Magniber Ransomware Wants to Infect Only the Right People


Exploit kit (EK) use has been on the decline since late 2016;
however, certain activity remains consistent. The Magnitude Exploit
Kit is one such example that continues to affect users, particularly
in the APAC region.

In Figure 1, which is based on FireEye Dynamic threat Intelligence
(DTI) reports shared in March 2017, we can see the regions affected by
Magnitude EK activity during the last three months of 2016 and the
first three months of 2017.

Figure 1: Magnitude EK distribution as
seen in March 2017

This trend continued until late September 2017, when we saw
Magnitude EK focus primarily on the APAC region, with a large chunk
targeting South Korea. Magnitude EK activity then fell off the radar
until Oct. 15, 2017, when it came back and began focusing solely on
South Korea. Previously it had been distributing Cerber ransomware,
but Cerber distribution has declined (we have also seen a decline of
Cerber being distributed via email) and now it is distributing
ransomware known as Magniber. 


The first reappearance of Magnitude EK on Oct. 15 came as a
malvertising redirection from the domain: fastprofit[.]loan. The
infection chain is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Infection chain

The Magnitude EK landing page consisted of CVE-2016-0189, which was
first reported by FireEye as being used in Neutrino
Exploit Kit
after it was patched. Figure 3 shows the landing
page and CVE usage.

Figure 3: Magnitude EK landing page

As seen previously with Magnitude EK, the payload is downloaded as a
plain EXE (see Figure 4) and domain infrastructure is hosted on the
following server:

“Apache/2.2.15 (CentOS) DAV/2 mod_fastcgi/2.4.6”

Figure 4: Magnitude payload header and
plain MZ response


In the initial report published
by our colleagues at Trend Micro
, the ransomware being
distributed is referred to as Magniber. These ransomware payloads only
seem to target Korean systems, since they won’t execute if the system
language is not Korean.

Magniber encrypts user data using the AES128. The sample used
(dc2a2b84da359881b9df1ec31d03c715) for this analysis was pulled from
our DTI system when the campaign was active. Of note, this sample
differs from the hash shared publically by Trend Micro, but the two
exhibit the same behavior and share the infection vector, and both
were distributed around the same time.

The malware contains a binary payload in its resource section
encrypted in reverse using RC4. It starts unpacking it from the end of
the buffer to its start. Reverse RC4 decryption keys are 30 bytes long
and also contain non-ASCII characters. They are as follows:

  • dc2a2b84da359881b9df1ec31d03c715 RC4 key:
    • { 0x6b,
      0xfe, 0xc4, 0x23, 0xac, 0x50, 0xd7, 0x91, 0xac, 0x06, 0xb0,
      0xa6, 0x65, 0x89, 0x6a, 0xcc, 0x05, 0xba, 0xd7, 0x83, 0x04,
      0x90, 0x2a, 0x93, 0x8d, 0x2d, 0x5c, 0xc7, 0xf7, 0x3f }

The malware calls GetSystemDefaultUILanguage, and if the
system language is not Korean, it exits (instructions can be seen in
Figure 5). After unpacking in memory, the malware starts executing the
unpacked payload.

Figure 5: Language check targeted at Korea

A mutex with name "ihsdj" is created to prevent multiple
executions. The payload then generates a pseudorandom 19-character
string based on the CPU clock from multiple GetTickCount calls.
The string is then used to create a file in the user’s %TEMP%
directory (e.g. "xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.ihsdj"), which contains
the IV (Initialization Vector) for the AES128 encryption and a copy of
the malware itself with the name "ihsdj.exe".

Next, the malware constructs 4 URLs for callback. It uses the
19-character long pseudorandom string it generated, and the following
domains to create the URLs:


In order to evade sandbox systems, the malware checks to see if it’s
running inside a VM and appends the result to the URL callback. It
does this by sandwiching and executing CPUID instructions (shown in
Figure 6) between RDTSC calls, forcing VMEXIT.

Figure 6: CPUID instruction to detect VM presence

The aforementioned VM check is done multiple times to gather the
average execution time of the CPUID, and if the average execution time
is greater than 1000, it considers the system to be a VM. In case the
test fails and the malware thinks the system is a VM, a "1"
is appended at the end of the URL (see Figure 7); otherwise,
"0" is appended. The format of the URL is as follows:

  • http://[19 character pseudorandom string].[callback
    domain]/new[0 or 1]

Examples of this would be:

  • http://7o12813k90oggw10277.bankme[.]date/new1
  • http://4bg8l9095z0287fm1j5.bankme[.]date/new0

Figure 7: Command and control communication

If the malware is executed a second time after encryption, the
callback URL ends in "end0" or "end1" instead of
"new". An example of this would be:

  • hxxp://j2a3y50mi0a487230v1.bankme[.]date/end1

The malware then starts to encrypt user files on the system,
renaming them by adding a ".ihsdj" extension to the end. The
AES128 Key and IV for the sample analyzed are listed:

  • IV: EP866p5M93wDS513
  • AES128 Key:

A text file "READ_ME_FOR_DECRYPT_xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx_.txt"
is created in the user’s %TEMP% directory and shown to the user. The
ransom message is shown in Figure 8.

Figure 8: Ransom message for the infected user

The malware also adds scheduled tasks to run its copy from %TEMP%
with compatibility assistant, and loads the user message as follows:

  • schtasks /create /SC MINUTE /MO 15 /tn ihsdj /TR
    "pcalua.exe -a %TEMP%\ihsdj.exe
  • schtasks /create /SC
    MINUTE /MO 15 /tn xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx /TR

The malware then issues a command to delete itself after exiting,
using the following local ping to provide delay for the deletion:

  • cmd /c ping localhost -n 3 > nul & del

Figure 9 contains the Python code for unpacking the malware payload,
which is encrypted using RC4 in reverse.

Figure 9: Python script for unpacking
malware payload


Ransomware is a significant threat to enterprises. While the current
threat landscape suggests a large portion of attacks are coming from
emails, exploit kits continue to put users at risk – especially those
running old software versions and not using ad blockers. Enterprises
need to make sure their network nodes are fully patched.

All FireEye products detect the malware in our MVX engine.
Additionally, FireEye
 blocks delivery at the infection point.


Malware Sample Hash
  • dc2a2b84da359881b9df1ec31d03c715 (decryption key shared)
Malverstiser Domains
  • fastprofit[.]loan
  • fastprofit[.]me
EK Domain Examples
  • 3e37i982wb90j.fileice[.]services
  • a3co5a8iab2x24g90.helpraw[.]schule
  • 2i1f3aadm8k.putback[.]space
Command and Control Domains

This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog post authored by Nick Harbour. Read the original post at: Threat Research Blog