GhostSec and Stormous Launch Joint Ransomware Attacks in Over 15 Countries

The cybercrime groups GhostSec and Stormous have collaborated to launch ransomware attacks across multiple sectors in over 15 countries. GhostSec, a member of The Five Families coalition, has been identified as the perpetrator behind the GhostLocker ransomware variant, developed using the Golang programming language. These attacks, known for employing double extortion tactics, have significantly impacted diverse industries, including technology, education, manufacturing, government, transportation, energy, healthcare, real estate, and telecom. In a strategic move, GhostSec introduced a ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) program known as GhostLocker, priced at $269.99 per month, allowing other threat actors to leverage their ransomware capabilities. This initiative was followed by an announcement from Stormous regarding the adoption of Python-based ransomware in their operations.

The recent collaboration between GhostSec and Stormous has resulted in the release of an updated version of GhostLocker, termed GhostLocker 2.0, and the launch of a new RaaS program named STMX_GhostLocker in 2024. The STMX_GhostLocker program offers a range of services for affiliates, including paid options, free services, and a service for individuals interested in selling or publishing stolen data, denoted as the PYV service.

STMX_GhostLocker comes equipped with its own dark web leak site and targets victims through a sophisticated ransomware infrastructure. The ransomware's web panel allows affiliates to monitor their operations, track encryption statuses, and manage payments. Moreover, affiliates can utilize a builder tool to configure the ransomware payload according to their preferences, specifying directories to encrypt and processes to terminate before initiating the encryption process.

Security Officer Comments:

Upon deployment, the ransomware establishes connections with a command-and-control (C2) panel to execute encryption routines. This process involves killing defined processes or services and exfiltrating files matching specific extensions. To enhance their capabilities, GhostSec has developed new tools, including the GhostSec Deep Scan toolset and GhostPresser, aimed at compromising legitimate websites and performing cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks. GhostPresser, specifically designed for infiltrating WordPress sites, enables threat actors to manipulate site settings, install plugins and themes, and add new users, showcasing GhostSec's commitment to evolving their cyber arsenal. These tools may be used to gain access to victim networks and distribute ransomware payloads, highlighting the group's determination to expand their illicit operations and evade detection.

Suggested Corrections:
Cisco Talos Researchers have published indicators of compromise that can be used to detect and defend against GhostLocker 2.0:

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.