A newly observed ransomware variant is using a technique to bypass User Account Control (UAC) in order to elevate its privileges without displaying a UAC prompt, researchers have discovered.
Dubbed Erebus, the malware appears to be new, though it features the same name as a piece of ransomware that emerged in late September 2016. However, the different characteristics of the two malicious apps suggest that the newly discovered variant is either a completely different malware or a fully rewritten release, BleepingComputer’s Lawrence Abrams notes.
Details on Erebus’ distribution mechanism aren’t available at the moment. What is known, however, is that the malware leverages a UAC bypass technique that was detailed in August last year and which abuses Event Viewer to infect the compromised systems without alerting the user.
For that, the ransomware copies itself to a random named file in the same folder, after which it modifies the Windows registry to hijack the association for the .msc file extension and set it to launch the randomly named Erebus file instead.
Next, the ransomware executes eventvwr.exe (Event Viewer), which will automatically open the eventvwr.msc file, which will attempt to execute mmc.exe. Because the .msc file is no longer associated with mmc.exe, however, the randomly named Erebus executable is launched instead. Moreover, because Event Viewer runs in an elevated mode, the executable will run with the same privileges, which allows it to bypass UAC.
When executed, the malware connects to two different domains to determine the victim’s IP address and the country that they are located in. Next, the malware downloads a TOR client and uses it to connect to its command and control (C&C) server.
The ransomware then proceeds to scan the victim's computer and search for certain file types to encrypt using AES encryption. At the moment, the malware targets around 60 file types, including images and documents. Erebus encrypts the file’s extension using ROT-23, the researcher says.
During encryption, the ransomware also clears the Windows Volume Shadow Copies, in an attempt to prevent users from restoring their files this way. As soon as the encryption process has been completed, the malware drops a ransom note on the Desktop under the name of README.HTML, and then displays it. Additionally, Erebus displays a message box on the desktop, alerting the victim that their files have been encrypted.
The ransom note contains the user’s unique ID, a list of encrypted files, and a button that takes the victim to the TOR payment site. On that site, users are provided with payment instructions. The requested ransom amount is .085 Bitcoin, or around $90 at the moment, which is one of the lowest when compared to other ransomware families out there.