Hackers use Conti’s leaked ransomware to attack Russian companies

ByErma F. Brown

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A hacking group used the Conti’s leaked ransomware source code to create their own ransomware to use in cyberattacks against Russian organizations.

While it is common to hear of ransomware attacks targeting companies and encrypting data, we rarely hear about Russian organizations getting attacked similarly.

This lack of attacks is due to the general belief by Russian hackers that if they do not attack Russian interests, then the country’s law enforcement would turn a blind eye toward attacks on other countries.

However, the tables have now turned, with a hacking group known as NB65 now targeting Russian organizations with ransomware attacks.

Ransomware targets Russia

For the past month, a hacking group known as NB65 has been breaching Russian entities, stealing their data, and leaking it online, warning that the attacks are due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Russian entities claimed to have been attacked by the hacking group include document management operator Tensor, Russian space agency Roscosmos, and VGTRK, the state-owned  Russian Television and Radio broadcaster.

NB65 tweet about attack on VGTRK

The attack on VGTRK was particularly significant as it led to the alleged theft of 786.2 GB of data, including 900,000 emails and 4,000 files, which were published on the DDoS Secrets website.

More recently, the NB65 hackers have turned to a new tactic — targeting Russian organizations with ransomware attacks since the end of March.

What makes this more interesting, is that the hacking group created their ransomware using the leaked source code for the Conti Ransomware operation, which are Russian threat actors who prohibit their members from attacking entities in Russia.

NB65 tweet about use of Conti ransomware

Conti’s source code was leaked after they sided with Russia over the attack on Ukraine, and a security researcher leaked 170,000 internal chat messages and source code for their operation.

BleepingComputer first learned of NB65’s attacks by threat analyst Tom Malka, but we could not find a ransomware sample, and the hacking group was not willing to share it.

However, this changed yesterday when a sample of the NB65’s modified Conti ransomware executable was uploaded to VirusTotal, allowing us to get a glimpse of how it works.

Almost all antivirus vendors detect this sample on VirusTotal as Conti, and Intezer Analyze also determined it uses 66% of the same code as the usual Conti ransomware samples.

BleepingComputer gave NB65’s ransomware a run, and when encrypting files, it will append the .NB65 extension to the encrypted file’s names.

Files encrypted by NB65's ransomware
Files encrypted by NB65’s ransomware
Source: BleepingComputer

The ransomware will also create ransom notes named R3ADM3.txt throughout the encrypted device, with the threat actors blaming the cyberattack on President Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine.

“We’re watching very closely.  Your President should not have commited war crimes. If you’re searching for someone to blame for your current situation look no further than Vladimir Putin,” reads the NB65 ransomware note displayed below.

Ransom note for NB65 ransomware
Ransom note for NB65 ransomware
Source: BleepingComputer

A representative for the NB65 hacking group told BleepingComputer that they based their encryptor on the first Conti source code leak but modified it for each victim so that existing decryptors would not work.

“It’s been modified in a way that all versions of Conti’s decryptor won’t work. Each deployment generates a randomized key based off of a couple variables that we change for each target,” NB65 told BleepingComputer.

“There’s really no way to decrypt without making contact with us.”

At this time, NB65 has not received any communications from their victims and told us that they were not expecting any.

As for NB65’s reasons for attacking Russian organizations, we will let them speak for themselves.

“After Bucha we elected to target certain companies, that may be civilian owned, but still would have an impact on Russias ability to operate normally.  The Russian popular support for Putin’s war crimes is overwhelming.  From the very beginning we made it clear.  We’re supporting Ukraine.  We will honor our word.  When Russia ceases all hostilities in Ukraine and ends this ridiculous war NB65 will stop attacking Russian internet facing assets and companies.

Until then, fuck em. 

We will not be hitting any targets outside of Russia.  Groups like Conti and Sandworm, along with other Russian APTs have been hitting the west for years with ransomware, supply chain hits (Solarwinds or defense contractors)… We figured it was time for them to deal with that themselves.”


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