Shadowsyndicate Hackers Linked to Multiple Ransomware Ops, 85 Servers

Cyber Security Threat Summary:
Security researchers have identified ShadowSyndicate as a threat actor using seven ransomware families in attacks over the past year. They suggest it could be an initial access broker and affiliate to ransomware operations. Their findings are based on a distinct SSH fingerprint found on 85 IP servers, discovered using tools like Shodan and Censys. This fingerprint was first seen in July 2022 and still in use in August 2023. Researchers also found eight different Cobalt Strike watermarks on ShadowSyndicate servers.

The eight Cobalt Strike servers were found communicating with Cactus, Royal, Quantum, Nokoyawa, Play, Clop, and BlackCat/ALPHV ransomware on various victim networks. Among these servers, the researchers identified Cobalt Strike configurations on two of them, with one featuring the ShadowSyndicate SSH fingerprint. In some attacks, ShadowSyndicate employed the Sliver penetration tool, previously considered a potential replacement for Cobalt Strike. Additionally, other tools observed in ShadowSyndicate attacks include the IcedID malware loader, the Matanbuchus MaaS loader, and the Meterpreter Metasploit payload.

Security Officer Comments:
The analysts investigated 85 servers sharing the same SSH key fingerprint associated with ShadowSyndicate. Surprisingly, they discovered 18 different owners, 22 distinct network names, and 13 different locations for these servers. They linked these servers to specific attacks, including a Quantum attack in September 2022, three Nokoyawa attacks in Q4 2022 and April 2023, and an ALPHV attack in February 2023. Additionally, there's less confident evidence connecting ShadowSyndicate to Ryuk, Conti, Trickbot, Royal, Clop, and Play malware operations. Regarding Clop, 12 IP addresses once linked to the ransomware were transferred to ShadowSyndicate since August 2022 and now serve for Cobalt Strike operations. However, a high-confidence direct link between ShadowSyndicate and Clop remains uncertain. In conclusion, Group-IB believes ShadowSyndicate is likely an affiliate collaborating with various ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) operations, but more evidence is needed. They encourage external researchers to join efforts in uncovering the remaining mysteries to combat cybercrime effectively.

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.