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Post-Exploitation Activities of Ivanti CS/PS Appliances

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26
Jan 2024
26
Jan 2024
Darktrace’s teams have observed a surge in malicious activities targeting Ivanti Connect Secure (CS) and Ivanti Policy Secure (PS) appliances. Learn more!

What are 'Unknown Unknowns'?

When critical vulnerabilities in Internet-facing assets are not yet publicly disclosed, they can provide unfettered access to organizations’ networks. Threat actors’ exploitation of these vulnerabilities are prime examples of “unknown unknowns” – behaviors which security teams are not even aware that they are not aware of.  

Therefore, it is not surprising that zero-day vulnerabilities in Internet-facing assets are so attractive to state-linked actors and cybercriminals. These criminals will abuse the access these vulnerabilities afford them to progress towards harmful or disruptive objectives. This trend in threat actor activity was particularly salient in January 2024, following the disclosure of two critical vulnerabilities in Ivanti Connect Secure (CS) and Ivanti Policy Secure (PS) appliances. The widespread exploitation of these vulnerabilities was mirrored across Darktrace’s customer base in mid-January 2024, with Darktrace’s Security Operations Center (SOC) and Threat Research teams observing a surge in malicious activities targeting customers’ CS/PS appliances.

Vulnerabilities in Ivanti CS/PS

On January 10, 2024, Ivanti published a Security Advisory [1] and a Knowledge Base article [2] relating to the following two vulnerabilities in Ivanti Connect Secure (CS) and Ivanti Policy Secure (PS):

  • CVE-2023-46805 (CVSS: 8.2; Type: Authentication bypass vulnerability)
  • CVE-2024-21887 (CVSS: 9.1; Type: Command injection vulnerability)

Conjoined exploitation of these vulnerabilities allows for unauthenticated, remote code execution (RCE) on vulnerable Ivanti systems. Volexity [3] and Mandiant [4] reported clusters of CS/PS compromises, tracked as UTA0178 and UNC5221 respectively. UTA0178 and UNC5221 compromises involve exploitation of CVE-2023-46805 and CVE-2024-21887 to deliver web shells and JavaScript credential harvesters to targeted CS/PS appliances. Both Volexity and Mandiant linked these compromises to a likely espionage-motivated, state-linked actor. GreyNoise [5] and Volexity [6] also reported likely cybercriminal activities targeting CS/PS appliances to deliver cryptominers.

The scale of this recent Ivanti CS/PS exploitation is illustrated by research findings recently shared by Censys [7]. According to these findings, as of January 22, around 1.5% of 26,000 Internet-exposed Ivanti CS appliances have been compromised, with the majority of compromised hosts falling within the United States. As cybercriminal interest in these Ivanti CS/PS vulnerabilities continues to grow, it is likely that so too will the number of attacks targeting them.

Observed Malicious Activities

Since January 15, 2024, Darktrace’s SOC and Threat Research team have observed a significant volume of malicious activities targeting customers’ Ivanti CS/PS appliances. Amongst the string of activities that were observed, the following threads were identified as salient:

  • Exploit validation activity
  • Exfiltration of system information
  • Delivery of C2 implant from AWS
  • Delivery of JavaScript credential stealer
  • SimpleHelp usage
  • Encrypted C2 on port 53
  • Delivery of cryptominer

Exploit Validation Activity

Malicious actors were observed using the out-of-band application security testing (OAST) services, Interactsh and Burp Collaborator, to validate exploits for CS/PS vulnerabilities. Malicious use of OAST services for exploit validation is common and has been seen in the early stages of previous campaigns targeting Ivanti systems [8]. In this case, the Interact[.]sh exploit tests were evidenced by CS/PS appliances making GET requests with a cURL User-Agent header to subdomains of 'oast[.]live', 'oast[.]site', 'oast[.]fun', 'oast[.]me', 'oast[.]online' and 'oast[.]pro'.  Burp Collaborator exploit tests were evidenced by CS/PS appliances making GET requests with a cURL User-Agent header to subdomains of ‘collab.urmcyber[.]xyz’ and ‘dnslog[.]store’.

Figure 1: Event Log showing a CS/PS appliance contacting an 'oast[.]pro' endpoint.
Figure 2: Event Log showing a CS/PS appliance contacting a 'collab.urmcyber[.]xyz' endpoint.
Figure 3: Packet capture (PCAP) of an Interactsh GET request.
Figure 4: PCAP of a Burp Collaborator GET request.

Exfiltration of System Information

The majority of compromised CS/PS appliances identified by Darktrace were seen using cURL to transfer hundreds of MBs of data to the external endpoint, 139.180.194[.]132. This activity appeared to be related to a threat actor attempting to exfiltrate system-related information from CS/PS appliances. These data transfers were carried out via HTTP on ports 443 and 80, with the Target URIs ‘/hello’ and ‘/helloq’ being seen in the relevant HTTP POST requests. The files sent over these data transfers were ‘.dat’ and ‘.sys’ files with what seems to be the public IP address of the targeted appliance appearing in each file’s name.

Figure 5: Event Log shows a CS/PS appliance making a POST request to 139.180.194[.]132 whilst simultaneously receiving connections from suspicious external endpoints.
Figure 6: PCAP of a POST request to 139.180.194[.]132.

Delivery of Command-and-Control (C2) implant from Amazon Web Services (AWS)

In many of the compromises observed by Darktrace, the malicious actor in question was observed delivering likely Rust-based ELF payloads to the CS/PS appliance from the AWS endpoints, archivevalley-media.s3.amazonaws[.]com, abode-dashboard-media.s3.ap-south-1.amazonaws[.]com, shapefiles.fews.net.s3.amazonaws[.]com, and blooming.s3.amazonaws[.]com. In one particular case, these downloads were immediately followed by the delivery of an 18 MB payload (likely a C2 implant) from the AWS endpoint, be-at-home.s3.ap-northeast-2.amazonaws[.]com, to the CS/PS appliance. Post-delivery, the implant seems to have initiated SSL beaconing connections to the external host, music.farstream[.]org. Around this time, Darktrace also observed the actor initiating port scanning and SMB enumeration activities from the CS/PS appliance, likely in preparation for moving laterally through the network.

Figure 7: Advanced Search logs showing a CS/PS appliance beaconing to music.farstream[.]org after downloading several payloads from AWS.

Delivery of JavaScript credential stealer

In a small number of observed cases, Darktrace observed malicious actors delivering what appeared to be a JavaScript credential harvester to targeted CS/PS appliances. The relevant JavaScript code contains instructions to send login credentials to likely compromised websites. In one case, the website, www.miltonhouse[.]nl, appeared in the code snippet, and in another, the website, cpanel.netbar[.]org, was observed. Following the delivery of this JavaScript code, HTTPS connections were observed to these websites.  This likely credential harvester appears to strongly resemble the credential stealer observed by Mandiant (dubbed ‘WARPWIRE’) in UNC5221 compromises and the credential stealer observed by Veloxity in UTA0178 compromises.

Figure 8: PCAP of ‘/3.js’ GET request for JavaScript credential harvester.
Figure 9: Snippet of response to '/3.js’ GET request.
Figure 10: PCAP of ‘/auth.js’ GET request for JavaScript credential harvester.
Figure 11: Snippet of response to '/auth.js’ GET request.
Figure 12: Advanced Search logs showing VPN-connected devices sending data to www.miltonhouse[.]nl after the Ivanti CS appliance received the JavaScript code.

The usage of this JavaScript credential harvester did not occur in isolation, but rather appears to have occurred as part of a chain of activity involving several further steps. The delivery of the ‘www.miltonhouse[.]nl’ JavaScript stealer seems to have occurred as a step in the following attack chain:  

1. Ivanti CS/PS appliance downloads a 8.38 MB ELF file over HTTP (with Target URI ‘/revsocks_linux_amd64’) from 188.116.20[.]38

2. Ivanti CS/PS appliance makes a long SSL connection (JA3 client fingerprint: 19e29534fd49dd27d09234e639c4057e) over port 8444 to 185.243.112[.]245, with several MBs of data being exchanged

3. Ivanti CS/PS appliance downloads a Perl script over HTTP (with Target URI ‘/login.txt’) from 188.116.20[.]38

4. Ivanti CS/PS appliance downloads a 1.53 ELF MB file over HTTP (with Target URI ‘/aparche2’) from 91.92.240[.]113

5. Ivanti CS/PS appliance downloads a 4.5 MB ELF file over HTTP (with Target URI ‘/agent’) from 91.92.240[.]113

6. Ivanti CS/PS appliance makes a long SSL connection (JA3 client fingerprint: 19e29534fd49dd27d09234e639c4057e) over port 11601 to 45.9.149[.]215, with several MBs of data being exchanged

7. Ivanti CS/PS appliance downloads Javascript credential harvester over HTTP (with Target URI ‘/auth.js’) from 91.92.240[.]113

8. Ivanti CS/PS appliance downloads a Perl script over HTTP (with Target URI ‘/login.cgi’) from 91.92.240[.]113

9. Ivanti CS/PS appliance makes a long SSL connection (JA3 client fingerprint: 19e29534fd49dd27d09234e639c4057e) over port 11601 to 91.92.240[.]71, with several MBs of data being exchanged

10. Ivanti CS/PS appliance makes a long SSL connection (JA3 client fingerprint: 19e29534fd49dd27d09234e639c4057e) over port 11601 to 45.9.149[.]215, with several MBs of data being exchanged

11. Ivanti CS/PS appliance makes a long SSL connection (JA3 client fingerprint: 19e29534fd49dd27d09234e639c4057e) over port 8080 to 91.92.240[.]113, with several MBs of data being exchanged

12. Ivanti CS/PS appliance makes a long SSL connection (JA3 client fingerprint: 19e29534fd49dd27d09234e639c4057e) over port 11601 to 45.9.149[.]112, with several MBs of data being exchanged  

These long SSL connections likely represent a malicious actor creating reverse shells from the targeted CS/PS appliance to their C2 infrastructure. Whilst it is not certain that these behaviors are part of the same attack chain, the similarities between them (such as the Target URIs, the JA3 client fingerprint and the use of port 11601) seem to suggest a link.  

Figure 13: Advanced Search logs showing a chain of malicious behaviours from a CS/PS appliance.
Figure 14: Advanced Search data showing the JA3 client fingerprint ‘19e29534fd49dd27d09234e639c4057e’ exclusively appearing in the aforementioned, long SSL connections from the targeted CS/PS appliance.
Figure 15: PCAP of ‘/login.txt’ GET request for a Perl script.
Figure 16: PCAP of ‘/login.cgi’ GET request for a Pearl script.

SimpleHelp Usage

After gaining a foothold on vulnerable CS/PS appliances, certain actors attempted to deepen their foothold within targeted networks. In several cases, actors were seen using valid account credentials to pivot over RDP from the vulnerable CS/PS appliance to other internal systems. Over these RDP connections, the actors appear to have installed the remote support tool, SimpleHelp, onto targeted internal systems, as evidenced by these systems’ subsequent HTTP requests. In one of the observed cases, a lateral movement target downloaded a 7.33 MB executable file over HTTP (Target URI: /ta.dat; User-Agent header: Microsoft BITS/7.8) from 45.9.149[.]215 just before showing signs of SimpleHelp usage. The apparent involvement of 45.9.149[.]215 in these SimpleHelp threads may indicate a connection between them and the credential harvesting thread outlined above.

Figure 17: Advanced Search logs showing an internal system making SimpleHelp-indicating HTTP requests immediately after receiving large volumes of data over RDP from an CS/PS appliance.
Figure 18: PCAP of a SimpleHelp-related GET request.

Encrypted C2 over port 53

In a handful of the recently observed CS/PS compromises, Darktrace identified malicious actors dropping a 16 MB payload which appears to use SSL-based C2 communication on port 53. C2 communication on port 53 is a commonly used attack method, with various malicious payloads, including Cobalt Strike DNS, being known to tunnel C2 communications via DNS requests on port 53. Encrypted C2 communication on port 53, however, is less common. In the cases observed by Darktrace, payloads were downloaded from 103.13.28[.]40 and subsequently reached back out to 103.13.28[.]40 over SSL on port 53.

Figure 19: PCAP of a ‘/linb64.png’ GET request.
Figure 20: Advanced Search logs showing a CS/PS appliance making SSL conns over port 53 to 103.13.28[.]40 immediately after downloading a 16 MB payload from 103.13.28[.]40.

Delivery of cryptominer

As is often the case, financially motivated actors also appeared to have sought to exploit the Ivanti appliances, with actors observed exploiting CS/PS appliances to deliver cryptomining malware. In one case, Darktrace observed an actor installing a Monero cryptominer onto a vulnerable CS/PS appliance, with the miner being downloaded via HTTP on port 8089 from 192.252.183[.]116.

Figure 21: PCAP of GET request for a Bash script which appeared to kill existing cryptominers.
Figure 22: PCAP of a GET request for a JSON config file – returned config file contains mining details such as ‘auto.3pool[.]org:19999’.
Figure 23: PCAP of a GET request for an ELF payload

Potential Pre-Ransomware Post-Compromise Activity

In one observed case, a compromise of a customer’s CS appliance was followed by an attacker using valid account credentials to connect to the customer’s CS VPN subnet. The attacker used these credentials to pivot to other parts of the customer’s network, with tools and services such as PsExec, Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) service, and Service Control being abused to facilitate the lateral movement. Other Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) tools, such as AnyDesk and ConnectWise Control (previously known as ScreenConnect), along with certain reconnaissance tools such as Netscan, Nmap, and PDQ, also appear to have been used. The attacker subsequently exfiltrated data (likely via Rclone) to the file storage service, put[.]io, potentially in preparation for a double extortion ransomware attack. However, at the time of writing, it was not clear what the relation was between this activity and the CS compromise which preceded it.

Darktrace Coverage

Darktrace has observed malicious actors carrying out a variety of post-exploitation activities on Internet-exposed CS/PS appliances, ranging from data exfiltration to the delivery of C2 implants and crypto-miners. These activities inevitably resulted in CS/PS appliances displaying patterns of network traffic greatly deviating from their typical “patterns of life”.

Darktrace DETECT™ identified these deviations and generated a variety of model breaches (i.e, alerts) highlighting the suspicious activity. Darktrace’s Cyber AI Analyst™ autonomously investigated the ongoing compromises and connected the individual model breaches, viewing them as related incidents rather than isolated events. When active and configured in autonomous response mode, Darktrace RESPOND™ containted attackers’ operations by autonomously blocking suspicious patterns of network traffic as soon as they were identified by Darktrace DETECT.

The exploit validation activities carried out by malicious actors resulted in CS/PS servers making HTTP connections with cURL User-Agent headers to endpoints associated with OAST services such as Interactsh and Burp Collaborator. Darktrace DETECT recognized that this HTTP activity was suspicious for affected devices, causing the following models to breach:

  • Compromise / Possible Tunnelling to Bin Services
  • Device / Suspicious Domain
  • Anomalous Server Activity / New User Agent from Internet Facing System
  • Device / New User Agent
Figure 24: Event Log showing a CS/PS appliance breaching models due to its Interactsh HTTP requests.
Figure 25: Cyber AI Analyst Incident Event highlighting a CS/PS appliance's Interactsh connections.

Malicious actors’ uploads of system information to 139.180.194[.]132 resulted in cURL POST requests being sent from the targeted CS/PS appliances. Darktrace DETECT judged these HTTP POST requests to be anomalous, resulting in combinations of the following model breaches:

  • Anomalous Connection / Posting HTTP to IP Without Hostname
  • Anomalous Server Activity / Outgoing from Server
  • Anomalous Server Activity / New User Agent from Internet Facing System
  • Unusual Activity / Unusual External Data Transfer
  • Unusual Activity / Unusual External Data to New Endpoint
  • Anomalous Connection / Data Sent to Rare Domain
Figure 26: Event Log showing the creation of a model breach due to a CS/PS appliance’s POST request to 139.180.194[.]132.
Figure 27: Cyber AI Analyst Incident Event highlighting POST requests from a CS/PS appliance to 139.180.194[.]132.

The installation of AWS-hosted C2 implants onto vulnerable CS/PS appliances resulted in beaconing connections which Darktrace DETECT recognized as anomalous, leading to the following model breaches:

  • Compromise / Beacon to Young Endpoint
  • Compromise / Beaconing Activity To External Rare
  • Compromise / High Volume of Connections with Beacon Score

When enabled in autonomous response mode, Darktrace RESPOND was able to follow up these detections by blocking affected devices from connecting externally over port 80, 443, 445 or 8081, effectively shutting down the attacker’s beaconing activity.

Figure 28: Event Log showing the creation of a model breach and the triggering of an autonomous RESPOND action due to a CS/PS appliance's beaconing connections.

The use of encrypted C2 on port 53 by malicious actors resulted in CS/PS appliances making SSL connections over port 53. Darktrace DETECT judged this port to be uncommon for SSL traffic and consequently generated the following model breach:

  • Anomalous Connection / Application Protocol on Uncommon Port
Figure 29: Cyber AI Analyst Incident Event highlighting a ‘/linb64.png’ GET request from a CS/PS appliance to 103.13.28[.]40.
Figure 30: Event Log showing the creation of a model breach due to CS/PS appliance’s external SSL connection on port 53.
Figure 31: Cyber AI Analyst Incident Event highlighting a CS/PS appliance’s SSL connections over port 53 to 103.13.28[.]40.

Malicious actors’ attempts to run cryptominers on vulnerable CS/PS appliances resulted in downloads of Bash scripts and JSON files from external endpoints rarely visited by the CS/PS appliances themselves or by neighboring systems. Darktrace DETECT identified these deviations in device behavior and generated the following model breaches:

  • Anomalous File / Script from Rare External Location
  • Anomalous File / Internet Facing System File Download

Darktrace RESPOND, when configured to respond autonomously, was subsequently able to carry out a number of actions to contain the attacker’s activity. This included blocking all outgoing traffic on offending devices and enforcing a “pattern of life” on devices ensuring they had to adhere to expected network behavior.

Figure 32: Event Log showing the creation of model breaches and the triggering of autonomous RESPOND actions in response to a CS/PS appliance’s cryptominer download.
Figure 33: Cyber AI Analyst Incident Event highlighting a CS/PS appliance’s cryptominer download.

The use of RDP to move laterally and spread SimpleHelp to other systems resulted in CS/PS appliances using privileged credentials to initiate RDP sessions. These RDP sessions, and the subsequent traffic resulting from usage of SimpleHelp, were recognized by Darktrace DETECT as being highly out of character, prompting the following model breaches:

  • Anomalous Connection / Unusual Admin RDP Session
  • Device / New User Agent
  • Anomalous Connection / New User Agent to IP Without Hostname
  • Compromise / Suspicious HTTP Beacons to Dotted Quad
  • Anomalous File / Anomalous Octet Stream (No User Agent)
  • Anomalous Server Activity / Rare External from Server
Figure 34: Event Log showing the creation of a model breach due to a CS/PS appliance’s usage of an admin credential to RDP to another internal system.
Figure 35: Event Log showing the creation of model breaches due to SimpleHelp-HTTP requests from a device targeted for lateral movement.
Figure 36: Cyber AI Analyst Incident Event highlighting the SimpleHelp-indicating HTTP requests made by an internal system.

Conclusion

The recent widespread exploitation of Ivanti CS/PS is a stark reminder of the threat posed by malicious actors armed with exploits for Internet-facing assets.

Based on the telemetry available to Darktrace, a wide range of malicious activities were carried out against CS/PS appliances, likely via exploitation of the recently disclosed CVE-2023-46805 and CVE-2024-21887 vulnerabilities.

These activities include the usage of OAST services for exploit validation, the exfiltration of system information to 139.180.194[.]132, the delivery of AWS-hosted C2 implants, the delivery of JavaScript credential stealers, the usage of SimpleHelp, the usage of SSL-based C2 on port 53, and the delivery of crypto-miners. These activities are far from exhaustive, and many more activities will undoubtedly be uncovered as the situation develops and our understanding grows.

While there were no patches available at the time of writing, Ivanti stated that they were expected to be released shortly, with the “first version targeted to be available to customers the week of 22 January 2023 and the final version targeted to be available the week of 19 February” [9].

Fortunately for vulnerable customers, in their absence of patches Darktrace DETECT was able to identify and alert for anomalous network activity that was carried out by malicious actors who had been able to successfully exploit the Ivanti CS and PS vulnerabilities. While the activity that followed these zero-day vulnerabilities may been able to have bypass traditional security tools reliant upon existing threat intelligence and indicators of compromise (IoCs), Darktrace’s anomaly-based approach allows it to identify such activity based on the subtle deviations in a devices behavior that typically emerge as threat actors begin to work towards their goals post-compromise.

In addition to Darktrace’s ability to identify this type of suspicious behavior, its autonomous response technology, Darktrace RESPOND is able to provide immediate follow-up with targeted mitigative actions to shut down malicious activity on affected customer environments as soon as it is detected.

Credit to: Nahisha Nobregas, SOC Analyst, Emma Foulger, Principle Cyber Analyst, and the Darktrace Threat Research Team

Appendices

List of IoCs Possible IoCs:

-       curl/7.19.7 (i686-redhat-linux-gnu) libcurl/7.63.0 OpenSSL/1.0.2n zlib/1.2.3

-       curl/7.19.7 (i686-redhat-linux-gnu) libcurl/7.63.0 OpenSSL/1.0.2n zlib/1.2.7

Mid-high confidence IoCs:

-       http://139.180.194[.]132:443/hello

-       http://139.180.194[.]132:443/helloq

-       http://blooming.s3.amazonaws[.]com/Ea7fbW98CyM5O (SHA256 hash: 816754f6eaf72d2e9c69fe09dcbe50576f7a052a1a450c2a19f01f57a6e13c17)

-       http://abode-dashboard-media.s3.ap-south-1.amazonaws[.]com/kaffMm40RNtkg (SHA256 hash: 47ff0ae9220a09bfad2a2fb1e2fa2c8ffe5e9cb0466646e2a940ac2e0cf55d04)

-       http://archivevalley-media.s3.amazonaws[.]com/bbU5Yn3yayTtV (SHA256 hash: c7ddd58dcb7d9e752157302d516de5492a70be30099c2f806cb15db49d466026)

-       http://shapefiles.fews.net.s3.amazonaws[.]com/g6cYGAxHt4JC1 (SHA256 hash: c26da19e17423ce4cb4c8c47ebc61d009e77fc1ac4e87ce548cf25b8e4f4dc28)

-       http://be-at-home.s3.ap-northeast-2.amazonaws[.]com/2ekjMjslSG9uI

-       music.farstream[.]org  • 104.21.86[.]153 / 172.67.221[.]78

-       http://197.243.22[.]27/3.js

-       http://91.92.240[.]113/auth.js

-       www.miltonhouse[.]nl • 88.240.53[.]22

-       cpanel.netbar[.]org • 146.19.212[.]12

-       http://188.116.20[.]38/revsocks_linux_amd64

-       185.243.112[.]245:8444

-        http://188.116.20[.]38/login.txt

-       http://91.92.240[.]113/aparche2 (SHA256 hash: 9d11c3cf10b20ff5b3e541147f9a965a4e66ed863803c54d93ba8a07c4aa7e50)

-       http://91.92.240[.]113/agent (SHA256 hash: 7967def86776f36ab6a663850120c5c70f397dd3834f11ba7a077205d37b117f)

-       45.9.149[.]215:11601

-       45.9.149[.]112:11601

-       http://91.92.240[.]113/login.cgi

-       91.92.240[.]71:11601

-       91.92.240[.]113:8080

-       http://45.9.149[.]215/ta.dat (SHA256 hash: 4bcf1333b3ad1252d067014c606fb3a5b6f675f85c59b69ca45669d45468e923)

-       91.92.241[.]18

-       94.156.64[.]252

-       http://144.172.76[.]76/lin86

-       144.172.122[.]14:443

-       http://185.243.115[.]58:37586/

-       http://103.13.28[.]40/linb64.png

-       103.13.28[.]40:53

-       159.89.82[.]235:8081

-       http://192.252.183[.]116:8089/u/123/100123/202401/d9a10f4568b649acae7bc2fe51fb5a98.sh

-       http://192.252.183[.]116:8089/u/123/100123/202401/sshd

-       http://192.252.183[.]116:8089/u/123/100123/202401/31a5f4ceae1e45e1a3cd30f5d7604d89.json

-       http://103.27.110[.]83/module/client_amd64

-       http://103.27.110[.]83/js/bootstrap.min.js?UUID=...

-       http://103.27.110[.]83/js/jquery.min.js

-       http://95.179.238[.]3/bak

-       http://91.92.244[.]59:8080/mbPHenSdr6Cf79XDAcKEVA

-       31.220.30[.]244

-       http://172.245.60[.]61:8443/SMUkbpX-0qNtLGsuCIuffAOLk9ZEBCG7bIcB2JT6GA/

-       http://172.245.60[.]61/ivanti

-       http://89.23.107[.]155:8080/l-5CzlHWjkp23gZiVLzvUg

-       http://185.156.72[.]51:8080/h7JpYIZZ1-rrk98v3YEy6w

-       http://185.156.72[.]51:8080/8uSQsOTwFyEAsXVwbAJ2mA

-       http://185.156.72[.]51:8080/vuln

-       185.156.72[.]51:4440

-       185.156.72[.]51:8080

-       185.156.72[.]51:4433

-       185.156.72[.]51:4446

-       185.156.72[.]51:4445

-       http://185.156.72[.]51/set.py

-       185.156.72[.]51:7777

-       45.9.151[.]107:7070

-       185.195.59[.]74:7070

-       185.195.59[.]74:20958

-       185.195.59[.]74:34436

-       185.195.59[.]74:37464

-       185.195.59[.]74:41468    

References

[1] https://forums.ivanti.com/s/article/CVE-2023-46805-Authentication-Bypass-CVE-2024-21887-Command-Injection-for-Ivanti-Connect-Secure-and-Ivanti-Policy-Secure-Gateways?language=en_US

[2] https://forums.ivanti.com/s/article/KB-CVE-2023-46805-Authentication-Bypass-CVE-2024-21887-Command-Injection-for-Ivanti-Connect-Secure-and-Ivanti-Policy-Secure-Gateways?language=en_US

[3] https://www.volexity.com/blog/2024/01/10/active-exploitation-of-two-zero-day-vulnerabilities-in-ivanti-connect-secure-vpn/

[4] https://www.mandiant.com/resources/blog/suspected-apt-targets-ivanti-zero-day

[5] https://www.greynoise.io/blog/ivanti-connect-secure-exploited-to-install-cryptominers

[6] https://www.volexity.com/blog/2024/01/18/ivanti-connect-secure-vpn-exploitation-new-observations/

[7] https://censys.com/the-mass-exploitation-of-ivanti-connect-secure/

[8] https://darktrace.com/blog/entry-via-sentry-analyzing-the-exploitation-of-a-critical-vulnerability-in-ivanti-sentry

[9] https://forums.ivanti.com/s/article/CVE-2023-46805-Authentication-Bypass-CVE-2024-21887-Command-Injection-for-Ivanti-Connect-Secure-and-Ivanti-Policy-Secure-Gateways?language=en_US  

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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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Inside the SOC

A Busy Agenda: Darktrace’s Detection of Qilin Ransomware-as-a-Service Operator

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04
Jul 2024

Qilin ransomware has recently dominated discussions across the cyber security landscape following its deployment in an attack on Synnovis, a UK-based medical laboratory company. The ransomware attack ultimately affected patient services at multiple National Health Service (NHS) hospitals that rely on Synnovis diagnostic and pathology services. Qilin’s origins, however, date back further to October 2022 when the group was observed seemingly posting leaked data from its first known victim on its Dedicated Leak Site (DLS) under the name Agenda[1].

The Darktrace Threat Research team investigated network artifacts related to Qilin and identified three probable cases of the ransomware across the Darktrace customer base between June 2022 and May 2024.

Qilin Ransomware-as-a-Service Operator

Qilin operates as a Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) that employs double extortion tactics, whereby harvested data is exfiltrated and threatened of publication on the group's DLS, which is hosted on Tor. Qilin ransomware has samples written in both the Golang and Rust programming languages, making it compilable with various operating systems, and is highly customizable. When building Qilin ransomware variants to be used on their target(s), affiliates can configure settings such as the encryption mode (i.e., skip-step, percent, and speed), the file extension being appended, files, extensions and directories to be skipped during the encryption, and the processes and services to be terminated, among others[1] [2].  

Trend Micro analysts, who were the first to discover Qilin samples in August 2022, when the name "Agenda" was still used in ransom notes, found that each analyzed sample was customized for the intended victims and that "unique company IDs were used as extensions of encrypted files" [3]. This information is configurable from within the Qilin's affiliate panel's 'Targets' section, shown below. The panel's background image features the eponym Chinese legendary chimerical creature Qilin (pronounced “Ke Lin”). Despite this Chinese mythology reference, Russian language was observed being used by a Qilin operator in an underground forum post aimed at hiring affiliates and advertising their RaaS operation[2].

Figure 1: Qilin ransomware’s affiliate panel.

Qilin's RaaS program purportedly has an attractive affiliates' payment structure, with affiliates allegedly able to earn 80% of ransom payments of USD 3m or less and 85% for payments above that figure[2], making it a possibly appealing option in the RaaS ecosystem.  Publication of stolen data and ransom payment negotiations are purportedly handled by Qilin operators. Qilin affiliates have been known to target companies located around the world and within a variety of industries, including critical sectors such as healthcare and energy.

As Qilin is a RaaS operation, the choice of targets does not necessarily reflect Qilin operators' intentions, but rather that of its affiliates.  Similarly, the tactics, techniques, procedures (TTPs) and indicators of compromise (IoC) identified by Darktrace are associated with the given affiliate deploying Qilin ransomware for their own purpose, rather than TTPs and IoCs of the Qilin group. Likewise, initial vectors of infection may vary from affiliate to affiliate. Previous studies show that initial access to networks were gained via spear phishing emails or by leveraging exposed applications and interfaces.

Differences have been observed in terms of data exfiltration and potential C2 external endpoints, suggesting the below investigations are not all related to the same group or actor(s).

Darktrace’s Threat Research Investigation

June 2022

Darktrace first detected an instance of Qilin ransomware back in June 2022, when an attacker was observed successfully accessing a customer’s Virtual Private Network (VPN) and compromising an administrative account, before using RDP to gain access to the customer’s Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) server

From there, an attack against the customer's VMware ESXi hosts was launched. Fortunately, a reboot of their virtual machines (VM) caught the attention of the security team who further uncovered that custom profiles had been created and remote scripts executed to change root passwords on their VM hosts. Three accounts were found to have been compromised and three systems encrypted by ransomware.  

Unfortunately, Darktrace was not configured to monitor the affected subnets at the time of the attack. Despite this, the customer was able to work directly with Darktrace analysts via the Ask the Expert (ATE) service to add the subnets in question to Darktrace’s visibility, allowing it to monitor for any further unusual behavior.

Once visibility over the compromised SCCM server was established, Darktrace observed a series of unusual network scanning activities and the use of Kali (a Linux distribution designed for digital forensics and penetration testing). Furthermore, the server was observed making connections to multiple rare external hosts, many using the “[.]ru” Top Level Domain (TLD). One of the external destinations the server was attempting to connect was found to be related to SystemBC, a malware that turns infected hosts into SOCKS5 proxy bots and provides command-and-control (C2) functionality.

Additionally, the server was observed making external connections over ports 993 and 143 (typically associated with the use of the Interactive Message Access Protocol (IMAP) to multiple rare external endpoints. This was likely due to the presence of Tofsee malware on the device.

After the compromise had been contained, Darktrace identified several ransom notes following the naming convention “README-RECOVER-<extension/company_id>.txt”” on the network. This naming convention, as well as the similar “<company_id>-RECOVER-README.txt” have been referenced by open-source intelligence (OSINT) providers as associated with Qilin ransom notes[5] [6] [7].

April 2023

The next case of Qilin ransomware observed by Darktrace took place in April 2023 on the network of a customer in the manufacturing sector in APAC. Unfortunately for the customer in this instance, Darktrace RESPOND™ was not active on their environment and no autonomous response actions were taken to contain the compromise.

Over the course of two days, Darktrace identified a wide range of malicious activity ranging from extensive initial scanning and lateral movement attempts to the writing of ransom notes that followed the aforementioned naming convention (i.e., “README-RECOVER-<extension/company_id>.txt”).

Darktrace observed two affected devices attempting to move laterally through the SMB, DCE-RPC and RDP network protocols. Default credentials (e.g., UserName, admin, administrator) were also observed in the large volumes of SMB sessions initiated by these devices. One of the target devices of these SMB connections was a domain controller, which was subsequently seen making suspicious WMI requests to multiple devices over DCE-RPC and enumerating SMB shares by binding to the ‘server service’ (srvsvc) named pipe to a high number of internal devices within a short time frame. The domain controller was further detected establishing an anomalously high number of connections to several internal devices, notably using the RDP administrative protocol via a default admin cookie.  

Repeated connections over the HTTP and SSL protocol to multiple newly observed IPs located in the 184.168.123.0/24 range were observed, indicating C2 connectivity.  WebDAV user agent and a JA3 fingerprint potentially associated with Cobalt Strike were notably observed in these connections. A few hours later, Darktrace detected additional suspicious external connections, this time to IPs associated with the MEGA cloud storage solution. Storage solutions such as MEGA are often abused by attackers to host stolen data post exfiltration. In this case, the endpoints were all rare for the network, suggesting this solution was not commonly used by legitimate users. Around 30 GB of data was exfiltrated over the SSL protocol.

Darktrace did not observe any encryption-related activity on this customer’s network, suggesting that encryption may have taken place locally or within network segments not monitored by Darktrace.

May 2024

The most recent instance of Qilin observed by Darktrace took place in May 2024 and involved a customer in the US. In this case, Darktrace initially detected affected devices using unusual administrative and default credentials, before additional internal systems were observed making extensive suspicious DCE-RPC requests to a range of internal locations, performing network scanning, making unusual internal RDP connections, and transferring suspicious executable files like 'a157496.exe' and '83b87b2.exe'.  SMB writes of the file "LSM_API_service" were also observed, activity which was considered 100% unusual by Darktrace; this is an RPC service that can be abused to enumerate logged-in users and steal their tokens. Various repeated connections likely representative of C2 communications were detected via both HTTP and SSL to rare external endpoints linked in OSINT to Cobalt Strike use. During these connections, HTTP GET requests for the following URIs were observed:

/asdffHTTPS

/asdfgdf

/asdfgHTTP

/download/sihost64.dll

Notably, this included a GET request a DLL file named "sihost64.dll" from a domain controller using PowerShell.  

Over 102 GB of data may have been transferred to another previously unseen endpoint, 194.165.16[.]13, via the unencrypted File Transfer Protocol (FTP). Additionally, many non-FTP connections to the endpoint could be observed, over which more than 783 GB of data was exfiltrated. Regarding file encryption activity, a wide range of destination devices and shares were targeted.

Figure 2: Advanced Search graph displaying the total volume of data transferred over FTP to a malicious IP.

During investigations, Darktrace’s Threat Research team identified an additional customer, also based in the United States, where similar data exfiltration activity was observed in April 2024. Although no indications of ransomware encryption were detected on the network, multiple similarities were observed with the case discussed just prior. Notably, the same exfiltration IP and protocol (194.165.16[.]13 and FTP, respectively) were identified in both cases. Additional HTTP connectivity was further observed to another IP using a self-signed certificate (i.e., CN=ne[.]com,OU=key operations,O=1000,L=,ST=,C=KM) located within the same ASN (i.e., AS48721 Flyservers S.A.). Some of the URIs seen in the GET requests made to this endpoint were the same as identified in that same previous case.

Information regarding another device also making repeated connections to the same IP was described in the second event of the same Cyber AI Analyst incident. Following this C2 connectivity, network scanning was observed from a compromised domain controller, followed by additional reconnaissance and lateral movement over the DCE-RPC and SMB protocols. Darktrace again observed SMB writes of the file "LSM_API_service", as in the previous case, activity which was also considered 100% unusual for the network. These similarities suggest the same actor or affiliate may have been responsible for activity observed, even though no encryption was observed in the latter case.

Figure 3. First event of the Cyber AI Analyst investigation following the compromise activity.

According to researchers at Microsoft, some of the IoCs observed on both affected accounts are associated with Pistachio Tempest, a threat actor reportedly associated with ransomware distribution. The Microsoft threat actor naming convention uses the term "tempest" to reference criminal organizations with motivations of financial gain that are not associated with high confidence to a known non-nation state or commercial entity. While Pistachio Tempest’s TTPs have changed over time, their key elements still involve ransomware, exfiltration, and extortion. Once they've gained access to an environment, Pistachio Tempest typically utilizes additional tools to complement their use of Cobalt Strike; this includes the use of the SystemBC RAT and the SliverC2 framework, respectively. It has also been reported that Pistacho Tempest has experimented with various RaaS offerings, which recently included Qilin ransomware[4].

Conclusion

Qilin is a RaaS group that has gained notoriety recently due to high-profile attacks perpetrated by its affiliates. Despite this, the group likely includes affiliates and actors who were previously associated with other ransomware groups. These individuals bring their own modus operandi and utilize both known and novel TTPs and IoCs that differ from one attack to another.

Darktrace’s anomaly-based technology is inherently threat-agnostic, treating all RaaS variants equally regardless of the attackers’ tools and infrastructure. Deviations from a device’s ‘learned’ pattern of behavior during an attack enable Darktrace to detect and contain potentially disruptive ransomware attacks.

Credit to: Alexandra Sentenac, Emma Foulger, Justin Torres, Min Kim, Signe Zaharka for their contributions.

References

[1] https://www.sentinelone.com/anthology/agenda-qilin/  

[2] https://www.group-ib.com/blog/qilin-ransomware/

[3] https://www.trendmicro.com/en_us/research/22/h/new-golang-ransomware-agenda-customizes-attacks.html

[4] https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/security/security-insider/pistachio-tempest

[5] https://www.trendmicro.com/en_us/research/22/h/new-golang-ransomware-agenda-customizes-attacks.html

[6] https://www.bleepingcomputer.com/forums/t/790240/agenda-qilin-ransomware-id-random-10-char;-recover-readmetxt-support/

[7] https://github.com/threatlabz/ransomware_notes/tree/main/qilin

Darktrace Model Detections

Internal Reconnaissance

Device / Suspicious SMB Scanning Activity

Device / Network Scan

Device / RDP Scan

Device / ICMP Address Scan

Device / Suspicious Network Scan Activity

Anomalous Connection / SMB Enumeration

Device / New or Uncommon WMI Activity

Device / Attack and Recon Tools

Lateral Movement

Device / SMB Session Brute Force (Admin)

Device / Large Number of Model Breaches from Critical Network Device

Device / Multiple Lateral Movement Model Breaches

Anomalous Connection / Unusual Admin RDP Session

Device / SMB Lateral Movement

Compliance / SMB Drive Write

Anomalous Connection / New or Uncommon Service Control

Anomalous Connection / Anomalous DRSGetNCChanges Operation

Anomalous Server Activity / Domain Controller Initiated to Client

User / New Admin Credentials on Client

C2 Communication

Anomalous Server Activity / Outgoing from Server

Anomalous Connection / Multiple Connections to New External TCP Port

Anomalous Connection / Anomalous SSL without SNI to New External

Anomalous Connection / Rare External SSL Self-Signed

Device / Increased External Connectivity

Unusual Activity / Unusual External Activity

Compromise / New or Repeated to Unusual SSL Port

Anomalous Connection / Multiple Failed Connections to Rare Endpoint

Device / Suspicious Domain

Device / Increased External Connectivity

Compromise / Sustained SSL or HTTP Increase

Compromise / Botnet C2 Behaviour

Anomalous Connection / POST to PHP on New External Host

Anomalous Connection / Multiple HTTP POSTs to Rare Hostname

Anomalous File / EXE from Rare External Location

Exfiltration

Unusual Activity / Enhanced Unusual External Data Transfer

Anomalous Connection / Data Sent to Rare Domain

Unusual Activity / Unusual External Data Transfer

Anomalous Connection / Uncommon 1 GiB Outbound

Unusual Activity / Unusual External Data to New Endpoint

Compliance / FTP / Unusual Outbound FTP

File Encryption

Compromise / Ransomware / Suspicious SMB Activity

Anomalous Connection / Sustained MIME Type Conversion

Anomalous File / Internal / Additional Extension Appended to SMB File

Compromise / Ransomware / Possible Ransom Note Write

Compromise / Ransomware / Possible Ransom Note Read

Anomalous Connection / Suspicious Read Write Ratio

IoC List

IoC – Type – Description + Confidence

93.115.25[.]139 IP C2 Server, likely associated with SystemBC

194.165.16[.]13 IP Probable Exfiltration Server

91.238.181[.]230 IP C2 Server, likely associated with Cobalt Strike

ikea0[.]com Hostname C2 Server, likely associated with Cobalt Strike

lebondogicoin[.]com Hostname C2 Server, likely associated with Cobalt Strike

184.168.123[.]220 IP Possible C2 Infrastructure

184.168.123[.]219 IP Possible C2 Infrastructure

184.168.123[.]236 IP Possible C2 Infrastructure

184.168.123[.]241 IP Possible C2 Infrastructure

184.168.123[.]247 IP Possible C2 Infrastructure

184.168.123[.]251 IP Possible C2 Infrastructure

184.168.123[.]252 IP Possible C2 Infrastructure

184.168.123[.]229 IP Possible C2 Infrastructure

184.168.123[.]246 IP Possible C2 Infrastructure

184.168.123[.]230 IP Possible C2 Infrastructure

gfs440n010.userstorage.me ga.co[.]nz Hostname Possible Exfiltration Server. Not inherently malicious; associated with MEGA file storage.

gfs440n010.userstorage.me ga.co[.]nz Hostname Possible Exfiltration Server. Not inherently malicious; associated with MEGA file storage.

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About the author
Alexandra Sentenac
Cyber Analyst

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Elevating Network Security: Confronting Trust, Ransomware, & Novel Attacks

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21
Jun 2024

Understanding the Network Security Market

Old tools blind to new threats

With the rise of GenAI and novel attacks, organizations can no longer rely solely on traditional network security solutions that depend on historical attack data, such as signatures and detection rules, to identify threats. However, in many cases network security vendors and traditional solutions like IDS/IPS focus on detecting known attacks using historical data. What happens is organizations are left vulnerable to unknown and novel threats, as these approaches only detect known malicious behavior and cannot keep up with unknown threats or zero-day attacks.

Advanced threats

Darktrace's End of Year Threat Report for 2023 highlights significant changes in the cyber threat landscape, particularly due to advancements in technology such as generative AI. The report notes a substantial increase in sophisticated attacks, including those utilizing generative AI, which have made it more challenging for traditional security measures to keep up. The report also details the rise of multi-functional malware, like Black Basta ransomware, which not only encrypts data for ransom but also spreads other types of malware such as the Qbot banking trojan. These complex attacks are increasingly being deployed by advanced cybercriminal groups, underscoring the need for organizations to adopt advanced security measures that can detect and respond to novel threats in real-time.

Defenders need a solution that can level the playing field, especially when they are operating with limited resources and getting overloaded with endless alerts. Most network security tools on the market have a siloed approach and do not integrate with the rest of an organization’s digital estate, but attackers don’t operate in a single domain.

Disparate workforce

With so many organizations continuing to support a remote or hybrid working environment, the need to secure devices that are outside the corporate network or off-VPN is increasingly important. While endpoint protection or endpoint detection and response (EDR) tools are a fundamental part of any security stack, it’s not possible to install an agent on every device, which can leave blind spots in an organization’s attack surface. Managing trust and access policies is also necessary to protect identities, however this comes with its own set of challenges in terms of implementation and minimizing business disruption.

This blog will dive into these challenges and show examples of how Darktrace has helped mitigate risk and stop novel and never-before-seen threats.

Network Security Challenge 1: Managing trust

What is trust in cybersecurity?

Trust in cybersecurity means that an entity can be relied upon. This can involve a person, organization, or system to be authorized or authenticated by proving their identity is legitimate and can be trusted to have access to the network or sensitive information.

Why is trust important in cybersecurity?

Granting access and privileges to your workforce and select affiliates has profound implications for cybersecurity, brand reputation, regulatory compliance, and financial liability. In a traditional network security model, traffic gets divided into two categories — trusted and untrusted — with some entities and segments of the network deemed more creditable than others.

How do you manage trust in cybersecurity?

Zero trust is too little, but any is too much.

Modern network security challenges point to an urgent need for organizations to review and update their approaches to managing trust. External pressure to adopt zero trust security postures literally suggests trusting no one, but that impedes your freedom
to do business. IT leaders need a proven but practical process for deciding who should be allowed to use your network and how.

Questions to ask in updating Trusted User policies include:

  • What process should you follow to place trust in third
    parties and applications?
  • Do you subject trusted entities to testing and other due
    diligence first?
  • How often do you review this process — and trusted
    relationships themselves — after making initial decisions?
  • How do you tell when trusted users should no longer be
    trusted?

Once trust has been established, security teams need new and better ways to autonomously verify that those transacting within your network are indeed those trusted users that they claim to be, taking only the authorized actions you’ve allowed them to take.

Exploiting trust in the network

Insider threats have a major head start. The opposite of attacks launched by nameless, faceless strangers, insider threats originate through parties once deemed trustworthy. That might mean a current or former member of your workforce or a partner, vendor, investor, or service provider authorized by IT to access corporate systems and data. Threats also arise when a “pawn” gets unwittingly tricked into disclosing credentials or downloading malware.

Common motives for insider attacks include revenge, stealing or leaking sensitive data, taking down IT systems, stealing assets or IP, compromising your organization’s credibility, and simply harassing your workforce. Put simply, rules and signatures based security solutions won’t flag insider threats because an insider does not immediately present themselves as an intruder. Insider threats can only be stopped by an evolving understanding of ‘normal’ for every user that immediately alerts your team when trusted users do something strange.

“By 2026, 10% of large enterprises will have a comprehensive, mature and measurable zero-trust program in place, up from less than 1% today.” [1]

Use Case: Darktrace spots an insider threat

Darktrace/OT detected a subtle deviation from normal behavior when a reprogram command was sent by an engineering workstation to a PLC controlling a pump, an action an insider threat with legitimized access to OT systems would take to alter the physical process without any malware involved. In this instance, AI Analyst, Darktrace’s investigation tool that triages events to reveal the full security incident, detected the event as unusual based on multiple metrics including the source of the command, the destination device, the time of the activity, and the command itself.  

As a result, AI Analyst created a complete security incident, with a natural language summary, the technical details of the activity, and an investigation process explaining how it came to its conclusion. By leveraging Explainable AI, a security team can quickly triage and escalate Darktrace incidents in real time before it becomes disruptive, and even when performed by a trusted insider.

Read more about insider threats here

Network Security Challenge 2: Stopping Ransomware at every stage    

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts valuable files on a victim’s device, denying the account holder access, and demanding money in exchange for the encryption key. Ransomware has been increasingly difficult to deal with, especially with ransom payments being made in crypto currency which is untraceable. Ransomware can enter a system by clicking a link dangerous or downloading malicious files.

Avoiding ransomware attacks ranks at the top of most CISOs’ and risk managers’ priority lists, and with good reason. Extortion was involved in 25% of all breaches in 2022, with front-page attacks wreaking havoc across healthcare, gas pipelines, food processing plants, and other global supply chains. [2]

What else is new?

The availability of “DIY” toolkits and subscription-based ransom- ware-as-a-service (RaaS) on the dark web equips novice threat actors to launch highly sophisticated attacks at machine speed. For less than $500, virtually anyone can acquire and tweak RaaS offerings such as Philadelphia that come with accessible customer interfaces, reviews, discounts, and feature updates — all the signature features of commercial SaaS offerings.                  

Darktrace Cyber AI breaks the ransomware cycle

The preeminence of ransomware keeps security teams on high alert for indicators of attack but hypervigilance — and too many tools churning out too many alerts — quickly exhausts analysts’ bandwidth. To reverse this trend, AI needs to help prioritize and resolve versus merely detect risk.

Darktrace uses AI to recognize and contextualize possible signs of ransomware attacks as they appear in your network and across multiple domains. Viewing behaviors in the context of your organization’s normal ‘pattern of life’ updates and enhances detection that watches for a repeat of previous techniques.

Darktrace's AI brings the added advantage of continuously analyzing behavior in your environment at machine speed.

Darktrace AI also performs Autonomous Response, shutting down attacks at every stage of the ransomware cycle, including the first telltale signs of exfiltration and encryption of data for extortion purposes.

Use Case: Stopping Hive Ransomware attack

Hive is distributed via a RaaS model where its developers update and maintain the code, in return for a percentage of the eventual ransom payment, while users (or affiliates) are given the tools to carry out attacks using a highly sophisticated and complex malware they would otherwise be unable to use.

In early 2022, Darktrace/Network identified several instances of Hive ransomware on the networks of multiple customers. Using its anomaly-based detection, Darktrace was able to successfully detect the attacks and multiple stages of the kill chain, including command and control (C2) activity, lateral movement, data exfiltration, and ultimately data encryption and the writing of ransom notes.

Darktrace’s AI understands customer networks and learns the expected patterns of behavior across an organization’s digital estate. Using its anomaly-based detection Darktrace is able to identify emerging threats through the detection of unusual or unexpected behavior, without relying on rules and signatures, or known IoCs.

Read the full story here

Network Security Challenge 3: Spotting Novel Attacks

You can’t predict tomorrow’s weather by reading yesterday’s forecast, yet that’s essentially what happens when network security tools only look for known attacks.

What are novel attacks?

“Novel attacks” include unknown or previously unseen exploits such as zero-days, or new variations of known threats that evade existing detection rules.

Depending on how threats get executed, the term “novel” can refer to brand new tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), or to subtle new twists on perennial threats like DoS, DDoS, and Domain Name Server (DNS) attacks.

Old tools may be blind to new threats

Stopping novel threats is less about deciding whom to trust than it is about learning to spot something brand new. As we’ve seen with ransomware, the growing “aaS” attack market creates a profound paradigm shift by allowing non-technical perpetrators to tweak, customize, and coin never-before-seen threats that elude traditional network, email, VPN, and cloud security.

Tools based on traditional rules and signatures lack a frame of reference. This is where AI’s ability to spot and analyze abnormalities in the context of normal patterns of life comes into play.                        

Darktrace AI spots what other tools miss                                      

Instead of training in cloud data lakes that pool data from unrelated attacks worldwide, Darktrace AI learns about your unique environment from your environment. By flagging and analyzing everything unusual — instead of only known signs of compromise — Darktrace’s Self-Learning AI keeps security stacks from missing less obvious but potentially more dangerous events.

The real challenge here is achieving faster “time to meaning” and contextualizing behavior that might — or might not — be part of a novel attack. Darktrace/Network does not require a “patient zero” to identify a novel attack, or one exploiting a zero-day vulnerability.

Use Case: Stopping Novel Ransomware Attack

In late May 2023, Darktrace observed multiple instances of Akira ransomware affecting networks across its customer base. Thanks to its anomaly-based approach to threat detection Darktrace successfully identified the novel ransomware attacks and provided full visibility over the cyber kill chain, from the initial compromise to the eventual file encryptions and ransom notes. Darktrace identified Akira ransomware on multiple customer networks, even when threat actors were utilizing seemingly legitimate services (or spoofed versions of them) to carry out malicious activity. While this may have gone unnoticed by traditional security tools, Darktrace’s anomaly-based detection enabled it to recognize malicious activity for what it was. In cases where Darktrace’s autonomous response was enabled these attacks were mitigated in their early stages, thus minimizing any disruption or damage to customer networks.

Read the full story here

References

[1] Gartner, “Gartner Unveils Top Eight Cybersecurity Predictions for 2023-2024,” 28 March 2023.                    

[2] TechTarget, “Ransomware trends, statistics and facts in 2023,” Sean Michael Kerner, 26 January 2023.

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About the author
Mikey Anderson
Product Manager, Network Detection & Response
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