Lazarus Group Brings APT Tactics to Ransomware

Lazarus Group Brings APT Tactics to Ransomware

Targeted ransomware attacks are on the rise, usually perpetrated by financially motivated threat gangs, which often work in concert together.

A new ransomware, VHD, was seen being delivered by the nation-state group’s multiplatform malware platform, MATA.

Targeted ransomware attacks are on the rise, usually perpetrated by financially motivated threat gangs, which often work in concert together. However, researchers said that a recent strain of ransomware, called VHD, can be linked to an unusual source: The Lazarus Group APT.

According to researchers from Kaspersky, the VHD ransomware has only been deployed in a handful of instances, with a limited number of samples showing up in the firm’s telemetry. There are also few public references.

This “doesn’t fit the usual modus operandi of known big-game hunting groups,” the researchers explained, in a blog post issued on Tuesday. “This indicated that this ransomware family might not be traded widely on dark market forums, as would usually be the case.” They added, “The data we have at our disposal tends to indicate that the VHD ransomware is not a commercial off-the-shelf product.”

Another indication that VHD is different was apparent from the start: An initial VHD incident in Europe involved a worm-like propagation technique reminiscent of APT groups.

“A spreading utility…contained a list of administrative credentials and IP addresses specific to the victim, and leveraged them to brute-force the SMB service on every discovered machine,” according to the post. “Whenever a successful connection was made, a network share was mounted, and the VHD ransomware was copied and executed through WMI calls. This stood out to us as an uncharacteristic technique for cybercrime groups; instead, it reminded us of the APT campaigns Sony SPE, Shamoon and OlympicDestroyer, three previous wipers with worming capabilities.”

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