Threat Actors Use Targeted Attack Tools to Distribute Cryptocurrency Miners, Ransomware

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Trend Micro recently discovered a targeted attack wave that has its sights set on company-owned machines running outdated versions of Microsoft Windows.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.

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David Bisson

Contributing Editor

David Bisson is an infosec news junkie and security journalist. He works as Contributing Editor for Graham Cluley...