Go to Source August 31, 2021
Immediate Actions You Can Take Now to Protect Against Ransomware
• Make an offline backup of your data.
• Do not click on suspicious links.
• If you use RDP, secure and monitor it.
• Update your OS and software.
• Use strong passwords.
• Use multi-factor authentication.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have observed an increase in highly impactful ransomware attacks occurring on holidays and weekends—when offices are normally closed—in the United States, as recently as the Fourth of July holiday in 2021. The FBI and CISA do not currently have any specific threat reporting indicating a cyberattack will occur over the upcoming Labor Day holiday. However, the FBI and CISA are sharing the below information to provide awareness to be especially diligent in your network defense practices in the run up to holidays and weekends, based on recent actor tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) and cyberattacks over holidays and weekends during the past few months. The FBI and CISA encourage all entities to examine their current cybersecurity posture and implement the recommended best practices and mitigations to manage the risk posed by all cyber threats, including ransomware.
Click here for a PDF copy of this report.
Cyber actors have conducted increasingly impactful attacks against U.S. entities on or around holiday weekends over the last several months. The FBI and CISA do not currently have specific information regarding cyber threats coinciding with upcoming holidays and weekends. Cyber criminals, however, may view holidays and weekends—especially holiday weekends—as attractive timeframes in which to target potential victims, including small and large businesses. In some cases, this tactic provides a head start for malicious actors conducting network exploitation and follow-on propagation of ransomware, as network defenders and IT support of victim organizations are at limited capacity for an extended time.
The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which provides the public with a trustworthy source for reporting information on cyber incidents, received 791,790 complaints for all types of internet crime—a record number—from the American public in 2020, with reported losses exceeding $4.1 billion. This represents a 69 percent increase in total complaints from 2019. The number of ransomware incidents also continues to rise, with 2,474 incidents reported in 2020, representing a 20 percent increase in the number of incidents, and a 225 percent increase in ransom demands. From January to July 31, 2021, the IC3 has received 2,084 ransomware complaints with over $16.8M in losses, a 62 percent increase in reporting and 20 percent increase in reported losses compared to the same time frame in 2020.
The destructive impact of ransomware continues to evolve beyond encryption of IT assets. Cyber criminals have increasingly targeted large, lucrative organizations and providers of critical services with the expectation of higher value ransoms and increased likelihood of payments. Cyber criminals have also increasingly coupled initial encryption of data with a secondary form of extortion, in which they threaten to publicly name affected victims and release sensitive or proprietary data exfiltrated before encryption, to further encourage payment of ransom. (See CISA’s Fact Sheet: Protecting Sensitive and Personal Information from Ransomware-Caused Data Breaches.) Malicious actors have also added tactics, such as encrypting or deleting system backups—making restoration and recovery more difficult or infeasible for impacted organizations.
Although cyber criminals use a variety of techniques to infect victims with ransomware, the two most prevalent initial access vectors are phishing and brute forcing unsecured remote desktop protocol (RDP) endpoints. Additional common means of initial infection include deployment of precursor or dropper malware; exploitation of software or operating system vulnerabilities; exploitation of managed service providers with access to customer networks; and the use of valid, stolen credentials, such as those purchased on the dark web. Precursor malware enables cyber actors to conduct reconnaissance on victim networks, steal credentials, escalate privileges, exfiltrate information, move laterally on the victim network, and obfuscate command-and-control communications. Cyber actors use this access to:
The FBI and CISA suggest organizations engage in preemptive threat hunting on their networks. Threat hunting is a proactive strategy to search for signs of threat actor activity to prevent attacks before they occur or to minimize damage in the event of a successful attack. Threat actors can be present on a victim network long before they lock down a system, alerting the victim to the ransomware attack. Threat actors often search through a network to find and compromise the most critical or lucrative targets. Many will exfiltrate large amounts of data. Threat hunting encompasses the following elements of understanding the IT environment by developing a baseline through a behavior-based analytics approach, evaluating data logs, and installing automated alerting systems.
Indicators of suspicious activity that threat hunters should look for include:
See the joint advisory from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States on Technical Approaches to Uncovering and Remediating Malicious Activity for additional guidance on hunting or investigating a network, and for common mistakes in incident handling. Also review the Ransomware Response Checklist in the CISA-Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) Joint Ransomware Guide.
CISA offers a range of no-cost cyber hygiene services—including vulnerability scanning and ransomware readiness assessments—to help critical infrastructure organizations assess, identify, and reduce their exposure to cyber threats. By taking advantage of these services, organizations of any size will receive recommendations on ways to reduce their risk and mitigate attack vectors.
The FBI and CISA strongly discourage paying a ransom to criminal actors. Payment does not guarantee files will be recovered, nor does it ensure protection from future breaches. Payment may also embolden adversaries to target additional organizations, encourage other criminal actors to engage in the distribution of malware, and/or fund illicit activities. Regardless of whether you or your organization decide to pay the ransom, the FBI and CISA urge you to report ransomware incidents to CISA, a local FBI field office, or by filing a report with IC3 at IC3.gov. Doing so provides the U.S. Government with critical information needed to help victims, track ransomware attackers, hold attackers accountable under U.S. law, and share information to prevent future attacks.
Upon receiving an incident report, the FBI or CISA may seek forensic artifacts, to the extent that affected entities determine such information can be legally shared, including:
The FBI and CISA highly recommend organizations continuously and actively monitor for ransomware threats over holidays and weekends.
Note: for help with developing your plan, review available incident response guidance, such as the Public Power Cyber Incident Response Playbook and the Ransomware Response Checklist in the CISA-MS-ISAC Joint Ransomware Guide.
If your organization is impacted by a ransomware incident, the FBI and CISA recommend the following actions.
For additional resources related to the prevention and mitigation of ransomware, go to https://www.stopransomware.gov as well as the CISA-MS-ISAC Joint Ransomware Guide. Stopransomware.gov is the U.S. Government’s new, official one-stop location for resources to tackle ransomware more effectively. Additional resources include:
To report suspicious or criminal activity related to information found in this Joint Cybersecurity Advisory, contact your local FBI field office at www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field, or the FBI’s 24/7 Cyber Watch (CyWatch) at (855) 292-3937 or by e-mail at CyWatch@fbi.gov. When available, please include the following information regarding the incident: date, time, and location of the incident; type of activity; number of people affected; type of equipment used for the activity; the name of the submitting company or organization; and a designated point of contact. If you have any further questions related to this Joint Cybersecurity Advisory, or to request incident response resources or technical assistance related to these threats, contact CISA at Central@cisa.gov.
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