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Tuesday, 25 September 2018 07:54

Two-in-one: Windows malware doubles up as ransomware and botnet unit

Two-in-one: Windows malware doubles up as ransomware and botnet unit Pixabay

Researchers at security firm Trend Micro say they have discovered Windows malware that functions both as ransomware and part of a botnet, distributing spam and also copies of itself to other computers.

Raphael Centeno and Noel Llimos said in a blog post that the malware, which they had named Viro, was not connected to any known families of ransomware.

Viro was first noticed in the wild on 17 September, they said, adding that once it gained a presence on a Windows computer, it checked the registry keys to determine the machine GUID and product key to determine if the system should be encrypted.

No indication was given of how the infection occurred in the first place, though presumably it was through the traditional route of phishing through suitable worded spam emails.

Once a determination was made that a machine should be encrypted, the encryption and decryption keys were generated and this information was sent to the command-and-control server by the malware.


Curiously, though Viro had been noticed to be infecting US users, the warning notice that was displayed to users (seen above) after files were encrypted was in French, Centeno and Llimos said.

Viro was also able to carry out keylogging and would periodically connect to its C&C server to send keystrokes it had logged from the infected Windows machine.

In some cases, it would download additional malware from the C&C server and execute it using PowerShell.

Centeno and Llimos said the Viro's capabilities could be measured by the fact that it could use Microsoft Outlook on an infected machine to send spam emails to addresses on the user's contact list. These contained a copy of itself or malware downloaded from the C&C server.

The C&C had been taken down recently, hence the ability to encrypt files had been temporarily removed.

Screenshot: courtesy Trend Micro


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.



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