Agenda Ransomware Hits the Scene

  • By Steven
  • Sep 01, 2022

Agenda ransomware is causing widespread harm. This uniquely nasty ransomware is referred to as "Agenda" for the moment. Though we will not know the full extent of the new ransomware's impact until the threat is contained, we have some preliminary information stemming from descriptions provided by Agenda victims. 

The Agenda threat has been spotted "in the wild", zeroing in on educational and healthcare institutions worldwide. If preventative action is not taken, Agenda will spread to every corner of the globe, infecting healthcare businesses and organizations of all types and sizes.

How Has Agenda Been Deployed?

Agenda was employed in an attack against a Citrix server of the public-facing variety. The hackers used that server to gain access to sensitive data. It appears as though the Agenda hackers used valid accounts to connect to the server and steal valuable information.

Why is Agenda Such a Problem?

Agenda has digital security professionals feeling uneasy for a good reason. This new ransomware threat reboots systems in safe mode before attempting to halt processes specific to servers. The ransomware runs in several different modes, making it all the more difficult to defend against.

Who is Behind the new Ransomware?

Qilin, a hacking collective, has been highlighted as the threat actor advertising the ransomware on the dark web. Qilin's hackers are advanced to the point that they offer options to affiliates to customize binary payloads for victims, empowering operators to select the ransom note, processes list, encryption extension, and services to reach termination prior to launching the process necessary for encrypting the information.

The new ransomware's design is intricate enough to implement techniques to identify evasion, ultimately capitalizing on the device's safe mode feature. This approach allows for an unnoticed file encryption routine. However, the default password must be changed to allow automatic login.

What Occurs After the Encryption Process?

Once the encryption is complete, the files are renamed with the proper configured extension. The ransom note is placed in the encrypted directories, ensuring the machine reboots in its regular mode. The amount of funds requested from targeted businesses differ based on cash reserves, the challenge of the hack, and other variables. 

The strategy described above is somewhat similar to that employed during the Black Basta attacks, initially appearing in the Spring of 2022. Those who study cybersecurity and keep up with the industry news are quick to point out Agenda was preceded by Luna, Hive, and BlackCat, each of which uses the Go language for programming. 

Black Basta employs double extortion techniques with the encryption of files on systems that target organizations, requesting ransom to ensure decryption can occur. This style of attack also included online threats, making it clear that hackers will post sensitive data unless the victim pays the ransom money. This calculated approach has led to the hacks of 75 organizations, an increase from a mere 50 in the previous month.

Should Healthcare Companies be Worried?

Indeed, there is a reason for worry. Agenda is quickly spreading across the globe, infiltrating healthcare company networks, functioning in several modes, and even rebooting systems in safe mode for exploitation. Agenda is also problematic in that it stops services and processes of servers necessary for conducting business. 

Adding to the depth of the threat is that it attacks in several modes, making the infiltration that much more dynamic. The key takeaway from this story is the following: if you have not yet updated your cybersecurity safeguards, now is the time to do so.

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