Russian-Speaking Threat Actor “Farnetwork” Linked to 5 Ransomware Gangs

Cyber Security Threat Summary:
According to a report from cybersecurity company Group-IB, a threat actor known as 'farnetwork' has operated under various usernames like farnetworkl, jingo, jsworm, razvrat, piparkuka, and farnetworkitand. They actively sought affiliates for different ransomware operations on Russian-speaking hacker forums. In March, farnetwork started recruiting affiliates for their ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) program based on the Nokoyawa locker. It's important to note that farnetwork clarified they were not involved in Nokoyawa's development. In the Nokoyawa ransomware scheme, farnetwork played multiple roles as a project leader, affiliate recruiter, and darknet promoter. Affiliates, despite receiving a 65% share of the ransom, were tasked with breaching targets and escalating privileges. Farnetwork tested candidates using stolen account credentials from services like UCL.

The RaaS venture was short-lived, as farnetwork recently announced their retirement from the ransomware scene. In October, they shut down the Nokoyawa RaaS program after leaking data from 35 victims. Group-IB suspects this exit is part of farnetwork's strategy to erase their tracks and potentially rebrand themselves in the future. Farnetwork's activities reveal a complex and evolving profile in the ransomware business. They gained expertise by assisting various affiliate programs, making them a notable figure in the cyberthreat landscape.

Security Officer Comments:
Researchers at Group-IB have traced farnetwork's activities back to January 2019, linking them to various ransomware strains like JSWORM, Nemty, Nefilim, and Karma. Farnetwork's history includes promoting JSWORM in April 2019 and switching to Nemty in August 2019. They also had involvement with Nefilim and Karma. Notably, farnetwork sought a Citrix VPN vulnerability in 2021. Group-IB suggests that farnetwork played a role in developing or managing these ransomware strains, particularly with Nefilim and Karma, considered Nemty's evolutions. This reveals the resilience of seasoned threat actors, adapting to changing aliases while sustaining their malicious activities.

Suggested Correction(s):
Backup your data, system images, and configurations, regularly test them, and keep the backups offline: Ensure that backups are regularly tested and that they are not connected to the business network, as many ransomware variants try to find and encrypt or delete accessible backups. Maintaining current backups offline is critical because if your network data is encrypted with ransomware, your organization can restore systems.

Update and patch systems promptly: This includes maintaining the security of operating systems, applications, and firmware in a timely manner. Consider using a centralized patch management system; use a risk- based assessment strategy to drive your patch management program.

Test your incident response plan: There's nothing that shows the gaps in plans more than testing them. Run through some core questions and use those to build an incident response plan: Are you able to sustain business operations without access to certain systems? For how long? Would you turn off your manufacturing operations if business systems such as billing were offline?

Check Your Security Team's Work: Use a 3rd party pen tester to test the security of your systems and your ability to defend against a sophisticated attack. Many ransomware criminals are aggressive and sophisticated and will find the equivalent of unlocked doors.

Segment your networks: There's been a recent shift in ransomware attacks – from stealing data to disrupting operations. It's critically important that your corporate business functions and manufacturing/production operations are separated and that you carefully filter and limit internet access to operational networks, identify links between these networks and develop workarounds or manual controls to ensure ICS networks can be isolated and continue operating if your corporate network is compromised. Regularly test contingency plans such as manual controls so that safety critical functions can be maintained during a cyber incident.

Train employees: Email remains the most vulnerable attack vector for organizations. Users should be trained how to avoid and spot phishing emails. Multi Factor authentication can help prevent malicious access to sensitive services.