New ransomware trends in 2022


Ahead of the Anti-Ransomware Day, we summarized the tendencies that characterize ransomware landscape in 2022. This year, ransomware is no less active than before: cybercriminals continue to threaten nationwide retailers and enterprises, old variants of malware return while the new ones develop. Watching and assessing these tendencies not only provides us with threat intelligence to fight cybercrime today, but also helps us deduce what trends may see in the months to come and prepare for them better.

In the report, we analyze what happened in late 2021 and 2022 on both the technological and geopolitical levels and what caused the new ransomware trends to emerge. First, we will review the trend of cross-platform ransomware development that is becoming more and more widespread among threat actors. Next, we will concentrate on how the ransomware gangs continue to industrialize and evolve into real businesses by adopting techniques of benign software companies. Last, we will delve into how ransomware gangs put on a political hat and engaged in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Trend #1: Threat actors are trying to develop cross-platform Ransomware to be as adaptive as possible

As a consequence of the Big Game Hunting (BGH) scheme that has become increasingly popular over the years, cybercriminals have been penetrating more and more complex environments where a wide variety of systems are running. In order to cause as much damage as possible and to make recovery very difficult (if not impossible), they try to encrypt as many systems as possible. This means that their ransomware should be able to run on different combinations of architectures and operation systems.

One way to overcome this is to write the ransomware in a “cross-platform programming language” such as Rust or Golang. There are a few other reasons to use a cross-platform language. For example, even though the ransomware might be aimed at one platform at the moment, writing it in a cross platform makes it easier to port it to other platforms. Another reason is that analysis of cross-platform binaries is a bit harder than that of malware written in plain C.

In our crimeware reporting section on the Threat Intelligence Platform we cover some of these ransomware variants that work on different platforms. The following are the most important highlights from these reports.

Conti cross-platform Ransomware functionality

Conti is a group conducting BGH, targeting a wide variety of organizations across the globe. Just like many other BGH groups, it uses the double extortion technique as well as an affiliate-based structure.

We noticed that only certain affiliates have access to a Linux variant of the Conti ransomware, targeting ESXi systems. It supports a variety of different command-line arguments that can be used by the affiliate to customize the execution. The version for Linux supports the following parameters:

BlackCat cross-platform functionality

BlackCat started offering their services in December 2021 on the dark web. Although the malware is written in Rust from scratch, we found some links to the BlackMatter group as the actor used the same custom exfiltration tool that had been observed earlier in BlackMatter activities. Due to Rust cross-compilation capabilities, it did not take long time for us to find BlackCat samples that work on Linux as well.

The Linux sample of BlackCat is very similar to the Windows one. In terms of functionality, it has slightly more, as it is capable of shutting down the machine and deleting ESXi VMs. Naturally, typical Windows functionality (e.g., executing commands through cmd.exe) was removed and replaced with the Linux equivalent so the ransomware still holds the same functionality on the different platforms it operates on.

Deadbolt cross-platform functionality

Deadbolt is an example of ransomware written in a cross-platform language, but currently aimed at only one target – QNAP NAS systems.  It is also an interesting combination of Bash, HTML and Golang. Deadbolt itself is written in Golang, the ransom note is an HTML file that replaces the standard index file used by the QNAP NAS, and the Bash script is used to start the decryption process if the provided decryption key is correct. There is another peculiar thing about the ransomware: it doesn’t need any interaction with attackers because a decryption key is provided in a Bitcoin transaction OP_RETURN field

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