Recent Attacks Suggest the Three Ransomware Groups Are Sharing Playbooks or Affiliates

LAS VEGAS — Agosto 8, 2023 —

Sophos, a global leader in innovating and delivering cybersecurity as a service, released new findings into the connections between the most prominent ransomware groups this past year, including Royal, in its report, “Clustering Attacker Behavior Reveals Hidden Patterns.” Over the course of three months beginning in January 2023, Sophos X-Ops investigated four different ransomware attacks, one involving Hive, two by Royal, and one by Black Basta, and noticed distinct similarities between the attacks. Despite Royal being a notoriously closed off group that doesn’t openly solicit affiliates from underground forums, granular similarities in the forensics of the attacks suggest all three groups are sharing either affiliates or highly specific technical details of their activities. Sophos is tracking and monitoring the attacks as a “cluster of threat activity” that defenders can use to speed up detection and response times.

“Because the ransomware-as-a-service model requires outside affiliates to carry out attacks, it’s not uncommon for there to be crossover in the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) between these different ransomware groups. However, in these cases, the similarities we’re talking about are at a very granular level. These highly specific, unique behaviors suggest that the Royal ransomware group is much more reliant on affiliates than previously thought. The new insights we’ve gained about Royal’s work with affiliates and possible ties to other groups speak to the value of Sophos’ in-depth, forensic investigations,” said Andrew Brandt, principal researcher, Sophos.

The unique similarities include using the same specific usernames and passwords when the attackers took over systems on the targets, delivering the final payload in .7z archive named after the victim organization, and executing commands on the infected systems with the same batch scripts and files.

Sophos X-Ops succeeded in uncovering these connections following a three-month long investigation into four ransomware attacks. The first attack involved Hive ransomware in January 2023. This was followed by Royals’ attacks in February and March 2023 and, later, in March, Black Basta’s. Near the end of January this year, a large portion of Hive’s operation was disbanded following a sting operation by the FBI. This operation could have led Hive affiliates to seek new employment—perhaps with Royal and Black Basta—which would explain the similarities in the ensuing ransomware attacks.

Because of the similarities between these attacks, Sophos X-Ops began tracking all four ransomware incidents as a cluster of threat activity.

“While threat activity clusters can be a stepping stone to attribution, when researchers focus too much on the ‘who’ of an attack, then they can miss critical opportunities for strengthening defenses. Knowing highly specific attacker behavior helps managed detection and response teams react faster to active attacks. It also helps security providers create stronger protections for customers. When protections are based on behaviors, it doesn’t matter who is attacking—Royal, Black Basta, or otherwise—potential victims will have the necessary security measures in place to block subsequent attacks that display some of the same distinct characteristics,” said Brandt.

More information about these ransomware attacks is available in the article “Clustering Attacker Behavior Reveals Hidden Patterns.”

Informazioni su Sophos

Sophos, leader mondiale e innovatore di soluzioni avanzate di cybersecurity, tra cui servizi MDR (Managed Detection and Response) e incident response, mette a disposizione delle aziende un’ampia gamma di soluzioni di sicurezza per endpoint, network, email e cloud al fine di supportarle nella lotta ai cyber attacchi. In quanto uno dei principali provider di cybersecurity, Sophos protegge oltre 600.000 realtà e più di 100 milioni di utenti a livello globale da potenziali minacce, ransomware, phishing, malware e altro. I servizi e le soluzioni di Sophos vengono gestiti attraverso la console Sophos Central, basata su cloud, e si incentra su Sophos X-Ops, l'unità di threat intelligence cross-domain dell'azienda. Sophos X-Ops ottimizza l’intero ecosistema adattivo di cybersecurity di Sophos, che include un data lake centralizzato, che si avvale di una ricca serie di API aperti, resi disponibili ai clienti, ai partner, agli sviluppatori e ad altri fornitori di cyber security e information technology. Sophos fornisce cybersecurity as a service alle aziende che necessitano di soluzioni chiavi in mano interamente gestite. I clienti possono scegliere di gestire la propria cybersecurity direttamente con la piattaforma di Sophos per le operazioni di sicurezza o di adottare un approccio ibrido, integrando i propri servizi con quelli di Sophos, come il threat hunting e la remediation. Sophos distribuisce i propri prodotti attraverso partner e fornitori di servizi gestiti (MSP) in tutto il mondo. Sophos ha sede a Oxford, nel Regno Unito. Ulteriori informazioni sono disponibili su www.sophos.it