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Saturday, 13 March 2021 08:11

Windows ransomware adds to Microsoft Exchange Server woes Featured

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Windows ransomware adds to Microsoft Exchange Server woes Pixabay

New Windows ransomware, which has been given the name DearCry, has started affecting systems to which access has been gained by exploiting the Microsoft Exchange Server flaws that were announced by Microsoft on 2 March.

The new development came as researchers at security firm DomainTools challenged the claim by many a media outlet that a Chinese group, which has been christened Hafnium by Microsoft, was a state-directed group exploiting the four flaws.

Michael Gillespie, the researcher who runs the ransomware identification service ID Ransomware, spotted a number of submissions to the service with .crypt and a filemarker DearCry, and alerted his Twitter followers to this on Friday.

Gillespie said the submissions from Exchange servers which had US, Canadian and Australian IP addresses.

Microsoft Security Program manager Phillip Misner later confirmed the emergence of the ransomware, saying that the company had observed a new family of ransomware which was using the Exchange flaws to exploit customers.

Patches were issued for the four Exchange Server vulnerabilities a week ahead of the regular patch Tuesday in March.

The DomainTools researchers observed that Microsoft's claim did not make it clear whether Hafnium was a Chinese state-directed operation.

"Initial reporting from Microsoft noted that HAFNIUM is 'state-sponsored and operating out of China, based on observed victimology, tactics and procedures'," they wrote.

"While the statement notes operations out of China and that the entity is assessed to be 'state-sponsored', the sentence as constructed does not explicitly make the claim that Hafnium is a Chinese state-directed operation.

"Yet despite the very careful wording in Microsoft’s blog, multiple media reports quickly made the direct link to China. While such a link is certainly possible and has not been ruled out, as of this writing no conclusive evidence has emerged linking Hafnium operations to the People’s Republic of China."


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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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