January 4, 2019 By Douglas Bonderud 2 min read

Researchers discovered a connection between four malware families — Ursnif, Emotet, Dridex and BitPaymer — that suggests threat actors may be combining efforts to develop more sophisticated attack vectors.

According to Trend Micro, analysis of these four malware families revealed markedly similar loader and decryption procedures, indicating a possible compartmentalization of work, “as if tasks were divided among different developers and operators.”

Given the impact of the Ursnif and Dridex banking Trojans, the ubiquity of Emotet loaders, and the ability of BitPaymer to infiltrate systems via remote desktop and email vectors, this malware interoperability provides evidence that malicious actors are developing their own versions of professional organizations to empower threat evolution.

How Threat Groups Increase Speed and Sophistication With Collaboration

Speed of development is a primary concern when malware groups work in concert. In the same way that enterprises can streamline software creation by using open-source tools created by other professionals, malware builders can improve their time to market by distributing tasks among multiple criminal groups. While it makes sense for organizations to develop their own obfuscation or evasion procedures, they’re better served by collaborating on common elements — such as loaders and decryptors — to reduce their total workload.

Another concern for businesses is increasing sophistication. Working together, criminal groups can reduce the rate of human coding errors via shared code checking and avoid duplicating previously defeated threat vectors by leveraging larger experience pools. In addition, native interoperability provides a much more powerful package right out of the box: Ursnif distributors can more easily compromise networks with BitPaymer attacks and Emotet loaders.

Counter the Efforts of Organized Attackers

What does this mean for enterprise security teams? Organizations must be willing to share threat data and collaborate on IT security efforts. Experts also recommend a back-to-basics approach: Ensure that all antivirus software is up to date and keep applications fully patched.

In addition, IBM specialists recommend adopting offensive security techniques to uncover potential network vulnerabilities before they’re exploited by malicious actors. This means conducting regular vulnerability assessments and penetration tests to help frustrate the efforts of organized attackers.

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