Recent Ransomware Variant - Locky
Date: 1 April 2016
The Canadian Cyber Incident Response Centre (CCIRC), in collaboration with the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) is releasing this Alert to provide further information on a recent ransomware variant named Locky. Since early 2016, Locky has been observed infecting computers belonging to individuals and businesses, including healthcare facilities and hospitals worldwide.
CCIRC is aware of a destructive ransomware variant named Locky which has been observed since early 2016. This form of destructive ransomware attempts to extort money from victims by displaying an on-screen alert. Typically, these alerts state that the user's computer has been locked or that all of the user's files have been encrypted. Users are then told that unless a ransom is paid, access will not be restored.
Ransomware is typically spread either through phishing emails that contain malicious attachments or through drive-by downloading. Drive-by downloading occurs when a user unknowingly visits an infected website. Malware is downloaded and installed without the user's knowledge. Crypto ransomware, a malware variant that encrypts files, is spread through similar methods and also has been spread through Web-based instant messaging applications.
Ransomware not only targets home users; businesses can also become infected with ransomware, which can have negative consequences, including:
- Temporary or permanent loss of sensitive or proprietary information;
- Disruption to regular operations;
- Financial losses incurred to restore systems and files; and
- Potential harm to an organization's reputation.
Paying the ransom does not guarantee the encrypted files will be released; it only guarantees that the malicious actors receive the victim's money, and in some cases, their banking information as well. In addition, decrypting files does not mean the malware infection itself has been removed.
CCIRC recommends that organizations review the following mitigation information/preventive mesures and consider their implementation in the context of their network environment:
- Employ a data backup and recovery plan for all critical information. Perform and test regular backups to limit the impact of data or system loss and to expedite the recovery process. Since network storage can also be affected, this data should be kept on a separate device, and backups should be stored offline.
- Use application whitelisting to help prevent malicious software and unapproved programs from running. Application whitelisting is one of the best security strategies as it allows only specified programs to run, while blocking all others, including malicious software.
- Keep your operating system and software up-to-date with the latest patches. Vulnerable applications and operating systems are the target of most attacks. Ensuring these are patched with the latest updates greatly reduces the number of exploitable entry points available to an attacker.
- Maintain up-to-date anti-virus software, and scan all software downloaded from the internet prior to executing.
- Restrict users’ ability (permissions) to install and run unwanted software applications, and apply the principle of “Least Privilege” to all systems and services. Restricting these privileges may prevent malware from running or limit its capability to spread through the network.
- Avoid enabling macros from email attachments. If a user opens the attachment and enables macros, embedded code will execute the malware on the machine. For enterprises or organizations, it may be best to block email messages with attachments from suspicious sources.
- Follow safe practices when browsing the Web.
- Do not follow unsolicited Web links in emails.
It is important to note that infections can be devastating to an individual or organization, and that recovery can be a difficult process which may require the services of a reputable data recovery specialist.
US-CERT Alert (TA16-091A)
CCIRC Cyber Safe Guide
McAfee Labs Threat Advisory: Ransomware - Locky
Sophos / Naked Security, “Locky” ransomware – what you need to know
Symantec Article - Cryptolocker: A Thriving Menace
Samas - SamSam: The Doctor Will See You, After He Pays The Ransom
Note to Readers
In support of Public Safety's mission to build a safe and resilient Canada, CCIRC's mandate is to help ensure the security and resilience of the vital non-federal government cyber systems that underpin Canada's national security, public safety and economic prosperity. As Canada's computer security incident response team, CCIRC is Canada's national coordination centre for the prevention and mitigation of, preparedness for, response to, and recovery from cyber incidents on non-federal government systems. It does this by providing authoritative advice and support, and coordinating information sharing and incident response.
Please note, CCIRC PGP key has recently been updated.
For general information, please contact Public Safety Canada's Public Affairs division at:
Telephone: 613-944-4875 or 1-800-830-3118
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