Belarussian authorities arrested GandCrab ransomware distributor

Pierluigi Paganini August 03, 2020

Last week, the Minister of Internal Affairs of Belarus announced the arrest of a 31-year-old man that is accused of distributing the infamous GandCrab ransomware.

Last week, the Minister of Internal Affairs of Belarus announced the arrest of a man on charges of distributing the infamous GandCrab ransomware.

The arrest is the result of an investigation conducted with help from law enforcement from the UK and Romania.

The authorities did not reveal the name of the man, they arrested him in Gomel (Belarus). He had no previous criminal records at the time of the arrest, but it is known to be a member of a cybercrime forum to become an affiliate for the GandCrab ransomware operation.

He allegedly subscribed the GandCrab ransomware-as-a-service to create his own version of the malware and spread it running a spam campaign.

The GandCrab ransomware-as-a-service first emerged from Russian crime underground in early 2018.

The GandCrab was advertised in the Russian hacking community, researchers from LMNTRIX who discovered it noticed that authors was leveraging the RIG and GrandSoft exploit kits to distribute the malware.

As usually happen for Russian threat actors, members cannot use the ransomware to infect systems in countries in the former Soviet Republics that now comprise the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Below some interesting points from the first advertisement for this threat:

  • Prospective buyers are asked to join the ‘partner program’, in which profits from the ransomware are split 60:40
  • Large’ partners are able to increase their percentage of proceeds to 70 per cent
  • As a Ransomware-as-a-service offering, technical support and updates are offered to ‘partners’
  • Partners are prohibited from targeting countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine) – violating this rule results in account deletion
  • Partners must apply to use the ransomware, and there is a limited amount of ‘seats’ available.” reads the translation of the ad.

The operators behind the GandCrab RaaS offer they platform maintaining 40% of the ransom, the percentage is reduced for large partners.

Once infected, if the victim does not pay on time, he will have to pay a double ransom.

The authors of the GandCrab RaaS also offers technical support and updates to its members, they also published a video tutorial that shows how the ransomware is able to avoid antivirus detection.

The RaaS implements a user-friendly admin console, which is accessible via Tor Network, to allow malware customization (i.e. ransom amount, individual bots and encryption masks)

According to Belarussian authorities, the man infected more than 1,000 computers with his customized variant of GandCrab, but is not known how many victims paid the ransom. He was demanding the payment of around $1,200 worth of Bitcoin.

Officials believe that the man infected computers in more than 100 countries, most of them in India, the US, Ukraine, the UK, Germany, France, Italy, and Russia. GandCrab made more than 54,000 victims across the world, including 156 in Belarus, officials said.

Authorities also added that the man was involved in the distribution of cryptominers and wrote malware for other users on the same hacking forums.

The GandCrab Ransomware-as-a-Service shut down operations in June 2019 and told affiliates to stop distributing the ransomware. The authors of the ransomware are still unknown and are at large.

Security researchers Damian and David Montenegro, who follow the evolution of the GandCrab since its appearance, the GandCrab operators announced their decision of shutting down their operation in a post in popular hacking forums:

The operators revealed they have generated more than $2 billion in ransom payments, earning on average of $2.5 million dollars per week. The operators revealed to have earned a net of $150 million that now have invested in legal activities.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, malware)

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