Security Experts:

LockBit 3.0 Ransomware Emerges With Bug Bounty Program

The LockBit 3.0 ransomware operation was launched recently and it includes a bug bounty program offering up to $1 million for vulnerabilities and various other types of information.

LockBit has been around since 2019 and the LockBit 2.0 ransomware-as-a-service operation emerged in June 2021. It has been one of the most active ransomware operations, accounting for nearly half of all ransomware attacks in 2022, with more than 800 victims being named on the LockBit 2.0 leak website.

The cybercriminals are encrypting files on compromised systems and also stealing potentially valuable information that they threaten to make public if the victim refuses to pay up. With the launch of LockBit 3.0, it seems they are reinvesting some of the profit in their own security via a “bug bounty program”.LockBit 3.0

Similar to how legitimate companies reward researchers to help them improve their security, LockBit operators claim they are prepared to pay out between $1,000 and $1 million to security researchers and ethical or unethical hackers.

Rewards can be earned for website vulnerabilities, flaws in the ransomware encryption process, vulnerabilities in the Tox messaging app, and vulnerabilities exposing their Tor infrastructure. They are also prepared to reward “brilliant ideas” on how to improve their site and software, as well as information on competitors. Addressing these types of security holes can help protect the cybercrime operation against researchers and law enforcement.

LockBit 3.0 bug bounty program

One million dollars are offered to anyone who can dox — find the real identity — of a LockBit manager known as “LockBitSupp”, who is described as the “affiliate program boss”. This bounty has been offered since at least March 2022.

Major ransomware groups are believed to have made hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars, which means the LockBit group could have the funds needed for such a bug bounty program.

“With the fall of the Conti ransomware group, LockBit has positioned itself as the top ransomware group operating today based on its volume of attacks in recent months. The release of LockBit 3.0 with the introduction of a bug bounty program is a formal invitation to cybercriminals to help assist the group in its quest to remain at the top,” commented Satnam Narang, senior staff research engineer at Tenable.

However, John Bambenek, principal threat hunter at security and operations analytics SaaS company Netenrich, said he doubts the bug bounty program will get many takers.

“I know that if I find a vulnerability, I’m using it to put them in prison. If a criminal finds one, it’ll be to steal from them because there is no honor among ransomware operators,” Bambenek said.

Casey Ellis, founder and CTO of bug bounty platform Bugcrowd, noted that “the same way hackers aren't always ‘bad’, the bounty model isn't necessarily ‘only useful for good’.”

Ellis also pointed out, “Since Lockbit 3.0's bug bounty program essentially invites people to add a felony in exchange for a reward, they may end up finding that the $1,000 low reward is a little light given the risks involved for those who might decide to help them.”

Other new features introduced with the launch of LockBit 3.0 include allowing victims to buy more time or “destroy all information”. The cybercriminals are also offering anyone the option to download all files stolen from a victim. Each of these options has a certain price.

Vx-underground, a service that provides malware samples and other resources, also noted that the harassment of victims is now also encouraged.

South Korean cybersecurity firm AhnLab reported last week that the LockBit ransomware has been distributed via malicious emails claiming to deliver copyright claims.

“Lures like this one are simple and effective, although certainly not unique,” said Erich Kron, security awareness advocate at KnowBe4. “Like so many other phishing attacks, this is using our emotions, specifically the fear of a copyright violation, which many people have heard can be very costly, to get a person to make a knee-jerk reaction.”

Related: Ransomware Group Claims to Have Breached Foxconn Factory

Related: FBI Publishes IOCs for LockBit 2.0 Ransomware Attacks

Related: French Ministry of Justice Targeted in Ransomware Attack

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.