clear, efficient road to enforcement. It allows organizations to quickly achieve compliance with requirements from Google, Yahoo, and others, to ensure that their emails are reaching mailboxes.  

Meanwhile, Darktrace/DMARC helps to reduce the overall attack surface by providing visibility over shadow-IT and third-party vendors sending on behalf of an organization’s brand, while informing recipients when emails from their domains are sent from un-authenticated DMARC source.

Darktrace/DMARC integrates with the wider Darktrace product platform, sharing insights to help further secure your business across Email Attack Path and Attack Surface management.

Conclusion

To learn more about the new innovations to Darktrace/Email download the solution brief here.

All of the new updates to Darktrace/Email sit within the new Darktrace ActiveAI Security Platform, creating a feedback loop between email security and the rest of the digital estate for better protection. Click to read more about the Darktrace ActiveAI Security Platform or to hear about the latest innovations to Darktrace/OT, the most comprehensive prevention, detection, and response solution purpose built for critical infrastructures.  

Learn about the intersection of cyber and AI by downloading the State of AI Cyber Security 2024 report to discover global findings that may surprise you, insights from security leaders, and recommendations for addressing today’s top challenges that you may face, too.

References

[1] Internal Darktrace Research

[2] Internal Darktrace Research

[3] Essential Microsoft Office Statistics in 2024

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About the author
Carlos Gray
Product Manager

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Managing Risk Beyond CVE Scores With the Latest Innovations to Darktrace/OT

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09
Apr 2024

Identifying Cyber Risk in Industrial Organizations

Compromised OT devices in ICS and SCADA environments pose significant physical risks, even endangering lives. However, identifying CVEs in the multitude of complex OT devices is labor-intensive and time-consuming, draining valuable resources.

Even after identifying a vulnerability, implementing a patch presents its own challenges limited maintenance windows and the need for uninterrupted operations strain IT and OT teams often leading organizations to prioritize availability over security leading vulnerabilities remaining unresolved for over 5 years on average. (1)

Darktrace’s New Innovation

Darktrace is an industry leader in cybersecurity with 10+ years of experience securing OT environments where we take a fundamentally different approach using Self-Learning AI to enhance threat detection and response.

Continuing to combat the expanding threat landscape, Darktrace is excited to announce new capabilities that enable a contextualized and proactive approach to managing cyber risk at industrial organizations.

Today we launch an innovation to our OT Cybersecurity solution, Darktrace/OT, that will add a layer of proactivity, enabling a comprehensive approach to risk management. This industry leading innovation for Darktrace/OT moves beyond CVE scores to redefine vulnerability management for critical infrastructure, tackling the full breadth of risks not limited by traditional controls.  

Darktrace/OT is the only OT security solution with comprehensive Risk Management which includes:

  • Contextualized risk analysis unique to your organization
  • The most realistic evaluation and prioritization of OT risk
  • Effectively mitigate risk across your OT infrastructure, with and without patching.
  • The only OT security solution that evaluates your defenses against Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) Groups.

The most comprehensive prevention, detection, and response solution purpose built for Critical Infrastructures

Darktrace’s Self-Learning AI technology is a cutting-edge innovation that implements real time prevention, detection, response, and recovery for operational technologies and enables a fundamental shift from the traditional approach to cyber defense by learning a ‘pattern of life’ for every network, device, and user.  

Rather than relying on knowledge of past attacks, AI technology learns what is ‘normal’ for its environment, discovering previously unknown threats by detecting subtle shifts in behavior. Through identifying these unexpected anomalies, security teams can investigate novel attacks, discover blind spots, have live time visibility across all their physical and digital assets, and reduce time to detect, respond to, and triage security events.  

  • Achieve greater visibility of OT and IT devices across all levels of the Purdue Model.
  • The industry's only OT security to scale threat detection and response, with a 92% time saving from triage to recovery.  
  • The only OT focused security solution to provide bespoke Risk Management.

To learn more about how Darktrace/OT approaches unique use cases for industrial organizations visit the Darktrace/OT Webpage or join us LIVE at a city near you.

Read more below to discover how new innovations to Darktrace/OT are bringing a new, contextualized approach to Risk Management for Industrial organizations.

For more information on the entire Darktrace/OT Solution read our solution brief here.

Darktrace/OT and New Risk Management

Risk Identification

Leveraging the visibility of Darktrace/OT which identifies individual systems throughout the Purdue Model and the relationship between them, Darktrace/OT identifies high-risk CVEs and presents potential attack routes that go beyond techniques requiring a known exploit, such as misuse of legitimate services. Each attack path will have a mathematical evaluation of difficulty and impact from initial access to the high value objectives.  

Together this gives comprehensive coverage over your real and potential risks from both an attacker and known vulnerability perspectives. OT attack paths as seen here even leverage insights between the industrial and corporate communications to reveal ways threat actors may take advantage of IT-OT convergence. This revelation of imperceptible risks fills gaps in traditional risk analysis like remote access and insider threats.

Figure 1: Darktrace/OT visualizing the most critical attack paths at an organization
Figure 1: Darktrace/OT visualizing the most critical attack paths at an organization
Figure 2: A specific Attack Path identified by Darktrace/OT

Risk Prioritization

Darktrace/OT prioritizes remediations and mitigations based on difficulty and damage to your unique organization, using the established Attack Paths.

We ascertain the priorities that apply to your organization beyond pure theoretical damage answering questions like:

  • How difficult is a particular vulnerability to exploit considering the steps an attacker would require to reach it?
  • And, how significant would the impact be if it was exploited within this particular network?

This expanded approach to risk prioritization has a much more comprehensive evaluation of your organization's unique risk than has ever been possible before. Traditional approaches of ranking only known vulnerabilities with isolated scores using CVSS and exploitability metrics, often leaves gaps in IT-OT risks and is blind to legitimate service exploitation.

Figure 3: Darktrace/OT leverages its contextual understand of the organization’s network to prioritize remediation that will have the positive impact on the risk score

Darktrace provides mitigation strategies associated with each identified risk and the relevant impact it has on your overall risk posture, across all MITRE ATT&CK techniques.

What sets Darktrace apart is our ability to contextualize these mitigations within the broader business. When patching vulnerabilities directly isn’t possible, Darktrace identifies alternative actions that harden attack paths leading to critical assets. Hardening the surrounding attack path increases the difficulty and therefore reduces the likelihood and impact of a breach.

That means unpatched vulnerabilities and vulnerable devices aren’t left unprotected. This also has an added bonus, those hardening techniques work for all devices in that network segment, so apply one change, secure many.

Figure 4: Darktrace prioritizes mitigation reducing accessibility of vulnerability and the overall risk score when patches aren’t available

Communicate Board Level Risk with APT Threat Mapping

Darktrace/OT bridges theory and practice as the only security solution that maps MITRE techniques, frequently used by APT Groups, onto AI-assessed critical Attack Paths. This unique solution provides unparalleled insights including sector and location intelligence, possible operating platforms, common techniques, exploited CVEs, and the number of potential devices affected in your environment, supporting holistic risk assessment and proactive defense measures.

Ultimately, this becomes a power dashboard to communicate board level risk, using both metric based evidence and industry standard threat mapping.

Conclusion

Darktrace/OT is part of the Darktrace ActiveAI Security Platform a native, holistic, AI-driven platform built on over ten years of AI research. It helps security teams shift to more a productive mode, finding the known and the unknown attacks and transforming the SOC with the various Darktrace products to drive efficiency gains. It does this across the whole incident lifecycle to lower risk, reduce time spent on active incidents, and drive return on investment.

Discover more about Darktrace's ever-strengthening platform with the upcoming changes coming to our Darktrace/Email product and other launch day blogs.

Join Darktrace LIVE half-day event to understand the reality versus the hype surrounding AI and how to achieve cyber resilience.

Learn about the intersection of cyber and AI by downloading the State of AI Cyber Security 2024 report to discover global findings that may surprise you, insights from security leaders, and recommendations for addressing today’s top challenges that you may face, too.  

References

1. https://research-information.bris.ac.uk/ws/portalfiles/portal/313646831/Catch_Me_if_You_Can.pdf

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About the author
Mitchell Bezzina
VP, Product and Solutions Marketing
Our ai. Your data.

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