Maze is ransomware — a malware type that encrypts the victim’s files and restores the data in exchange for a ransom payment. One of the most distinguishable features of Maze is that it is one of the first malware of the kind to publicly release stolen data.

Type
Ransomware
Origin
Unknown
First seen
29 May, 2019
Last seen
19 October, 2021
Also known as
ChaCha
Global rank
38
Week rank
31
Month rank
37
IOCs
131

What is Maze malware?

Maze, also called ChaCha, is ransomware — a malicious program that encrypts files of the victim and demands a ransom in exchange for a decryption key that restores information. A defining feature of Maze is that it publically releases sensitive files to the public unless the ransom is paid.

Maze ransomware has been operating actively since 2019 and, unfortunately, the attack volume from this malware has been on a steady rise since that time.

General description of Maze ransomware

It’s not a new strategy among ransomware operators to issue threats about making sensitive data public unless the victim gives in to the demands of the criminals. However, before the occurrence of Maze, most of these threats remained largely idle. They served as a psychological weapon, helping threat actors to strongarm victims into paying.

However, the situation changed drastically with Maze.

In November 2019, the group behind Maze managed to infiltrate Allied Universal: one of the leading private security companies in the US. The cyber gang claimed that they have gained complete control of the Allied network and threatened to make the data public unless the company paid up.

Allied Universal decided to ignore the demands. In reply, hackers behind the virus first contacted a well-known computer help site, asking them to publish a story about the attack to serve as a public warning. When the website declined, the Maze gang uploaded 700MB worth of sensitive information on an underground forum. The data included lists of active users, email certificates, encryption keys, and more.

In another Maze ransomware attack, 2GB of files belonging to the City of Pensacola were made public. The attack severely damaged the computer network of Pensacola, forcing it to temporarily shut down the network. As per the data breach, the virus's actors declared that the information was leaked as evidence, showing how deeply they managed to infiltrate the network.

This is a very important point about Maze. Researchers should note that largely after Maze’s occurrence ransomware attacks can be considered data breaches, as more and more ransomware strains gain the ability to infiltrate networks and perform data-stealing activities before encrypting the files.

Furthermore, with the case of Maze, even backups are not safe. Actually, sometimes they become a week point. Maze creators revealed that after infecting the initial endpoint, their ransomware targets cloud backups by laterally spreading through the network and stealing needed credentials. This is useful for threat actors not only because it allows deleting the backup before encryption, but also because that backup most likely contains the most valuable data.

Unfortunately, this tactic has proved effective as at least one company fell victim to it and lost its backups. Of course, an incident like this can only happen if backup credentials are stored in the compromised network, thus correct backup configuration is incredibly important.

It should also be noted that the virus uses several advanced code obfuscation techniques that make static analysis very complicated. Threat actors behind the virus evidently stay on top of the progress done by security researchers on their malware. They contact cybersecurity media and like to tease industry professionals and play cat and mouse.

Maze malware analysis

In this video recorded in the ANY.RUN interactive malware hunting service we can view how the Maze execution unfolds.

maze_ransomware_process_graph

Figure 1: Shows the graph of processes created by the ANY.RUN interactive malware analysis service

maze_ransomware_note

Figure 2: Wallpapers with ransom message set by Maze

Maze execution process

The execution process of Maze is kind of typical for this type of malware. After the executable file makes its way into an infected system and runs, the main malicious activity begins. After the start of execution, the ransomware deletes shadow copies. After it encrypts all targeted files, Maze drops a ransom note on the desktop. It also often changes the wallpaper to its own with a ransom text.

Notably, just like Sodinokibi aka REvil ransomware, this family has a similar infrastructure — websites with "tech support", information about cryptocurrency and ways to buy it, trial decryption, and chat. Crooks behind the Maze ransomware are also kind of cocky and post links to the information about their successful attacks on their website.

Maze ransomware distribution

Maze is distributed using several different ways. It has utilized the Spelevo and Fallout exploit kits and one of the vulnerabilities that Maze is targeting is the CVE-2018-15982 vulnerability in Flash Player. It is also worth noting that in the case of the Fallout kit, the users were redirected to the exploit from a fake cryptocurrency trading platform.

Another observed attack vector is via email spam campaigns containing a Microsoft Office document with a malicious macro.

How to detect Maze malware?

Maze ransomware can be detected by many different activities — sometimes it creates certain files or it can be detected by Suricata network threats. The most common is the Maze ransom note — not only does it have similarities with notes from other tasks, but it also contains self-defining strings: maze ransomware, mazedecrypt, and maze key.

Analysts can take a look at these notes by using ANY.RUN Static Discovering. Click on the "Files modification" tab, then find the file with the name such as " DECRYPT-FILES.txt". To take a look inside this file just click on it.

If you find word combinations such as "maze ransomware", "mazedecrypt" and "maze key", then be sure this sample is Maze ransomware.

how_to_detect_maze_ransomware

Figure 3: How to detect Maze ransomware by its ransom note?

Conclusion

Maze is a significant threat to organizations and private users. This virus not only encrypts information but also strong-arms the victims into paying the ransom, threatening to release sensitive information. Unfortunately, Maze launched a little bit of a trend among threat actors and more and more ransomware in the wild is starting to exhibit similar behavior.

The situation is further complicated by advanced code obfuscation techniques that the Maze features, making the static analysis process quite difficult. Thankfully, interactive malware analysis services like ANY.RUN allows to carry out dynamic analysis almost as quickly and easily as static, giving researchers a chance to collect invaluable information about this ransomware.

P.S.

maze team press release screenshot Figure 4: Screenshot of the Maze team press release

On the 1st November 2020, the "team" behind the Maze ransomware published their pretentious press release about the end of the "project" and it has shut down its operations. Unlike some other groups behind ransomware, they haven't published the encryption keys.

IOCs

IP addresses
192.168.100.115
192.168.100.15
192.168.100.239
192.168.100.96
192.168.100.51
192.168.100.80
192.168.100.3
192.168.100.201
192.168.100.74
192.168.100.75
192.168.100.102
91.218.114.4
91.218.114.11
192.168.100.78
192.168.100.68
192.168.100.27
192.168.100.21
192.168.100.49
192.168.100.119
192.168.100.33
Hashes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majul.com
lbi1.ru
i1fermer.ru

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