Black Basta ransomware crew may be exploiting Microsoft zero-day

by Pelican Press
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Black Basta ransomware crew may be exploiting Microsoft zero-day

A vulnerability in the Microsoft Windows Error Reporting Service, which was identified and patched three months ago in the March 2024 Patch Tuesday update, appears to have been exploited as a zero-day by the Black Basta ransomware gang prior to being addressed, users have been warned.

CVE-2024-26169 drew little attention in March – it was rated as Important in its severity and assigned a CVSS base score of 7.8, and Microsoft had not identified any public proofs of concept or exploits circulating. If left unaddressed, it enables an attacker to elevate their privileges, so could potentially form an element of a cyber attack chain.

According to Symantec’s Threat Hunter team, unbeknownst to Microsoft at the time, this does in fact appear to have happened. The researchers say they have identified and analysed an exploit tool for CVE-2024-26169 deployed in recent attacks that appears to have been compiled prior to patching – retroactively changing the vulnerability’s status to that of a zero-day.

“Although the attackers did not succeed in deploying a ransomware payload in this attack, the tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) used were highly similar to those described in a recent Microsoft report detailing Black Basta activity. These included the use of batch scripts masquerading as software updates,” the Threat Hunter Team said.

“Although no payload was deployed, the similarities in TTPs makes it highly likely it was a failed Black Basta attack.”

The exploit tool seems to rely on the fact that a specific file, werkernel.sys, uses a “null” security descriptor when it creates registry keys, and because the parent key has a “Creator Owner” access control entry (ACE) for subkeys, the resulting subkeys are all owned by users of the current process.

The ransomware gang has taken advantage of this to create a specific registry key where it sets the “Debugger” value as an executable pathname, said Symantec. This in turn enables the exploit to start up a shell with admin rights.

The researchers said that two different variants of the tool they discovered had been compiled several months ago, the first on 18 December 2023, and the second on 27 February 2024, although it is important to understand that time stamp values in portable executables can be changed, and a specific time stamp is not in and of itself sufficient evidence that CVE-2024-26169 has been used as a zero-day.

Nevertheless, Symantec said that given Black Basta’s resumption of attacks following the disruption of its favoured Qakbot botnet in August 2023, it was likely the case that the gang is behind this particular tool.

Kevin Robertson, chief operations officer and co-founder at Acumen, said in earlier statements that there was no evidence CVE-2024-26169 may have lured many cyber admins into a false sense of security and resulted in the patch not being prioritised in the usual monthly rush.

“Cyber crime gangs are exploiting weaknesses in ubiquitous software, like Microsoft, and using them as backdoors into systems,” he said. “Software vendors have a duty to continuously hunt for and remediate vulnerabilities, otherwise, they are putting their customers at serious risk. They also have a duty to investigate if vulnerabilities have been exploited in the wild before patches are released, because this could result in organisations missing compromises.

“For any organisation that has not patched this CVE yet, do it now, because in the hands of an adversary like Black Basta, it has become one of the most dangerous vulnerabilities around today,” said Robertson.





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