IT Brief New Zealand logo
Technology news for New Zealand's largest enterprises
Story image

New sniper-like Python ransomware uncovered

By Shannon Williams
Fri 8 Oct 2021

A new Python ransomware has been uncovered by next-gen cybersecurity firm Sophos.

Sophos has released details of the new ransomware, written in Python, that attackers used to compromise and encrypt virtual machines hosted on an ESXi hypervisor. The report, Python Ransomware Script Targets ESXi Server for Encryption, details a sniper-like operation that took less than three hours to progress from breach to encryption.

"This is one of the fastest ransomware attacks Sophos has ever investigated and it appeared to precision-target the ESXi platform," says Andrew Brandt, principal researcher at Sophos. 

"Python is a coding language not commonly used for ransomware. However, Python is pre-installed on Linux-based systems such as ESXi, and this makes Python-based attacks possible on such systems," he explains.

"ESXi servers represent an attractive target for ransomware threat actors because they can attack multiple virtual machines at once, where each of the virtual machines could be running business-critical applications or services. Attacks on hypervisors can be both fast and highly disruptive. Ransomware operators including DarkSide and REvil have targeted ESXi servers in attacks."

Attack Timeline

The Sophos investigation revealed that the attack began at 12:30 a.m. on a Sunday, when the ransomware operators broke into a TeamViewer account running on a computer that belonged to a user who also had domain administrator access credentials.

According to the investigators, 10 minutes later, the attackers used the Advanced IP Scanner tool to look for targets on the network. The investigators believe the ESXi Server on the network was vulnerable because it had an active Shell, a programming interface that IT teams use for commands and updates. This allowed the attackers to install a secure network communications tool called Bitvise on the machine belonging to the domain administrator, which gave them remote access to the ESXi system, including the virtual disk files used by the virtual machines. At around 3:40 a.m., the attackers deployed the ransomware and encrypted these virtual hard drives hosted on the ESXi server.

Security Advice

"Administrators who operate ESXi or other hypervisors on their networks should follow security best practices. This includes using unique, difficult to brute-force passwords and enforcing the use of multi-factor authentication wherever possible," says Brandt.

"The ESXi Shell can and should be disabled whenever it is not being used by staff for routine maintenance, for instance, during the installation of patches. The IT team can do this by either using controls on the server console or through the software management tools provided by the vendor."
 
Sophos endpoint products, such Intercept X, protect users by detecting the actions and behaviours of ransomware and other attacks. The act of attempting to encrypt files is blocked by the CryptoGuard feature. 

Sophos further recommends the following standard best practices to help defend against ransomware and related cyberattacks:

At a Strategic Level

  • Deploy layered protection. As more ransomware attacks begin to involve extortion, backups remain necessary, but insufficient. It is more important than ever to keep adversaries out in the first place, or to detect them quickly, before they cause harm. Use layered protection to block and detect attackers at as many points as possible across an estate
  • Combine human experts and anti-ransomware technology. The key to stopping ransomware is defense-in-depth that combines dedicated anti-ransomware technology and human-led threat hunting. Technology provides the scale and automation an organisation needs, while human experts are best able to detect the tell-tale tactics, techniques and procedures that indicate an attacker is attempting to get into the environment. If organisations dont have the skills in house, they can enlist support from cybersecurity specialists

At a Day-to-Day Tactical Level

  • Monitor and respond to alerts. Ensure the appropriate tools, processes, and resources (people) are available to monitor, investigate and respond to threats seen in the environment. Ransomware attackers often time their strike during off-peak hours, at weekends or during the holidays, on the assumption that few or no staff are watching
  • Set and enforce strong passwords. Strong passwords serve as one of the first lines of defense. Passwords should be unique or complex and never re-used. This is easier to accomplish with a password manager that can store staff credentials
  • Use Multi Factor Authentication (MFA). Even strong passwords can be compromised. Any form of multifactor authentication is better than none for securing access to critical resources such as e-mail, remote management tools and network assets
  • Lock down accessible services. Perform network scans from the outside and identify and lock down the ports commonly used by VNC, RDP, or other remote access tools. If a machine needs to be reachable using a remote management tool, put that tool behind a VPN or zero-trust network access solution that uses MFA as part of its login
  • Practice segmentation and zero-trust. Separate critical servers from each other and from workstations by putting them into separate VLANs as you work towards a zero-trust network model
  • Make offline backups of information and applications. Keep backups up to date, ensure their recoverability and keep a copy offline
  • Inventory your assets and accounts. Unknown, unprotected and unpatched devices in the network increase risk and create a situation where malicious activities could pass unnoticed. It is vital to have a current inventory of all connected compute instances. Use network scans, IaaS tools, and physical checks to locate and catalog them, and install endpoint protection software on any machines that lack protection
  • Make sure security products are correctly configured. Under-protected systems and devices are vulnerable too. It is important that you ensure security solutions are configured properly and to check and, where necessary, validate and update security policies regularly. New security features are not always enabled automatically. Dont disable tamper protection or create broad detection exclusions as doing so will make an attackers job easier
  • Audit Active Directory (AD). Conduct regular audits on all accounts in AD, ensuring that none have more access than is needed for their purpose. Disable accounts for departing employees as soon as they leave the company
  • Patch everything. Keep Windows and other operating systems and software up to date. This also means double checking that patches have been installed correctly and are in place for critical systems like internet-facing machines or domain controllers
     
Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
Is your chatbot bringing down the customer satisfaction score?
The top 10 reasons why chatbots are failing to meet customer expectations and what you must do to avoid that.
Story image
Tech job moves
Tech job moves - Fastly, INX, Kinly, SmartBear & Vectra AI
We round up all job appointments from July 29 - August 12, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
Story image
InternetNZ
How well do rangatahi understand cyber safety in Aotearoa?
Do rangatahi in Aotearoa understand the importance of being safe online, or has lifelong exposure to the internet resulted in widespread complacency?
Story image
Data Protection
Advancing genomic sequencing and public health with digital infrastructures 
Right before our eyes, we've witnessed the development of the COVID-19 vaccine in record time. An enormous achievement in an otherwise lengthy task that previously took, on average, 10-15 years.
Story image
Data analytics
Pressure on orgs to up their data analytics game - study
A recent report from Sisense highlights data transmission, analysis, and risk management remain top concerns for data professionals in APAC.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
Gartner unveils key emerging tech to watch in 2022
"Such technologies present greater risks for deployment, but potentially greater benefits for early adopters," says Gartner.
Story image
Firewall
Why printing security plays a vital part in keeping Aotearoa safe
While internet printing, mobile printing and other similar technologies have no doubt made things easier to manage, it has also brought a whole new set of problems to the table.
Story image
Servers
New Zealand cloud provider challenges Google's claims on data control for region
A Wellington cloud services provider says Google's claim it will offer New Zealanders complete control over their own data is not true.
AWS Marketplace
Learn how security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) enhances your security strategy.
Link image
Story image
Enterprise Resource Planning / ERP
Why the right ERP (and partner) is crucial to an innovative and successful business
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is a foundational step to ensuring a robust business model; here's why choosing the right one could be vital to ensuring long-term success and innovative results.
Story image
Charity
SnapLogic teams up with meetmagic for charity and children
SnapLogic has announced its partnership with meetmagic, an online Australian platform that combines business and philanthropy.
Story image
Ingram Micro
Ingram Micro NZ sees $74 million revenue growth in 2021
Ingram Micro New Zealand's latest financial report reveals that its revenue from contracts with customers increased by almost $74 million in 2021.
Story image
ExtraHop
Organisations exposing highly sensitive protocols to public internet
More than 60% of organisations expose remote control protocol SSH to the public internet, while 36% of organisations expose the insecure FTP protocol.
Story image
SaaS
Cloud and data protection big challenges for NZ businesses
"This surge towards a cloud-first approach meant security and safety became afterthoughts - there's no point being the fastest car on the racetrack if you crash.”
Story image
Surveillance
Ministry will no longer accept equipment from Chinese firm Hikvision
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) says it will no longer accept equipment from a major Chinese surveillance camera maker.
Story image
Data analytics
Data analytics a struggle for A/NZ healthcare organisations
A study by InterSystems has found that most Australian and New Zealand healthcare organisations struggle to use data analytics to support their business objectives.
Story image
Dark web
Beware the darkverse and its cyber-physical threats
A darkverse of criminality hidden from law enforcement could quickly evolve to fuel a new industry of metaverse-related cybercrime.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
Exclusive: NZ-based DEFEND offers global cyber protection
DEFEND supports customers in 66 countries across the globe with a relentless focus on ensuring that every dollar spent on security provides a meaningful return on investment and reduces cyber risk.
Story image
Malware
Avast One extends protection with Online Safety Score
Avast One has extended its cross-platform support by adding its Online Safety Score feature to both the Mac and iOS platforms of Avast One.
Story image
Data Protection
VMware introduces advanced workload protection for AWS
VMware Carbon Black Workload for AWS delivers comprehensive visibility and security across on-premises and cloud environments for AWS customers.
Story image
Infrastructure
IBM expands Power10 server line for business modernisation
IBM has recently announced a significant expansion of its Power10 server line with the introduction of mid-range and scale-out systems.
Story image
Hybrid Cloud
The essential guide to digital transformation by SolarWinds
Digital transformation is a buzzword thrown around all the time by companies, but what does it actually mean and why is it important? SolarWinds breaks it down.
Story image
VMware
Latest VMware threat report reveals truth about deepfakes
"Cyber criminals have evolved. Their new goal is to use deepfake technology to compromise organisations and gain access to their environment."
Story image
Dicker Data
Dicker Data brought on as Acronis partner for A/NZ
The news about the partnership comes in as cyber criminals continue to exploit gaps in traditional solutions and strategies in NZ and across the APAC region.
Story image
Compliance
Why security needs to shape your journey to the cloud
It's estimated that 80% of workloads could be in the cloud in the next few years. How can you make all that data secure?
Story image
Distribution
Garmin expands NZ footprint with new Auckland distribution centre
The facility at Goodman’s Highbrook Business Park will be fully operational from October 2022 and features 3,586sqm of warehouse space.
Story image
Google Cloud
Google Cloud to open first cloud region in NZ - among others
Google Cloud has announced plans to bring three new cloud regions, one each in New Zealand, Malaysia and Thailand.
Story image
SaaS
Exclusive: The Access Group shares the benefits of embracing SaaS
In today's rapidly changing working environments, efficiency and productivity are surefire ways to create business growth and success.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Palo Alto Networks responds to rise in threats with MDR service
Unit 42 Managed Detection and Response is a new service that can offer continuous 24/7 threat detection, investigation and response.
Story image
Sustainability
NZ program recovers and recycles more than 177 tonnes of e-waste
The TechCollect NZ pilot program says its milestone of recovering and recycling more than 177 tonnes of ICT e-waste recognises the efforts of many.
Story image
Augmented Reality
TeamViewer remote access software integrated into RealWear Cloud
TeamViewer has announced a major expansion of its partnership with RealWear, a leading provider of assisted reality wearable solutions for frontline industrial workers. 
Story image
Developers
Snyk announces plans to expand partner network in APJ
Recognising that partnerships are critical for growth, Snyk is building an entire partner ecosystem that will drive its expansion across APJ.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Education sector seeing highest volumes of cyber attacks
When breaking down the numbers to education attacks by region in July 2022, A/NZ was the most heavily attacked.
Story image
Red Hat
Red Hat announces 2022 awards winners for A/NZ region
Red Hat recently acknowledged Australia and New Zealand partners with its annual awards, highlighting partners across various categories.
Story image
Cyber attacks
Dramatic uptick in threat activity with exploits growing nearly 150%
"While it’s not a surprise given increased attack opportunities like remote work, it’s still a worrying development and one we cannot ignore."
Story image
Cybersecurity
Datacom research explores reality of zero trust in A/NZ
Zero trust is fast emerging as global best practice in cybersecurity and local leaders are on board, with 83% considering it essential to security.
Story image
Gartner Magic Quadrant
Gartner names Lookout a Visionary in 2022 Magic Quadrant
Gartner has recognised Lookout as a Visionary in the 2022 Magic Quadrant for Security Service Edge (SSE) and one of the top three offerings in the 2022 Gartner Critical Capabilities for SSE report.
Story image
IDC
High level of Customer Identity & Access Management adoption
The study from Okta revealed that the pandemic has either accelerated or highlighted the need for digital-first strategies.
Story image
Privileged Access Management / PAM
The importance of stopping identity sprawl for cybersecurity
The 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) shows that 61% of all breaches involve malicious actors gaining unauthorised, privileged access to data by using a compromised credential. Unfortunately, it is often too late when the misuse of a credential is detected.
Story image
Application Performance Monitoring / APM
New Relic integrates offering with Atlassian’s Jira Software
New Relic has integrated errors inbox with Jira Software to allow developers to easily access and set up complete stack error tracking and software performance monitoring from within the tool.
Story image
Indusface
Why enhancing bot protection for web and API endpoints matters
The trouble with bots is that they aren’t all bad. Unfortunately, this can make it challenging to detect malicious bots that find their way into your system and threaten your business.