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Ivanti Sentry Vulnerability Analysis & Insights| Darktrace

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20
Dec 2023
20
Dec 2023
Darktrace observed a critical vulnerability in Ivanti Sentry's cybersecurity. Learn how this almost become a huge threat and how we stopped it in its tracks.

In an increasingly interconnected digital landscape, the prevalence of critical vulnerabilities in internet-facing systems stands as an open invitation to malicious actors. These vulnerabilities serve as a near limitless resource, granting attackers a continually array of entry points into targeted networks.

In the final week of August 2023, Darktrace observed malicious actors validating exploits for one such critical vulnerability, likely the critical RCE vulnerability, CVE-2023-38035, on Ivanti Sentry servers within multiple customer networks. Shortly after these successful tests were carried out, malicious actors were seen delivering crypto-mining and reconnaissance tools onto vulnerable Ivanti Sentry servers.

Fortunately, Darktrace DETECT™ was able to identify this post-exploitation activity on the compromised servers at the earliest possible stage, allowing the customer security teams to take action against affected devices. In environments where Darktrace RESPOND™ was enabled in autonomous response mode, Darktrace was further able inhibit the identified post-exploitation activity and stop malicious actors from progressing towards their end goals.

Exploitation of Vulnerabilities in Ivanti Products

The software provider, Ivanti, offers a variety of widely used endpoint management, service management, and security solutions. In July and August 2023, the Norwegian cybersecurity company, Mnemonic, disclosed three vulnerabilities in Ivanti products [1]/[2]/[3]; two in Ivanti's endpoint management solution, Ivanti Endpoint Manager Mobile (EPMM) (formerly called 'MobileIron Core'), and one in Ivanti’s security gateway solution, Ivanti Sentry (formerly called 'MobileIron Sentry'):

CVE-2023-35078

  • CVSS Score: 10.0
  • Affected Product: Ivanti EPMM
  • Details from Ivanti: [4]/[5]/[6]
  • Vulnerability type: Authentication bypass

CVE-2023-35081

  • CVSS Score: 7.2
  • Affected Product: Ivanti EPMM
  • Details from Ivanti: [7]/[8]/[9]
  • Vulnerability type: Directory traversal

CVE-2023-38035

  • CVSS Score:
  • Affected Product: Ivanti Sentry
  • Details from Ivanti: [10]/[11]/[12]
  • Vulnerability type: Authentication bypass

At the beginning of August 2023, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the Norwegian National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC-NO) provided details of advanced persistent threat (APT) activity targeting EPMM systems within Norwegian private sector and government networks via exploitation of CVE-2023-35078 combined with suspected exploitation of CVE-2023-35081.

In an article published in August 2023 [12], Ivanti disclosed that a very limited number of their customers had been subjected to exploitation of the Ivanti Sentry vulnerability, CVE-2023-38035, and on the August 22, 2023, CISA added the Ivanti Sentry vulnerability, CVE-2023-38035 to its ‘Known Exploited Vulnerabilities Catalogue’.  CVE-2023-38035 is a critical authentication bypass vulnerability affecting the System Manager Portal of Ivanti Sentry systems. The System Manager Portal, which is accessible by default on port 8433, is used for administration of the Ivanti Sentry system. Through exploitation of CVE-2023-38035, an unauthenticated actor with access to the System Manager Portal can achieve Remote Code Execution (RCE) on the underlying Ivanti Sentry system.

Observed Exploitation of CVE-2023-38035

On August 24, Darktrace observed Ivanti Sentry servers within several customer networks receiving successful SSL connections over port 8433 from the external endpoint, 34.77.65[.]112. The usage of port 8433 indicates that the System Manager Portal was accessed over the connections. Immediately after receiving these successful connections, Ivanti Sentry servers made GET requests over port 4444 to 34.77.65[.]112. The unusual string ‘Wget/1.14 (linux-gnu)’ appeared in the User-Agent headers of these requests, indicating that the command-line utility, wget, was abused to initiate the requests.

Figure 1: Event Log data for an Ivanti Sentry system showing the device breaching a range of DETECT models after contacting 34.77.65[.]112.The suspicious behavior highlighted by DETECT was subsequently investigated by Darktrace’s Cyber AI Analyst™, which was able to weave together these separate behaviors into single incidents representing the whole attack chain.

Figure 2: AI Analyst Incident representing a chain of suspicious activities from an Ivanti Sentry server.

In cases where Darktrace RESPOND was enabled in autonomous response mode, RESPOND was able to automatically enforce the Ivanti Sentry server’s normal pattern of life, thus blocking further exploit testing.

Figure 3: Event Log for an Ivanti Sentry server showing the device receiving a RESPOND action immediately after trying to 34.77.65[.]112.

The GET requests to 34.77.65[.]112 were responded to with the following HTML document:

Figure 4: Snapshot of the HTML document returned by 34.77.65[.]112.

None of the links within this HTML document were functional. Furthermore, the devices’ downloads of these HTML documents do not appear to have elicited further malicious activities. These facts suggest that the observed 34.77.65[.]112 activities were representative of a malicious actor validating exploits (likely for CVE-2023-38035) on Ivanti Sentry systems.

Over the next 24 hours, these Ivanti Sentry systems received successful SSL connections over port 8433 from a variety of suspicious external endpoints, such as 122.161.66[.]161. These connections resulted in Ivanti Sentry systems making HTTP GET requests to subdomains of ‘oast[.]site’ and ‘oast[.]live’. Strings containing ‘curl’ appeared in the User-Agent headers of these requests, indicating that the command-line utility, cURL, was abused to initiate the requests.

These ‘oast[.]site’ and ‘oast[.]live’ domains are used by the out-of-band application security testing (OAST) service, Interactsh. Malicious actors are known to abuse this service to carry out out-of-band (OOB) exploit testing. It, therefore, seems likely that these activities were also representative of a malicious actor validating exploits for CVE-2023-38035 on Ivanti Sentry systems.

Figure 5: Event Log for Ivanti Sentry system showing the device contacting an 'oast[.]site' endpoint after receiving connections from the suspicious, external endpoint 122.161.66[.]161.

The actors seen validating exploits for CVE-2023-38035 may have been conducting such activities in preparation for their own subsequent malicious activities. However, given the variety of attack chains which ensued from these exploit validation activities, it is also possible that they were carried out by Initial Access Brokers (IABs) The activities which ensued from exploit validation activities identified by Darktrace fell into two categories: internal network reconnaissance and cryptocurrency mining.

Reconnaissance Activities

In one of the reconnaissance cases, immediately after receiving successful SSL connections over port 8443 from the external endpoints 190.2.131[.]204 and 45.159.248[.]179, an Ivanti Sentry system was seen making a long SSL connection over port 443 to 23.92.29[.]148, and making wget GET requests over port 4444 with the Target URIs '/ncat' and ‘/TxPortMap’ to the external endpoints, 45.86.162[.]147 and 195.123.240[.]183.  

Figure 6: Event Log data for an Ivanti Sentry system showing the device making connections to the external endpoints, 45.86.162[.]147, 23.92.29[.]148, and 195.123.240[.]183, immediately after receiving connections from rare external endpoints.

The Ivanti Sentry system then went on to scan for open SMB ports on systems within the internal network. This activity likely resulted from an attacker dropping a port scanning utility on the vulnerable Ivanti Sentry system.

Figure 7: Event Log data for an Ivanti Sentry server showing the device breaching several DETECT models after downloading a port scanning tool from 195.123.240[.]183.

In another reconnaissance case, Darktrace observed multiple wget HTTP requests with Target URIs such as ‘/awp.tar.gz’ and ‘/resp.tar.gz’ to a suspicious, external server (78.128.113[.]130).  Shortly after making these requests, the Ivanti Sentry system started to scan for open SMB ports and to respond to LLMNR queries from other internal devices. These behaviors indicate that the server may have installed an LLMNR poisoning tool, such as Responder. The Ivanti Sentry server also went on to conduct further information-gathering activities, such as LDAP reconnaissance, HTTP-based vulnerability scanning, HTTP-based password searching, and RDP port scanning.

Figure 8: Event Log data for an Ivanti Sentry system showing the device making connections to 78.128.113[.]130, scanning for an open SMB port on internal endpoints, and responding to LLMNR queries from internal endpoints.

In cases where Darktrace RESPOND was active, reconnaissance activities resulted in RESPOND enforcing the Ivanti Sentry server’s pattern of life.

Figure 9: Event Log data for an Ivanti Sentry system receiving a RESPOND action as a result of its SMB port scanning activity.
Figure 10: Event Log data for an Ivanti Sentry system receiving a RESPOND action as a result of its LDAP reconnaissance activity.

Crypto-Mining Activities

In one of the cryptomining cases, Darktrace detected an Ivanti Sentry server making SSL connections to aelix[.]xyz and mining pool endpoints after receiving successful SSL connections over port 8443 from the external endpoint, 140.228.24[.]160.

Figure 11: Event Log data for an Ivanti Sentry system showing the device contacting aelix[.]xyz and mining pool endpoints immediately after receiving connections from the external endpoint, 140.228.24[.]160.

In a cryptomining case on another customer’s network, an Ivanti Sentry server was seen making GET requests indicative of Kinsing malware infection. These requests included wget GET requests to 185.122.204[.]197 with the Target URIs ‘/unk.sh’ and ‘/se.sh’ and a combination of GET and POST requests to 185.221.154[.]208 with the User-Agent header ‘Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/99.0.4844.51 Safari/537.36’ and the Target URIs, ‘/mg’, ‘/ki’, ‘/get’, ‘/h2’, ‘/ms’, and ‘/mu’. These network-based artefacts have been observed in previous Kinsing infections [13].

Figure 12: Event Log data for an Ivanti Sentry system showing the device displaying likely Kinsing C2 activity.

On customer environments where RESPOND was active, Darktrace was able to take swift autonomous action by blocking cryptomining connection attempts to malicious command-and-control (C2) infrastructure, in this case Kinsing servers.

Figure 13: Event Log data for an Ivanti Sentry server showing the device receiving a RESPOND action after attempting to contact Kinsing C2 infrastructure.

Fortunately, due to Darktrace DETECT+RESPOND prompt identification and targeted actions against these emerging threats, coupled with remediating steps taken by affected customers’ security teams, neither the cryptocurrency mining activities nor the network reconnaissance activities led to significant disruption.  

Figure 14: Timeline of observed malicious activities.

Conclusion The inevitable presence of critical vulnerabilities in internet-facing systems underscores the perpetual challenge of defending against malicious intrusions. The near inexhaustible supply of entry routes into organizations’ networks available to malicious actors necessitates a more proactive and vigilant approach to network security.

While it is, of course, essential for organizations to secure their digital environments through the regular patching of software and keeping abreast of developing vulnerabilities that could impact their network, it is equally important to have a safeguard in place to mitigate against attackers who do manage to exploit newly discovered vulnerabilities.

In the case of Ivanti Sentry, Darktrace observed malicious actors validating exploits against affected servers on customer networks just a few days after the public disclosure of the critical vulnerability.  This activity was followed up by a variety of malicious and disruptive, activities including cryptocurrency mining and internal network reconnaissance.

Darktrace DETECT immediately detected post-exploitation activities on compromised Ivanti Sentry servers, enabling security teams to intervene at the earliest possible stage. Darktrace RESPOND, when active, autonomously inhibited detected post-exploitation activities. These DETECT detections, along with their accompanying RESPOND interventions, prevented malicious actors from being able to progress further towards their likely harmful objectives.

Credit to Sam Lister, Senior Cyber Analyst, and Trent Kessler, SOC Analyst  

Appendices

MITRE ATT&CK Mapping

Initial Access techniques:

  • Exploit Public-Facing Application (T1190)

Credential Access techniques:

  • Unsecured Credentials: Credentials In Files (T1552.001)
  • Adversary-in-the-Middle: LLMNR/NBT-NS Poisoning and SMB Relay (T1557.001)

Discovery

  • Network Service Discovery (T1046)
  • Remote System Discovery (T1018)
  • Account Discovery: Domain Account (T1087.002)

Command and Control techniques:

  • Application Layer Protocol: Web Protocols (T1071.001)
  • Ingress Tool Transfer (T1105)
  • Non-Standard Port (T1571)
  • Encrypted Channel: Asymmetric Cryptography (T1573.002)

Impact techniques

  • Resource Hijacking (T1496)
List of IoCs

Exploit testing IoCs:

·      34.77.65[.]112

·      Wget/1.14 (linux-gnu)

·      cjjovo7mhpt7geo8aqlgxp7ypod6dqaiz.oast[.]site • 178.128.16[.]97

·      curl/7.19.7 (x86_64-redhat-linux-gnu) libcurl/7.19.7 NSS/3.27.1 zlib/1.2.3 libidn/1.18 libssh2/1.4.2

·      cjk45q1chpqflh938kughtrfzgwiofns3.oast[.]site • 178.128.16[.]97

·      curl/7.29.0

Kinsing-related IoCs:

·      185.122.204[.]197

·      /unk.sh

·      /se.sh

·      185.221.154[.]208

·      185.221.154[.]208

·      45.15.158[.]124

·      Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/99.0.4844.51 Safari/537.36

·      /mg

·      /ki

·      /get

·      /h2

·      /ms

·      /mu

·      vocaltube[.]ru • 185.154.53[.]140

·      92.255.110[.]4

·      194.87.254[.]160

Responder-related IoCs:

·      78.128.113[.]130

·      78.128.113[.]34

·      /awp.tar.gz

·      /ivanty

·      /resp.tar.gz

Crypto-miner related IoCs:

·      140.228.24[.]160

·      aelix[.]xyz • 104.21.60[.]147 / 172.67.197[.]200

·      c8446f59cca2149cb5f56ced4b448c8d (JA3 client fingerprint)

·      b5eefe582e146aed29a21747a572e11c (JA3 client fingerprint)

·      pool.supportxmr[.]com

·      xmr.2miners[.]com

·      xmr.2miners[.]com

·      monerooceans[.]stream

·      xmr-eu2.nanopool[.]org

Port scanner-related IoCs:

·      122.161.66[.]161

·      192.241.235[.]32

·      45.86.162[.]147

·      /ncat

·      Wget/1.14 (linux-gnu)

·      45.159.248[.]179

·      142.93.115[.]146

·      23.92.29[.]148

·      /TxPortMap

·      195.123.240.183

·      6935a8d379e086ea1aed159b8abcb0bc8acf220bd1cbc0a84fd806f14014bca7 (SHA256 hash of downloaded file)

Darktrace DETECT Model Breaches

·      Anomalous Server Activity / New User Agent from Internet Facing System

·      Device / New User Agent

·      Anomalous Connection / New User Agent to IP Without Hostname

·      Device / New User Agent and New IP

·      Anomalous Connection / Application Protocol on Uncommon Port

·      Anomalous Connection / Callback on Web Facing Device

·      Compromise / High Volume of Connections with Beacon Score

·      Compromise / Large Number of Suspicious Failed Connections

·      Compromise / High Volume of Connections with Beacon Score

·      Compromise / Beacon for 4 Days

·      Compromise / Agent Beacon (Short Period)

·      Device / Large Number of Model Breaches

·      Anomalous Server Activity / Rare External from Server

·      Compromise / Large Number of Suspicious Successful Connections

·      Compromise / Monero Mining

·      Compromise / High Priority Crypto Currency Mining

·      Compromise / Sustained TCP Beaconing Activity To Rare Endpoint

·      Device / Internet Facing Device with High Priority Alert

·      Device / Suspicious SMB Scanning Activity

·      Device / Internet Facing Device with High Priority Alert

·      Device / Network Scan

·      Device / Unusual LDAP Bind and Search Activity

·      Compliance / Vulnerable Name Resolution

·      Device / Anomalous SMB Followed By Multiple Model Breaches

·      Device / New User Agent To Internal Server

·      Anomalous Connection / Suspicious HTTP Activity

·      Anomalous Connection / Unusual Internal Connections

·      Anomalous Connection / Suspicious HTTP Activity

·      Device / RDP Scan

·      Device / Large Number of Model Breaches

·      Compromise / Beaconing Activity To External Rare

·      Compromise / Beacon to Young Endpoint

·      Anomalous Connection / Suspicious HTTP Activity

·      Compromise / Suspicious Internal Use Of Web Protocol

·      Anomalous File / EXE from Rare External Location

·      Anomalous File / Internet Facing System File Download

·      Device / Suspicious SMB Scanning Activity

·      Device / Internet Facing Device with High Priority Alert

·      Device / Network Scan

·      Device / Initial Breach Chain Compromise

References

[1] https://www.mnemonic.io/resources/blog/ivanti-endpoint-manager-mobile-epmm-authentication-bypass-vulnerability/
[2] https://www.mnemonic.io/resources/blog/threat-advisory-remote-file-write-vulnerability-in-ivanti-epmm/
[3] https://www.mnemonic.io/resources/blog/threat-advisory-remote-code-execution-vulnerability-in-ivanti-sentry/
[4] https://www.ivanti.com/blog/cve-2023-35078-new-ivanti-epmm-vulnerability
[5] https://forums.ivanti.com/s/article/CVE-2023-35078-Remote-unauthenticated-API-access-vulnerability?language=en_US
[6] https://forums.ivanti.com/s/article/KB-Remote-unauthenticated-API-access-vulnerability-CVE-2023-35078?language=en_US
[7] https://www.ivanti.com/blog/cve-2023-35081-new-ivanti-epmm-vulnerability
[8] https://forums.ivanti.com/s/article/CVE-2023-35081-Arbitrary-File-Write?language=en_US
[9] https://forums.ivanti.com/s/article/KB-Arbitrary-File-Write-CVE-2023-35081?language=en_US
[10] https://www.ivanti.com/blog/cve-2023-38035-vulnerability-affecting-ivanti-sentry
[11] https://forums.ivanti.com/s/article/CVE-2023-38035-API-Authentication-Bypass-on-Sentry-Administrator-Interface?language=en_US
[12] https://forums.ivanti.com/s/article/KB-API-Authentication-Bypass-on-Sentry-Administrator-Interface-CVE-2023-38035?language=en_US
[13] https://isc.sans.edu/diary/Your+Business+Data+and+Machine+Learning+at+Risk+Attacks+Against+Apache+NiFi/29900

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.
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ABOUT ThE AUTHOR
Sam Lister
SOC Analyst
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Safeguarding Distribution Centers in the Digital Age

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12
Jun 2024

Challenges securing distribution centers

For large retail providers, e-commerce organizations, logistics & supply chain organizations, and other companies who rely on the distribution of goods to consumers cybersecurity efforts are often focused on an immense IT infrastructure. However, there's a critical, often overlooked segment of infrastructure that demands vigilant monitoring and robust protection: distribution centers.

Distribution centers play a critical role in the business operations of supply chains, logistics, and the retail industry. They serve as comprehensive logistics hubs, with many organizations operating multiple centers worldwide to meet consumer needs. Depending on their size and hours of operation, even just one hour of downtime at these centers can result in significant financial losses, ranging from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars per hour.

Due to the time-sensitive nature and business criticality of distribution centers, there has been a rise in applying modern technologies now including AI applications to enhance efficiency within these facilities. Today’s distribution centers are increasingly connected to Enterprise IT networks, the cloud and the internet to manage every stage of the supply chain. Additionally, it is common for organizations to allow 3rd party access to the distribution center networks and data for reasons including allowing them to scale their operations effectively.

However, this influx of new technologies and interconnected systems across IT, OT and cloud introduces new risks on the cybersecurity front. Distribution center networks include industrial operational technologies ICS/OT, IoT technologies, enterprise network technology, and cloud systems working in coordination. The convergence of these technologies creates a greater chance that blind spots exist for security practitioners and this increasing presence of networked technology increases the attack surface and potential for vulnerability. Thus, having cybersecurity measures that cover IT, OT or Cloud alone is not enough to secure a complex and dynamic distribution center network infrastructure.  

The OT network encompasses various systems, devices, hardware, and software, such as:

  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
  • Warehouse Execution System (WES)
  • Warehouse Control System (WCS)
  • Warehouse Management System (WMS)
  • Energy Management Systems (EMS)
  • Building Management Systems (BMS)
  • Distribution Control Systems (DCS)
  • Enterprise IT devices
  • OT and IoT: Engineering workstations, ICS application and management servers, PLCs, HMI, access control, cameras, and printers
  • Cloud applications

Distribution centers: An expanding attack surface

As these distribution centers have become increasingly automated, connected, and technologically advanced, their attack surfaces have inherently increased. Distribution centers now have a vastly different potential for cyber risk which includes:  

  • More networked devices present
  • Increased routable connectivity within industrial systems
  • Externally exposed industrial control systems
  • Increased remote access
  • IT/OT enterprise to industrial convergence
  • Cloud connectivity
  • Contractors, vendors, and consultants on site or remoting in  

Given the variety of connected systems, distribution centers are more exposed to external threats than ever before. Simultaneously, distribution center’s business criticality has positioned them as interesting targets to cyber adversaries seeking to cause disruption with significant financial impact.

Increased connectivity requires a unified security approach

When assessing the unique distribution center attack surface, the variety of interconnected systems and devices requires a cybersecurity approach that can cover the diverse technology environment.  

From a monitoring and visibility perspective, siloed IT, OT or cloud security solutions cannot provide the comprehensive asset management, threat detection, risk management, and response and remediation capabilities across interconnected digital infrastructure that a solution natively covering IT, cloud, OT, and IoT can provide.  

The problem with using siloed cybersecurity solutions to cover a distribution center is the visibility gaps that are inherently created when using multiple solutions to try and cover the totality of the diverse infrastructure. What this means is that for cross domain and multi-stage attacks, depending on the initial access point and where the adversary plans on actioning their objectives, multiple stages of the attack may not be detected or correlated if they security solutions lack visibility into OT, IT, IoT and cloud.

Comprehensive security under one solution

Darktrace leverages Self-Learning AI, which takes a new approach to cybersecurity. Instead of relying on rules and signatures, this AI trains on the specific business to learn a ‘pattern of life’ that models normal activity for every device, user, and connection. It can be applied anywhere an organization has data, and so can natively cover IT, OT, IoT, and cloud.  

With these models, Darktrace /OT provides improved visibility, threat detection and response, and risk management for proactive hardening recommendations.  

Visibility: Darktrace is the only OT security solution that natively covers IT, IoT and OT in unison. AI augmented workflows ensure OT cybersecurity analysts and operation engineers can manage IT and OT environments, leveraging a live asset inventory and tailored dashboards to optimize security workflows and minimize operator workload.

Threat detection, investigation, and response: The AI facilitates anomaly detection capable of detecting known, unknown, and insider threats and precise response for OT environments that contains threats at their earliest stages before they can jeopardize control systems. Darktrace immediately understands, identifies, and investigates all anomalous activity in OT networks, whether human or machine driven and uses Explainable AI to generate investigation reports via Darktrace’s Cyber AI Analyst.

Proactive risk identification: Risk management capabilities like attack path modeling can prioritize remediation and mitigation that will most effectively reduce derived risk scores. Rather than relying on knowledge of past attacks and CVE lists and scores, Darktrace AI learns what is ‘normal’ for its environment, discovering previously unknown threats and risks by detecting subtle shifts in behavior and connectivity. Through the application of Darktrace AI for OT environments, security teams can investigate novel attacks, discover blind spots, get live-time visibility across all their physical and digital assets, and reduce the time to detect, respond to, and triage security events.

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Daniel Simonds
Director of Operational Technology

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Inside the SOC

Medusa Ransomware: Looking Cyber Threats in the Eye with Darktrace

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Jun 2024

What is Living off the Land attack?

In the face of increasingly vigilant security teams and adept defense tools, attackers are continually looking for new ways to circumvent network security and gain access to their target environments. One common tactic is the leveraging of readily available utilities and services within a target organization’s environment in order to move through the kill chain; a popular method known as living off the land (LotL). Rather than having to leverage known malicious tools or write their own malware, attackers are able to easily exploit the existing infrastructure of their targets.

The Medusa ransomware group in particular are known to extensively employ LotL tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) in their attacks, as one Darktrace customer in the US discovered in early 2024.

What is Medusa Ransomware?

Medusa ransomware (not to be confused with MedusaLocker) was first observed in the wild towards the end of 2022 and has been a popular ransomware strain amongst threat actors since 2023 [1]. Medusa functions as a Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) platform, providing would-be attackers, also know as affiliates, with malicious software and infrastructure required to carry out disruptive ransomware attacks. The ransomware is known to target organizations across many different industries and countries around the world, including healthcare, education, manufacturing and retail, with a particular focus on the US [2].

How does medusa ransomware work?

Medusa affiliates are known to employ a number of TTPs to propagate their malware, most prodominantly gaining initial access by exploiting vulnerable internet-facing assets and targeting valid local and domain accounts that are used for system administration.

The ransomware is typically delivered via phishing and spear phishing campaigns containing malicious attachments [3] [4], but it has also been observed using initial access brokers to access target networks [5]. In terms of the LotL strategies employed in Medusa compromises, affiliates are often observed leveraging legitimate services like the ConnectWise remote monitoring and management (RMM) software and PDQ Deploy, in order to evade the detection of security teams who may be unable to distinguish the activity from normal or expected network traffic [2].

According to researchers, Medusa has a public Telegram channel that is used by threat actors to post any data that may have been stolen, likely in an attempt to extort organizations and demand payment [2].  

Darktrace’s Coverage of Medusa Ransomware

Established Foothold and C2 activity

In March 2024, Darktrace /NETWORK identified over 80 devices, including an internet facing domain controller, on a customer network performing an unusual number of activities that were indicative of an emerging ransomware attack. The suspicious behavior started when devices were observed making HTTP connections to the two unusual endpoints, “wizarr.manate[.]ch” and “go-sw6-02.adventos[.]de”, with the PowerShell and JWrapperDownloader user agents.

Darktrace’s Cyber AI Analyst™ launched an autonomous investigation into the connections and was able to connect the seemingly separate events into one wider incident spanning multiple different devices. This allowed the customer to visualize the activity in chronological order and gain a better understanding of the scope of the attack.

At this point, given the nature and rarity of the observed activity, Darktrace /NETWORK's autonomous response would have been expected to take autonomous action against affected devices, blocking them from making external connections to suspicious locations. However, autonomous response was not configured to take autonomous action at the time of the attack, meaning any mitigative actions had to be manually approved by the customer’s security team.

Internal Reconnaissance

Following these extensive HTTP connections, between March 1 and 7, Darktrace detected two devices making internal connection attempts to other devices, suggesting network scanning activity. Furthermore, Darktrace identified one of the devices making a connection with the URI “/nice ports, /Trinity.txt.bak”, indicating the use of the Nmap vulnerability scanning tool. While Nmap is primarily used legitimately by security teams to perform security audits and discover vulnerabilities that require addressing, it can also be leveraged by attackers who seek to exploit this information.

Darktrace / NETWORK model alert showing the URI “/nice ports, /Trinity.txt.bak”, indicating the use of Nmap.
Figure 1: Darktrace /NETWORK model alert showing the URI “/nice ports, /Trinity.txt.bak”, indicating the use of Nmap.

Darktrace observed actors using multiple credentials, including “svc-ndscans”, which was also seen alongside DCE-RPC activity that took place on March 1. Affected devices were also observed making ExecQuery and ExecMethod requests for IWbemServices. ExecQuery is commonly utilized to execute WMI Query Language (WQL) queries that allow the retrieval of information from WI, including system information or hardware details, while ExecMethod can be used by attackers to gather detailed information about a targeted system and its running processes, as well as a tool for lateral movement.

Lateral Movement

A few hours after the first observed scanning activity on March 1, Darktrace identified a chain of administrative connections between multiple devices, including the aforementioned internet-facing server.

Cyber AI Analyst was able to connect these administrative connections and separate them into three distinct ‘hops’, i.e. the number of administrative connections made from device A to device B, including any devices leveraged in between. The AI Analyst investigation was also able to link the previously detailed scanning activity to these administrative connections, identifying that the same device was involved in both cases.

Cyber AI Analyst investigation into the chain of lateral movement activity.
Figure 2: Cyber AI Analyst investigation into the chain of lateral movement activity.

On March 7, the internet exposed server was observed transferring suspicious files over SMB to multiple internal devices. This activity was identified as unusual by Darktrace compared to the device's normal SMB activity, with an unusual number of executable (.exe) and srvsvc files transferred targeting the ADMIN$ and IPC$ shares.

Cyber AI Analyst investigation into the suspicious SMB write activity.
Figure 3: Cyber AI Analyst investigation into the suspicious SMB write activity.
Graph highlighting the number of successful SMB writes and the associated model alerts.
Figure 4: Graph highlighting the number of successful SMB writes and the associated model alerts.

The threat actor was also seen writing SQLite3*.dll files over SMB using a another credential this time. These files likely contained the malicious payload that resulted in the customer’s files being encrypted with the extension “.s3db”.

Darktrace’s visibility over an affected device performing successful SMB writes.
Figure 5: Darktrace’s visibility over an affected device performing successful SMB writes.

Encryption of Files

Finally, Darktrace observed the malicious actor beginning to encrypt and delete files on the customer’s environment. More specifically, the actor was observed using credentials previously seen on the network to encrypt files with the aforementioned “.s3db” extension.

Darktrace’s visibility over the encrypted files.
Figure 6: Darktrace’s visibility over the encrypted files.


After that, Darktrace observed the attacker encrypting  files and appending them with the extension “.MEDUSA” while also dropping a ransom note with the file name “!!!Read_me_Medusa!!!.txt”

Darktrace’s detection of threat actors deleting files with the extension “.MEDUSA”.
Figure 7: Darktrace’s detection of threat actors deleting files with the extension “.MEDUSA”.
Darktrace’s detection of the Medusa ransom note.
Figure 8: Darktrace’s detection of the Medusa ransom note.

At the same time as these events, Darktrace observed the attacker utilizing a number of LotL techniques including SSL connections to “services.pdq[.]tools”, “teamviewer[.]com” and “anydesk[.]com”. While the use of these legitimate services may have bypassed traditional security tools, Darktrace’s anomaly-based approach enabled it to detect the activity and distinguish it from ‘normal’’ network activity. It is highly likely that these SSL connections represented the attacker attempting to exfiltrate sensitive data from the customer’s network, with a view to using it to extort the customer.

Cyber AI Analyst’s detection of “services.pdq[.]tools” usage.
Figure 9: Cyber AI Analyst’s detection of “services.pdq[.]tools” usage.

If this customer had been subscribed to Darktrace's Proactive Threat Notification (PTN) service at the time of the attack, they would have been promptly notified of these suspicious activities by the Darktrace Security Operation Center (SOC). In this way they could have been aware of the suspicious activities taking place in their infrastructure before the escalation of the compromise. Despite this, they were able to receive assistance through the Ask the Expert service (ATE) whereby Darktrace’s expert analyst team was on hand to assist the customer by triaging and investigating the incident further, ensuring the customer was well equipped to remediate.  

As Darktrace /NETWORK's autonomous response was not enabled in autonomous response mode, this ransomware attack was able to progress to the point of encryption and data exfiltration. Had autonomous response been properly configured to take autonomous action, Darktrace would have blocked all connections by affected devices to both internal and external endpoints, as well as enforcing a previously established “pattern of life” on the device to stop it from deviating from its expected behavior.

Conclusion

The threat actors in this Medusa ransomware attack attempted to utilize LotL techniques in order to bypass human security teams and traditional security tools. By exploiting trusted systems and tools, like Nmap and PDQ Deploy, attackers are able to carry out malicious activity under the guise of legitimate network traffic.

Darktrace’s Self-Learning AI, however, allows it to recognize the subtle deviations in a device’s behavior that tend to be indicative of compromise, regardless of whether it appears legitimate or benign on the surface.

Further to the detection of the individual events that made up this ransomware attack, Darktrace’s Cyber AI Analyst was able to correlate the activity and collate it under one wider incident. This allowed the customer to track the compromise and its attack phases from start to finish, ensuring they could obtain a holistic view of their digital environment and remediate effectively.

Credit to Maria Geronikolou, Cyber Analyst, Ryan Traill, Threat Content Lead

Appendices

Darktrace DETECT Model Detections

Anomalous Connection / SMB Enumeration

Device / Anomalous SMB Followed By Multiple Model Alerts

Device / Suspicious SMB Scanning Activity

Device / Attack and Recon Tools

Device / Suspicious File Writes to Multiple Hidden SMB Share

Compromise / Ransomware / Ransom or Offensive Words Written to SMB

Device / Internet Facing Device with High Priority Alert

Device / Network Scan

Anomalous Connection / Powershell to Rare External

Device / New PowerShell User Agent

Possible HTTP Command and Control

Extensive Suspicious DCE-RPC Activity

Possible SSL Command and Control to Multiple Endpoints

Suspicious Remote WMI Activity

Scanning of Multiple Devices

Possible Ransom Note Accessed over SMB

List of Indicators of Compromise (IoCs)

IoC – Type – Description + Confidence

207.188.6[.]17      -     IP address   -      C2 Endpoint

172.64.154[.]227 - IP address -        C2 Endpoint

wizarr.manate[.]ch  - Hostname -       C2 Endpoint

go-sw6-02.adventos[.]de.  Hostname  - C2 Endpoint

.MEDUSA             -        File extension     - Extension to encrypted files

.s3db               -             File extension    -  Created file extension

SQLite3-64.dll    -        File           -               Used tool

!!!Read_me_Medusa!!!.txt - File -   Ransom note

Svc-ndscans         -         Credential     -     Possible compromised credential

Svc-NinjaRMM      -       Credential      -     Possible compromised credential

MITRE ATT&CK Mapping

Discovery  - File and Directory Discovery - T1083

Reconnaissance    -  Scanning IP            -          T1595.001

Reconnaissance -  Vulnerability Scanning -  T1595.002

Lateral Movement -Exploitation of Remote Service -  T1210

Lateral Movement - Exploitation of Remote Service -   T1210

Lateral Movement  -  SMB/Windows Admin Shares     -    T1021.002

Lateral Movement   -  Taint Shared Content          -            T1080

Execution   - PowerShell     - T1059.001

Execution  -   Service Execution   -    T1059.002

Impact   -    Data Encrypted for Impact  -  T1486

References

[1] https://unit42.paloaltonetworks.com/medusa-ransomware-escalation-new-leak-site/

[2] https://thehackernews.com/2024/01/medusa-ransomware-on-rise-from-data.html

[3] https://www.trustwave.com/en-us/resources/blogs/trustwave-blog/unveiling-the-latest-ransomware-threats-targeting-the-casino-and-entertainment-industry/

[4] https://www.sangfor.com/farsight-labs-threat-intelligence/cybersecurity/security-advisory-for-medusa-ransomware

[5] https://thehackernews.com/2024/01/medusa-ransomware-on-rise-from-data.html

[6]https://any.run/report/8be3304fec9d41d44012213ddbb28980d2570edeef3523b909af2f97768a8d85/e4c54c9d-12fd-477f-8cbb-a20f8fb98912

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About the author
Maria Geronikolou
Cyber Analyst
Our ai. Your data.

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