A new form of MongoLock ransomware is actively being used in a global campaign. A 0.1 BTC ransom is demanded, although file recovery may not be possible. The ransomware immediately deletes files and formats backup drives and a recoverable copy may not be retained by the attackers.

MongoLock ransomware was first detected in January 2017. A major campaign involving the ransomware was detected in September 2018 with the latest attacks having been ongoing since December 2018. The attackers are gaining access to unprotected or poorly protected MongoDB databases and are deleting data and replacing the databases with a new database. Inside the database is a file called readme that contains the ransom demand.

The attackers claim to have exported the database before encrypting it. Victims are required to make a 0.1 BTC payment to a supplied Bitcoin wallet or contact the attackers via email.  Many victims have chosen to pay the ransom; however, there is no guarantee that data can be recovered. It is unclear whether the attackers are making a copy of the database or are simply deleting it.

The attacks are automated and scripts are used to delete the database and create the ransomware note, but the scripts are not always effective. Even if it is the intention of the attackers to obtain a copy of the database, that may not always happen.

The latest version of MongoLock ransomware also conducts a scan of local drives and deletes important data, including files saved to the Desktop, My Documents folder, Recent files, favorites, and any backup files that can be located. The drives are then formatted. This makes payment of the ransom all the more likely. Users are advised they have just 24 hours to make payment before the database is permanently deleted.

The file deletion routine is executed after the files have been uploaded to the attackers’ C2 server, so they can potentially be recovered if the ransom payment is made. However, if the computer is taken offline, file deletion continues but no copy of the file will be obtained by the attackers.

These attacks are primarily conducted on exposed MongoDB databases, which can easily be found using the Shodan search engine. Any businesses that uses MongoDB should ensure that the databases are properly secured, and that authentication is required to gain access. It is also important to ensure the databases cannot be accessed remotely over the Internet.

It is also essential to adopt a good backup strategy. The 3.2.1 approach is recommended. Make three backups, stored on two separate devices, with one copy stored securely off site on a non-networked device.