Security

Bart Ransomware ‘Bypasses Corporate Firewalls’

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

Follow on: Google +
Google + Linkedin Subscribe to our newsletter Write a comment

The ‘Bart’ ransomware doesn’t need to connect to an external server before encrypting a system’s files and demanding £1,500

A new ransomware variant has emerged that’s similar to widespread threats such as Dridex 220 and Locky Affid=3, but uses a security-evading technique that may allow it to attack organisations protected from other malware, according to computer security researchers.

Ransomware has spread quickly in the last few months, as a number of payouts have attracted cyber-criminals to the technique.

No external connection needed

HSBCThe new variant, called Bart, doesn’t need to connect to an outside server before maliciously encrypting a user’s files, making it harder to block, according to Proofpoint.

“Because Bart does not require communication with (command and control) infrastructure prior to encrypting files… Bart may be able to encrypt PCs behind corporate firewalls that would otherwise block such traffic,” the firm’s researchers said in an advisory.

The malicious file arrives in the form of a zipped JavaScript attachment, so organisations need to ensure that zipped executables are blocked by their email gateway, Proofpoint said.

Bart, first discovered being distributed by a large spam campaign on Friday, arrives as an email with the subject line “Photos” and an attachment called “photos.zip”, the firm said. The zip archive contains a JavaScript file called PDF_123456789.js, but by default the .js extension doesn’t display on Windows, making the file appear at first glance to be a PDF document.

Russians, Ukrainians and Belorussians in no danger

The program, once launched, checks for the system language and doesn’t infect computers using the Russian, Ukrainian or Belorussian languages, researchers found.

If the Italian, French, German, Spanish or English languages are detected, it uses files translated into those languages.

ransomware“This first campaign appears to largely be targeting US interests but, given the global nature of Locky and Dridex targeting and the available translations for the recovery files, we do not expect Bart to remain this localised,” the researchers wrote.

Once a system is encrypted, users are asked to pay 3 bitcoins, or about £1,500, to unlock the files. Instead of communicating with a command server, the malware appears to link to the payment server using the URL “id” parameter, Proofpoint said.

Development

Bart appears to have been developed by the attackers behind ransomware variants called Dridex 220 and Locky Affid=3, according to the firm, which said the method of distribution, the ransom message style and the payent portal style were all similar to the earlier programs.

The server hosting Bart’s malicious payload was also found hosting Dridex and Locky Affid=3, and there is a certain amount of code sharing between Locky and Bart, according to Proofpoint.

Ransomware has increasingly shifted to using JavaScript as users have grown increasingly wary of opening Word documents that may contain malicious macros, security researchers have said.

Earlier this month Sophos found a ransomware variant called RAA that carried out all its encryption activities using JavaScript, rather than downloading malicious code from a remote server, streamlining the infection process and bypassing security controls.

Are you a security pro? Try our quiz!