New SystemBC Malware Variant Targets Southern African Power Company

Cyber Security Threat Summary:
“An unknown threat actor has been linked to a cyber attack on a power generation company in southern Africa with a new variant of the SystemBC malware called DroxiDat as a precursor to a suspected ransomware attack. ‘The proxy-capable backdoor was deployed alongside Cobalt Strike Beacons in a south African nation's critical infrastructure,’ Kurt Baumgartner, principal security researcher at Kaspersky's Global Research and Analysis Team (GReAT), said. The Russian cybersecurity company said the attack, which took place in late March 2023, was in its early stages and involved the use of DroxiDat to profile the system and proxy network traffic using the SOCKS5 protocol to and from command-and-control (C2) infrastructure. SystemBC is a C/C++-based commodity malware and remote administrative tool that was first seen in 2019. Its main feature is to set up SOCKS5 proxies on victim computers that can then be used by threat actors to tunnel malicious traffic associated with other malware. Newer variants of the malware can also download and run additional payloads” (The Hacker News, 2023).

Security Officer Comments:
The latest strain is more compact compared to its predecessors. According to researchers, it seems as if most of the functionality provided in previous SystemBC payloads has been stripped from the codebase, with DroxiDat solely acting as a simple system profiler as it has no download or execute capabilities. For its part, DroxiDat is capable of the following functions:

  • Retrieves active machine name/username, local IP and volume serial information.
  • Instead of creating an exclusive-use mutex, it checks and then creates a new thread and registers a window, class “Microsoft” and text “win32app” (included in all variants of systemBC).
  • Simple xor decrypts its C2 (IP:port) settings and creates a session to the remote host.
  • Encrypts and sends collected system information to the C2.
  • May create and delete registry keys and values.
Based on the activity observed in the latest attack, Kaspersky asses with low confidence that the actors are linked to a Russian-speaking RaaS cybercrime group called FIN12, aka Pistachio Tempest. In the past FIN12 has specifically targeted the healthcare industry, frequently deploying SystemBC in addition to Cobalt Strike to infect targeted systems with Ryuk ransomware.

Suggested Correction(s):
Backup your data, system images, and configurations, regularly test them, and keep the backups offline: Ensure that backups are regularly tested and that they are not connected to the business network, as many ransomware variants try to find and encrypt or delete accessible backups. Maintaining current backups offline is critical because if your network data is encrypted with ransomware, your organization can restore systems.

Update and patch systems promptly: This includes maintaining the security of operating systems, applications, and firmware in a timely manner. Consider using a centralized patch management system; use a risk- based assessment strategy to drive your patch management program.

Test your incident response plan: There's nothing that shows the gaps in plans more than testing them. Run through some core questions and use those to build an incident response plan: Are you able to sustain business operations without access to certain systems? For how long? Would you turn off your manufacturing operations if business systems such as billing were offline?

Check Your Security Team's Work: Use a 3rd party pen tester to test the security of your systems and your ability to defend against a sophisticated attack. Many ransomware criminals are aggressive and sophisticated and will find the equivalent of unlocked doors.

Segment your networks: There's been a recent shift in ransomware attacks – from stealing data to disrupting operations. It's critically important that your corporate business functions and manufacturing/production operations are separated and that you carefully filter and limit internet access to operational networks, identify links between these networks and develop workarounds or manual controls to ensure ICS networks can be isolated and continue operating if your corporate network is compromised. Regularly test contingency plans such as manual controls so that safety critical functions can be maintained during a cyber incident.

Train employees: Email remains the most vulnerable attack vector for organizations. Users should be trained how to avoid and spot phishing emails. Multi Factor authentication can help prevent malicious access to sensitive services.