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When Miscreated Ransomware is Way Too Wrong

09-29-2017

The ransomware attack encrypting the system files and the folders containing the boot related files has been confirmed recently. When infected with Scarab ransomware, it is unable to boot normally. The attacker, however, is suspected of not intending to encrypt the boot-related files, raising concerns that it may have been a simple mistake or soon lead to a variant. 

Scarab ransomware is named after the file extension that this ransomware changes after encryption. When this ransomware is  introduced into the PC, it copies itself to a specific path and deletes itself. The duplicated file is registered in the startup program registry path so that it is automatically executed each time the system starts.
 
Once completing the registration, it proceeds to encrypt victim’s files including the executable files. Scarab ransomware changes the extension of the file after encryption to .scarab as shown in Figure 1, and also changes the file name to a string of Base64 type with the attacker's email address. 

 


[Figure 1] Change of the extension and file name after encryption 

 

The target of this ransomware encryption also includes system files. As shown in Figure 2, boot.ini, ntldr, and NTDETECT.COM, which are files related to the system booting in the root folder of the C drive of the system, are encrypted. If these files are damaged, the system will not start normally. Therefore, what the ransomware has done to register itself in the startup program registry was pointless after all.
  


[Figure 2] Boot-related file encryption

Normally ransomware excludes files containing system files and boot-related files such as Windows, Program Files, Program Files (x86), and ProgramData from encryption list. It is more likely that the user will pay the recovery cost if the system operates normally. However, when encrypted by Scarab ransomware, shutdown.exe commands to shut down the window system while outputting the ransom note. From then, when user restarts their PCs, an error message saying that the boot information can’t be confimed is displayed as shown in Figure 4, and normal booting is not performed. 

 


[Figure 3] Scarab Ransomware's Random Note 

 


[Figure 4] Error message when restarting the system


In the ransom note, as shown in Figure 3, the cost required for file recovery is not shown but up to 3 files are restored for free. Since the PC does not run normally anyway, users who have made free recovery cannot use these files. However, this shows that the attacker didn’t intend to encrypt boot-related files.

V3, AhnLab’s anti-virus program, detects Scarab.
<Alias identified by AhnLab V3>
Trojan / Win32.Globeimposter

 

Whether it is a mistake made by the attacker or not, it is still not possible to use the victim’s PC because the boot is not done normally when it is infected with Scarab ransomware. Eventually, the system needs to be formatted, which can be damaging if you have not done the usual backup. As such, once Ransomware is infected, there is no way to recover it, so it is important to be careful not to be infected on a regular basis and to make backups of important files.  

 

What we can learn from a miscreated ransomware: any variations can affect you in unsuspected way.​

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