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Threat Spotlight: Inside VSSDestroy Ransomware

VSSDestroy is a variant of the Matrix ransomware which targets Windows workstations. Matrix ransomware was spread via Rig EK as recently as 2017. This paper details the observations made by the Cylance Threat Research team during their analysis of VSSDestroy.

Technical Analysis

Our analysis begins with the execution of the malware payload. Upon execution, the ransomware drops a copy of the malware file to the same directory of the original with the following filename:

  • NW[0-9a-zA-Z]{6}.exe

The copy of the malicious file then executes with the"-n" option: (NW[0-9a-zA-Z]{6}.exe -n )


VSSDestroy encrypts files and renames them with the .newrar extension:  

Figure 1: File types encrypted by VSSDestroy

The ransomware creates a README document for victims to read after encryption (Figure 2):

Figure 2: Encrypted file and the README document

The document instructs victims to email newrar(at)tuta[.]io or newrar(at)cock[.]lu to acquire a decryption key. A second avenue for communication, via bitmsg (hxxps://bitmsg[.]me/), is provided in case targets cannot communicate via email (Figure 3):

Figure 3: Contents of #NEWRAR_README#.rtf

VSSDestroy changes the background image of the affected system. The ransomware drops an image file named 0-9a-zA-Z]{8}.bmp and sets it as the wallpaper (Figure 4). The malware modifies wallpaper settings in the following system registry locations:

  • HKCU\Control Panel\Desktop\Wallpaper
  • HKCU\Control Panel\Desktop\WallpaperStyle
  • HKCU\Control Panel\Desktop\TileWallpaper

Figure 4: Ransom wallpaper image

Victims will see the wallpaper after Windows reboot.

The Trojan drops a modified version of the Sysinternals tool called “Handle Viewer v4.11”. The tool closes handles grabbed by running processes, allowing the ransomware to encrypt them as well (Figure 5):

Figure 5: Handle Viewer [gLxNMqwr.exe]

The modified version is packed with UPX whereas original HashViewer 4.11 is not packed.

If you unpack the modified version, there is only a slight difference between the original HashViewer 4.11 and the modified unpacked version (Figure 6):

Figure 6: HashViewer 4.11

During file encryption, the Trojan sends the infected computer name and any captured usernames to the C2 server (Figure 7):

  • hxxp://no7654324wesdfghgfds[.]000webhostapp[.]com/addrecord[.]php

Figure 7: HTTP traffic

VSSDestroy searches for remote workstations by running an IP-incremental ARP scan of a range of networks using NetShareEnum API. If anything is discovered, the malware will proceed to encrypt the files located on the remote resources:

Figure 8: ARP scan

Removing VSS/Disabling Start-Up Repair

VSSDestroy is designed to schedule a task named DSHCA which runs a bat file (FcHN8mhB.bat) every five minutes. This process is designed to let the ransomware delete shadow copies and disable start-up repair after a system reboot

Figure 9: Creating a scheduled task to run FcHN8mhB.bat every five minutes

Figure 10: A script to remove shadow copies and disable start-up repair


In testing, CylancePROTECT® detects and blocks both the ransomware file and malicious scripts.

Indicators of Compromise (IOCs)


  • 075f86e2db93138f3f3291bc8f362e5f54dfdeeb98b63026697b266fbebddb00
  • 193697be39290126d24363482627ff49ad7ff76ad12bbac43f53c0a3a614db5d
  • d0c7b512610a1a206dbf4b4d8c352a26a26978abe8b5d0d3255f0b02196482a1
  • 91d07adbf35edb6bb96e7b210f17b9b868ed858802727d6f69c1e5a2d37a9c53
  • 0cfdbfb9c4a2a80794462f06cf0da43c5977aa61bd3bbe834002703fe44ef0b4 
    (dropped executable file)


Malware Execution Directory

  • NW[0-9a-zA-Z]{6}.exe
  • [0-9a-zA-Z]{8}.bat
  • [0-9a-zA-Z]{8}.txt
  • bad_[0-9a-zA-Z]{16}.txt
  • elog_[0-9a-zA-Z]{16}.txt
  • LFIN_[0-9a-zA-Z]{16}.txt
  • [0-9a-zA-Z]{8}.exe


  • [0-9a-zA-Z]{8}.bmp
  • [0-9a-zA-Z]{8}.vbs
  • [0-9a-zA-Z]{8}.bat

Every Directory

  • [].[0-9a-z]{8}-[0-9a-z]{8}.newrar


  • hxxp://no7654324wesdfghgfds[.]000webhostapp[.]com/addrecord[.]php
                      -Assigned IP address is dynamically changed in the segment.
  • hxxp://myexternalip[.]com/raw
  • Mutexes

        o   MutexNEWRAR
        o   MutexNEWRARDONW

  • Interesting strings/Commands

            o   NW[0-9a-zA-Z]{6}.exe -n
            o   powershell "$webClient = New-Object -TypeName System.Net.WebClient;$webClient.DownloadString('hxxp://myexternalip[.]com/raw')" >"[same directory of itself]\[0-9a-zA-Z]{8}.txt"
            o   reg add "HKCU\Control Panel\Desktop" /v Wallpaper /t REG_SZ /d "%AppData%\[0-9a-zA-Z]{8}.bmp" /f & reg add "HKCU\Control Panel\Desktop" /v WallpaperStyle /t REG_SZ /d "0" /f & reg add "HKCU\Control Panel\Desktop" /v TileWallpaper /t REG_SZ /d "0" /f
            o   "UseBackQ Tokens=3,6 delims=: "
The BlackBerry Cylance Threat Research Team

About The BlackBerry Cylance Threat Research Team

The BlackBerry Cylance Threat Research team examines malware and suspected malware to better identify its abilities, function and attack vectors. Threat Research is on the frontline of information security and often deeply examines malicious software, which puts us in a unique position to discuss never-seen-before threats.

Tatsuya Hasegawa

About Tatsuya Hasegawa

Senior Threat Researcher at BlackBerry Cylance

Tatsuya Hasegawa is a Senior Threat Researcher in APAC at BlackBerry, and is responsible for malware analysis and sandbox technology. He has practical experience in the both managed security service provider as a security analyst and CSIRT as an incident handler.

His certifications include: GREM, GCIH, GCFA, GXPN, GPEN and CISSP.