Microsoft issues warning about new PonyFinal ransomware attacks

PonyFinal attackers “looking for targets of opportunity," says Misner

Microsoft Security Intelligence posted a series of tweets urging companies to implement protections against PonyFinal, a new ransomware that’s been active for the last two months. 

PonyFinal, according to Microsoft Security Intelligence, is not an automated threat. Rather, it has humans pulling its reins. Hackers must manually propagate the ransomware via an MSI file containing two batch files and the ransomware payload.

Per the experts, PonyFinal uses a secure encryption scheme, meaning that encrypted files can’t be recovered either. Unfortunately, Microsoft says, these attackers have compromised their targets for several months and been patiently waiting for the perfect opportunity to monetize their cyberattacks.  

“PonyFinal is at the tail end of protracted human-operated ransomware campaigns that are known to stay dormant and wait for the most opportune time to deploy the payload,” a tweet from Microsoft Security Intelligence reads.

"These attackers are looking for targets of opportunity," Phillip Misner, Security Program Manager at Microsoft explained in an interview with Dark Reading.

Misner added that PonyFinal operators don’t discriminate when it comes to choosing targets either. PonyFinal has already targeted victims in the U.S., India and Iran. It’s taken aim at the health care and financial sectors specifically. 

“So far, the attacks have affected aid organizations, medical billing companies, manufacturing, transport, government institutions and educational software providers, showing that these ransomware groups give little regard to the critical services they impact, global crisis notwithstanding,” researchers explained in April. “These attacks, however, are not limited to critical services, so organizations should be vigilant for signs of compromise.”

Human-operated ransomware like PonyFinal is nothing new. Ransomware similar to PonyFinal has been growing more popular as attackers try to maximize ransom from individual targets. Other human-operated ransomware campaigns similar to PonyFinal include Bitpaymer, Ryuk, REvil and Samas.

Featured Resources

Preparing for AI-enabled cyber attacks

MIT technology review insights

Download now

Cloud storage performance analysis

Storage performance and value of the IONOS cloud Compute Engine

Download now

The Forrester Wave: Top security analytics platforms

The 11 providers that matter most and how they stack up

Download now

Harness data to reinvent your organisation

Build a data strategy for the next wave of cloud innovation

Download now

Recommended

Chipotle’s marketing email hacked to send phishing emails
phishing

Chipotle’s marketing email hacked to send phishing emails

29 Jul 2021
Dark web ads offering access to corporate networks increase sevenfold
hacking

Dark web ads offering access to corporate networks increase sevenfold

28 Jul 2021
Number of hacking tools increasing as cyber criminals become more organized
hacking

Number of hacking tools increasing as cyber criminals become more organized

28 Jul 2021
Criminals target Discord to spread malware
live chat

Criminals target Discord to spread malware

26 Jul 2021

Most Popular

RMIT to be first Australian university to implement AWS supercomputing facility
high-performance computing (HPC)

RMIT to be first Australian university to implement AWS supercomputing facility

28 Jul 2021
Samsung Galaxy S21 5G review: A rose-tinted experience
Mobile Phones

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G review: A rose-tinted experience

14 Jul 2021
Zyxel USG Flex 200 review: A timely and effective solution
Security

Zyxel USG Flex 200 review: A timely and effective solution

28 Jul 2021