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The LockBit ransomware restricts access to corporate files and systems by encrypting them into a locked and unusable format. Victims receive instructions on how to engage with the offenders after encryption. LockBit affiliates have successfully deployed ransomware on corporate systems in a variety of countries and sectors, including Australia, where the ACSC is aware of numerous incidents since 2020. LockBit affiliates are known to implement the ‘double extortion’ technique by uploading stolen and sensitive victim information to their dark web site ‘LockBit 2.0’, and threatening to sell and/or release this information if their ransom demands are not met.

LockBit (AKA LockBit 2.0, ABCD) is a ransomware variant first detected in September 2019, used by cybercriminals targeting multiple sectors and organisations around the world, including Australia. LockBit is offered as a Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS), enabling affiliates to utilise it as desired, provided a percentage of the illicitly gained profits are shared with the LockBit operators as commission. This profile provides information covering the LockBit ransomware’s background, recent initial access indicators, targeted sectors, and mitigations advice.

The ACSC is providing this information to enable organisations to undertake their own risk assessments and take appropriate actions to secure their systems and networks. The ACSC will only revise and update this advisory in the event of further significant information coming to light.

Background

Since January 2020, the ‘LockBit’ operators have appeared on Russian-language cybercrime forums. In June 2021, version two of the ‘LockBit’ RaaS was advertised as ‘LockBit 2.0’ and was allegedly bundled with a built in information stealing function known as ‘StealBit’.

Dark web activity

LockBit affiliates are known to implement the ‘double extortion’ technique by uploading stolen and sensitive victim information to their dark website ‘LockBit 2.0’, and threatening to sell and/or release this information if their ransom demands are not met. This is intended to coerce the victim into paying the ransom demand. The ‘LockBit 2.0’ site is hosted on The Onion Router (Tor) network, enabling greater anonymity to LockBit threat actors hosting illicitly obtained material.

Initial access

The ACSC has recently observed LockBit threat actors actively exploiting existing vulnerabilities in the Fortinet FortiOS and FortiProxy products identified as CVE-2018-13379 in order to gain initial access to specific victim networks.

The LockBit RaaS operators have previously advertised partnership opportunities for threat actors that could provide credential based accesses to Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) and Virtual Private Network (VPN) remote access solutions. Additional advertisements sought to recruit threat actors proficient in the use of threat emulation software Cobalt Strike and Metasploit. Threat emulation software is often used in penetration testing environments and by threat actors seeking to gain unauthorised access to or move laterally within target networks.

Threat activity

The ACSC is aware of numerous incidents involving LockBit and its successor ‘LockBit 2.0’ in Australia since 2020. The majority of victims known to the ACSC have been reported after July 2021, indicating a sharp and significant increase in domestic victims in comparison to other tracked ransomware variants.

The ACSC has observed LockBit affiliates successfully deploying ransomware on corporate systems in a variety of sectors including professional services, construction, manufacturing, retail and food. Additionally, threat actors involved in ransomware activity are opportunistic in nature and are capable of victimising organisations in any sector; as such, inclusion or exclusion from this list is not indicative of future LockBit behaviour.

Mitigations

Technique              

Procedure                Mitigations
Initial Access [TA0001]    
Exploit Public-Facing Application [T1190]

Threat actors have exploited a vulnerability in an internet facing Fortinet device (CVE-2018-13379) to gain access to victim networks.

Threat actors search for and opportunistically exploit vulnerabilities in internet facing devices to gain access to victim networks.

Check if your organisation operates Fortinet devices, and review this advisory to determine if they are vulnerable. If required, follow the instructions in the advisory to remediate the vulnerability.

Establish processes to identify, assess and patch vulnerabilities affecting your organisation within appropriate timeframes.

Valid Accounts [T1078] Actors have obtained credentials for valid accounts to gain access to victims' networks.

Require multifactor authentication (MFA) for all user accounts, particularly privileged accounts.

Educate users to reduce password re-use.

Exfiltration [TA0010]    
Exfiltration Over Web Service [T1567]

Actors have exfiltrated sensitive data and threatened to publicly release it.

Open source report suggests LockBit 2.0 actors use publicly available web services to exfiltrate data.

Encrypt sensitive data at rest. Consider segmenting networks to separate sensitive data from corporate environments. Consider additional access controls such as MFA.

Consider restricting access to web-based storage services from corporate networks.

Lateral Movement [TA0008], Privilege Escalation [TA0004], Discovery [TA0007]    
Various

Actors have deployed common post-exploitation tools such as Cobalt Strike and Metasploit on victim networks.

These are commonly used to move laterally through victim networks, harvest credentials, elevate privileges, exfiltrate data and deploy additional tools such as encryption binaries.

Segment networks and consider restricting or monitoring certain types of traffic such as SMB that are commonly used for lateral movement.

Restrict administrative privileges to operating systems and applications based on user duties.

Patch applications and operating systems and keep them up to date.

Impact [TA0040]    

Data Encrypted for Impact [T1486]

Actors have used the LockBit 2.0 ransomware variant to encrypt valuable data, disrupt operations, and extort payment from victims. Perform daily backups and test recovery and integrity procedures. Keep backups offline and encrypted. See [M1053 – Data Backup] and the ISM Chapter Data backup and Restoration.