WannaCry Ransomware – Don’t Submit to the Amateurs!
I am sure by now most of you have heard of Ransomware, the malicious software that holds your data hostage and demands a sum of money for its return. In 2015, even the FBI agreed ransomware is here to stay. This time, it wouldn’t stop with home computers, but it will spread to infect:
“Businesses, financial institutions, government agencies, academic institutions, and other organizations… resulting in the loss of sensitive or proprietary information.”
There are two types of ransomware in circulation:
Encryptors incorporate advanced encryption algorithms. It’s designed to block system files and demand payment to provide the victim with the key that can de-crypt the blocked content.
Lockers lock the victim out of the operating system, making it impossible to access the desktop and any applications or files. The files are not encrypted in this case, but the attackers still ask for a ransom to unlock the infected computer.
Some locker versions infect the Master Boot Record (MBR). The MBR is the section of a PC’s hard drive which enables the operating system to boot up. When MBR ransomware strikes, the boot process can’t complete as usual and prompts a ransom note to be displayed on the screen.
Crypto-ransomware, as encryptors are usually known, are the most widespread ones. Some other characteristics of ransomware include, but are not limited to:
- The ransomware may scramble your file names, so you can’t know which data was affected. This is one of the social engineering tricks used to confuse and coerce victims into paying the ransom.
- It may add a different extension to your files, to sometimes signal a specific type of ransomware strain.
- It will display an image or a message that lets you know your data has been encrypted and that you must pay a specific sum of money to get it back.
- It requests payment in Bitcoins because this crypto-currency cannot be tracked by cyber security researchers or law enforcement agencies.
- Usually, the ransom payments have a time-limit, to add another level of psychological constraint to this extortion scheme. Going over the deadline typically means that the ransom will increase, but it can also mean that the data will be destroyed forever.
- It uses a complex set of evasion techniques to go undetected by traditional antivirus (please visit the link below to find out why your antivirus is not protecting you.)
- It often recruits the infected PCs into botnets, so cyber criminals can expand their infrastructure and fuel future attacks.
- It can spread to other PCs connected to a local network, creating further damage.
- It frequently features data exfiltration capabilities, which means that it can also extract data from the affected computer (usernames, passwords, email addresses, etc.) and send it to a server controlled by cyber criminals; encrypting files isn’t always the endgame, especially where financial institutions are concerned.
I want to focus for a moment on the ransomware known as WannaCry. WannaCry ransomware attacks windows based machines. It also goes by the name WannaCrypt, WannaCry, WanaCrypt0r, WCrypt, WCRY.
EternalBlue is an exploit generally believed to have been developed by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). It was leaked by the Shadow Brokers hacker group on 14 April 2017. EternalBlue exploits a vulnerability in Microsoft’s implementation of the Server Message Block (SMB) protocol. This vulnerability is denoted by entry CVE-2017-0144 in the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) catalog. The vulnerability exists because the SMB version 1 server in various versions of Microsoft Windows accepts specially crafted packets from remote attackers, allowing them to execute arbitrary code on the target computer.
The standard Windows security update on 14 March 2017 resolved the issue via security update MS17-010 , for all Windows versions that were currently supported at that time, these being Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2012, and Windows Server 2016.
Many Windows users had not installed MS17-010 when, two months later on 12 May 2017, the WannaCry attack used the EternalBlue vulnerability to spread itself.
The creators of the ransomware WannaCry made some amateurish mistakes, including an easy-to-find kill switch and the unsophisticated way the attackers are demanding bitcoin from their victims.
There are kits sold on the dark web that already pre-build in anonymity of the perpetrators, this is what experts think they’re seeing with WannaCry. It appears that some Script Kiddies are using software tools created by somebody else. The “killswitch” is an URL included in the code, which was used to stop the malware’s spread. The kill switch allowed people to prevent the infection chain fairly quickly.
Sophisticated ransomware usually has an automated way to accept payments from victims who want to unlock their computers, but WannaCry’s system seems to be manual — the scammers have to send each victim a code. This doesn’t seem practical for an infection involving thousands and thousands of computers.
The scammers have collected payments from fewer than 200 victims. We know this, because they’re demanding bitcoin — and bitcoin transactions are public. We don’t know the scammers’ names, but we know the bitcoin addresses they’re using to receive payment — just three addresses. Again, more sophisticated ransomware would have the ability to generate a unique bitcoin address for each victim. So far, the attackers have collected about $60,000 worth of bitcoins which are just sitting there untouched, according to Jonathan Levin, co-founder of Chainalysis, a company that analyzes bitcoin usage to identify money-laundering. He’s been watching the bitcoins accumulating at WannaCry’s three addresses.
“It might be that they don’t have a good idea yet about how to launder the bitcoin,” he said. “Perhaps they’re not really set up to take advantage of the success of their campaign so far.” Scammers sometimes have safe-zones — usually their home country — where their malware doesn’t do any damage. If the malware detects native language on the computer, it will not execute, sometimes deleting itself. WannaCry doesn’t do that either. Levin says if the perpetrators actually live in one of the countries hit hard by this attack — say, Russia — that would be, as he puts it, “an incredibly bad life choice.”
Often, people are lulled into a false sense of security because they believe they are protected because they have an antivirus. This is just not true. Click here to find out why.
Preventative maintenance is always the best way to go. Here’s what you can do to prevent being extorted by ransomware:
Locally, on the PC
Don’t store important data only on your computer, have 2 backups of data: on an external hard drive and in the cloud – Dropbox/Google Drive/etc.
The Dropbox/Google Drive/OneDrive/etc. application on your computer should not be turned on by default. Only open them once a day, to sync data, and close them once this is done.
Keep your operating system and the software you use up to date, including the latest security updates.
For daily use, don’t use an administrator account on your computer. Use a guest account with limited privileges.
Turn off macros in the Microsoft Office suite – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.
Microsoft has released a Windows security patch MS17-010 for Windows
machines. This needs to be applied immediately and urgently.
Remove Windows NT4, Windows 2000 and Windows XP-2003 from production
Block ports 139, 445 and 3389 in firewall.
SMB is enabled by default on Windows. Disable smb service on the
machine by going to Settings > uncheck the settings > OK
In the browser
Remove the following plugins from your browsers: Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, Java and Silverlight. If you absolutely must use them, set the browser to ask to activate these plugins when needed.
Adjust your browsers’ security and privacy settings for increased protection. (Instructions for Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer or Google Chrome.)
Remove outdated plugins and add-ons from browsers. Only keep the ones used on a daily basis and keep them updated to the latest version.
Use an ad-blocker to avoid the threat of potentially malicious ads.
Never open spam emails or emails from unknown senders.
Never download attachments from spam emails or suspicious emails.
Never click links in spam emails or suspicious emails.
Anti-ransomware security tools
Use a reliable, paid antivirus product that includes an automatic update module and a real-time scanner.
Understand the importance of having a traffic-filtering solution that can provide proactive anti-ransomware protection.
You can find a more extensive Ransomware protection plan here.
Brought to you by the same security company is a list of ransomware decryption tools you can use to avoid paying the criminals. Keep in mind that they may become obsolete as the malware is likely to change frequently as time goes on.
There also a few decryption tools available for some versions of Windows that have been affected with WannaCry.
Also, this, from the logicboxes helpdesk:
What are we doing on our Windows shared servers?
We are already in the phase of applying Windows updates on all our
shared hosting Windows servers. However we need to reboot servers
in-order to apply those security patches. We shall announce the
schedule for server reboot in this thread shortly.
What you need to do in case of our Windows dedicated servers?
You need to patch the Windows dedicated server immediately using the
steps mentioned in the link : https://goo.gl/PYIEis
In-addition to this, please block the IP addresses, domains and file
names mentioned in this link : https://goo.gl/JsSo0v
You can also refer to the following links to apply the necessary fix.
For dedicated servers, once you have applied necessary changes, you
need to reboot the server.
Please feel free to contact our support desk if you have any questions.
If you follow these protocols to keep your data protected there is no need to fear ransomware.
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