Conti Ransomware Group

Conti is a high-profile ransomware group responsible for multiple high-impact attacks. The group is believed to be based in Russia and supports the agenda of the country’s government. The malware is distributed under a Ransomware as a Service (RaaS) model and attacks target organizations in many industry verticals, including retail, critical infrastructure, healthcare, and others.

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What is Conti Ransomware?

The Conti ransomware group is one of the largest ransomware groups in existence. It was behind multiple hacks of high-profile organizations, including the governments of Costa Rica and Peru, multiple retailers, and critical infrastructure such as the Irish healthcare service.

In February 2022, after the group declared support for the Russian government as a result of the invasion of Ukraine, a researcher leaked the contents of the group’s private chats, revealing many internal details of how the organization functioned. According to the latest reports,  In May 2022, the Conti ransomware group decided to do reorganization and rebranding; however, it is likely to continue to function while working with smaller groups. This could result in a greater diversity of high-quality ransomware with increased coordination between former members of the Conti ransomware group.

How the Conti Ransomware Group Operates

Conti is one of the more notorious RaaS ransomware groups. It distributes access to its malware to “affiliates” in exchange for a share of collected ransom payments. This places high-quality malware in the hands of more cybercrime groups and enables the ransomware operation to scale by leveraging the skills of cybercriminals that specialize in gaining initial access to an organization’s network. The group operates similarly to a modern corporation, including formalized hiring processes, salaries, and bonuses.

In general, Conti has focused its efforts on large organizations and has attacked at least 700 victims to date. A major component of the group’s success is its focus on improving the quality of the ransomware and its team’s skill set. The Conti leaks revealed mature internal development and testing processes — including ensuring that the malware remained undetected by common signature-based detection systems — and a focus on internal training to increase the effectiveness and profitability of the affiliates that gained access to corporate systems and deployed the ransomware.

The group has also explored expanding its operations beyond ransomware. Potential future efforts included plans for operating a cryptocurrency exchange and a dark net social media service.

Best Practices for Ransomware Prevention

The success of Conti and other groups demonstrates that ransomware has become a significant and sophisticated threat to corporate cybersecurity. With highly-targeted attacks by skilled cyber threat actors, organizations without the appropriate defenses in place may find themselves victims of expensive ransomware attacks.

However, companies can take steps to manage their risk of ransomware. Some best practices for preventing ransomware attacks include:

  • Deploy Anti-Phishing Solutions: Phishing emails are some of the most common delivery mechanisms for ransomware and other malware. Anti-phishing solutions should be able to identify and block emails containing novel ransomware variants from reaching an employee’s inbox.
  • Enforce Use of Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Another common ransomware delivery tactic is the use of compromised credentials to access corporate systems via a VPN or RDP solution. Enforcing the use of MFA for all corporate systems and applications makes it more difficult for an attacker to take advantage of compromised credentials.
  • Deploy Robust Endpoint Security: Ransomware groups like Conti design their malware to evade common signature-based detection systems. Anti-ransomware solutions should be able to prevent attacks and detect and eradicate infections by novel malware variants.
  • Implement Zero Trust Security: A successful ransomware attack commonly requires lateral movement and privilege escalation to deploy the malware where it can do the greatest damage. Implementing zero trust security principles makes this harder to accomplish without detection by limiting the access of potentially compromised devices and accounts to critical assets.
  • Educate Employees About Security: Phishing, account takeover, and other ransomware infection techniques target an organization’s employees. Training employees to recognize and respond properly to common threats reduces an organization’s exposure to ransomware and other cyber threats.

Ransomware Protection with Check Point

Conti is one of the biggest and most sophisticated ransomware groups. Its RaaS model dramatically expands the organization’s reach, and a well-defined organizational structure and corporate policies make it very effective. Even after its supposed demise, the Conti ransomware group, its malware, and the cybercriminals that it trained pose a significant threat to corporate cybersecurity.

Conti is just one of several different types of ransomware that pose a threat to corporate cybersecurity. Learn more about the ransomware threat landscape by checking out Check Point’s ransomware hub. If your organization is experiencing a ransomware attack by Conti or another group, reach out to our incident response team now.

Protecting against Conti and other ransomware variants requires strong ransomware protection solutions. Check Point Harmony Endpoint offers industry-leading endpoint protection as evaluated by MITRE ATT&CK. Learn more about Harmony Endpoint’s capabilities by signing up for a free demo.

 

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