CISA Announcement: Conti Ransomware Service & ZLoader…


September 27, 2021

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has released a new alert and it’s pretty important because it could impact everybody who’s currently being served advertisements by Google.

According to CISA, the Conti Ransomware Service is leveraging ZLoader operators to serve up malware via Google AdWords and AdSense, the world’s leading online advertiser. The ZLoader operators are purchasing keywords (via AdWords ) that link to malicious sites which then distributes ransomware (like Ryuk) to unsuspecting victims.

To take it a step further, the ZLoader operators even registered a fraudulent company to “sign” the malware packages so they avoid detection by endpoint protection software. ZLoader also seems capable of disabling the built-in protection Microsoft has included in Windows 10.


However, there are some things you can do to help protect yourself from ransomware:

  1. Implement a Security Awareness Training Program – Someone wiser than I once told me ‘you can’t stop or avoid what you’re not prepared to handle.’ That goes for ransomware attacks.

    Most ransomware attacks are solicited through Social Engineering campaigns and are end-user initiated (i.e. you, a coworker, or employee). A good security awareness training program can help educate people and stop a ransomware attack before it can get a foothold in your IoT ecosystem.

  2. Email Inbox Security is Imperative – As stated above, a ransomware attack is usually end-user initiated. How? Typically via a malicious link or file embedded in an email.

    The attacker will trick their unsuspecting victim into clicking through and, well, it’s all downhill from there. By implementing things like DMARC or DKIM, or sign up for a service like Cyren’s Office 365 Inbox Security platform, you can stop some of these attacks before human error becomes a part of the problem.

  3. Next-Generation End-Point Protection – Traditional endpoint protection products rely on outdated means of detection (like looking for specific signatures).

    Newer products like Blackberry Protect (formerly Cylance) uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to determine whether or not software that’s trying to run on your machine is hazardous or not.

  4. Back-up your End-Points and Critical Data – This is a no brainer. Even with the risk of a ransomware attack, you should be backing up your important data. A ransomware attack is only deadly to an organization if they don’t have backups.

    Ransomware attacks encrypt your end-points and demand a ransom (duh) from the victim to get the decryption key. If you’ve got air-gapped, regular backups you don’t need to pay. You can simply restore your ecosystem to a period before it was infected.

    Just make sure backups are in a secure location, not normally connected to your network, and password protected.

  5. Whitelisting and Blocking the Known Bad – You’ve got a pretty good idea of what people in your organization should be looking at while they work, or what programs they use, or what devices can talk to over the internet. Take the time to whitelist approved applications and processes.

    Blocking the known bad goes hand in hand with whitelisting. Now, I don’t necessarily mean you should spend hours and hours blocking everything under the sun, or making sure your firewall’s traffic policy is tighter than a frog’s butthole, but you should take the steps to block traffic to and from countries known to be hazardous to an enterprise like Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, etc. You can check out this article if you want to learn more about that.

  6. Discover Leaked Credentials, Look for Exposed Super-Admins and Start Practicing the Principle of Least Privilege when it comes to Access Control – Pardon me, but we have to go back to human error and the part it plays in a successful ransomware attack, or for that matter, ANY kind of cybersecurity attack.

    We humans, as a species, are terrible when it comes to credential management and good password hygiene. We stink at it. But the first step in changing that is by acknowledging it. To help with this, you might want to start by running a dark web scan  on your email domain.

    If the scan does discover linked credentials take a good long look at the report and check it against your records to see what privileges those users might have. The Principle of Least Privilege is the belief that people should have access to as little as possible beyond what they need to do their day-to-day tasks. That includes administrators and other high ranking personnel.

  7. Make Sure you Monitor Your Files Around the Clock – Monitors your IT environment for changes to the critical OS, files, and processes such as directories, registry keys, and values.

    Watch for changes to application files, rogue applications running on the host and unusual process and port activity, as well as system incompatibilities.

  8. Install an AdBlocker – Ads can be overwhelming even when they’re benign. Now that there’s a larger chance of finding malicious software on the other end of a blind link, they’re an even more unpleasant experience. Thankfully, it’s not that difficult to avoid ads (Google or otherwise) all together.

    We recommend using an ad-blocker like uBlock Origin for Chrome, Safari, Firefox and even Edge.

Like our blog? Subscribe using the CTA in the upper right-hand corner of this page. Feel like sharing your thoughts with us? Use the comment section below.

Don’t forget to follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter

Carl Keyser is the Content Manager at Integris.

Keep reading

Strong Cybersecurity Postures: How to Unleash their Power

Strong Cybersecurity Postures: How to Unleash their Power

In the vast digital landscape where virtual dragons and sneaky trolls roam a strong cybersecurity posture has never been more important. Imagine a band of modern-day knights led by our protagonist, Alex. Armed with a trusty laptop and a cup of coffee, Alex navigates...

How to Spot a Phishing Attack in 2023

How to Spot a Phishing Attack in 2023

In 2023 cyber threats lurk behind every tree trunk in today's digital jungle, and cybersecurity awareness is more critical than ever. Among the craftiest of these threats are phishing attacks. Phishing attacks are cunningly engineered with social manipulation at their...

How to Choose an IT Consultant in Boulder, CO

Regardless of industry size or type, Boulder IT consultants play a massive role in the way companies in the Boulder area do business. While most companies may have their own in-house IT department, many of these departments are small and cannot handle all the...