Ransomware groups grow in sophistication and volume

Photo by Jefferson Santos on Unsplash
Photo by Jefferson Santos

Ivanti has announced the results of the Q3 2021 Ransomware Index Spotlight Report that it conducted with Cyber Security Works and Cyware. The report revealed that ransomware groups are continuing to grow in sophistication, boldness and volume, with numbers up across the board since Q2 2021.

This last quarter saw a 4.5 per cent increase in CVEs associated with ransomware, a 4.5 per cent increase in actively exploited and trending vulnerabilities, a 3.4 per cent increase in ransomware families and a 1.2 per cent increase in older vulnerabilities tied to ransomware compared to Q2 2021. 

The analysis uncovered 12 new vulnerabilities tied to ransomware in Q3 2021, bringing the total number of vulnerabilities associated with ransomware to 278. Out of the 12 vulnerabilities newly associated with ransomware, five are capable of remote code execution attacks and two are capable of exploiting web applications and being manipulated to launch denial-of-service attacks.

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The report also revealed that ransomware groups are continuing to find and leverage zero-day vulnerabilities, even before the CVEs are added to the National Vulnerability Database and patches are released. For example, the REvil group discovered and exploited a vulnerability in Kaseya VSA software as the security team at the company was actively working on a patch.

The report also identified six new active and trending vulnerabilities associated with ransomware, bringing the total to 140, and five new ransomware families, bringing the total to 151. And these new ransomware groups quickly capitalised on some of the most dangerous vulnerabilities trending in the wild, such as PrintNightmare, PetitPotam and ProxyShell in Q3.

The analysis also revealed that ransomware groups are leveraging newer, more sophisticated techniques such as dropper-as-a-service and trojan-as-a-service in attacks. Dropper-as-a-service allows newbie threat actors to distribute malware through programmes that, when run, can execute a malicious payload onto a victim’s computer. Trojan-as-a-service, also called malware-as-a-service, enables anyone with an internet connection to obtain and deploy customised malware in the cloud, with zero installation.

Additionally, the report revealed three vulnerabilities belonging to 2020 or earlier became newly associated with ransomware in Q3 2021, bringing the total count of older vulnerabilities associated with ransomware to 258 – a whopping 92.4 per cent of all vulnerabilities tied to ransomware. 

In Q3, the Cring ransomware group targeted two older vulnerabilities, CVE-2009-3960 and CVE-2010-2861, that have had patches for over a decade.

Srinivas Mukkamala, Senior Vice President of Security Products at Ivanti, said: “Ransomware groups continue to mature their tactics, expand their attack arsenals and target unpatched vulnerabilities across enterprise attack surfaces. With this report, we aim to help organisations realise the security risk and vulnerability exposure of their environments and endpoints and provide actionable intelligence to remediate faster. It’s critical that organisations take a proactive, risk-based approach to patch management and leverage automation technologies to reduce the mean time to detect, discover, remediate and respond to ransomware attacks and other cyber threats.”

Anuj Goel, CEO at Cyware said, “This research underscores that ransomware is continuing to evolve and is becoming more dangerous based on the catastrophic damage it can inflict on target organisations. What is more complex for many organisations is the inability of vertical industries to rapidly share specific IOC’s irrespective of their industry, in a way that is easy to curate, operationalise and disseminate to take action before an attack hits.

Managing organisational risk means companies should be looking to a collective defense strategy to have continuous visibility into the attack and risk surfaces respectively, to reduce huge losses to reputation, customers and finances. The more that cyber teams can tie into IT automation and processes, the better and more efficient they’ll be in countering ransomware.”

Aaron Sandeen, CEO of Cyber Security Works, said, “We continued to see ransomware attacks aggressively increase in sophistication and frequency in Q3. We also saw our customers increase their cyber security maturity and reduce their risks by working with us to continuously assess their vulnerabilities, incorporate our threat intelligence into their daily operations and decrease the time to complete remediation.”