McMenamins, a brewery and hotel chain based out of Portland, Oregon, has suffered a Conti Ransomware attack that severely disrupted the company’s operations. McMenamins owns a chain of restaurants, pubs, breweries, and hotels, and they have locations in Washington as well as Oregon.
The ransomware attack occurred on the weekend of December 12th, and sources close to the company told researchers at BleepingComputer that the Conti Ransomware gang was responsible.
As part of the Conti Ransomware attack, servers and workstations were encrypted. These included point-of-sales systems at various McMenamins locations.
Though the locations remained open, the company was forced to shut down its IT systems. These included POS systems and corporate email, which was done to halt the spread of further infection.
McMenamins have since released a statement since being pressed by reporters. In the statement, they confirmed that they were hit by Ransomware and are working with the FBI and a third-party cybersecurity firm to investigate the attack.
“McMenamins today announced it has been the victim of a ransomware attack, which was identified and blocked on Dec.12. At this time, it appears that no customer payment data was impacted when cybercriminals deployed malicious software that locked the company’s systems and prevented access to critical information. The family-owned company has reported the incident to the FBI and is also working with a cybersecurity firm to identify the source and full scope of the attack.
It is possible that internal employee data may have been compromised, although it is not currently known whether that is the case. The following categories of employee information were potentially affected: names, addresses, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, direct deposit bank account information, and benefits records. To provide employees with peace of mind, McMenamins will be offering employees identity and credit protection services, as well as a dedicated help line through Experian. Managers will provide this information to employees directly.”
As credit card scanners have been taken offline, McMenamins is being forced to change its payment processing at some locations. Unfortunately, these changes also prevent customers from purchasing or redeeming gift cards.
It is unknown if customer data was stolen in the account. McMenamins have said that initial investigation showed that the customer data was safe, but this remains to be seen. Hotels are a very popular Ransomware target, and it is believed that the Conti Ransomware gang were undetected on the network for quite some time.
The exact details will be revealed when the third-party firm concludes its investigation.
Conti Ransomware Analysis
Note: The Analysis of Conti Ransomware was carried out by researchers at Vipre Labs.
Conti ransomware encrypts the files of their victims and publishes the data on their website similar to what other strains do. This extortion behavior is visible on their ransom note saying “We’ve downloaded your data and are ready to publish it on our news website”.
When executed, it will start to encrypt files and change the file extension of the encrypted files to .ODMUA. Like other ransomware, it will leave a ransom note that has a filename “readme.txt”.
The Conti ransomware website has an instruction on how to upload the README.txt for the decryption and a contact button at the bottom left of the page. Once you click the contact button, a form will appear where you will provide your contact information and question as shown below.
Conti ransomware will perform a known malware technique called process hollowing. It is where the malware will create a process in a suspended state, unmaps or removes the PE image layout from a given process space using ZwUnmapViewofSection function, write it’s malicious code using WriteProcessMemory, set a new entry point using SetThreadContext, and resume the execution of the suspended process using the ResumeThread function.
Upon research, we found out that the use of -p argument is to encrypt a specific directory with a single thread and the -m argument is to encrypt the files with multiple threads. It means that Conti ransomware has a multi-threading capability. Multi-threading is where main ransomware creates child threads to speed up the encryption.
It will use a string “hsfjuukjzloqu28oajh727190” that was decrypted using the decryption of string routine mentioned above for creating a mutex using CreateMutexA function. Then check if there’s an already running mutex. This was commonly used by ransomware to avoid infecting the system more than once.
It will also delete all the shadow volume copies on the infected system to ensure that the victims won’t be able to recover their encrypted files.
After deleting the shadow copies, Conti ransomware will now start its file encryption by first creating the ransom note which will be first drop in C drive using “CreateFileW” and write the content of its ransom note using “WriteFile”.
As with other ransomware, it will utilize the functions “FindFirstFileW” and “FindNextFileW” to find the files they will encrypt. Conti ransomware has a list of files/file extension and directories which will be excluded for the infection.
When Conti finds the file to be encrypted, it will now generate keys that will be used to encrypt the files. It will used the handle returned by calling the function “CryptAcquireContext” that request a cryptographic context from the Microsoft Enhanced Cryptographic Provider, then the “CryptGenRandom” function to generate cryptographically random bytes, and “CryptEncrypt” function. It leverages AES 256 encryption for their infection.
Then it will open the target file using the “CreateFile” function and retrieve the size of the target file using “GetFileSize”. After this the malware will decrypt different file extensions and check if the file extension of the targeted file is in the list.
Conti ransomware will not just encrypt the files of the infected machine but also spreads and infects the other machine on the same network using SMB protocol.
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