Technical Analysis of The Hermetic Wiper Malware Used to Target Ukraine
March 3, 2022
<p>Technical analysis of destructive malware, dubbed “Hermetic Wiper,“ targeting Ukrainian computers and websites. The malware then renders the system useless by corrupting booting data, which forces the user to reinstall their Operating System</p>
On 23 February 2022, ESET researchers identified a destructive malware, dubbed “Hermetic Wiper,“ targeting Ukrainian computers and websites.
The Hermetic Wiper malware binary uses a signed digital certificate issued to “Hermetica Digital Ltd’ and the driver dropped by the malware has a signed digital certificate issued to “Chengdu Yiwo Tech Development Co Ltd” to circumvent security checks.
The malware drops a driver, in the Windows Drivers directory, which is part of the Easeus program with the original filename EPMNTDRV.sys.
It abuses the driver loaded to the target system, to access its hard disk with higher privileges and to write garbage data into it.
The malware then renders the system useless by corrupting booting data, which forces the user to reinstall their Operating System.
Technical Analysis of Hermetic Wiper Malware
Leveraging Code-Signing Certificates to Avoid Detection
The malware binary’s signed digital certificate is issued to Hermetica Digital Ltd., a Cyprus based Gaming development company.
The malware drops a driver in the Windows Drivers directory. The dropped binary’s signed digital certificate belongs to Chengdu Yiwo Tech Development Co Ltd., the owner of Easeus Data, which is a Data Backup and Recovery Company.
Obtaining a Handle to the Current Process Token
The malware begins by obtaining a handle to the current process’ token.
In Windows, a token is an object that represents the privilege a process holds while running on the system. A full list of privilege constants can be found here.
The malware uses OpenProcessToken API with the DesiredAccess parameter set to 0x0028 (TOKEN_QUERY 0x0008 | TOKEN_ADJUST_PRIVILEGES 0x0020).
This allows the malware to change privileges assigned to the token.
Changing Token Privileges
After obtaining access to the current process’ token, with privileges set, the malware uses LookUpPrivilegeValueW to make sure the current process is assigned following privileges:
The AdjustTokenPrivileges API is used to adjust the current token privileges if the above listed privileges are not already assigned to the current process.
Loading the Payload into the System Memory
After granting privileges, the malware dynamically resolves the addresses of following modules and load them into the current process:
The Wow64DisableWow64FsRedirection and Wow64RevertWow64FsRedirection modules are responsible for file system redirection on 64 bit versions of Windows. This comes into play when a 32 bit application runs on 64 bit Windows, where the %windir%\System32 directory is only reserved for 64 bit applications. However, since the malware sample is a 32 bit application there is a need for the malware to access the System32 directory. This is possible via Wow64DisableWow64FsRedirection. It also helps in accessing the registry without Wow64 redirection.
The IsWow64Process is used to determine whether the specified process is running under WOW64, or under an Intel64 of x64 processor. This is mainly used to select the appropriate payload to be dropped.
The malware has multiple images of the payload. The malware holds following driver images for later loading:
DRV_XP_X64 for older generations of Windows
DRV_XP_X86 for older generations of Windows
The version of the system is enumerated using VerifyVersionInfoW API.
The malware selects the payload to be dropped based on the bitness (32/64) in the resource section of the Portable Executable (PE). After which, the corresponding image is retrieved from the .rsrc section of the malware and loaded into the system memory.
Dumping a Driver on the Target System
The malware disables CrashDumpEnabled, which dumps the system memory in the event of a crash. CrashDumpEnabled is enabled by default on Windows 10, and has a default value of 0x7. The malware changes it to 0x0, thus disabling it.
This is done to evade forensic analysis if something were to go wrong when the driver is loaded on the target system.
After disabling the crash dump setting in the registry, the malware prepares to copy an image of the driver, kept in the .rsrc section of the PE, to the target system.
A pipe \\\\.\\EPMNTDRV\\ is created to perform the transfer of the data.
The system directory for drivers C:\Windows\system32\drivers is then retrieved via the GetSystemDirectory API.
The data is written via the LZOpenFilew and LZCopy APIs. The filename is randomly generated at runtime, and the name assigned to the file is ttdr.sys.
Now the malware has successfully dumped a driver on the target system.
Driver Loading and Service Creation
To load a driver on Windows, the process should possess SeLoadDriverPrivilege. The malware checks for such a privilege in the current process using the LookupPrivilegeValueW API.
If the process does not have the required privilege, the malware adds it via the AdjustTokenPrivileges API.
After adjusting the privileges, the malware opens Service Control Manager on Windows to query active services through the ServicesActive database.
It checks for any active services with the name of the dumped driver, which in this case is ttdr, via the OpenServiceW API.
If the service does not exist, OpenServiceW API returns ERROROSERVICE_DOES_NOTEXIST, and then new service is created via CreateServiceW as shown below
The StartServiceW API is then used to run the driver on the target system.
This can be verified by querying the service control to check if the STATE parameter is set to “RUNNING.” After this the malware starts interacting with the driver via the IOControlDevice API, which makes the malware a userland component of the deployed driver .
The symbolic link created for IO communications is verification that the driver has been successfully loaded on the system.
If the service is present, then malware gets the service status from Service Control Manager using the QueryServiceStatus API.
The service configurations are changed, if the service is inactive, via ChangeServiceConfig API. And the flag SERVICE_DEMAND_START (0x00000003) is passed as dwStartType value for the ChangeServiceConfig API.
Clean Up Process
As soon as the driver starts running on the target system, it starts the clean up process by deleting the service entry in the registry, and the driver image in the C:\Windows\system32\drivers directory.
After the clean up process, the malware disables Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) on the system, via Service Control Manager. The VSS service is opened via the OpenServiceW API to change the configuration of the service later.
Disabling the Volume Shadow Copy Service
A new configuration update is made by passing the 0x00000004 flag (SERVICE_DISABLED) to ChangeServiceConfigW, thus disabling VSS by force.
The malware makes sure the service has stopped, by passing 0x00000001 (SERVICE_CONTROL_STOP) as the dwControl parameter value.
Making sure the service has stopped
Corrupting the Hard Disk Data
The malware uses the installed driver to read/write hard disk data.
To achieve this, the symbolic link used by the driver (\Device\EPMNTDRV), communicates via the DeviceIOControl API, by passing IOCTL codes to make the driver perform a specific task.
The malware then accesses the Master Boot Record via \\\\.\\PhysicalDrive0.
The data corruption logic distinguishes NTFS and FAT systems and has different corruption logic for each of the file systems present on the disk.
The malware parses Master File Record fields such as $bitmap and $logfile and other NTFS attribute streams such as $DATA, $I30, or $INDEX_ALLOCATION.
Multiple threads are instantiated by the malware to perform various activities. However, the execution of one of the threads performs InitiateSystemShutdownEx, which is a privileged activity, as the final damage.
Before shutting down the system, the malware enumerates the following directories for data wiping:
Windows Event Logs (C:\Windows\System32\winevt\Logs)
Anandeshwar is a Threat Intelligence Researcher at CloudSEK. He is a strong advocate of offensive cybersecurity. He is fuelled by his passion for cyber threats in a global context. He dedicates much of his time on Try Hack Me/ Hack The Box/ Offensive Security Playground. He believes that "a strong mind starts with a strong body." When he is not gymming, he finds time to nurture his passion for teaching. He also likes to travel and experience new cultures.