Security Experts:

Star Trek-Themed "Kirk" Ransomware Emerges

A newly discovered piece of ransomware featuring a Star Trek theme is targeting 625 different file types and demanding a ransom be paid in virtual currency Monero, security researchers have discovered.

The threat is dubbed Kirk and is paired with a decryptor called Spock, referencing to two characters in the Star Trek science fiction series. Discovered by Avast malware researcher Jakub Kroustek, the new malware was written in Python and might be the very first threat of its kind to use Monero as the payment currency of choice.

Monero is an open-source cryptocurrency launched on April 18, 2014 with a focus on privacy that started seeing increased popularity only last year, after major darknet market AlphaBay adopted it at the end of summer 2016. Over the past several months, we’ve seen Monero miners distributed by the Sundown exploit kit and its Terror EK variation, as well as by other threats targeting Windows and Linux machines.

However, as BleepingComputer’s Lawrence Abrams notes, Kirk ransomware might be the very first to utilize Monero for payment purposes. Most other ransomware out there demands Bitcoin instead, and the change could actually create confusion, the researcher argues.

“Even with Bitcoin becoming more accepted, it is still not easy to acquire them. By introducing a new cryptocurrency into the mix, victims are just going to become more confused and make paying ransoms even more difficult,” Abrams says.

Kirk ransomware’s distribution channels aren’t clear at the moment, but the researchers have seen it masquerading as the network stress tool called Low Orbital Ion Cannon. Upon execution, the ransomware generates an AES key used to encrypt a victim's files, after which it encrypts the key using an embedded RSA-4096 public encryption key and saves it in a file called pwd in the same directory as the ransomware executable.

Only the attackers are able to decrypt this file and reveal the encryption AES key, and Kirk ranomware victims are advised to make sure they don’t delete it. The attackers apparently ask for this file to be able to provide the victims with the needed decryptor.

Kirk ransomware displays a message box showing the same slogan as the LOIC network stress tool: “Low Orbital Ion Cannon | When harpoons, air strikes and nukes fail | v1.0.1.0.” In the background, the ransomware searches the hard drive for files to encrypt. It targets a total of 625 file types, encrypts them and appends the .kirk extension to the encrypted file's name.

The malware drops a ransom note in the same folder as the executable and displays it in a window on the desktop. Users are instructed to purchase around $1,100 worth of Monero and send it to a specific address. After making the payment, the victim should send the pwd file and the payment transaction ID to the [email protected] or [email protected] email addresses.

The Spock decryptor is supposedly sent to the victim after the payment is made. Unfortunately, the researchers haven’t had the chance to analyze this tool yet.

“At this time there are no known victims of this ransomware and it does not appear to be decryptable,” Abrams says.

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