8155549678?profile=RESIZE_400xThe Ragnar Locker ransomware group has decided to ratchet up the pressure on its latest high-profile victim, Italian liquor conglomerate Campari, by taking out Facebook ads threatening to release the 2TB of sensitive data it downloaded in a November 3, 2020 attack unless a US$15 million ransom is paid in Bitcoin.  Attacks that are carried out by the gang behind Ragnar Locker, break into company networks, make themselves admins, conduct reconnaissance, delete backups and deploy ransomware manually, before demanding multi-million dollar ransoms.

Cyber threat actors, who conduct similar “targeted” or “big game” ransomware attacks, the Ragnar Locker gang try to avoid detection as they operate inside a victim’s network with a tactic dubbed “living off the land”.  Living off the land entails using legitimate software administration tools that either already exist on the network the crooks have broken into, or that don’t look suspicious or out of place. PowerShell framework has been used in this manner for attacks.

PowerShell is a task automation and configuration management framework from Microsoft, consisting of a command-line shell and the associated scripting language. Initially a Windows component only, known as Windows PowerShell, it was made open-source and cross-platform on 18 August 2016 with the introduction of PowerShell Core. The former is built on the.NET Framework, the latter on.NET Core.

Campari Group, which owns a number of popular global brands including SKYY, Grand Marnier and Wild Turkey, has acknowledged the ransomware attack.  This is a new spin on the double-extortion ransomware tactic, where criminals not only lock organizations out of their systems, but also threaten to release sensitive stolen data to the public if their demands are not met. The Facebook ads an entirely new layer of extortion pressure, letting the public know that Campari data is compromised and that the liquor giant is refusing to pay to keep it secure.

The ads, first spotted by researcher Brian Krebs on Nov. 9, 2020 were to-the-point and entitled, “Security Breach of Campari Group Network.” Ragnar Locker bought the ads using a hacked Facebook account, which Krebs said were subsequently shown to more than 7,000 users before Facebook caught on and pulled them down.

“Cybercrime groups have no shame in their extortion attempts,” Chris Clements, vice president of solutions architecture with Cerberus Sentinel said. “They will use any and all options available to them to extract whatever money they can from their victims. The use of compromised Facebook user accounts to buy ad campaigns to further harass their victims is novel, but not at all out-of-character.”

First observed in 2019, the Ragnar Locker group started using the threat of making stolen data public in April 2020, when it launched a Wall of Shame site, security researcher who uses the handle Pancak3.

He added that the executables for both the Campari ransomware attack and a recent high-profile breach of gaming giant Capcom were signed by the same cert, linking both to the Ragnar Locker group. Pancak3 added that he thinks it shows that the Ragnar Locker ransomware operators are getting “more confident in their intrusion methods.”  With the development of public advertising to increase pressure for victims to pay, it would appear the group is not even trying to hide their malicious activities any longer. In fact, they are publicizing them.  An added concern is that everyday Facebook advertisers are now vulnerable to Ragnar Locker attacks.

“What this does show is that every online user is vulnerable to compromise and false financial charges should their social-media accounts be compromised and used to purchase ad campaigns on the corresponding platforms,” Clements said. “Users should ensure that two-factor authentication is enabled on all of their online accounts and that they do not reuse the same password across different websites or mobile applications.”

Backing up bad actions with public advertising is likely to be copied by other hacker gangs. Ragnar Locker appears to be somewhat of an influential group within the ransomware community. In September 2020, researchers observed the Maze group picking up the Ragnar Locker trick of distributing ransomware with virtual machines, an approach experts at Sophos Managed Threat Response called “radical.”

The installation, updating and monitoring of firewalls, cyber security and proper employee training are keys to success.  Please feel free to contact our analyst team for research assistance and Cyber Threat Analysis on your organization.

Red Sky Alliance has been has analyzing and documenting cyber threats for 9 years and maintains a resource library of malware and cyber actor reports. There are extensive reports on many of the threats mentioned in this article that can be found at https://redskyalliance.org. There is no charge for these reports and articles posted.

What can you do to better protect your organization today?

  • All data in transmission and at rest should be encrypted.
  • Proper data back-up and off-site storage policies should be adopted and followed.
  • Implement 2-Factor authentication company wide.
  • Join and become active in your local Infragard chapter, there is no charge for membership. infragard.org
  • Update disaster recovery plans and emergency procedures with cyber threat recovery procedures. And test them.
  • Institute cyber threat and phishing training for all employees, with testing and updating.
  • Recommend/require cyber security software, services and devices to be used by all at home working employees and consultants.
  • Review and update your cyber threat and information security policies and procedures. Make them a part of all emergency planning and training.
  • Ensure that all software updates and patches are installed immediately.
  • Enroll your company/organization in RedXray for daily cyber threat notifications are directed at your domains. RedXray service is $500 a month and provides threat intelligence on nine (9) cyber threat categories including Keyloggers, with having to connect to your network.  Ransomware protection is included at no charge for RedXray customers.
  • Purchase annual cyber insurance coverage from Red Sky Alliance provided by Cysurance.


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