HADES ransomware operators continue attacks
June 29, 2021
RISE FROM THE ASHES! HADES RANSOMWARE OPERATORS CONTINUE TO PROLIFERATE ATTACKS, DEPLOYING NEW VARIANTS ALONG THE WAY.
Accenture Security – Cyber Investigations, Forensic & Response (CIFR), Accenture Cyber Threat Intelligence (ACTI)
The information outlined in this blog is based on collection from CIFR incident response engagements, threat intelligence insights, Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT), 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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Accenture Security assesses with a moderate-to-high level of confidence that a previously reported unknown threat group is now using multiple ransomware variants in cybercrime operations that have impacted at least seven (7) victims. Based on collection sources, the threat group has been in operations since at least December 2020 and has continued to target victims through May 2021. Accenture Security also analyzed the group's activities in the context of attribution, victimology, and TTPs employed based on collection from industry publications, OSINT and incident response data. Accenture Security assesses the group's operations are well underway, and their activity will likely continue to proliferate into the foreseeable future, impacting additional carefully selected victims.
Based on our collection sources, we are currently aware of at least seven (7) victims spanning multiple industry verticals. Consistent with previous reporting, all known victims are large multi-national organizations with annual revenues exceeding $1 billion USD. The profiles of the known victims continue to be a consistent indicator of Big Game Hunting, with target selection and deployment methods aimed toward high-value payouts.
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Despite the numerous similarities in the potentially linked intrusion sets described herein, there are very few similarities between the victims themselves beyond geography. This includes few overlaps in industry vertical, political ideology, or public status.
As previously noted, the most significant commonality between victims is that they all fall into the category of “big game ransomware targets”12, large companies with the perceived ability to pay larger ransoms demanded by the threat actors.
In all cases, the threat actors used a relatively standard toolkit with only minor variations, including but not limited to the following:
Accenture Security assesses that careful target selection and a unique approach to victim communication, combined with a “lone wolf” approach, also may explain the relatively low number of known victims since Hades was first identified publicly in December 2020. Lone wolf ransomware groups typically operate outside of the affiliate-based model and don’t consistently participate in RaaS operations. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean they are not a well-resourced group in and of themselves. In addition, consistent with analysis published by SecureWorks, the ACTI team did not identify related activity on underground forums and criminal marketplaces, further supporting our assessment.
Based on updated intrusion data from incident response engagements, the operators tailor their tactics and tooling to carefully selected targets and run a more “hands on keyboard” operation to inflict maximum damage and higher payouts. This includes multi-million-dollar (USD) ransom demands, and in at least two (2) instances, successful payment. However, while portions of each intrusion chain may seem “novel” in nature, their approach suggests a moderate level of operational and technical sophistication, as the operators leverage a mostly standard toolkit and often use “noisy” approaches for reconnaissance. In at least one instance, the targeted organization successfully deterred the attack before impact, so the intended action on objectives are unknown.
The primary methods for initial access into the victim’s network includes internet-facing systems via Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) or Virtual Private Network (VPN) using legitimate credentials, as well as SocGholish malware delivered via fake Chrome browser updates.
The use of legitimate credentials, service creation, and distribution of Command and Control (C2) beacons across victim environments through the use of Cobalt Strike and Empire, seem to be the predominant approach used by the threat group to further their foothold and maintain persistence.
In addition, consistent with previous reporting, the threat actors operated out of the root of C:ProgramData where several executables tied to the intrusion set were found.
Credential harvesting and subsequent privilege escalation achieved through the use of tooling to include mimikatz and manual enumeration of credentials found within files.
Impeding defenses was achieved through use of domain administrator credentials and includes the following:
Observed multiple methods for internal network reconnaissance, including various reconnaissance scripts and tools such as Advanced Port Scanner used to collect network, host, and domain information.
Lateral movement accomplished via compromised accounts obtained during internal reconnaissance activities. Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) and PSexec were also leveraged for host-to-host lateral movement.
In one incident, the threat actor installed a custom build of Chrome.exe and leveraged the native browser capabilities to manually target the victim’s cloud environments. This activity included enumeration of high-value accounts and targeted destruction of data and backups through the cloud management console.
In addition, the attempted use of KeeThief for lateral movement was observed. This tool is often used by threat actors to abuse credentials stored in KeePass databases. Specifically, threat actors deployed an instance of KeeThief.ps1—an open-source PowerShell package written in 2016 designed to compromise credentials stored in memory on a system with an open KeePass database.
Command and Control
In most of the recent incidents, the threat actors utilized the ubiquitous Cobalt Strike post-exploitation framework for command and control within the impacted environments with at least two (2) external beacons per environment. Command and control was also established using remote manipulator system 3(RMS).
Exfiltration & Impact
Prior to deploying ransomware, the unknown threat group has employed the 7zip utility to archive data that was then staged and exfiltrated to an attacker-controlled server hosted in Mega[.]nz cloud infrastructure, leveraging the MEGAsync utility. In addition to data theft, actors deploy ransomware with PSexec to encrypt files identified on the victim network. The operators leverage this approach for "double-extortion" tactics.
|Initial access||T1133: External Remote Services
T1078: Valid Accounts
T1189: Drive-by Compromise
|Execution||T1059: Command and Scripting Interpreter
T1035: Service Execution
|Persistence||T1078: Valid Accounts
T1050: New Service
|Privilege escalation||T1055: Process Injection
T1078: Valid Accounts
|Defense Evasion||T1078: Valid Accounts
T1027: Obfuscated Files or Information
T1070: Indicator Removal on a Host
T1562: Impair Defenses
|Credential Access||T1110: Brute Force
T1003: Credential Dumping
|Discovery||T1083: File and Directory Discovery
T1082: System Information Discovery
T1087: Account Discovery
T1482: Domain Trust 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||T1486: Data Encrypted for Impact
T1489: Service Stop
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