June 17, 2019 By David Bisson 2 min read

Threat actors are using targeted attack tools to distribute typical malware, such as cryptocurrency miners and ransomware.

Trend Micro recently discovered a targeted attack wave that has its sights set on company-owned machines running outdated versions of Microsoft Windows. The security firm noted how those responsible for this campaign perpetuate their malicious activity by using a package of tools owned by the Equation Group and subsequently leaked online by the Shadow Brokers. For instance, researchers came across a variant of Vools, a backdoor that leverages the EternalBlue exploit to deliver cryptocurrency miners, ransomware and other typical malware samples.

Since it first began tracking the campaign in March 2019, Trend Micro has unearthed at least 80 files involved with the attacks. All of these files ended up being variants of XMRig, a well-known Monero mining tool. Together, these files affected organizations all over the world, particularly in China, India and other Asian countries, across a wide range of industries.

Sophisticated Attack Tools on the Rise

This campaign is but one of many in which bad actors used sophisticated attack tools. Earlier in June, for instance, Trend Micro detected a new malware family known as BlackSquid. The sample analyzed by the security firm didn’t just employ antivirtualization, antidebugging and antisandboxing as a way of evading detection by traditional security tools. It also arrived with the ability to use eight of the most notorious exploits in circulation today — including EternalBlue and DoublePulsar — to infect a targeted machine.

It was around this same time that Bromium observed an uptick in attack campaigns using regional checks to facilitate their delivery of Ursnif, Yakes and other Trojans.

How to Defend Against a Targeted Attack

One common defense against this kind of targeted attack is monitoring all assets and devices to detect unexpected actions for which artificial intelligence-powered campaigns might be responsible. Security teams should also use thorough risk assessments, disable JavaScript and update host-based detection as a way of protecting against cryptojacking attacks.

More from

Change Healthcare discloses $22M ransomware payment

3 min read - UnitedHealth Group CEO Andrew Witty found himself answering questions in front of Congress on May 1 regarding the Change Healthcare ransomware attack that occurred in February. During the hearing, he admitted that his organization paid the attacker's ransomware request. It has been reported that the hacker organization BlackCat, also known as ALPHV, received a payment of $22 million via Bitcoin.Even though they made the ransomware payment, Witty shared that Change Healthcare did not get its data back. This is a…

Phishing kit trends and the top 10 spoofed brands of 2023

4 min read -  The 2024 IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Index reported that phishing was one of the top initial access vectors observed last year, accounting for 30% of incidents. To carry out their phishing campaigns, attackers often use phishing kits: a collection of tools, resources and scripts that are designed and assembled to ease deployment. Each phishing kit deployment corresponds to a single phishing attack, and a kit could be redeployed many times during a phishing campaign. IBM X-Force has analyzed thousands of…

How I got started: AI security researcher

4 min read - For the enterprise, there’s no escape from deploying AI in some form. Careers focused on AI are proliferating, but one you may not be familiar with is AI security researcher. These AI specialists are cybersecurity professionals who focus on the unique vulnerabilities and threats that arise from the use of AI and machine learning (ML) systems. Their responsibilities vary, but key roles include identifying and analyzing potential security flaws in AI models and developing and testing methods malicious actors could…

Topic updates

Get email updates and stay ahead of the latest threats to the security landscape, thought leadership and research.
Subscribe today