Ikaruz Red Team Leveraging LockBit Builder To Launch Ransomware Attacks

Hackers exploit ransomware as it enables them to extort money from victims by encrypting their data and demanding a ransom for its release. 

While this method is highly lucrative and often difficult to trace back to the perpetrators.

Sentinel One researchers recently discovered that Hacktivist groups like Ikaruz Red Team increasingly use ransomware for disruption and drawing attention to political causes. 

Leveraging leaked builders, Ikaruz Red Team and aligned groups like Turk Hack Team and Anka Underground have recently conducted attacks against Philippine targets, hijacking branding from the government’s CERT-PH.

Ikaruz Red Team Leveraging LockBit Builder

During its time between 2023 and the present, the Ikaruz Red Team (IRT) has been involved in defacing websites, DDoSing them, and is now moving into ransomware as part of a wider wave of hacktivism occurring in the area.

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This also includes groups like Robin Cyber Hood and Philippine Exodus which have carried out ransomware, disinformation, and espionage campaigns in line with escalating China tensions due to the Philippines’ strategic position.

Within this context, IRT shares ties with the pro-Hamas Anka Red Team and Turk Hack Team. 

Ikaruz Red Team icon file (Source – Sentinel One)

While it was previously committed to defacements as its main attack vector, this group started using small scale ransomware attacks based on leaked LockBit builders for that purpose where they changed the ransom notes but not the details of negotiations indicating disruption rather than monetary motives.

Since January 2023, multiple hacks by IRT, using LockBit, JellyFish, and Vice Society, among others, have been claimed against several Philippine organizations.

The IRT payload bundles a custom .ico file meant to replace LockBit’s icon but has an error referencing the required RED.png file, SentinelOne said.

When executed, it extracts and launches LockBit (lb3.exe), rapidly encrypting files with a .Uc2RrigQ extension and dropping matching ransom notes. 

RED.png error (Source – Sentinel One)

IRT co-opts Philippine government CERT-PH and Hack4Gov CTF imagery or branding, likely to mock cybersecurity efforts or cloak malicious activities. 

Operating under aliases like “IkaruzRT” and “Ikaruz Reignor” across platforms like BreachForums and GitHub, IRT claims affiliation with Anka Red Team, Anka Underground, and pro-Hamas Turk Hack Team. 

It advertised breaches like Yakult Philippines while promoting political causes. Social media presence includes promoting data leaks from Philippine victims between August 2023 and January 2024.

Ikaruz Red Team fits into a larger hacktivist movement conducting unsophisticated yet damaging Philippine attacks, potentially part of rising regional tensions with China aimed at destabilizing critical infrastructure.


IOCs (Source – Sentinel One)

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Author: Tushar Subhra Dutta