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BlackBerry : ARCrypter Ransomware Expands its Operations From Latin America to the World

11/16/2022 | 10:49am EST
ARCrypter Ransomware Expands its Operations From Latin America to the World
Summary

On August 25, 2022, Chile's government computer systems were attacked by a previously unseen ransomware variant. CSIRT of Chile's government published a report which contained some Indicators of Compromise (IoCs) and recommendations for prevention measures.

On October 3, 2022, Invima - The Colombia National Food and Drug Surveillance Institute - reported a cyberattack that led to a temporary shutdown of the organization's web services.

Through our threat hunting efforts, BlackBerry has identified additional samples of interest for this ransomware. Given the timeframe of the attack and the contents of the ransom note mentioning Invima, we believe with a high degree of certainty that this ransomware was used in the Invima cyberattack that took place in early October.

Based on the unique strings identified during the analysis, we have named this unknown ransomware variant "ARCrypter."

Figure 1 - Invima reports a cyber-attack via Twitter.
(Translation: "Following the contingency of the cyberattack, and according to the established monitoring framework, we have enabled the following temporary links for users to fill out the different reports.")

While live and retro hunting on VirusTotal, we found submissions by apparently real victims from China and Canada. Based on the original file names, timelines, and type of submissions, it's highly likely that ARCrypter is no longer confined to LatAm only. It has now expanded its operations worldwide.

Weaponization and Technical Overview

Weapons

PE 64

Attack Vector

Unconfirmed

Network Infrastructure

Tor

Targets

Government organizations, miscellaneous


Technical Analysis

Context

Through effective hunting efforts, we were able to locate samples associated with the first ARCrypter campaign from early August 2022, which was three weeks before the incident that occurred in Chile. Unlike other ransomware variants, where a ransom note is dropped after the file encryption stage, this variant drops the ransom note before the files are encrypted, making this particular delivery mechanism unusual compared to what we have seen in other ransomware samples. Upon ransom note delivery, the dropper then proceeds to drop two batch scripts and the main payload encrypter.

Since this was an undocumented ransomware family and the unique strings of "ARC" were found in all the samples we analyzed, we named this ransomware variant "ARCrypter."

Figure 2 - ARCrypter strings

Attack Vector

The attack vector of the infection is unknown.

Weaponization

During our investigation, we uncovered two AnonFiles URLs facilitating the download of "win.exe" and "win.zip". The "win.exe" file is a dropper file which we will discuss in more detail next. The "win.zip" file is a password-protected archive containing the "win.exe" file. It is important to note that AnonFiles provides anonymous file upload while hiding the IP address of the submitter. This method of file distribution is favored by many threat actors; however, it is unclear whether this particular method was used by the threat actor behind ARCrypter, or somebody else.

Figure 3 - Dropper file "win.exe" download link

First Stage - Dropper

ITW file name

win.exe

Compilation stamp

2022-09-30 18:21:53 UTC

File type/Signature

WIN x64 EXE

File size

884.50 KB (905728 bytes)

Compiler name/version

Microsoft Visual C++


Upon deeper analysis of the dropper file, we found that it contains two resources of interest - BIN and HTML. The HTML resource stores ransom note contents, and the BIN resource contains the encrypted data.

In order to decrypt the BIN resource, the dropper expects an argument "-p" followed by a password. Once the password is provided, the dropper proceeds by creating a random directory under one of the following environment variables:

  • %TMP%
  • %APPDATA%
  • %ALLUSERSPROFILE%
  • %HOMEPATH%

The purpose of this newly created directory is to store the second stage payload using alphanumeric characters, matching the following regular expression:

C:Users\AppDataLocalTemp[a-zA-Z0-9]{9}[a-zA-Z0-9]{9}.exe

Figure 4 - Creation of the second stage payload

While we were unable to identify the correct decryption key used for decryption of the BIN resource, we believe with a high degree of certainty that the second payload is the ARCrypter ransomware.

The ransom note is then extracted from the embedded resource of HTML type, and saved in %TMP%/readme_for_unlock.txt:

C:Users\AppDataLocalTempreadme_for_unlock.txt

Figure 5 - ARCrypter ransom note.

The ransom note contains the username and password required for the victim to log into the communication panel with the threat actors, which is hosted on the .onion site.

Figure 6 - Victims' communication panel with the threat actor

To perform a cleanup for the dropper, two bat files are created in the following location under the %TMP% directory:

C:Users\AppDataLocalTemp[a-zA-Z0-9]{9}.bat

The first bat file terminates the dropper process, overwrites its original file, and executes the second bat file.

The second bat file removes the first bat file from the system and then exits.

Second Stage - Payload

ITW File Name

3.exe

Compilation Stamp

2022-08-22 09:39:04 UTC

File Type/Signature

WIN x64 EXE

File Size

691.00 KB (707584 bytes)

Compiler Name/Version

Microsoft Visual C++


Upon execution, the malware proceeds in establishing persistence by invoking the reg.exe process. The purpose of this is to add the registry key "HKLMSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRunSecurityUpdate" with value of path to the malware.

It also modifies two registry keys used to display the short date by adding a value called "ALL YOUR FILES HAS BEEN ENCRYPTED".

  • HKCUControl PanelInternationalsShortDate
  • HKLMSYSTEMControlSet001ControlCommonGlobUserSettingsControl PanelInternationalsShortDate

To quietly delete all Shadow Volume Copies on the system, the malware invokes vssadmin.exe and runs the following command:

vssadmin delete shadows /All /quiet

Since ARCrypter also targets all the network drives that are connected to the system, the following command is used to ensure that they stay connected during downtime:

C:Windowssystem32cmd.exe /c net config server /autodisconnect:-1

The ARCrypter ransomware will encrypt all the affected files, while skipping some predefined file extensions:

Whitelisted File Extension

.crypt

.blf

.regtrans-ms

.library-ms

.sys

.tmp

.log

.log.tmp

.exe

.bat

.msi

.dll

.ini

The malware will also avoid encrypting files in certain critical locations of the target system:

  • All Users
  • Boot
  • Microsoft
  • Local Settings
  • $Win Reagent
  • Application Data
  • Windows
  • Boot
  • All Users

All of the files that are not on the whitelisted file extension list or whitelisted location get encrypted, and the ".crypt" file extension is appended.

Figure 7 - Files encrypted by ARCrypter

Targets
  • Chilean government organizations
  • The Colombian National Food and Drug Surveillance Institute
Attribution

We have not identified any evidence to attribute this malware to any previously known threat actor or threat group. While both campaigns targeted Latin American countries, currently there is no evidence in the code suggesting that a local threat actor could be the culprit.

Conclusions

In early August 2022, an unknown ransomware variant which BlackBerry named ARCrypter was found targeting Latin American institutions. At this point, we have witnessed that the threat actor behind it has expanded its operations to other countries like China and Canada. The research conducted for this report has helped uncover two sets of files - a malware dropper and file encryptor. A comprehensive list of IoCs as well as MITRE TTPs have been listed below, to help organizations and defenders detect this threat.

APPENDIX 1 - Indicators of Compromise (IoCs)

md5

sha256

6b402772ac82df77da8ead65636423da

8d40ac7ff823a82053b413326beba33bf9480a79c49165545fed3e92089b6eb

md5

sha256

bc288a88a43c5a6d4b9dee33d3ef70eb

cc0bd45536a6c15f8b76fe06fd637857e6fbb483dc620793aa3aa27e1ab75a62

md5

sha256

45299d77edb17dc48eccec70e928d9ea

eee0f2f6b2524498f8287f95dd184828a044677700d61e2c0a109866f3dd504d

PDB Path

Z:_ARCDropper.pdb

Weapon type

Dropper

md5

sha256

b95059e7532f3548c0e0d4508f37ac81

32708c5d376f130b48bf3bd706879c1945a2d701036d94e25aceea41a4042052

md5

sha256

58aea2aac89947773dfae8e3859e20b0

39b74b2fb057e8c78a2ba6639cf3d58ae91685e6ac13b57b70d2afb158cf742d

md5

sha256

1acdaba338e67c748e56aa81a27a9831

b14cde376a8a7a9d7ad34cdfd07108c132ad8be7f60c5c0a0f17b6b63eb28b49

md5

sha256

1c4de7e0ebfbface2ff57ba5af6efde0

e1f01b2c624f705cb34c5c1b6d84f11b1d9196c610f6f4dd801a287f3192bf76

md5

sha256

09aaf431d8db13c6ebca277d918665d6

5634e4e97a71930c574b80e50ee479ab782b6888f5af31c7e7529fa651377f50

md5

sha256

33ee3a75a26856ac3db92baa57faa681

dacce1811b69469f4fd22ca7304ab01d57f4861574d5eeb2c35c0931318582ae

md5

sha256

d3d6993de967b18dbcd7da56f6bd3f29

9a58c306995e125d0d183865894f77a1eb16cc7ca536957b9f82ee9ce83d2ab8

PDB Path

Z:_ARCEncrypter 2.0.pdb

Weapon type

Payload


APPENDIX 2 - Applied Countermeasures
Sigma Rules

Payload

Detection

Description

Severity

Link

Wow6432Node CurrentVersion Autorun Keys Modification

Detects modification of autostart extensibility point (ASEP) in registry.

Medium

registry_set/registry_set_asep_reg_keys_modification_wow6432node.yml

CurrentVersion Autorun Keys Modification

Detects modification of autostart extensibility point (ASEP) in registry.

Medium

registry_set/registry_set_asep_reg_keys_modification_currentversion.yml

Reg Add RUN Key

Detects suspicious command line reg.exe tool adding key to RUN key in Registry

Medium

proc_creation_win_reg_add_run_key.yml

APPENDIX 3 - Detailed MITRE ATT&CK® Mapping

Tactic

Technique

Sub-Technique name

Initial Access

T1091

Replication Through Removable Media

Execution

T1059

Command and Scripting Interpreter

T1106

Native API

T1559.001

Component Object Model

T1569.002

Service Execution

T1047

Windows Management Instrumentation

T1064

Scripting

T1204.001

Malicious Link

T1059.003

Windows Command Shell

Persistence

T1543.003

Windows Service

T1547.001

Registry Run Keys / Startup Folder

Privilege Escalation

T1055

Process Injection

Defense Evasion

T1112

Modify Registry

T1218

System Binary Proxy Execution

T1497.003

Time Based Evasion

T1564.001

Hidden Files and Directories

T1564.003

Hidden Window

T1564.004

NTFS File Attributes

T1036

Masquerading

T1140

Deobfuscate/Decode Files or Information

T1070.004

File Deletion

Discovery

T1057

Process Discovery

T1082

System Information Discovery

T1083

File and Directory Discovery

T1120

Peripheral Device Discovery

T1010

Application Window Discovery

Collection

T1005

Data from Local System

Impact

T1486

Data Encrypted for Impact

T1490

Inhibit System Recovery

About The BlackBerry Research & Intelligence Team

The BlackBerry Research & Intelligence team examines emerging and persistent threats, providing intelligence analysis for the benefit of defenders and the organizations they serve.

Back

Disclaimer

BlackBerry Ltd. published this content on 16 November 2022 and is solely responsible for the information contained therein. Distributed by Public, unedited and unaltered, on 16 November 2022 15:48:04 UTC.


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