A new report on Matrix Ramsonware by SophosLabs, a global leader in network and endpoint security has disclosed that, the Ramsonware, which has been operating since 2016 breaks into enterprise networks and infecting those computers over Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), a built-in remote access tool for Windows computers.

This is unlike previous targeted Ramsonware, including BitPaymer, Dharma and SamSam. Matrix, according to the report, only targets a single machine on the network, rather than spreading widely through an organization.

“The Matrix criminals evolved their attack parameters over time, with new files and scripts added to deploy different tasks and payloads onto the network,” the report says.

It added that Matrix ransom notes are embedded in the attack code, but victims don’t know how much they must pay until they contact the attackers. For most of Matrix’s existence, the authors used a cryptographically-protected anonymous instant messaging service, called bitmsg.me, but that service has now been discontinued and the authors have reverted to using normal email accounts.

The threat actors behind Matrix make their demand for cryptocurrency ransom in the form of a U.S. dollar value equivalent. This is unusual as demands for cryptocurrency normally come as a specific value in cryptocurrency, not the dollar equivalent.

It’s unclear whether the ransom demand is a deliberate attempt at misdirection, or just an attempt to surf wildly fluctuating cryptocurrency exchange rates.

Based on the communications SophosLabs had with the attackers, ransom demands were for US$2,500, but the attackers eventually reduced the ransom when researchers stopped responding to demands.

Matrix is very much the Swiss Army Knife of the ransomware world, with newer variants able to scan and find potential computer victims once inserted into the network.

While sample volumes are small, that doesn’t make it any less dangerous; Matrix is evolving and newer versions are appearing as the attacker are improving on lessons learned from each attack.

In  Sophos’ 2019 Threat Report the team highlighted that targeted ransomware will be driving hacker behavior, and organizations need to remain vigilant and work to ensure they are not an easy target.

Meanwhile, the report has recommended some security, which can be implemented to forestall any attach by the Matrix Ramsonware.

They are: Restrict access to remote control applications such as Remote Desktop (RDP) and VNC and Complete, regular vulnerability scans and penetration tests across the network; if you haven’t followed through on recent pen-testing reports, do it now. If you don’t heed the advice of your pentesters, the cybercriminals will win.

Others are using multi-factor authentication for sensitive internal systems, even for employees on the LAN or VPN and creating back-ups that are offline and offsite, and develop a disaster recovery plan that covers the restoration of data and systems for whole organizations.


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