BlackMatter ransomware gang rises from the ashes of DarkSide, REvil


​A new ransomware gang named BlackMatter is purchasing access to corporate networks while claiming to include the best features from the notorious and now-defunct REvil and DarkSide operations.

Last week, both Recorded Future and security researcher pancak3 shared that a new threat actor named ‘BlackMatter’ had posted to hacking forums where they want to purchase access to corporate networks.

Forum post by BlackMatter to the Exploit forum
Forum post by BlackMatter to the Exploit forum

In the post, the threat actor stated that they want to buy access to networks in the USA, Canada, Australia, and Great Britain, except for networks associated with medical and government entities.

They further shared that they were willing to spend $3,000 to $100,000 per network that had the following criteria:

  • Revenue of $100 million or more.
  • The network should contain 500-15,000 devices.
  • It should be a new network that other threat actors have not already targeted.

To show that they were serious, the threat actor deposited four bitcoins ($120,000) in the Exile hacking forum’s cryptocurrency wallet to show that they mean business and were a serious player.

As forums promoting ransomware are now banned on the XSS and Exploit forums, the threat actor did not indicate how they would use the network access.

BlackMatter ransomware gang emerges

That same day, researchers from Recorded Future revealed that a new Tor data leak site for a ‘BlackMatter’ ransomware operation appeared on the dark web last week.

The name indicates that the BlackMatter threat actor is the public-facing representative for the ransomware operation under the same name.

New BlackMatter data leak site
New BlackMatter data leak site

In addition to posting information about themselves their operation, BlackMatter states that they will not target entities in the following industries:

  • Hospitals.
  • Critical infrastructure facilities (nuclear power plants, power plants, water treatment facilities).
  • Oil and gas industry (pipelines, oil refineries).
  • Defense industry.
  • Non-profit companies.
  • Government sector.

Recorded Future says the gang’s ransomware executables come in various formats so that they can encrypt different operating systems and device architecture.

“The ransomware is provided for several different operating systems versions and architectures and is deliverable in a variety of formats, including a Windows variant with SafeMode support (EXE / Reflective DLL / PowerShell) and a Linux variant with NAS support: Synology, OpenMediaVault, FreeNAS (TrueNAS),” reported Recorded Future.

“According to BlackMatter, the Windows ransomware variant was successfully tested on Windows Server 2003+ x86/x64 and Windows 7+ x64 / x86. The Linux ransomware variant was successfully tested on ESXI 5+, Ubuntu, Debian, and CentOs. Supported file systems for Linux include VMFS, VFFS, NFS, VSAN.”

At this time, there are no victims listed on the site. However, the ransomware gang states that “all blogs hidden for now. For a very short time,” indicating that they are actively attacking victims.

BleepingComputer has been able to confirm that there are active attacks underway and that at least one victim paid $4 million to the threat actors this week.

BlackMatter Tor negotiation site
BlackMatter Tor negotiation site
Source: BleepingComputer

Based on the negotiation chat, this is a veteran ransomware operation and most likely a rebrand of one of the larger and now-defunct groups that recently shut down.

Rising from the ashes of DarkSide and REvil?

Information discovered by security researchers as well as the similarities in web sites and partners may indicate that BlackMatter has recruited or was created by threat actors that were previously with the DarkSide and the REvil ransomware operations.

As ransomware gangs commonly rebrand to evade law enforcement, when we first reported on DarkSide in August 2020, some security researchers and law enforcement believed REvil was rebranding as the new DarkSide operation.

However, both gangs continued operating side-by-side for almost a year until DarkSide attacked Colonial Pipeline. Feeling the full pressure of the US government and law enforcement, DarkSide shut down its operation in May.

The shut down of DarkSide was first reported by REvil’s public-facing representative, Unknown, who posted about it on a hacking forum.

Forum post by UKNK about DarkSide seizure
Forum post by UKNK about DarkSide seizure

Two months later, it was REvil’s turn to shut down after conducting a massive attack on managed service providers worldwide through a zero-day Kaseya VSA vulnerability.

Like DarkSide, REvil was feeling massive pressure from the US government and international law enforcement. It is widely speculated that the Russian government told them to shut down and disappear for a while.

After seeing the BlackMatter Tor site, security researchers found that it showed a strong resemblance to the now-defunct DarkSide ransomware’s Tor site.

Both pages share a similar color theme, similar language, a similar way of referring to themselves, and also included a list of targets they would not attack.

Recorded Future also reported that BlackMatter said, “The project has incorporated in itself the best features of DarkSide, REvil, and LockBit.”

Finally, cybersecurity firm Mandiant has seen indicators suggesting that an actor previously connected to DarkSide is now partnering with BlackMatter.

“We have seen some indication that currently suggests that at least one actor connected to some DARKSIDE ransomware operations is aligning themselves with BLACKMATTER,” Kimberly Goody, Mandiant Director of Financial Crime Analysis, told BleepingComputer.

“This isn’t necessarily surprising as we commonly see ransomware affiliates partnering with multiple providers.”

While many clues indicate that this may be a rebrand of DarkSide, or possibly created by actors from both groups, we will not know for sure until a sample of the ransomware is analyzed for code similarities.

As BlackMatter attacks are ongoing, researchers will likely find a sample soon.

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