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Threat Actors Attacking MS-SQL Servers to Deploy Ransomware

Cybersecurity experts have uncovered a series of sophisticated cyberattacks targeting poorly managed Microsoft SQL (MS-SQL) servers.

The attackers, identified as the TargetCompany ransomware group, have been deploying the Mallox ransomware in a bid to encrypt systems and extort victims.

This recent campaign draws unsettling parallels with previous attacks involving the Tor2Mine CoinMiner and BlueSky ransomware, signaling a persistent threat to digital security infrastructures.

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The TargetCompany group’s modus operandi involves exploiting vulnerabilities in improperly managed MS-SQL servers.

By employing brute force and dictionary attacks, the attackers gain unauthorized access, primarily targeting the SA (System Administrator) account.

Once inside, they deploy the Remcos Remote Access Tool (RAT) to take control of the infected system.

As per the AhnLab Security Intelligence Center (ASEC), there has been a rise in attacks by threat actors on MS-SQL servers to deploy ransomware.

This is followed by the installation of remote screen control malware and, eventually, the Mallox ransomware.

  • Remcos RAT Deployment: Utilized for initial system breach and control, facilitating further malware installation.
  • Remote Screen Control Malware: Installed to enhance remote access capabilities, enabling attackers to execute subsequent phases of the attack.
  • Mallox Ransomware: The final payload, designed to encrypt the victim’s files, rendering them inaccessible without a decryption key.

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Remcos RAT: A Gateway to Infection

Remcos RAT, a tool marketed for legitimate remote management, has been repurposed by attackers for malicious activities.

Threat Actors Attacking MS-SQL Servers to Deploy Ransomware
Features supported by a previous version of Remcos

Its capabilities include keylogging, screenshot capture, and control over webcams and microphones.

In the recent attacks, a lighter version of Remcos RAT was used, indicating a strategic choice for smoother remote control without raising suspicion.

Remcos RAT being installed through SQLPS
Remcos RAT being installed through SQLPS

Below is the configuration data that was decrypted during the execution of Remcos RAT along with a portion of the major configurations.

Configuration Data
Host:Port:Password 80.66.75[.]238:3388:1
Assigned name RemoteHost
Connect interval 1
Mutex Rmc-8P1R4F
Keylog flag Disabled
Keylog path Application path
Keylog file logs.dat
Screenshot flag Disabled
Screenshot time 10
Screenshot path AppData
Screenshot file Screenshots
Audio record time 5
Audio folder MicRecords
Copy folder Remcos
Keylog folder remcos

Remote Screen Control Malware

Following the initial infection, attackers deployed custom-made remote screen control malware.

To get a string, this malware first links to a C&C server’s “creds” address. However, a link to the command and control website could not be made at the time of analysis.

It is thought that the malware was able to download a string in the “ID; PW” format.

After that, this string is used to add a user account and make it part of the supervisor group.

URL Description
https://{C&C Server}/creds Downloads user account string to be added (ID;PW format)
https://{C&C Server}/secret Downloads password string to be specified when installing AnyDesk
https://{C&C Server}/desk Downloads the AnyDesk installer (MSI)
https://{C&C Server}/gate/{AnyDesk_ID} Sends the ID for the installed AnyDesk instance

The threat players could get into the infected system using the AnyDesk ID they got from the command and control server.

They could then verify their identity using the password sent through “secret” and take control of the infected system.

Logging in to an infected system using AnyDesk
Logging in to an infected system using AnyDesk

Mallox Ransomware: The Final Blow

Mallox ransomware, known for targeting MS-SQL servers, was then installed to encrypt the system.

Overview Description
Encryption algorithm AES-256 / SHA-256,AES-128-CTR [5]
Encryption extension “.rmallox”
Ransom note filename “HOW TO BACK FILES.txt”
Prioritized extensions for encryption “.bak”, “.zip”, “.rar”, “.7z”, “.gz”, “.sql”, “.mdf”, “.hdd”, “.vhd”, “.vdi”, “.vmx”, “.vmdk”, “.nvram”, “.vmem”, “.vmsn”, “.vmsd”, “.vmss”, “.lck”, “.vhdx”, “.vhd”, “.dbf”, “.ora”, “.oraenv”, “.dmp”, “.ibd”, “.mdb”, “.smd”, “.mdb”
Paths excluded from encryption “msocache”, “$windows.~ws”, “system volume information”, “intel”, “appdata”, “perflogs”, “programdata”, “google”, “application data”, “tor browser”, “boot”, “$windows.~bt”, “mozilla”, “boot”, “windows.old”, “Windows Microsoft.NET”, “WindowsPowerShell”, “Windows NT”, “Windows”, “Common Files”, “Microsoft Security Client”, “Internet Explorer”, “Reference”, “Assemblies”, “Windows Defender”, “Microsoft ASP.NET”, “Core Runtime”, “Package”, “Store”, “Microsoft Help Viewer”, “Microsoft MPI”, “Windows Kits”, “Microsoft.NET”, “Windows Mail”, “Microsoft Security Client”, “Package Store”, “Microsoft Analysis Services”, “Windows Portable Devices”, “Windows Photo Viewer”, “Windows Sidebar”
Files excluded from encryption “desktop.ini”, “ntuser.dat”, “thumbs.db”, “iconcache.db”, “ntuser.ini”, “ntldr”, “bootfont.bin”, “ntuser.dat.log”, “bootsect.bak”, “boot.ini”, “autorun.inf”, “debugLog.txt”, “TargetInfo.txt”
Extensions excluded from encryption “.msstyles”, “.icl”, “.idx”, “.avast”, “.rtp”, “.mallox”, “.sys”, “.nomedia”, “.dll”, “.hta”, “.cur”, “.lock”, “.cpl”, “.Globeimposter-Alpha865qqz”, “.ics”, “.hlp”, “.com”, “.spl”, “.msi”, “.key”, “.mpa”, “.rom”, “.drv”, “.bat”, “.386”, “.adv”, “.diangcab”, “.mod”, “.scr”, “.theme”, “.ocx”, “.prf”, “.cab”, “.diagcfg”, “.msu”, “.cmd”, “.ico”, “.msc”, “.ani”, “.icns”, “.diagpkg”, “.deskthemepack”, “.wpx”, “.msp”, “.bin”, “.themepack”, “.shs”, “.nls”, “.exe”, “.lnk”, “.ps1”, “.rmallox”
Terminated processes Organized in Reference data
Terminated services Organized in Reference data
C&C URL hxxp://91.215.85[.]142/QWEwqdsvsf/ap.php
Others Deletes volume shadow copies. Deactivates the termination feature.

It uses a combination of AES-256 and SHA-256 encryption algorithms, appending a “.rmallox” extension to encrypted files.

Mallox has a function that lets it spread by getting into shared folders.

It also gets basic information from computers that are infected and sends it to the command and control site.

Data sent to the C&C server
Data sent to the C&C server

The ransomware meticulously avoids encrypting certain file paths and extensions, focusing on those with potentially valuable data.

Mallox’s ransom note
Mallox’s ransom note

Correlation with Previous Attacks

The attack patterns observed bear a striking resemblance to previous incidents involving the Tor2Mine CoinMiner and BlueSky ransomware.

The use of newly identified malware, targeting strategies, and the C&C server addresses suggest that these attacks are the work of the same threat group.

Hard-coded C&C server address
Hard-coded C&C server address

The continuous discovery of attacks by the TargetCompany group underscores the critical need for robust cybersecurity measures.

Administrators are urged to enforce strong password policies, regularly update their systems, and employ comprehensive security solutions to thwart such threats.

The persistence and sophistication of these attacks highlight the ongoing risk to MS-SQL servers and the broader digital ecosystem.

File and Behavior Detection

To assist in the detection and prevention of such attacks, cybersecurity entities have released identifiers for the malware used in these campaigns:

  • Downloader/Win.Agent.C5614241
  • Backdoor/Win.Remcos.C5607317
  • Ransomware/Win.Mallox.C5601155
  • Trojan/Win.Generic.C5352187

Behavior detection measures have also been updated to identify malicious activities associated with these attacks.

As the digital landscape continues to evolve, so too does the nature of cyber threats.

The recent campaign by the TargetCompany group serves as a stark reminder of the importance of vigilance and proactive security measures in safeguarding against ransomware attacks.

IoC

MD5
– 52819909e2a662210ab4307e0f5bf562: Remcos RAT (walkingrpc.bat)
– 20dd8410ff11915a0b1f4a5018c9c340: Remote screen control malware (launcher.exe)
– 09b17832fc76dcc50a4bf20bd1343bb8: Mallox ransomware (360. exe)
– 3297dc417cf85cfcea194f88a044aebd: Remote screen control malware – past case
– ff011e8a1d1858f529e8a4f591dc0f02: Remote screen control malware – past case

C&C Servers
– 80.66.75[.]238:3388: Remcos RAT
– hxxps://80.66.75[.]238:3030: Remote screen control malware
– hxxp://91.215.85[.]142/QWEwqdsvsf/ap.php: Mallox ransomware
– hxxps://5.188.86[.]237:3030: Remote screen control malware – past case

Download URL
– hxxp://42.193.223[.]169/extensioncompabilitynode.exe : Remcos RAT

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The post Threat Actors Attacking MS-SQL Servers to Deploy Ransomware appeared first on GBHackers on Security | #1 Globally Trusted Cyber Security News Platform.


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Author: Divya