Exclusive – Quantum Locker lands in the Cloud

Pierluigi Paganini November 23, 2022

The gang behind Quantum Locker used a particular modus operandi to target large enterprises relying on cloud services in the NACE region.

Executive Summary

  • Quantum Locker gang demonstrated capabilities to operate ransomware extortion even on cloud environments such as Microsoft Azure.
  • Criminal operators of the Quantum gang demonstrated the ability to hunt and delete secondary backup copies stored in cloud buckets and blobs.
  • Quantum Locker gang targets IT administration staff to gather sensitive network information and credential access. 
  • During their intrusions, Quantum operators steal access to enterprise cloud file storage services such as Dropbox, to gather sensitive credentials.
  • Cloud root account takeovers have been observed in q4 2022 during Quantum gang intrusions in North Europe.
Quantum Locker
Source Cybereason

Incident Insights

During the latest weeks, the Belgian company Computerland shared insights with the European threat intelligence community about Quantum TTPs adopted in recent attacks. The shared information revealed Quantum gang used a particular modus operandi to target large enterprises relying on cloud services in the NACE region.

The disclosed technical details about recent intrusions confirm the ability of the Quantum Locker gang to conduct sabotage and ransomware attacks even against companies heavily relying on cloud environments.

For instance, TTPs employed in a recent attack include the complete takeover of company Microsoft cloud services through the compromise of the root account (T1531). Such action is particularly harrowing for the victim company: all the Microsoft services and users, including email services and regular users, would remain unusable until the Vendor’s response, which could last even days, depending on the reset request verification process.

In addition, the insights on q4 2022 attacks reported Quantum Locker operators are able to locate and delete all the victim Microsoft Azure’s Blob storages to achieve secondary backup annihilation and business data deletion (T1485). Even if cloud services could theoretically provide support for the restoration of old blobs and buckets, the recovery of “permanently deleted” data often requires days and might not even be available due to the provider’s internal technical restrictions.

The favorite initial targets of Quantum operators during their recent activities in North Europe were IT administrators and networking staff. Through accessing their personal resources and shared Dropbox folders, the threat actors were able to gather sensitive administrative credentials to extend the attack on the cloud surface (T1530).

Incident insights from the Belgian firm also confirm Quantum is coupling these new techniques even with more traditional ransomware delivery techniques, such as the modification of domain Group Policies (T1484.001) to distribute ransomware across the on-prem Windows machines and users’ laptops, along with the abuse of the legitimate Any Desk software as remote access tool (T1219).

Also, during the recent intrusions, Quantum operators extensively altered the configuration of endpoint defense tools such as Microsoft Defender (T1562.001).  In fact, threat actors were able to programmatically insert ad hoc exclusions to blind the onboard endpoint protection system without raising any shutdown warning.

The Belgian firm also reports Quantum Locker’s average encryption speed in real-world cloud hybrid scenario results around 13 MB/s, an amount particularly slower than other ransomware families adopting intermitted encryption, extending the responders’ windows of opportunity for in-time interception and containment. 

Threat Actor Brief

Quantum Locker ransomware was originally born from the hashes of the MountLocker ransomware program operated by Russian-speaking cybercriminals back in 2020. Before its actual name, Quantum Locker has been rebranded many times first with the AstroLocker name, and then with the XingLocker alias.

Quantum Locker was also involved in many high-profile attacks such as the Israelian security company BeeSense, the alleged attack on the local administration of the Sardinia region in Italy, and government agencies in the Dominican Republic.

Indicator of Compromise

  • Intrusion and Exfiltration infrastructure
    • 146.70.87,66 M247-LOS-ANGELES US
    • 42.216.183,180 NorthStar CN
  • Distribution Infrastructure:
    • hxxp://146.70.87,186/load/powerDEF
    • 146.70.87,186 M247-LOS-ANGELES

About the author : Luca Mella, Cyber Security Expert

Follow me on Twitter: @securityaffairs and Facebook and Mastodon

[adrotate banner=”9″][adrotate banner=”12″]

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, Quantum Locker)

[adrotate banner=”5″]

[adrotate banner=”13″]

you might also like

leave a comment