The End is Nigh?

We are not usually in the business of making bold predictions about future developments in cyber security. But recent internal discussions about WannaCry and Petya/Nyetya have got us all thinking about an entirely plausible and frankly terrifying possibility for where crypto malware could go next.

Here’s the short version:
DeathStar + basic crypto malware variant = complete encryption of the entire AD environment.

DeathStar is an extension to the Empire post-exploitation framework that was released by byt3bl33d3r in May 2017. It builds on previous tools like BloodHound to identify and automate privilege escalation within Active Directory. Basically, “push button, receive domain admin”.

DeathStar (and BloodHound) don’t rely on exploiting any actual vulnerabilities. Rather DeathStar leverages Active Directory configuration and allocation of privilege in order to find and exploit a path of domain joined systems that can be travelled, one hop at a time, in order to eventually obtain DA privileges. The BloodHound github page probably explains this approach most succinctly:
“BloodHound uses graph theory to reveal hidden relationships and attack paths in an Active Directory environment.”

Our predicted scenario plays out something like this:
1. Despite your organisation’s best efforts with security education and awareness, a low privileged user opens a malicious executable email attachment.
2. The attachment first runs DeathStar, which eventually obtains domain admin privileges.
3. Once DA has been obtained, the payload reaches out to every domain-joined Windows system and executes a crypto malware payload, as DA, on every host simultaneously.

Taking this one step further…
Couple this attack with a basic password spraying attack against Remote Desktop Services or Citrix  (or even OWA followed up with Ruler) and you remove the need for any phishing or other user interaction. One minute you’re fine – the next minute every machine on your AD has crypto malware.

So what can be done?

  1. Excellent, frequent, offline and offsite backups. Definitely NOT on local, online, domain-joined backup servers.
  2. Proactively test your Active Directory with tools like Bloodhound and DeathStar. If you can prevent these tools from achieving DA through derivative administrator relationships, chances are good that the predicted malware won’t be able to either.
  3. Use cloud-based / SaaS services where possible.
  4. Follow ‘best practice’ advice like the Top 35 / Essential 8 provided by ASD. Specifically: patch OS and applications, implement application whitelisting, use 2FA for all remote access (including OWA), limit the allocation of administrative rights, and monitor the shit out of your environment.

If this prediction eventuates it could have staggering consequences for individual organisations and possibly for the global economy. We don’t want this to happen, but it just seems like the next logical step in the evolution of crypto malware. Hopefully by highlighting the possibility we can get ahead of the curve before the risk is realised.