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New Agenda Ransomware Variant, Written in Rust, Aiming at Critical Infrastructure

December 19, 2022

A Rust variant of a ransomware strain known as Agenda has been observed in the wild, making it the latest malware to adopt the cross-platform programming language after BlackCat, Hive, Luna, and RansomExx. Agenda, attributed to an operator named Qilin, is a Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) group that has been linked to a spate of attacks primarily targeting manufacturing and IT industries across different countries. A previous version of the ransomware, written in Go and customized for each victim, singled out healthcare and education sectors in countries like Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Thailand. Agenda, like Royal ransomware, expands on the idea of partial encryption (aka intermittent encryption) by configuring parameters that are used to determine the percentage of file content to be encrypted. An analysis of the ransomware binary reveals that encrypted files are given the extension “MmXReVIxLV,” before proceeding to drop the ransom note in every directory. In addition, the Rust version of Agenda can terminate the Windows AppInfo process and disable User Account Control (UAC), the latter of which helps mitigate the impact of malware by requiring administrative access to launch a program or task.

Analyst Notes

To protect against ransomware attacks, organizations should:
• Regularly back up data, air gap, and password protect backup copies offline.
• Ensure copies of critical data are not accessible for modification or deletion from the system where the data resides.
• Implement network segmentation.
• Implement a recovery plan to maintain and retain multiple copies of sensitive or proprietary data and servers in a physically separate, segmented, secure location
• Install updates/patch operating systems, software, and firmware as soon as practical after they are released.
• Implement monitoring of security events on employee workstations and servers, with a 24/7 Security Operations Center to detect threats and respond quickly.
• Use multifactor authentication where possible.
• Use strong passwords and regularly change passwords to network systems and accounts, implementing the shortest acceptable timeframe for password changes.
• Avoid reusing passwords for multiple accounts.
• Focus on cyber security awareness and training.
• Regularly provide users with training on information security principles and techniques as well as overall emerging cybersecurity risks and vulnerabilities.