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Vice Society Hackers Are Behind Several Ransomware Attacks Against Education Sector

A cybercrime group known as Vice Society has been linked to multiple ransomware strains in its malicious campaigns aimed at the education, government, and retail sectors.

The Microsoft Security Threat Intelligence team, which is tracking the threat cluster under the moniker DEV-0832, said the group avoids deploying ransomware in some cases and rather likely carries out extortion using exfiltrated stolen data.

“Shifting ransomware payloads over time from BlackCat, Quantum Locker, and Zeppelin, DEV-0832’s latest payload is a Zeppelin variant that includes Vice Society-specific file extensions, such as .v-s0ciety, .v-society, and, most recently, .locked,” the tech giant’s cybersecurity division said.

Vice Society, active since June 2021, has been steadily observed encrypting and exfiltrating victim data, and threatening companies with exposure of siphoned information to pressure them into paying a ransom.

“Unlike other RaaS (Ransomware-as-a-Service) double extortion groups, Vice Society focuses on getting into the victim system to deploy ransomware binaries sold on Dark web forums,” cybersecurity company SEKOIA said in an analysis of the group in July 2022.

The financially motivated threat actor is known to rely on exploits for publicly disclosed vulnerabilities in internet-facing applications for initial access, while also using PowerShell scripts, repurposed legitimate tools, and commodity backdoors such as SystemBC prior to deploying the ransomware.

Vice Society actors have also been spotted leveraging Cobalt Strike for lateral movement, in addition to creating scheduled tasks for persistence and abusing vulnerabilities in Windows Print Spooler (aka PrintNightmare) and Common Log File System (CVE-2022-24521) to escalate privileges.

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