Locky ransomware is the latest devastating member of the ransomware family that employs strong encryption and is used in targeted campaigns.
For example, the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center was indeed attacked by Locky, as disclosed by security researchers.
Thanks to the attack on the Hollywood Presbyterian, Locky’s authors gained $17,000 in ransom money. Thousands of dollars have flooded into the cyber criminals’ account just by a single targeted attack.
Locky’s Financially Sound Targets
Besides hitting the HPMC, Locky has been observed to target victims primarily in the following countries:
- The United States
Research from Palo Alto reveals that the US was the main target, the Hollywood Presbyterian being the first big target. However, new evidence indicates that Locky’s creators are currently expanding the list of preferred countries. A malicious email written in German shows that Locky’s operators are now pointing at German-speaking countries.
Palo Alto wrote that:
We observed approximately 446,000 sessions for this threat, over half of which targeted the United States (54%). For comparison, the next most impacted countries, Canada and Australia, only accounted for another nine percent combined.
No wonder such countries are preferred by cyber criminal gangs – those are ‘high-level’ communities with enough financial resources to transfer ransom payments. In other words, both the regular, tax-paying citizens and the various organizations in those regions are much more likely to pay than the ones, say, in Eastern Europe. Or even worse, the Balkans! We haven’t seen many ransomware campaigns targeting those regions, have we?
Locky is currently being spread in aggressive spam campaigns that resemble a lot the techniques previously used by Dridex’s operators. In fact, there are enough similarities to make us believe that Locky has been crafted by the same hands that created the Dridex banking malware.
Learn More about Spam and Ransomware
The Similarities between Dridex and Locky
There’s enough logic in security researchers’ suspicions linking Locky to Dridex’s operators. Palo Alto’s point of view:
Researchers suspect there is a link between the Dridex botnet affiliate 220 and Locky due to similar styles of distribution, overlapping filenames, and an absence of campaigns from this particularly aggressive affiliate coinciding with the initial emergence of Locky.
Learn More about Botnets
Moreover, as pointed out by ProofPoint, the botnet delivering Locky’s spam emails is the same one that distributes most of the spam emails linking to Dridex. Besides Dridex, this botnet has been observed to install other malware such as Ursnif, Nymaim, Shifu, and, interestingly, TeslaCrypt.
Even if Locky’s operators are not Dridex’s ones, they have borrowed quite a lot from the banking malware, especially in terms of distribution. Unfortunately, the number of Locky infections may even outrun the number of Dridex-themed campaigns registered to this date.
Why Keeping Macros Disabled Is Crucial
First of all, let us clarify what macros are.
A macro is a series of commands and actions that automate certain tasks. No matter how they are created, macros need to be executed by a system that will interpret the stored commands. Some macro systems are self-contained programs, but others are built into complex applications (such as word processors) to allow users to repeat sequences of commands easily, or to allow developers to modify and adapt the particular application (via Wikipedia).
In the aspect of Microsoft Word, macros are a trusted method to automate certain common tasks in MS Office. Unfortunately, malware can also employ the macro functionality in order to install malware onto a targeted PC.
Here we get to macro malware.
In most cases, macro malware resides in Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel documents. Many malware infections have started this way. The malicious documents are usually spread via spam email attachments, or inside ZIP files attached to the spam email.
Indeed, aggressive spam campaigns are the current distribution method employed by Locky. The malware operators are spreading cleverly crafted spam messages that appear to be sent from trustworthy sources in accordance with the targeted country. The infection process requires the user enabling the Macros within the Word document. This is when the actual infection takes place.
A Locky spam email. Image Source: ProofPoint
For obvious security-related concerns, macros are usually disabled by Microsoft by default. However, cyber criminals know that and always find ways to make potential victims enable macros and subsequently get infected.
In short, to stay safe against macro malware, and respectively ransomware, follow these steps:
- Disable macros in Microsoft Office applications.The very first thing to do is check if macros are disabled in Microsoft office. For more information, visit Microsoft Office’s official page. Keep in mind that if you are an enterprise user, the system administrator is the one who is in charge of the macro default settings.
- Don’t open suspicious emails. Simple as that. If you receive an unexpected email from an unknown sender – like an invoice – don’t open it before making sure it is legitimate. Spam is the primary way of distributing macro malware.
- Employ anti-spam measures. Use anti-spam software, spam filters, aimed at examining incoming email. Such software isolates spam from regular emails. Spam filters are designed to identify and detect spam, and prevent it from reaching your inbox. Make sure to add a spam filter to your email. Gmail users can refer to Google’s support page.
And don’t forget to keep your anti-malware program updated and running at all times!
Spy Hunter scanner will only detect the threat. If you want the threat to be automatically removed, you need to purchase the full version of the anti-malware tool.Find Out More About SpyHunter Anti-Malware Tool / How to Uninstall SpyHunter
- Guide 1: How to Remove from Windows.
- Guide 2: Get rid of from Mac OS X.
- Guide 3: Remove from Google Chrome.
- Guide 4: Erase from Mozilla Firefox.
- Guide 5: Uninstall from Microsoft Edge.
- Guide 6: Remove from Safari.
- Guide 7: Eliminate from Internet Explorer.
How to Remove from Windows.
Step 1: Boot Your PC In Safe Mode to isolate and remove
Step 2: Uninstall and related software from Windows
Here is a method in few easy steps that should be able to uninstall most programs. No matter if you are using Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista or XP, those steps will get the job done. Dragging the program or its folder to the recycle bin can be a very bad decision. If you do that, bits and pieces of the program are left behind, and that can lead to unstable work of your PC, errors with the file type associations and other unpleasant activities. The proper way to get a program off your computer is to Uninstall it.
Step 3: Clean any registries, created by on your computer.
The usually targeted registries of Windows machines are the following:
You can access them by opening the Windows registry editor and deleting any values, created by there. This can happen by following the steps underneath:
Get rid of from Mac OS X.
Step 1: Uninstall and remove related files and objects
1. Hit the ⇧+⌘+U keys to open Utilities. Another way is to click on “Go” and then click “Utilities”, like the image below shows:
- Go to Finder.
- In the search bar type the name of the app that you want to remove.
- Above the search bar change the two drop down menus to “System Files” and “Are Included” so that you can see all of the files associated with the application you want to remove. Bear in mind that some of the files may not be related to the app so be very careful which files you delete.
- If all of the files are related, hold the ⌘+A buttons to select them and then drive them to “Trash”.
In case you cannot remove via Step 1 above:
In case you cannot find the virus files and objects in your Applications or other places we have shown above, you can manually look for them in the Libraries of your Mac. But before doing this, please read the disclaimer below:
You can repeat the same procedure with the following other Library directories:
Tip: ~ is there on purpose, because it leads to more LaunchAgents.
Step 2: Scan for and remove malware from your Mac
When you are facing problems on your Mac as a result of unwanted scripts, programs and malware, the recommended way of eliminating the threat is by using an anti-malware program. Combo Cleaner offers advanced security features along with other modules that will improve your Mac’s security and protect it in the future.
Remove from Google Chrome.
Step 1: Start Google Chrome and open the drop menu
Step 2: Move the cursor over "Tools" and then from the extended menu choose "Extensions"
Step 3: From the opened "Extensions" menu locate the unwanted extension and click on its "Remove" button.
Step 4: After the extension is removed, restart Google Chrome by closing it from the red "X" button at the top right corner and start it again.
Erase from Mozilla Firefox.
Step 1: Start Mozilla Firefox. Open the menu window
Step 2: Select the "Add-ons" icon from the menu.
Step 3: Select the unwanted extension and click "Remove"
Step 4: After the extension is removed, restart Mozilla Firefox by closing it from the red "X" button at the top right corner and start it again.
Uninstall from Microsoft Edge.
Step 1: Start Edge browser.
Step 2: Open the drop menu by clicking on the icon at the top right corner.
Step 3: From the drop menu select "Extensions".
Step 4: Choose the suspected malicious extension you want to remove and then click on the gear icon.
Step 5: Remove the malicious extension by scrolling down and then clicking on Uninstall.
Remove from Safari.
Step 1: Start the Safari app.
Step 2: After hovering your mouse cursor to the top of the screen, click on the Safari text to open its drop down menu.
Step 3: From the menu, click on "Preferences".
Step 4: After that, select the 'Extensions' Tab.
Step 5: Click once on the extension you want to remove.
Step 6: Click 'Uninstall'.
A pop-up window will appear asking for confirmation to uninstall the extension. Select 'Uninstall' again, and the will be removed.
Eliminate from Internet Explorer.
Step 1: Start Internet Explorer.
Step 2: Click on the gear icon labeled 'Tools' to open the drop menu and select 'Manage Add-ons'
Step 3: In the 'Manage Add-ons' window.
Step 4: Select the extension you want to remove and then click 'Disable'. A pop-up window will appear to inform you that you are about to disable the selected extension, and some more add-ons might be disabled as well. Leave all the boxes checked, and click 'Disable'.
Step 5: After the unwanted extension has been removed, restart Internet Explorer by closing it from the red 'X' button located at the top right corner and start it again.