The Ransomware Groups That Can Wreak Havoc in 2023

The rise of hackers in 2022, especially ransomware groups, has already put government organizations and companies in jeopardy. The last two quarters of 2022 drenched the world economies with damage beyond repair. The crypto market alone went through a tribulation of $428 million in Q3, and that significantly increased in Q4.

The Cyber Express found five main supervillains in the security domains that pulverized the ambitions of millions and are on their way to committing gruesome acts in 2023. These malware/ransomware families brutally neutralize corporations and subjugate them to leave their positions — almost mocking them for their petty security protocols.  

The five malware/ransomware groups that booted for 2023 are Russian-hacked Lockbit, North Korean-funded Lazarus, the double-extortion specialist Black Basta, the former Soviet state-backed ransomware hub, Hive, and the notorious Conti ransomware gang. 

Among these threat groups, LockBit and Black Basta reigned in the third quarter of 2022, making them the most fearless threat actors of the last year.

These two ransomware groups took millions from their victims as ransom. Going by the statistics, LockBit claimed 436 victim organizations throughout the six months of 2022, and Black Basta had 101. In the third quarter, Karakurt ranked second, a position previously held by BlackCat in the second quarter of the year. 

From April to September 2022, ransomware attackers continued to embrace the ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) model for faster virus deployment and larger rewards. 

5 Hacker groups to watch out for in 2023 

Like last year, sooner or later, threat actors are certainly going to attack more companies. TCE has reported many new incidents in the first week of 2023. According to a recent report, the average breach cost has increased by 2.6% from USD 4.24 million in 2021 to USD 4.35 million in 2022. 

World governments are continuously mitigating the damages from the last year, and prominent institutions and corporations still need to catch up on their weak approaches to security and management.   

#5 Black Basta 

Black Basta ransomware emerged as a threat in February 2022, when it compiled its first batch of malware samples. One of the key features of this ransomware is its ability to delete all Volume Shadow Copies and replace them with a new JPG image set as the desktop wallpaper, as well as an ICO file representing the encrypted files.

Unlike some other ransomware families, Black Basta does not skip files based on their extensions, although it does avoid encrypting critical folders that would render the system inoperable. 

The files targeted by Black Basta are encrypted using the ChaCha20 algorithm, with the key and nonce being encrypted using a hard-coded RSA public key. The size of the file determines whether it is fully or partially encrypted, and the ransomware changes the extension of the encrypted files to .basta. 

#4 Hive

As of November 2022, the FBI has reported that the Hive ransomware group has affected over 1,300 companies worldwide, extorting approximately $100 million in ransom payments. Hive operates using the ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) model, in which developers create, maintain, and update the malware, while affiliates conduct the actual ransomware attacks. 

 From June 2021 through at least November 2022, Hive has targeted a wide range of businesses and critical infrastructure sectors, including government facilities, communications, critical manufacturing, information technology, and healthcare and public health (HPH) in particular. 

The method of initial intrusion used by Hive affiliates can vary, but may include exploitation of single-factor logins via Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), virtual private networks (VPNs), and other remote network connection protocols.

In some cases, Hive actors have even bypassed multifactor authentication (MFA) and gained access to FortiOS servers by exploiting the Common Vulnerability and Exposure (CVE) CVE-2020-12812, which allows them to log in without being prompted for a second authentication factor (FortiToken) by simply changing the case of the username. 

#3 Conti 

In May 2022, it was reported that the Conti ransomware group had been shut down. However, this proved to be false as the group continued to carry out several cyber attacks. They targeted the Costa Rican government and launched Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks on Cobalt Strike servers.

The group also targeted the Ukrainian government and various Ukrainian and European humanitarian and nonprofit organizations during the Russia-Ukraine conflict. While Conti had previously expressed support for Russia, they later pulled back.

According to Google’s Threat Analysis Group, the group used phishing emails impersonating the National Cyber Police of Ukraine to target their victims. These emails contained a link that prompted the recipient to download an update for their operating system. Alongside this, the attack also involved the deployment of the IcedID banking Trojan, which was used to steal personal data.

#2 Lazarus 

The Lazarus Group, a hacker collective with ties to the North Korean government, has had a busy year, with the U.S. government seizing $30 million worth of cryptocurrency stolen by the group in a play-to-earn game scheme in early 2022. Between February and July of that year, Lazarus targeted energy providers in Canada, Japan, and the United States, using vulnerabilities in VMWare Horizon and deploying malware to gain initial access to the organizations. 

Several security firms have partially disclosed the campaign, but a technical report reveals that Lazarus used a combination of known malware implants called VSingle and YamaBot, as well as a previously unknown malware called MagicRAT, to “establish initial footholds into enterprise networks” and “siphon off proprietary intellectual property.”

It is believed that the primary goal of the attack was to gain long-term access to victim networks for espionage operations on behalf of the North Korean government, with a focus on critical infrastructure and energy companies. 

#1 Lockbit 

The LockBit ransomware organization has gained a reputation as for being one of the most dangerous groups in existence. They were first discovered in September 2019 and have been known to operate a ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) model, recruiting others to compromise networks and encrypt devices on their behalf. The group targets companies in various countries, including the United States, China, India, and Europe. 

In June 2021, LockBit released version 2.0 of their RaaS, followed by version 3.0 in June 2022. The latest iteration includes new encryptors based on the BlackMatter source code, as well as new payment methods, extortion strategies, and even a ransomware bug bounty program. 

However, the LockBit operation recently suffered a significant setback when a developer leaked the builder for their newest encryptor, known as LockBit Black, online. This encryptor had been in testing for two months before its official release in June, and was confirmed by multiple security researchers as being legitimate. 


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