Check Point Research (CPR) sees samples of Emotet fast-spreading through surges in Trickbot activity. Once described as the ‘world’s most dangerous malware’, Emotet provides threat actors with a backdoor into compromised machines, which could be leased out to ransomware gangs to use for their campaigns. Hence, Emotet’s return is a strong indicator of future ransomware attacks.
At the beginning of the year, an international law enforcement action coordinated by Europol and Eurojust took over the Emotet infrastructure and arrested two individuals. Ten months later, on November 15, 2021, Trickbot infected machines started to drop Emotet samples by promoting users to download password protect zip files, containing malicious documents that are rebuilding Emotet’s botnet network. Emotet has also upgraded its operations, adding some new tricks to its toolbox.
Figure 1. The graph below shows the victims of Emotet in the year 2021.
140,000+ Trickbot Victims
Trickbot has demonstrated a persistent rate of growth in activity. CPR spotted more than 140,000 victims affected by Trickbot all around the globe since the botnet takedown, including organizations and individuals. Trickbot affected 149 countries in total, which marks more than 75% of all the countries in the world.
Figure 2. Trickbot dynamic of infected machines since November 1, 2020
Trickbot by Geography
Almost one third of all Trickbot targets are located in Portugal and USA.
Figure 3. Trickbot victims since November 1, 2020, grouped by countries
Trickbot by Industry
CPR tracked a distribution of victims by industries which is reflected in the graph below. Victims from high profile industries constitute more than 50% of all the victims.
Figure 4. Trickbot victims since November 1, 2020 grouped by industries
Quote: Lotem Finkelstein, Head of Threat Intelligence, at Check Point Software:
“Emotet was the strongest botnet in the history of cybercrime with a rich infection base. Now, Emotet has resold its infection base to other threat actors to spread its malware; and most of the time, it’s been to ransomware gangs. Emotet’s comeback is a major warning sign for yet another surge in ransomware attacks as go into 2022. Trickbot, who has always collaborated with Emotet, is facilitating Emotet’s comeback by dropping it on infected victims. This has allowed Emotet to start from a very firm position, and not from scratch. In only two weeks, Emotet became the 7th most popular malware, as seen in our recent Most Wanted Malware List. Emotet is our best indicator for future ransomware attacks. We should treat Emotet and Trickbot infections like they are ransomware. Otherwise, it is only a matter of time before we have to deal with an actual ransomware attack.”