Ostensibly Legitimate ISPs Assessed to be Turning Blind Eye to Ransomware and APT Operations Leveraging Their Services for Attack Infrastructure
AUSTIN, Texas, August 01, 2023–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Halcyon, the world’s first Cyber Resilience platform, today published new research that details novel techniques used to unmask a major Ransomware Economy player that are assessed to be facilitating ransomware attacks and state-sponsored APT operations: Command-and-Control Providers (C2P) who sell services to threat actors while assuming a legal business profile.
In this report, titled Cloudzy with a Chance of Ransomware: Unmasking Command-and-Control Providers (C2Ps), Halcyon demonstrates a unique technique for identifying C2P entities that can be used to forecast the precursors to major ransomware campaigns and other advanced attacks significantly “left of boom.” Halcyon also identifies two new, previously undisclosed ransomware affiliates Halcyon tracks as Ghost Clown and Space Kook that currently deploy BlackBasta and Royal, respectively. Halcyon’s research and engineering team used the same method to link the two ransomware affiliates to the same Internet Service Provider, Cloudzy, which accepts cryptocurrencies in exchange for anonymous use of its Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) Virtual Private Server (VPS) services.
While these C2P entities are ostensibly legitimate businesses who may or may not know that their platforms are being abused for attack campaigns, they nonetheless provide a key aspect of the larger attack apparatus leveraged by some of the most advanced threat actors.
“This report is only a slice of a very large pie,” said Jon Miller, CEO & Co-founder, Halcyon. “It uncovers a pattern of what appears to be consistent use or abuse of servers provided by internet service provider Cloudzy by more than two dozen different threat actors. At Halcyon, we are committed to defeating ransomware, which includes identifying new threats and techniques used to facilitate ransomware attacks and state-sponsored APT operations.”
Halcyon asserts that, based on this research, there is yet another key player supporting the booming ransomware economy: Command-and-Control Providers (C2P) who – knowingly or not – provide services to attackers while assuming a legitimate business profile.
Threat actors that are assessed to be leveraging Cloudzy include APT groups tied to the Chinese, Iranian, North Korean, Russian, Indian, Pakistani, and Vietnamese governments; a sanctioned Israeli spyware vendor whose tools are known to target civilians; several criminal syndicates and ransomware affiliates whose campaigns have spurred international headlines.
Halcyon uses an unlikely pivot point – namely RDP hostnames within the metadata of an affiliate’s attack infrastructure – that can enable security teams to detect imminent ransomware attacks before they are launched as the attack infrastructure is being stood up.
Halcyon identifies that Cloudzy – which accepts cryptocurrencies in exchange for anonymous use of its Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) Virtual Private Server (VPS) services – appears to be the common service provider supporting ransomware attacks and other cybercriminal endeavors.
Halcyon also identifies a long list of government-sponsored APT-related attacks spanning several years that appear to be using Cloudzy services, where it is assessed that potentially 40% – 60% of activity leveraging Cloudzy services is assessed to be malicious in nature.
Halcyon presents evidence that, although Cloudzy is incorporated in the United States, it almost certainly operates out of Tehran, Iran – in possible violation of U.S. sanctions – under the direction of someone going by the name Hassan Nozari.
Halcyon identified two previously unknown ransomware affiliates dubbed Ghost Clown and Space Kook currently deploying BlackBasta and Royal ransomware strains, respectively.
The full report can be downloaded here: Cloudzy with a Chance of Ransomware: Unmasking Command-and-Control Providers (C2Ps).
Halcyon is the world’s first cyber resilience platform designed from day one to defeat ransomware. Global 2000 companies rely on Halcyon to augment existing XDR/EDR platforms and undo attacks in minutes with bypass and evasion protection, key capture and automated decryption, and exfiltration and extortion prevention. For more information, visit https://www.halcyon.ai/.
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