Internet evildoers stitch together vile ransomware-survey scam chimaera

Used criminal brain stolen from brain depository


Internet Igors have fused genomes from two of the web's most noxious scam strains to create a repulsive chimaera.

The new ransomware doing the rounds locks up victims' PCs before forcing their users to complete a survey in order to receive an unlock code.

Traditional ransomware scams typically involving locking up systems before accusing prospective marks of some fictitious crime, from distributing music or films on file-sharing networks to circulating child-abuse images. Victims are typically coerced into coughing up a "fine" of about £100 using untraceable cash vouchers in order to obtain codes to unlock their computers.

Tying things up in survey scams is a new and arguably less ambitious tactic. Survey scams typically involve attempts by dodgy marketing affiliates to trick consumers into completing a survey that offers the "chance" to win an iPad or similar. In reality the ruse is purely designed to harvest personal information. In more extreme cases victims are tricked into handing over their mobile number and signed up for expensive but lame premium rate services, such as daily horoscopes by SMS.

Packaged scams to get victims (referred to as "slaves") to complete online surveys using ransomware have begun appearing in underground cybercrime forums. Webroot has a write-up on one such scam, together with screeenshots, in a blog post here.

The ransomware strain blocks Task Manager, CMD, Regedit and the Start Menu.

"Despite the fact that the ransomware doesn’t pose any sophisticated features ... it [still] provides an example of an efficient business model aiming to utilize cost-per-action (CPA) affiliate networks in an attempt to generate revenue for the market participants," writes malware researcher Dancho Danchev. ®

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • HelloXD ransomware bulked up with better encryption, nastier payload
    Russian-based group doubles the extortion by exfiltrating the corporate data before encrypting it.

    Windows and Linux systems are coming under attack by new variants of the HelloXD ransomware that includes stronger encryption, improved obfuscation and an additional payload that enables threat groups to modify compromised systems, exfiltrate files and execute commands.

    The new capabilities make the ransomware, first detected in November 2021 - and the developer behind it even more dangerous - according to researchers with Palo Alto Networks' Unit 42 threat intelligence group. Unit 42 said the HelloXD ransomware family is in its initial stages but it's working to track down the author.

    "While the ransomware functionality is nothing new, during our research, following the lines, we found out the ransomware is most likely developed by a threat actor named x4k," the researchers wrote in a blog post.

    Continue reading
  • Interpol anti-fraud operation busts call centers behind business email scams
    1,770 premises raided, 2,000 arrested, $50m seized

    Law enforcement agencies around the world have arrested about 2,000 people and seized $50 million in a sweeping operation crackdown of social engineering and other scam operations around the globe.

    In the latest action in the ongoing "First Light", an operation Interpol has coordinated annually since 2014, law enforcement officials from 76 countries raided 1,770 call centers suspected of running fraudulent operations such as telephone and romance scams, email deception scams, and financial crimes.

    Among the 2,000 people arrested in Operation First Light 2022 were call center operators and fraudsters, and money launderers. Interpol stated that the operation also saw 4,000 bank accounts frozen and 3,000 suspects identified.

    Continue reading
  • Unpatched Exchange server, stolen RDP logins... How miscreants get BlackCat ransomware on your network
    Microsoft details this ransomware-as-a-service

    Two of the more prolific cybercriminal groups, which in the past have deployed such high-profile ransomware families as Conti, Ryuk, REvil and Hive, have started adopting the BlackCat ransomware-as-as-service (RaaS) offering.

    The use of the modern Rust programming language to stabilize and port the code, the variable nature of RaaS, and growing adoption by affiliate groups all increase the chances that organizations will run into BlackCat – and have difficulty detecting it – according to researchers with the Microsoft 365 Defender Threat Intelligence Team.

    In an advisory this week, Microsoft researchers noted the myriad capabilities of BlackCat, but added the outcome is always the same: the ransomware is deployed, files are stolen and encrypted, and victims told to either pay the ransom or risk seeing their sensitive data leaked.

    Continue reading
  • DeadBolt ransomware takes another shot at QNAP storage
    Keep boxes updated and protected to avoid a NAS-ty shock

    QNAP is warning users about another wave of DeadBolt ransomware attacks against its network-attached storage (NAS) devices – and urged customers to update their devices' QTS or QuTS hero operating systems to the latest versions.

    The latest outbreak – detailed in a Friday advisory – is at least the fourth campaign by the DeadBolt gang against the vendor's users this year. According to QNAP officials, this particular run is encrypting files on NAS devices running outdated versions of Linux-based QTS 4.x, which presumably have some sort of exploitable weakness.

    The previous attacks occurred in January, March, and May.

    Continue reading
  • Even Russia's Evil Corp now favors software-as-a-service
    Albeit to avoid US sanctions hitting it in the wallet

    The Russian-based Evil Corp is jumping from one malware strain to another in hopes of evading sanctions placed on it by the US government in 2019.

    You might be wondering why cyberextortionists in the Land of Putin give a bit flip about US sanctions: as we understand it, the sanctions mean anyone doing business with or handling transactions for gang will face the wrath of Uncle Sam. Evil Corp is therefore radioactive, few will want to interact with it, and the group has to shift its appearance and operations to keep its income flowing.

    As such, Evil Corp – which made its bones targeting the financial sector with the Dridex malware it developed – is now using off-the-shelf ransomware, most recently the LockBit ransomware-as-a-service, to cover its tracks and make it easier to get the ransoms they demand from victims paid, according to a report this week out of Mandiant.

    Continue reading
  • Costa Rican government held up by ransomware … again
    Also US warns of voting machine flaws and Google pays out $100 million to Illinois

    In brief Last month the notorious Russian ransomware gang Conti threatened to overthrow Costa Rica's government if a ransom wasn't paid. This month, another band of extortionists has attacked the nation.

    Fresh off an intrusion by Conti last month, Costa Rica has been attacked by the Hive ransomware gang. According to the AP, Hive hit Costa Rica's Social Security system, and also struck the country's public health agency, which had to shut down its computers on Tuesday to prevent the spread of a malware outbreak.

    The Costa Rican government said at least 30 of the agency's servers were infected, and its attempt at shutting down systems to limit damage appears to have been unsuccessful. Hive is now asking for $5 million in Bitcoin to unlock infected systems.

    Continue reading
  • Now Windows Follina zero-day exploited to infect PCs with Qbot
    Data-stealing malware also paired with Black Basta ransomware gang

    Miscreants are reportedly exploiting the recently disclosed critical Windows Follina zero-day flaw to infect PCs with Qbot, thus aggressively expanding their reach.

    The bot's operators are also working with the Black Basta gang to spread ransomware in yet another partnership in the underground world of cyber-crime, it is claimed.

    This combination of Follina exploitation and its use to extort organizations makes the malware an even larger threat for enterprises. Qbot started off as a software nasty that raided people's online bank accounts, and evolved to snoop on user keystrokes and steal sensitive information from machines. It can also deliver other malware payloads, such as backdoors and ransomware, onto infected Windows systems, and forms a remote-controllable botnet.

    Continue reading
  • Healthcare organizations face rising ransomware attacks – and are paying up
    Via their insurance companies, natch

    Healthcare organizations, already an attractive target for ransomware given the highly sensitive data they hold, saw such attacks almost double between 2020 and 2021, according to a survey released this week by Sophos.

    The outfit's team also found that while polled healthcare orgs are quite likely to pay ransoms, they rarely get all of their data returned if they do so. In addition, 78 percent of organizations are signing up for cyber insurance in hopes of reducing their financial risks, and 97 percent of the time the insurance company paid some or all of the ransomware-related costs.

    However, while insurance companies pay out in almost every case and are fueling an improvement in cyber defenses, healthcare organizations – as with other industries – are finding it increasingly difficult to get insured in the first place.

    Continue reading
  • FBI, CISA: Don't get caught in Karakurt's extortion web
    Is this gang some sort of Conti side hustle? The answer may be yes

    The Feds have warned organizations about a lesser-known extortion gang Karakurt, which demands ransoms as high as $13 million and, some cybersecurity folks say, may be linked to the notorious Conti crew.

    In a joint advisory [PDF] this week, the FBI, CISA and US Treasury Department outlined technical details about how Karakurt operates, along with actions to take, indicators of compromise, and sample ransom notes. Here's a snippet:

    Continue reading
  • World Economic Forum wants a global map of online crime
    Will cyber crimes shrug off Atlas Initiative? Objectively, yes

    RSA Conference An ambitious project spearheaded by the World Economic Forum (WEF) is working to develop a map of the cybercrime ecosystem using open source information.

    The Atlas initiative, whose contributors include Fortinet and Microsoft and other private-sector firms, involves mapping the relationships between criminal groups and their infrastructure with the end goal of helping both industry and the public sector — law enforcement and government agencies — disrupt these nefarious ecosystems.  

    This kind of visibility into the connections between the gang members can help security researchers identify vulnerabilities in the criminals' supply chain to develop better mitigation strategies and security controls for their customers. 

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022