2:23 pm (UTC-7) | by Robert McArdle (Senior Threat Researcher)
During the past few days, we’ve been monitoring Laduree.fr, the website of a well-known confectionery company based in France. A seemingly unlikely target for cybercrime, Ladurée’s website was compromised in order to infect users’ systems with ransomware. The ransomware, detected as TROJ_RANSOM.BOV pretends to be notifications from the National Gendarmerie (French: Gendarmerie nationale), commonly known as the French Police Force. It displays a window that covers the entire desktop and demands payment, i.e., holding the system ransom.
Apart from infecting French users who visited the Ladurée site, there were also several infections seen in Japan. As it turns out, Ladurée pastries are popular among the Japanese; in fact the Ladurée site only translates to French, English and Japanese.
Using a confectionery company’s site showcases cybercriminals’ ability to adapt and go to where they think they’ll find potential victims.
In this case, the attack makes use of the Blackhole Exploit kit in order to drop malware onto systems. It is the same malware family that has been used in the past to impersonate other law enforcement agencies such as the BundesPolizei in Germany. In addition to the Ransomware component of the malware, it also steals credentials for a long list of programs and sites, including local email accounts, browser passwords, social networks, poker sites, ftp passwords and Remote Desktop software.
We noticed that the domain name of the URL used to host the exploit kit has been suspended. Based on the logs, it was created on February 9, 2012 and last updated on February 14. The domain’s registrant shows a .ru email address which might help in identifying a possible suspect, but this might just be a compromised email account so the information might not be reliable. For example, the WHOIS information states that the domain owner is based in Moscow, but email account tied to it says the owner is based in a city about 4 hours from Moscow.
We also observed related domains to this campaign are all hosted on a common range of IP addresses. The related sites are from the same gang, but not used in this particular attack. This gang has also impersonated police notifications from Italy, Spain, Germany and Belgium, among others. Each of these domains use different email addresses for registration, mostly ending in .ru, but it is highly likely that these are simply compromised accounts.
Ransomware as a Profitable Business Model
By making threats more effective and harder to mitigate, cybercriminals stand a greater chance of obtaining more substantial profits. This ransomware attack, however, proves that sometimes even the most simple and straightforward of threats still work. The required ransom may be a relatively small price to pay for individuals who value their data. However, when that amount multiplies into thousands, you’re then face with a hefty sum that can be used to fund more complex and possibly more destructive endeavors.
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