Researchers at FireEye noticed that some of the websites redirecting users to the Bad Rabbit ransomware hosted a profiling framework, which could suggest that the attack was not financially motivated.
The Bad Rabbit attack, which led to the infection of hundreds of machines in Russia and Ukraine with ransomware, started with users being redirected to 1dnscontrol[.]com, a domain that served a malware dropper disguised as a Flash Player installer. Users had to manually execute the file in order to become infected.
FireEye noticed that several compromised websites redirecting to the 1dnscontrol domain had hosted a profiling tool. Tracked by the company as BACKSWING, the framework has been seen on more than 50 websites since September 2016, and four of them redirected users to Bad Rabbit ransomware this week.
BACKSWING is designed to collect information about a user’s browsing session – including User-Agent, HTTP Referrer, cookies, and the current domain – and sends it back to a command and control (C&C) server.
“Malicious profilers allow attackers to obtain more information about potential victims before deploying payloads (in this case, the BADRABBIT ‘flash update’ dropper),” FireEye researchers explained. “While FireEye has not directly observed BACKSWING delivering BADRABBIT, BACKSWING was observed on multiple websites that were seen referring FireEye customers to 1dnscontrol[.]com, which hosted the BADRABBIT dropper.”
If BACKSWING was in fact used by the threat group behind the Bad Rabbit ransomware, it would suggest that the attack was not financially motivated, as a profit-driven actor would not care about who they’re infecting as long as they make money.
This also reinforces the theory that the Bad Rabbit operation was conducted by the Russia-linked threat group known as BlackEnergy, TeleBots and Sandworm Team, which is also believed to be behind the NotPetya wiper attack that targeted Ukraine and other countries in June.
“We observed a spike of BACKSWING instances on Ukrainian sites, with a significant increase in May 2017. While some sites hosting BACKSWING do not have a clear strategic link, the pattern of deployment raises the possibility of a strategic sponsor with specific regional interests,” FireEye said.
While many similarities have been found between NotPetya and Bad Rabbit, one major difference is that the latter mainly hit enterprises and most of the victims are in Russia. However, the relatively small number of Ukrainian organizations affected by the malware include high profile targets, such as the airport in Odessa, the Kiev subway, the State Aviation Service of Ukraine, and the Transport Ministry of Ukraine.
Contrary to initial reports, the Bad Rabbit ransomware does in fact appear to leverage an NSA-linked exploit to spread within compromised networks. The exploit in question is called EternalRomance and its details were leaked by the hacker group Shadow Brokers back in April. The vulnerability leveraged by the exploit was patched by Microsoft in March. EternalRomance was also one of the exploits leveraged by the NotPetya wiper.