The Play ransomware group has taken a cunning approach by targeting security managed service providers (MSPs) to initiate their attacks and leveraging vulnerabilities dating back as far as five years in security systems, according to a warning by Adlumin security researchers. Kevin O’Connor, Director of Threat Research at Adlumin, highlights the ingenuity of attacking through security vendors, making it challenging for defenders to detect the breach as it initially resembles legitimate administrative access, granting attackers considerable control over the victim’s network and IT assets.
To avoid triggering defenses that detect complete file modifications, the gang is employing intermittent encryption techniques, a strategy revealed in a recent blog post by the security firm. This group’s latest campaign is honing in on midsize businesses in sectors including finance, software, legal, and logistics, spanning the US, UK, Australia, and Italy.
Furthermore, the Play ransomware group’s track record includes notable cyberattacks, such as those on the city of Oakland, the Judiciary of Córdoba in Argentina, and the German chain H-Hotels. Comparative analyses by TrendMicro suggest affiliations with other ransomware groups like Hive and Nokoyawa. The group has augmented its arsenal with new exploits like ProxyNotShell, OWASSRF, and a Microsoft Exchange Server remote code execution.
Additionally, PlayCrypt utilizes FortiOS vulnerabilities, notably CVE-2018-13379 and CVE-2020-12812, as part of their network infiltration strategy, emphasizing the importance of patching and proactive security measures.
Recent joint security advisories by cybersecurity officials from the US and its Five Eyes intelligence alliance shed light on the 12 most frequently exploited vulnerabilities by malicious actors in 2022. Among these is CVE-2018-13379, a path traversal flaw in Fortinet SSL VPN, originally discovered in July 2018 and patched by Fortinet in May 2019.
Despite the patch, attackers persist in exploiting this flaw, prompting the NSA to issue a public alert in 2019 urging users to apply the fix. The evolving tactics of the Play ransomware group and the persistence of known vulnerabilities underscore the ongoing challenge of staying ahead in the cybersecurity landscape.