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Albabat, Kasseika, Kuiper: New Ransomware Gangs Rise with Rust and Golang

Cybersecurity researchers have detected in the wild yet another variant of the Phobos ransomware family known as Faust.

Fortinet FortiGuard Labs, which detailed the latest iteration of the ransomware, said it’s being propagated by means of an infection that delivers a Microsoft Excel document (.XLAM) containing a VBA script.

“The attackers utilized the Gitea service to store several files encoded in Base64, each carrying a malicious binary,” security researcher Cara Lin said in a technical report published last week. “When these files are injected into a system’s memory, they initiate a file encryption attack.”

Faust is the latest addition to several ransomware variants from the Phobos family, including Eking, Eight, Elbie, Devos, and 8Base. It’s worth noting that Faust was previously documented by Cisco Talos in November 2023.

The cybersecurity firm described the variant as active since 2022 and “does not target specific industries or regions.”

The attack chain commences with an XLAM document that, when opened, downloads Base64-encoded data from Gitea in order to save a harmless XLSX file, while also stealthily retrieving an executable that masquerades as an updater for the AVG AntiVirus software (“AVG updater.exe”).

The binary, for its part, functions as a downloader to fetch and launch another executable named “SmartScreen Defender Windows.exe” in order to kick-start its encryption process by employing a fileless attack to deploy the malicious shellcode.

“The Faust variant exhibits the ability to maintain persistence in an environment and creates multiple threads for efficient execution,” Lin said.

The development comes as new ransomware families such as Albabat (aka White Bat), Kasseika, Kuiper, Mimus, and NONAME have gained traction, with the former a Rust-based malware that’s distributed in the form of fraudulent software such as a fake Windows 10 digital activation tool and a cheat program for the Counter-Strike 2 game.

Trellix, which examined the Windows, Linux, and macOS versions of Kuiper earlier this month, attributed the Golang-based ransomware to a threat actor named RobinHood, who first advertised it on underground forums in September 2023.

“The concurrency focused nature of Golang benefits the threat actor here, avoiding race conditions and other common problems when dealing with multiple threads, which would have otherwise been a (near) certainty,” security researcher Max Kersten said.

“Another factor that the Kuiper ransomware leverages, which is also a reason for Golang’s increased popularity, are the language’s cross-platform capabilities to create builds for a variety of platforms. This flexibility allows attackers to adapt their code with little effort, especially since the majority of the code base (i.e., encryption-related activity) is pure Golang and requires no rewriting for a different platform.”

NONAME is also noteworthy for the fact that its data leak site imitates that of the LockBit group, raising the possibility that it could either be another LockBit or that it collects leaked databases shared by LockBit on the official leak portal, researcher Rakesh Krishnan pointed out.

The findings follow a report from French cybersecurity company Intrinsec that connected the nascent 3AM (also spelled ThreeAM) ransomware to the Royal/BlackSuit ransomware, which, in turn, emerged following the shutdown of the Conti cybercrime syndicate in May 2022.

The links stem from a “significant overlap” in tactics and communication channels between 3 AM ransomware and the “shared infrastructure of ex-Conti-Ryuk-TrickBot nexus.”

That’s not all. Ransomware actors have been observed once again using TeamViewer as an initial access vector to breach target environments and attempt to deploy encryptors based on the LockBit ransomware builder, which leaked in September 2022.

“Threat actors look for any available means of access to individual endpoints to wreak havoc and possibly extend their reach further into the infrastructure,” cybersecurity firm Huntress said.

In recent weeks, LockBit 3.0 has also been distributed in the form of Microsoft Word files disguised as resumes targeting entities in South Korea, according to the AhnLab Security Intelligence Center (ASEC).

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