Executive summary

  • A previously unconfirmed, financially motivated threat group operating under the self-proclaimed name, “Karakurt” started ramping up attacks late in the third quarter of 2021 and continued into the fourth quarter.
  • The presence of Karakurt was first identified in June 2021 as it registered its apparent dump-site domains: karakurt[.]group and karakurt[.]tech, followed by their Twitter handle “karakurtlair” in August 2021.
  • Accenture Security first observed Karakurt intrusion clusters in September 2021, when multiple sightings occurred within a short timeframe.
  • The threat group has claimed to have impacted over 40 victims across multiple industries between September 2021 and November 2021.
  • Of note, Karakurt focuses solely on data exfiltration and subsequent extortion, rather than the more destructive ransomware deployment.
  • Accenture Security observed the threat group modify its tactics depending on the victim environment, favoring a more “living off the land” approach and often avoiding the use of common post-exploitation tools like Cobalt Strike.
  • While Accenture Security identified that the threat group utilized attack infrastructure previously associated with other cybercrime operators, we are not yet able to determine if the threat group operates under an affiliate-based model, or a ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) operation, based on observed intrusion clusters.
  • Accenture Security assess with high confidence that the group's operations have just begun, and that Karakurt activity will likely continue to proliferate into the foreseeable future, impacting additional victims.

The information outlined in this blog is based on information collected from CIFR incident response engagements, threat intelligence insights, open-source intelligence (OSINT) analysis and various media and industry reports.

This is a developing story; additional technical analysis of the intrusion clusters, attacker TTPs and indicators of compromise (IOCs) will be released to the community in a separate blog post.

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Summary & timeline

Accenture Security has identified a new threat group, the self-proclaimed Karakurt Hacking Team, that has impacted over 40 victims across multiple geographies. The threat group is financially motivated, opportunistic in nature, and so far, appears to target smaller companies or corporate subsidiaries versus the alternative big game hunting approach. Based on intrusion analysis to date, the threat group focuses solely on data exfiltration and subsequent extortion, rather than the more destructive ransomware deployment. In addition, Accenture Security assesses with moderate-to-high confidence that the threat group’s extortion approach includes steps to avoid, as much as possible, drawing attention to its activities.

High level timeline:

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Image illustrating the Karakurt timelineFigure 1. High level Karakurt group website timeline

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  • Karakurt[.]group and karakurt[.]tech – registered on June 5th, 2021.
  • Twitter handle karakurtlair – created in August 2021.
  • Karakurt known to be operational as early as September 2021, which is when components on its name and shame site were updated.
  • First known victim based on Accenture Security’s collection sources and intrusion analysis – September 2021.
  • First victim revealed on karakurt[.]group on November 17, 2021.
  • First update to karakurt[.]group “News” page, with volumes 1 – 3 of the threat group’s “Autumn Data Leak Digest” on November 19, 2021.
  • The fourth installment of “Autumn Data Leak Digest”, released on November 22, 2021.

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Image of Karakurt's main page

Figure 2. Karakurt[.] group main page

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Image displaying screen capture of Karakurt's latest news

Figure 3. Latest "News" from Karakurt[.] group

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Image displaying a screenshot of Karakurt's group about page

Figure 4. Karakurt[.] group "About" page

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Based on our collection sources, Accenture Security is currently aware of over 40 victims spanning multiple industry verticals and size. The Karakurt group does not appear to focus on a specific industry vertical or size. Of known victims, 95% are based in North America with the remaining 5% in Europe. From our investigations into the group’s activity, we determined that it typically uses credential access as the initial vector into victims’ networks and utilizes applications already installed to move laterally and exfiltrate data, if available. In addition, the threat group will typically contact the victim multiple times, using different communication methods, to apply additional pressure during extortion attempts. Figure 5 includes the known impacted industry verticals to date, based on Accenture Security’s collection sources.

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Graph displaying the number of victims by industry

Figure 5. Victim Verticals

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Compromise activity & detection opportunities

Initial access

The primary method for initial access into victim networks includes internet-facing systems via virtual private network (VPN) using legitimate credentials. Due to a lack of forensic evidence, it is unclear how the credentials were obtained by the threat group. One possibility is exploitation of vulnerable VPN devices, but all cases included inconsistent or absent enforcement of multi-factor authentication (MFA) for user accounts.

In Table 1 below, Accenture Security noted logons from four different hosting providers, to include the autonomous system that currently hosts the Karakurt group’s blog site.

Login time Autonomous system
2021-10-12 07:24:45 RELIABLESITE
2021-09-28 04:22:54 Datasource AG
2021-09-28 03:50:08 DEDIPATH-LLC
2021-09-27 03:41:05 DEDIPATH-LLC
2021-09-23 04:42:20 Clouvider Limited

The use of legitimate credentials, service creation, remote management software and distribution of command and control (C2) beacons across victim environments using Cobalt Strike are the predominant approaches used by the threat group to further its foothold and maintain persistence.

However, in recent intrusions, the threat group did not deploy backup persistence using Cobalt Strike. Instead, it persisted within the victim’s network via the VPN IP pool or installed AnyDesk to allow external remote access to compromised devices. The group was then able to leverage previously obtained user, service, and administrator credentials to move laterally and take action on objectives.

Privilege escalation

Accenture Security observed the threat group leveraging Mimikatz in at least one intrusion set, as well as PowerShell to dump ntds.dit and exfiltrate it for offline analysis.

However, the threat group appears to escalate privileges using the aforementioned techniques and tools only if needed, typically using previously obtained credentials.

Defense evasion

Using valid credentials, pre-existing “living off the land” tools and techniques and remote management software has enabled the threat group to further evade defenses.

In one intrusion, Accenture Security also observed the threat group avoiding the use of common post-exploitation tools or commodity malware in favor of credential access. This approach enabled it to evade detection and bypass security tools such as common endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions.


If the threat group’s preferred tools are not present within victims’ networks, it will download common remote management and file transfer utilities via a browser to support subsequent exfiltration activities (e.g., AnyDesk, FileZilla, 7zip, etc.).

The threat group was also observed running internet speed tests via a browser to check for upload speeds before executing exfiltration activities. In addition, the use of Angry IP Scanner was identified in at least one intrusion set.

Lateral movement

The threat group has been known to use AnyDesk, or other available remote management tools, remote desktop protocol (RDP), Cobalt Strike, PowerShell commands and valid credentials taken from initial access to move laterally.

Command and control

In addition to using valid credentials to log into the VPN directly, the threat group has utilized Cobalt Strike for C2 for backup persistence, if needed.

Exfiltration and impact

The threat group has been seen utilizing 7zip and WinZip for compression, as well as Rclone or FileZilla (SFTP) for staging and final exfiltration to Mega.io cloud storage.

The staging directories utilized for exfiltration were C:\Perflogs and C:\Recovery.

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Suggested mitigations

  • Employ robust and routine user-awareness and training regimens for users of all systems.
  • Ensure that a robust crisis management and incident response plan are in place in the event of a high impact intrusion.
  • Maintain best practices against malware, such as patching, updating anti-virus software, implementing strict network egress policies, and using application whitelisting where feasible.
  • Patch infrastructure to the highest available level, as threat actors are often better able to exploit older systems with existing vulnerabilities.
  • Ensure all internet-facing security and remote access appliances are patched to the latest versions.
  • Disable RDP on external-facing devices and restrict workstation-to-workstation RDP connections.
  • Employ a strong corporate password policy that includes industry standards for password length, complexity, and expiration dates for both human and non-human accounts.
  • Use MFA where possible for authenticating corporate accounts to include remote access mechanisms and security tools. Admin accounts should be cross-platform MFA enforced.
  • Use admin accounts only for administrative purposes and never to connect to the network or browse the internet.
  • Do not store unprotected credentials in files and scripts on shared locations.
  • Deploy EDR across the environment, targeting at least 90% coverage of endpoint and workload visibility.
  • Encrypt data at rest where possible and protect related keys and technology.
  • Hunt for attacker TTPs, including common “living off the land” techniques, to proactively detect and respond to a cyber-attack and mitigate its impact.


Tactics and techniques observed

Tactic Technique
Initial access T1133: External Remote Services
T1078: Valid Accounts
Execution T1059: Command and Scripting Interpreter
T1086: PowerShell
T1035: Service Execution
Persistence T1078: Valid Accounts
T1050: New Service
Privilege escalation T1078: Valid Accounts
Defense Evasion T1078: Valid Accounts
T1036: Masquerading
T1027: Obfuscated Files or Information
Credential Access T1110: Brute Force
T1003: Credential Dumping
Discovery T1083: File and Directory Discovery
T1082: System Information Discovery
T1087: Account Discovery
T1135: Network Share Discovery
T1069: Permission Groups Discovery
T1018: Remote System Discovery
T1016: System Network Configuration Discovery
Lateral Movement T1076: Remote Desktop Protocol
T1028: Windows Remote Management
Collection T1005: Data from Local System
T1039: Data from Network Shared Drive
Command & Control T1043: Commonly Used Port
T1105: Remote File Copy
T1071: Standard Application Layer Protocol
Exfiltration T1002: Data Compressed
T1048: Exfiltration Over Alternative Protocol
Impact T1489: Service Stop

If you have an incident or need additional information on ways to prevent, detect, respond to, or recover from, cyberthreats, contact a member of our CIFR team 24/7/365 by phone 888-RISK-411 or email CIFR.hotline@accenture.com

Accenture Security

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Given the inherent nature of threat intelligence, the content contained in this alert is based on information gathered and understood at the time of its creation. It is subject to change. The information in this alert is general in nature and does not take into account the specific needs of your IT ecosystem and network, which may vary and require unique action. As such, all information and content set out is provided on an “as-is” basis without representation or warranty and the reader is responsible for determining whether or not to follow any of the suggestions, recommendations or potential mitigations set out in this report, entirely at their own discretion. Accenture accepts no liability for any action or failure to act in response to the information contained or referenced in this alert.

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