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Friday, 11 March 2016 11:39

Highly advanced Locky ransomware hits Australia Featured

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Locky - damned good at distributing ransomware - has turned into the delivery vehicle of choice for cyber-criminals who are learning more about you to deliver even more highly targeted spear phishing.

What is scary is that the spam email database appears to have more than an email address – and includes reference to full name, address, workplace and more – presumably gleaned by mining social media. I have seen some of the emails and they look convincing.

Locky is malware targeted at Windows computers and is delivered via email disguised as an invoice or other official notification. In Australia, cyber-criminals have used social engineering and identified Australia Post notifications as a likely candidate to be opened.

Locky is barely a month old and already accounts for 18% of email spam – at one point over 200,000 emails per hour were hitting Trustwave SpiderLab’s honeypots. “Locky already covers a big chunk of the infections in the two weeks of its existence. It also surpassed TeslaCrypt infections which show significantly lower hits,” it said.

MailGuard, an anti-virus and security company that discovered the Australia Post scam said hackers were using ‘highly advanced’ scraping software to scan social media profiles and automatically deliver the malicious email to tens of thousands of victims. The email, which looks like it's from Australia Post, tells the recipient to print an attached "shipment confirmation" and bring it into an AusPost store, along with ID, to collect a parcel. Once the victim downloads and opens the attachment, it runs a simple JavaScript code that locks their computer files and demands a ransom fee in bitcoins worth hundreds of dollars.

But baby Locky has grown up and is now being used as the vector for more attacks. Apart from JavaScript attachments, it has been delivered as Microsoft Office Documents (Word and Excel using a macro vulnerability), Zip files, and recently to deliver web-based forms.

Because its code is obfuscated, it is getting even better at evading detection by anti-virus/malware software.

According to Avast Locky uses all ‘top class’ features, such as a domain generation algorithm, custom encrypted communication, TOR/BitCoin payment, strong RSA-2048+AES-128 file encryption and can encrypt over 160 different file types, including virtual disks, source codes and databases.

 

Locky malware can encrypt 164 file types that can be broken down into 11 categories:

Office/Document files (62x):

.123, .602, .CSV, .dif, .DOC, .docb, .docm, .docx, .DOT, .dotm, .dotx, .hwp, .mml, .odg, .odp, .ods, .odt, .otg, .otp, .ots, .ott, .pdf, .pot, .potm, .potx, .ppam, .pps, .ppsm, .ppsx, .PPT, .pptm, .pptx, .RTF, .sldm, .sldx, .slk, .stc, .std, .sti, .stw, .sxc, .sxd, .sxi, .sxm, .sxw, .txt, .uop, .uot, .wb2, .wk1, .wks, .xlc, .xlm, .XLS, .xlsb, .xlsm, .xlsx, .xlt, .xltm, .xltx, .xlw, .xml

Scripts/Source codes (23x):

.asm, .asp, .bat, .brd, .c, .class, .cmd, .cpp, .cs, .dch, .dip, .h, .jar, .java, .js, .pas, .php, .pl, .rb, .sch, .sh, .vb, .vbs

Media files (20x):

.3g2, .3gp, .asf, .avi, .fla, .flv, .m3u, .m4u, .mid, .mkv, .mov, .mp3, .mp4, .mpeg, .mpg, .swf, .vob, .wav, .wma, .wmv

Graphic/Image files (14x):

.bmp, .cgm, .djv, .djvu, .gif, .jpeg, .jpg, .NEF, .png, .psd, .raw, .svg, .tif, .tiff

Database files (14x):

.db, .dbf, .frm, .ibd, .ldf, .mdb, .mdf, .MYD, .MYI, .odb, .onenotec2, .sql, .SQLITE3, .SQLITEDB

Archives (11x):

.7z, .ARC, .bak, .gz, .PAQ, .rar, .tar, .bz2, .tbk, .tgz, .zip

CAD/CAM/3D files (8x):

.3dm, .3ds, .asc, .lay, .lay6, .max, .ms11, .ms11 (Security copy)

Certificates (5x):

.crt, .csr, .key, .p12, .pem

Virtual HDD (4x):

.qcow2, .vdi, .vmdk, .vmx

Data encryption (2x):

.aes, .gpg

Virtual currency (1x):

wallet.dat

Avast concludes:

Locky ransomware is currently a big player in the malware sphere. When looking into Locky, we can see all top features, such as a time-based DGA system, huge spam email campaigns, various scripting languages, generic PE packers, server-side encryption key generation and Tor/BitCoin payment.

The authors of Locky are skilled and are developing Locky further. They reacted to the AV industry blocking their C&C server infrastructure by changing the DGA algorithm and also patched some minor bugs in the newer version.

File encryption malware is currently very popular and can be very profitable. We, therefore, predict new ransomware families will emerge this year.

How to stay safe

  • Do not open suspicious attachments (e.g. .doc, .xls, and .zip files)
  • Disable Microsoft Office macros by default and never enable macros in strange/unknown attachments that you receive via email
  • Keep recent backup copies of important data in a secure place either online or offline
  • Ensure that your system and applications are fully updated and patched

Comment

The stock response from experts is not to pay a ransom as it simply encourages more activity. But that is very hard to do if you have not backed up your precious and irreplaceable files.

A frequent comment on the Twittersphere is that paying the ransom is cheaper than paying to reinstall the operating system.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw [email protected]  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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