SenseCy 2015 Annual Cyber Threat Intelligence Report

Written and prepared by SenseCy’s Cyber Intelligence analysts.

SenseCy’s 2015 Annual CTI Report spans the main trends and activities monitored by us in the different cyber arenas including the world of Arab hacktivism, the Russian underground, the English-speaking underground, the Darknet and the Iranian underground. In addition, we have listed the major cyber incidents that occurred in 2015, and the most prominent attacks against Israeli organizations.

The following is an excerpt from the report. To receive a copy, please send a request to: info@sensecy.com

Executive Summary

2015 was a prolific year for cyber threats, so before elaborating on our main insights from the different arenas covered here at SenseCy, we would like to first summarize three of the main trends we observed in 2015.

Firstly, when reviewing 2015, we recommend paying special attention to the evolving world of ransomware and new applications of this type of malware, such as Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS), and ransomware targeting cloud services, as opposed to local networks and more.

Secondly, throughout 2015, we witnessed cyber-attacks against high-profile targets attributed to ISIS-affiliated hackers and groups. One such incident was the January 2015 allegedly attack against the YouTube channel and Twitter account of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).

Thirdly, 2015 revealed a continuing interest in the field of critical infrastructure among hackers. Throughout the year, we witnessed multiple incidents of critical infrastructure firms allegedly targeted by hackers, prompting periodic analyses addressing the potential vulnerabilities of critical sectors such as energy, water, and more. Taking into consideration the advanced capabilities and high-level of understanding of such systems required to execute such attacks, many security firms and experts are confident that these attacks are supported by nation-state actors.

Insights

The following are several of our insights regarding activities in different cyber arenas this past year:

Islamic Hacktivism

During 2015, we detected several indications of anti-Israel cybercrime activity on closed platforms frequented by Arabic-speaking hackers. It will be interesting to see if these anti-Israel hacktivists that usually call to deface Israeli websites or carry out DDoS attacks will attempt to incorporate phishing attacks, spamming methods and tools into their arsenals. Notwithstanding, Islamic hacktivism activity continues unabated, but without any significant success.

Trade on Russian Underground Forums

The prominent products currently traded during 2015 on Russian underground forums are ransomware programs and exploits targeting Microsoft Office. With regard to banking Trojans, we did not notice any major developments or the appearance of new Trojans for sale. The PoS malware field has not yielded any new threats either, in contrast to the impression given by its intensive media coverage.

Mobile malware for Android devices is on the rise as well, with the majority of tools offered being Trojans, but we have also detected ransomware and loaders.

Prices on the Russian Underground have remained unchanged during the past two years, due to the vigorous competition between sellers on these platforms.

Different kinds of services, such as digital signing for malicious files, injections development for MitM attacks and crypting malware to avoid detection were also extremely popular on Russian forums.

Exploits and exploit kits on the Russian underground
Exploits and exploit kits on the Russian underground

The English-Language Underground

Our analysis of password-protected forums revealed that exploits were the best-selling products of 2015. This comes as no surprise, since exploits are a vital part of almost every attack.

The Darknet made the headlines on multiple occasions this year, mostly owing to databases that were leaked on it and media reports recounting FBI activities against Darknet users. Furthermore, this year saw increased activity by the hacking community on the Darknet, manifested in dedicated markets for the sale of 0-day exploits and the establishment of several new hacking forums.

Sales of hacking tools in the English-language underground
Sales of hacking tools in the English-language underground

The Iranian Underground

With regard to Iranian threat actors, 2015 was a highly prolific year, with attack groups making headlines around the world. Delving deeper into the Iranian underground, we uncovered several interesting trends, some more clear than others.

One main development in 2015 was the persistent interest in critical infrastructure, with underground forum members sharing and requesting information related to industrial control systems and other related components. With Iranian actors becoming increasingly drawn to this field, we assess that this trend will remain relevant in 2016 as well.

Another growing phenomenon is the stunted life cycles of Iranian cyber groups, many with a life-span of just several months. This trend makes it difficult to monitor the different entities active in the Iranian cyber arena and their activities. To understand the constant changes in this realm, this short life cycle trend must be taken into consideration and the Iranian cyber arena continuously monitored.

That said, we must not overlook one of the most prominent characteristics of Iranian attack groups – confidentiality. With attacks attributed to Iranian actors becoming more sophisticated and high-profile, we believe that the divide between medium-level practices of malicious activity and alleged state-sponsored activity by attack groups will remain pronounced.

Screenshot from the IDC-Team forum showing, among other things, the list of “Hottest Threads” and “Most Viewed Threads” on the forum
Screenshot from the IDC-Team forum showing, among other things, the list of “Hottest Threads” and “Most Viewed Threads” on the forum

ISIS – Cyber-Jihad

On the other side of the Arab-speaking cyber world, we can find ISIS and its evolving cyber activities. There is disagreement between intelligence firms and cyber experts about the cyber offensive capabilities of the Islamic State. In addition, there is a high motivation among hackers that identify with the group’s fundamentalist agenda to carry out cyber-attacks against Western targets, especially against those countries actively involved in the war against the group in Iraq and Syria.

ORX-Locker – A Darknet Ransomware That Even Your Grandmother Can Use

Written by Ran L. and Mickael S.

The bar for becoming a cyber-criminal has never been so low. Whether buying off-the-shelf malware or writing your own, with a small investment, anyone can make a profit. Now it seems that the bar has been lowered even further with the creation of a new Darknet site that offers Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS), titled ORX-Locker.

Ransomware-as-a-Service enables a user with no knowledge or cash to create his own stubs and use them to infect systems. If the victim decides to pay, the ransom goes to the service provider, who takes a percent of the payment and forwards the rest to the user. For cyber-criminals, this is a win-win situation. The user who cannot afford to buy the ransomware or does not have the requisite knowledge can acquire it for free, and the creator gets his ransomware spread without any effort from his side.

This is not the first time we have seen this kind of service. McAfee previously (May, 2015) reported on Tox. While Tox was the first ransomware-as-a-service, it seems that ORX has taken the idea one step further, with AV evasion methods and complex communication techniques, and apparently also using universities and other platforms as its infrastructure.

In the “August 2015 IBM Security IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Quarterly, 3Q 2015,” published on Monday (August 24, 2015), IBM mentioned TOX while predicting: “This simplicity may spread rapidly to more sophisticated but less common ransomware attack paradigms and lead to off-the-shelf offerings in the cloud.” Just one day later, a post was published on a closed Darknet forum regarding the new ORX-Locker service.

ORX – First Appearance

On August 25, 2015, a user dubbed orxteam published a post regarding the new ransomware service. The message, which was part of his introduction post – a mandatory post every new user has to make to be accepted to the forum – described the new ORX-Locker ransomware as a service platform. In the introduction, the user presented himself as Team ORX, a group that provides private locker software (their name for ransomware) and also ransomware-as-a-service platform.

ORX team introduction post in a closed Darknet hacking forum.
ORX Team introduction post in a closed Darknet hacking forum.

ORX Locker Online Platform

Team ORX has built a Darknet website dedicated to the new public service. To enter the site, new users just need to register. No email or other identification details are required. Upon registration, users have the option to enter a referral username, which will earn them three percent from every payment made to the new user. After logging in, the user can move between five sections:

Home – the welcome screen where you users can see statistics on how much system has been locked by their ransom, how many victims decided to pay, how much they earned and their current balance.

Build EXE – Team ORX has made the process of creating a stub so simple that the only thing a user needs to do is to enter an ID number for his stub (5 digits max) and the ransom price (ORX put a minimum of $75). After that, the user clicks on the Build EXE button and the stub is created and presented in a table with all other stubs previously created by the user.

ORX-Locker Darknet platform, which enables every registered user to build his own ransomware stub.
ORX-Locker Darknet platform, which enables every registered user to build his own ransomware stub.

Stats – This section presents the user with information on systems infected with his stub, including the system OS, how many files have been encrypted, time and date of infection, how much profit has been generated by each system, etc.

Wallet – following a successful infection, the user can withdraw his earnings and transfer them to a Bitcoin address of his choosing.

Support – This section provides general information on the service, including more information on how to build the stub and a mail address (orxsupport@safe-mail[.]net) that users can contact if they require support.

Ransomware

When a user downloads the created stub, he gets a zip file containing the stub, in the form of an “.exe” file. Both the zip and the stub names consist of a random string, 20-characters long. Each file has a different name.

Once executed, the ransomware starts communicating with various IP addresses. The following is a sample from our analysis:

  1. 130[.]75[.]81[.]251 – Leibniz University of Hanover
  2. 130[.]149[.]200[.]12 – Technical University of Berlin
  3. 171[.]25[.]193[.]9 – DFRI (Swedish non-profit and non-party organization working for digital rights)
  4. 199[.]254[.]238[.]52 – Riseup (Riseup provides online communication tools for people and groups working on liberatory social change)

As you can see, some of the addresses are related to universities and others to organizations with various agendas.

Upon activation, the ransomware connects to the official TOR project website and downloads the TOR client. The malware then transmits data over this channel. Using hidden services for communication is a trend that has been adopted by most known ransomware tools in the last year, as was the case of Cryptowall 3.0. In our analysis, the communication was over the standard 9050 port and over 49201.

The final piece would be the encryption of files on the victim’s machine. Unlike other, more “target oriented” ransomware, this particular one locks all files, changing the file ending to .LOCKED and deletes the originals.

When the ransomware finishes encrypting the files, a message will popup announcing that all the files were encrypted, and a payment instruction file will be created on the desktop.

After the ransomware finishes encrypting the files, a message will popup announcing that all the files were encrypted
After the ransomware finishes encrypting the files, a message will popup announcing that all the files were encrypted

In the payment instruction file (.html), the victim receives a unique payment ID and a link to the payment website, located on the onion network (rkcgwcsfwhvuvgli[.]onion). After entering the site using the payment ID, the victim receives another set of instructions in order to complete the payment.

ORX-Locker payment platform which has a dedicated site located on the onion network.
ORX-Locker payment platform, which has a dedicated site located on the onion network.

Finally, although some basic persistence and anti-AV mechanisms are present, the malware still has room to “grow.” We are certain that as its popularity grows, more developments and enhancements will follow.

YARA rule:

rule ORXLocker
{
meta:
author = “SenseCy”
date = “30/08/15”
description = “ORXLocker_yara_rule”

strings:
$string0 = {43 61 6e 27 74 20 63 6f 6d 70 6c 65 74 65 20 53 4f 43 4b 53 34 20 63 6f 6e 6e 65 63 74 69 6f 6e 20 74 6f 20 25 64 2e 25 64 2e 25 64 2e 25 64 3a 25 64 2e 20 28 25 64 29 2c 20 72 65 71 75 65 73 74 20 72 65 6a 65 63 74 65 64 20 62 65 63 61 75 73 65 20 74 68 65 20 63 6c 69 65 6e 74 20 70 72 6f 67 72 61 6d 20 61 6e 64 20 69 64 65 6e 74 64 20 72 65 70 6f 72 74 20 64 69 66 66 65 72 65 6e 74 20 75 73 65 72 2d 69 64 73 2e}
$string1 = {43 61 6e 27 74 20 63 6f 6d 70 6c 65 74 65 20 53 4f 43 4b 53 35 20 63 6f 6e 6e 65 63 74 69 6f 6e 20 74 6f 20 25 30 32 78 25 30 32 78 3a 25 30 32 78 25 30 32 78 3a 25 30 32 78 25 30 32 78 3a 25 30 32 78 25 30 32 78 3a 25 30 32 78 25 30 32 78 3a 25 30 32 78 25 30 32 78 3a 25 30 32 78 25 30 32 78 3a 25 30 32 78 25 30 32 78 3a 25 64 2e 20 28 25 64 29}
$string2 = {53 4f 43 4b 53 35 3a 20 73 65 72 76 65 72 20 72 65 73 6f 6c 76 69 6e 67 20 64 69 73 61 62 6c 65 64 20 66 6f 72 20 68 6f 73 74 6e 61 6d 65 73 20 6f 66 20 6c 65 6e 67 74 68 20 3e 20 32 35 35 20 5b 61 63 74 75 61 6c 20 6c 65 6e 3d 25 7a 75 5d}
$string3 = {50 72 6f 78 79 20 43 4f 4e 4e 45 43 54 20 66 6f 6c 6c 6f 77 65 64 20 62 79 20 25 7a 64 20 62 79 74 65 73 20 6f 66 20 6f 70 61 71 75 65 20 64 61 74 61 2e 20 44 61 74 61 20 69 67 6e 6f 72 65 64 20 28 6b 6e 6f 77 6e 20 62 75 67 20 23 33 39 29}
$string4 = {3c 61 20 68 72 65 66 3d 68 74 74 70 73 3a 2f 2f 72 6b 63 67 77 63 73 66 77 68 76 75 76 67 6c 69 2e 74 6f 72 32 77 65 62 2e 6f 72 67 3e 68 74 74 70 73 3a 2f 2f 72 6b 63 67 77 63 73 66 77 68 76 75 76 67 6c 69 2e 74 6f 72 32 77 65 62 2e 6f 72 67 3c 2f 61 3e 3c 62 72 3e}
$string5 = {43 3a 5c 44 65 76 5c 46 69 6e 61 6c 5c 52 65 6c 65 61 73 65 5c 6d 61 69 6e 2e 70 64 62}
$string6 = {2e 3f 41 56 3f 24 62 61 73 69 63 5f 6f 66 73 74 72 65 61 6d 40 44 55 3f 24 63 68 61 72 5f 74 72 61 69 74 73 40 44 40 73 74 64 40 40 40 73 74 64 40 40}
$string7 = {2e 3f 41 56 3f 24 62 61 73 69 63 5f 69 6f 73 40 5f 57 55 3f 24 63 68 61 72 5f 74 72 61 69 74 73 40 5f 57 40 73 74 64 40 40 40 73 74 64 40 40}
$string8 = “ttp://4rhfxsrzmzilheyj.onion/get.php?a=” wide
$string9 = “\\Payment-Instructions.htm” wide

condition:
all of them
}