On June 27, 2017, we were informed via several channels that attackers launched a new type of ransomware. This cyber-attack affects companies across Europe and the US. The attack has some similarities with a previous attack known as “Wannacry”, but it has some distinct features.
The advisory below has been sent out to all our clients on the night of the attack.
The goal of the attack remains the same: Hijacking the system by encrypting files (and the Master Boot Record, rendering the system unusable) and asking for a ransom.
Update: Although the attack is qualified as a ransomware attack, the infected systems are hijacked by encrypting files and the Master Boot Record in exchange for a ransom, the goal of the attack does not seem to be making money, but to destroy as many systems as possible. This due to the fact that the attack itself was sophisticated, but the way the ransom needs to be paid ( 1 bitcoin address for all infections and 1 e-mail address to send a proof of transaction to) is more amateuristic.
During our first analysis, we noticed that this attack is using several techniques to spread. When executed, it starts to encrypt files on the local system and attempts to spread across the internal network. The initial attack vectors that are used are under investigation, however; external resources identified and confirmed that the ransomware includes the following exploits:
- A modified EternalBlue exploit (SMB), also used by WannaCry;
- The EternalRomance exploit (SMB) – a remote code execution exploit targeting Windows XP to Windows 2008 systems over TCP port 445 (Note: patched with MS17-010);
- An attack against the update mechanism of a third-party Ukrainian software product called MeDoc.
In comparison with “Wannacry” this could have a greater impact on corporate networks because once an internal host is infected, the ransomware will attempt to further infect internal systems via common Windows administration services (thus possibly also affecting patched systems as a second stage in the attack). As usual with ransomware, the attack is not targeted and is attempting to affect as many systems as possible.
How does the ransomware spread once the initial infection has taken place?
We can confirm that the ransomware is using WMI (Windows Management Instrumentation) and PSEXEC to infect other internal systems once the initial infection has taken place. The sample we analyzed has PSEXEC version 1.98 embedded and uses the Windows API function and ARP scanning to get a list of remote IP addresses of all TCP connections on the infected machine. All addresses it identifies it will then also attempt to infect (using the aforementioned PSEXEC & WMI).
Using WMI & PSEXEC, the ransomware can “ride” on the available user context (e.g. if the ransomware is executed with domain administrator credentials it will be able to affect the entire domain, regardless of patch levels). Provided the malware has the necessary rights, it will drop and execute a password extractor tool based on Mimikatz (stored in resources 1 (32-bit) and 2 (64-bit)) and leverage the extracted credentials for lateral movement with PSEXEC and WMI.
Multiple encryption techniques are being used based on the user privilege it has during execution:
- When executed with administrative rights, the ransomware will encrypt the entire disk and will overwrite the (MBR) Master Boot Record.
- If the ransomware has normal user privileges it will locate specific file types and will start to encrypt these files on the local system.
After a period of time (1 hour), a scheduled task will force the infected client to restart, thereby presenting the victim with a ransom screen including a bitcoin address together with a string of text as well as the email address to contact the authors when the payment was executed.
Is there a killswitch?
There are currently a few pointers that the ransomware could be halted by by creating a DLL file with a specific name in the C:\Windows. We are currently further investigating this.
Update: Yes! Our analysts found out that the presence of the file c:\windows\perfc will stop the malware from executing. This has been confirmed by Kaspersky and Microsoft.
As opposed to WannaCry, this ransomware is not using command and control channels to communicate to the attacker environment (and thus no random domain names that could be used as kill switches). The detection of infected hosts cannot be done via monitoring outgoing connections because the ransomware does not appear to perform any outbound connectivity.
Detection should be mainly focused on internal monitoring (e.g internal firewall) and looking into the abnormal management traffic that is started via PSEXEC or WMI sessions (e.g. the use of PSEXEC creates a PSEXEC service as an artefact on target systems).
How to defend against this ransomware
In order to defend against this ransomware the following are key recommendations to keep into account:
- Ensure Microsoft’s patch (MS17-010) is rolled out throughout your organisation (also in the internal network) to prevent the spread of the malware using the SMB exploit;
- Ensure Windows SMB services (typically TCP port 445) are not directly exposed to the Internet;
- Review and monitor the internal network on anomalies in management traffic that starts via PSEXEC and WMI;
- Review internal hosts for the creation of scheduled tasks or the PSEXEC service;
- Implement network segmentation and restrict access between systems on the internal network. In larger corporate networks, management traffic is only allowed via a dedicated out-of-band network.
- Upon infection: isolate any infected hosts from the network;
- Continue end-user awareness to prevent possible initial compromise through phishing (not confirmed);
- Implement mail sandboxing solutions to block incoming malicious mail attachments.
More technical blog posts will be released here in the coming days!
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