Cyber agency alerts against ransomware attacks of 'Egregor' virus

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The country’s cyber security agency has alerted users against the malicious spread of ransom-ware virus ‘Egregor’ that threatens to release sensitive corporate data of the victim organisation if not paid.

The CERT-In or the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team said in a latest advisory that while the “initial infection vector and propagation mechanism is still unknown, it is anticipated that Egregor ransom-ware may infiltrate via spam email attachments or maliciously crafted link shared via email/instant messaging chats.”

“Individuals or organisations are not encouraged to pay the ransom as this does not guarantee files will be released,” it said.

“Report such instances of fraud to CERT-In and law enforcement agencies,” the advisory from the national technology arm to combat cyber attacks and guarding of the Indian cyber space said.

It said this ransomware was affecting organisations globally.

“The modus operandi used is typically breaking into organisations, stealing sensitive data, and running the malware to encrypt their files and (it) threatens ‘Mass-Media’ release of corporate data if ransom not paid in due time,” the advisory stated.

“It uses double extortion tactics generally used by NetWalker ransom-ware families,” it said.

The virus “uses several types of anti-analysis techniques, including code obfuscation and packed payloads, which means the malicious code ‘unpacks’ itself in memory as a way to avoid detection by security tools.”

It said the malware does not “exhibit its functionalities” thereby making it difficult for analysts to break its trap.

“The virus appends a string or random characters as the new extension of each encrypted file and creates the “RECOVER-FILES.Txt” text file/ransom note in all folders that contain encrypted files,” the CERT-In said.

The agency also suggested some counter-measures to keep safe from such ransom-ware attacks.

“Perform regular backups of all critical information to limit the impact of data or system loss and to help expedite the recovery process. Ideally, this data should be kept on a separate device, and backups should be stored offline,” it said.

Also, the advisory said, regularly check for the integrity of the information stored in the databases.

Some other anti-virus measures include ensuring integrity of the codes or scripts being used in database and creating an email validation system to prevent spam by detecting email spoofing by which most of the ransom-ware samples successfully reaches the corporate email boxes.

“Maintain updated anti-virus software on all systems and don’t open attachments in unsolicited e-mails, even if they come from people in your contact list, and never click on a URL contained in an unsolicited e-mail, even if the link seems benign,” it said.

In cases of genuine URLs, it said, one should close the e-mail and go to the organisation’s website directly through browser.

It also suggested that security managers should disable remote desktop connections and employ least-privileged accounts.

Limiting users who can log in using remote desktop and setting an account lockout policy are included as some of the other counter-measures suggested to check ransom-ware attacks in the advisory.