Security Experts:

Attackers Leave Server Credentials in Ransomware's Code

Ransomware is currently one of the largest cyber-threats out there, affecting enterprises and individuals alike, but every now and then the cybercriminals behind such malicious applications make critical mistakes.

Recently, Trend Micro researchers encountered SNSLocker, a piece of ransomware that didn’t stand out in the crowd because of its interface or routine. The malware did, however, get special attention because of an error that its authors made. Specifically, the developer(s) included the credentials for the access to their server in the ransomware’s code and forgot to remove them before beginning their infection campaign.

As it turns out, this was only one of the errors these cybercriminals made, as they also used readily-available servers and payment systems in their campaign. This reveals that they were in a hurry to setup a system for massive infection and then see a quick return of income, Trend Micro researchers say.

The recent proliferation of ransomware-as-a-service has allowed almost anyone to become a cybercriminal, yet this business model comes with its own caveats. Because attackers are in such a hurry to see their investment return profits, they focus less on securing the malicious application or other resource they use.

Leaving credentials out in the open and having them shared in social media by security researchers is a major mistake that the malware authors might have made because they lacked advanced skills. According to security researchers, SNSLocker has a coarse and bland interface and packs features already seen in most crypto-ransomware families out there.

The malware’s encryption capabilities were common to other ransomware, and the payment link and the ransom amount (in this case $300) didn’t stand out either. Trend Micro researchers also explain that the malware is written in pure .Net Framework 2.0, that it features several popular libraries such as Newtonsoft.Json and MetroFramework UI, and that it also leverages on Microsoft .Net Crypto API.

In addition to the aforementioned server login credentials, the ransomware’s code also included strings that provided information on the location of the server. Not only did this provide access to the server, but also to the decryption key, as it was included in the publicly accessible data, researchers say.

The SNSLocker operators used a free hosting provider as the ransomware’s command and control (C&C) and payment server, so that the costs related to maintaining the account would be minimal. Furthermore, the operators didn’t invest time in customizing the payment process either, but went for a legitimate crypto-currency gateway to accept payments instead.

Despite these errors, the ransomware managed to infect computers all around the world, but focused mainly on users in the United States. Because it is a global threat, SNSLocker proves that ransomware is rampant, given that cybercriminals can easily setup infection and payment systems and can target people around the world in no time.

Unfortunately, some of the dominating ransomware families in the wild do not suffer from the weaknesses that plague SNSLocker. Threats such as Cerber receive constant updates that improve their functionality and help them better evade security programs. Petya and Locky are other examples of well-written and constantly maintained threats.

Related: Ransomware: Four Ways to Assess This Growing Threat as a Business Risk

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