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TTPs Associated With a New Version of the BlackCat Ransomware

Vlad Pasca, Senior Malware & Threat Analyst
Posted on September 6th, 2022

Executive summary

The BlackCat/ALPHV ransomware is a complex threat written in Rust that appeared in November 2021. In this post, we describe a real engagement that we recently handled by giving details about the tools, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) used by this threat actor. Firstly, the attacker targeted an unpatched Microsoft Exchange server and successfully dropped webshells on the machine. After getting initial access, the ransomware installed the MobaXterm software and then started to dump the credentials using Mimikatz or by creating an LSASS dump file with Process Hacker. The SoftPerfect Network scanner was used to perform network discovery. Before running the ransomware executable, the TA compressed the targeted files using WinRAR or 7zip and then exfiltrated them using rclone and MEGAsync.

Our Digital Forensics and Incident Response (DFIR) team was engaged in investigating a ransomware infection. We were able to determine that the ransomware involved is a new version of the BlackCat ransomware, based on the fact that the malware added new command line parameters that were not documented before.

As shown in Figure 1, the ransomware added a parameter called “--safeboot” that is used to reboot in Safe Mode. Whether the malware is running with the “--sleep-restart” parameter, the process sleeps for a specified number of seconds and then restarts the machine.

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Figure 1

A complete analysis of the BlackCat ransomware can be found here.

By accessing the onion link specified in the ransom note called “RECOVER-<extension>-FILES.txt”, the victim is presented with multiple tabs that contain information such as the ransom amount in Bitcoin and Monero, the threat actor’s wallets addresses, a live chat, and a trial decrypt that can be used to decrypt a few files for free (see Figure 2).

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Figure 2

Initial access

According to our analysis, the entry point in the organization was an Exchange server that was vulnerable to Microsoft Exchange vulnerabilities. Multiple webshells have been identified on the impacted server.

Remote access tools

After gaining access to the internal network, the ransomware installed the legitimate tools MobaXterm and mottynew.exe (MobaXterm terminal).

Lateral Movement

As we already know from the malware analysis of the ransomware, BlackCat steals credentials from the victim’s environment and incorporates them into its configuration (“credentials” field). Mimikatz was utilized to dump the credentials, and then the malware pivots from one machine to another via Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP).

An old version of the SoftPerfect Network scanner was used to perform network scanning in order to discover additional targets in the local network. Figure 3 reveals the interface of the network scanner:

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Figure 3

Data exfiltration

Once the threat actor decided which files to exfiltrate, the malware compressed them using WinRAR or 7zip. The ransomware installed a tool called rclone that is utilized to upload data to cloud storage providers. A second tool called MEGAsync is also installed by the process, which can upload data to the MEGA Cloud Storage.

We’ve also observed the ransomware installing tools such as FileZilla and WinSCP that could be used to perform data exfiltration.

Other tools installed

We’ve investigated and found out that the ransomware installed the cURL tool to download additional files. Process Hacker was also installed by the malware and could be used to dump the memory of the LSASS process. In the same directory with Process Hacker, the BlackCat ransomware dropped a copy of the PEView tool, which is a viewer for Portable Executable (PE) files.

Conclusion

BlackCat ransomware remains a serious threat because it targets Windows hosts, Linux hosts, and VMWare ESXi. The access token that the malware is running with makes the automated analysis impossible and increases the difficulty of the dynamic malware analysis. The usage of legitimate tools to perform malicious activities increases the chance of not being detected by endpoint detection and response (EDR) or antivirus software.

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