New Iranian Ransomware Groups Detected

Iranian hackers using ransomware and are targeting companies in Russia, India, China, and Japan and two new groups have recently been identified. One highly professional, the other less so. 

One new group is deploying Dharma ransomware and based upon on forensic analysis, this is a non-sophisticated, financially-motivated gang that is new to cyber crime and they are going after easy hits, using publicly available tools in their activity.

The second  group are elite hackers associated with the Iranian government has been detected attacking the US private and government sector, according to a security alert sent by the FBI. 

While the alert, called a Private Industry Notification, didn’t identify the hackers by name, sources say that the group is tracked by the larger cyber-security community under code names such as Fox Kitten or Pari site. Fox Kitten primarily operates by attacking high-end and expensive network equipment using exploits for recently disclosed vulnerabilities, before companies had enough time to patch devices.

Due to the nature of the devices they attack, targets primarily include large private corporations and government networks. Once the hackers gain access to a device, they install a web shell or backdoor, transforming the equipment into a gateway into the hacked network.

Amateur Hackers at Work

These threat hackers is not as greedy as they might be and their demand is typically between 1-5 Bitcoin (currently $11,700 – $59,000), which is on the lower range of ransom demand compared to other ransomware operations. They find victims by scanning IP address ranges on the internet for exposed Remote Desktop Connections (DP); their tool of choice for this stage is Massana, an open-source port scanner. Next, they launch a brute-force with Librate, a utility that tries a list of DP passwords in an attempt to find a combo that works. Once in, they sometimes try to elevate privileges by exploiting an old vulnerability in Windows 7 through 10.

Researchers at cyber security company Group-IB learned about this new group in June during an incident response engagement at a company in Russia. Based on forensic artifacts, they determined the attacker to be “Persian-speaking newbie hackers.”

Supporting this conclusion are clues from the next steps of the attack, which seem to lack the confidence of an actor that knows what to do once after breaching a network.

Further evidence that the operation is the work of a script kiddie from Iran comes from search queries in Persian to find other tools necessary for the attack and from the Persian-language Telegram channels providing them. The number of victims compromised by this threat actor remains unknown, just like the path that led the threat actor to Dharma ransomware-as-a-service (RAAS) operation.

An OPEC error by an Iranian threat actor has laid bare the inner workings of the hacking group by providing a rare insight into the “behind-the-scenes look into their methods.”

IBM’s X-Force Incident Response Intelligence Services (IRIS) got hold of nearly five hours-worth of video recordings of the state-sponsored group it calls IPTG which is also called Charming Kitten,  that it uses to train its operators. Some of the victims in the videos included personal accounts of US and Greek Navy personnel, in addition to unsuccessful phishing attempts directed against US state department officials and an unnamed Iranian-American philanthropist.

Researchers said part of this change may be attributed to the pandemic exposing a number of vulnerable hosts, with many employees working remotely, making an extremely popular attack vector for cyber criminals.  

US Dept. Of Justice:     MalwareBytes:     Threatpost:       Hacker News:     

 Oodaloop:     ZDNet:      Bleeping  Computer:   

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