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Wednesday, 11 December 2019 10:19

Windows Snatch ransomware has new tricks up its sleeve: Sophos

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Windows Snatch ransomware has new tricks up its sleeve: Sophos Pixabay

The Snatch ransomware, that attacks Windows systems, appears to have incorporated a new trick into its routine by rebooting PCs into safe mode before beginning the encryption of files on an infected system, the security firm Sophos claims.

This, the company pointed out, helped to bypass some behavioural protections on Windows systems that detected ransomware activity, and was a new attack technique. Additionally, Snatch had also incorporated a tool that exfiltrates data.

In a blog post, Sophos' principal researcher Andrew Brandt said endpoint protection often did not function when a Windows PC was running in safe mode.

"The ransomware... sets itself up as a service that will run during a safe mode boot," he wrote. "It then quickly reboots the computer into safe mode, and in the rarefied safe mode environment, where most software (including security software) doesn’t run, Snatch encrypts the victims’ hard drives."

Brandt said Sophos had come across the Snatch ransomware about a year ago, adding that there were a number of tools included in the malware.

"What we refer to as Snatch malware comprises a collection of tooling, which include a ransomware component and a separate data stealer, both apparently built by the criminals who operate the malware; a Cobalt Strike reverse-shell; and several publicly-available tools that aren’t inherently malicious, but used more conventionally by penetration testers, system administrators, or technicians," he sa

snatch screenshot

Brandt said the actors behind Snatch appeared to be using automated brute-force attacks to gain access to Windows systems and then spread through internal networks by human action.

The detailed blog post also provided details of one specific attack on a Microsoft Azure platform.

Brandt said exposing Windows' Remote Desktop interface to the Internet was a risk. "Organisations that wish to permit remote access to machines should put them behind a VPN on their network, so they cannot be reached by anyone who does not have VPN credentials," he added.

Additionally, since the Snatch ransomware was executed on a network only several days after the attackers had gained access, it was necessary to have a rigorous and mature threat-hunting program running, Brandt said.

"And the name Snatch doesn’t appear to be a coincidence," he added. "In earlier versions of the ransomware, the ransom note included an email address of 'imBoristheBlade @ protonmail.com' which seems to be a reference to the Guy Ritchie movie Snatch (2000), in which a Rasputin-esque former-KGB agent character named Boris the Blade is beaten, shot, and stabbed throughout, often with little to no effect on his ability to get up and carry on fighting. Bullet Tooth Tony, the handle used by the message board poster, is another character who appears in the same movie."

Screenshot: courtesy Sophos

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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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