Over the last couple of weeks, there have been reports of a new type of ransomware known as ‘Snake’ which can encrypt all the files stored on your computer network and on all the connected devices.

Discovered

Snake ransomware is so-called because it is the reverse order spelling of the ‘ekans’ file marker that it attaches to each file that it encrypts.  It was discovered by the MalwareHunterTeam and studied in detail by Vitali Kremez who is the Head of SentinelLabs and who describes himself as an “Ethical Hacker”, “Reverse Engineer” and “Threat Seeker”.

How Does It Infect Your Network?

Snake can be introduced to a computer network in infected email attachments (macros) e.g. phishing emails with attached Office or PDF documents, RAR or ZIP files, .exe files, JavaScript files, Trojans, torrent websites, unpatched public-facing software and malicious ads.

How Does Snake Operate?

As ransomware, the ultimate goal of the cybercriminals who are targeting (mainly) businesses with Snake is to lock away (through encryption) important files in order to force the victim to pay a ransom in order to release those files, with the hope of restoring systems to normal as the motivator to pay.

In the case of Snake, which is written in Go (also known as Golang), an open-source programming language that’s syntactically similar to C and provides cross-platform support, once it is introduced to an operating system e.g. after arriving in an email, it operates the following way:

– Firstly, Snake removes Shadow Volume Copies (backup copies or snapshots of files) and stops processes related to SCADA Systems (the supervisory control and data acquisition system that’s used for gathering and analysing real-time data). Snake also stops any Virtual Machines, Industrial Control Systems, Remote Management Tools, and Network Management Software.

– Next, Snake (relatively slowly) uses powerful AES-256 and RSA-2048 cryptographic algorithms to encrypt files and folders across the whole network and on all connected devices, while skipping files in the Windows system folders and system files.

– As part of the encryption process, and unlike other ransomware, Snake adds a random five-character string as a suffix to file extension names e.g. myfile.jpg becomes myfile.jpgBGyWl. Also, an “EKANS” file marker is added to each encrypted file.

Ransom Note

Lastly, Snake generates a ransom note named Fix-Your-Files.txt which is posted on the desktop of the victim.  This ransom note advises the victim that the only way to restore their files is to purchase a decryption tool which contains a private key that has been created specifically for their network and that, once run on an affected computer, it will decrypt all encrypted files.

The note informs the victim that in order to purchase the decryption software they must send an email to bapcocrypt@ctemplar.com which has up to 3 of the encrypted files from their computers attached, not databases or spreadsheets (up to 3MB size) so that the cybercriminals can send back decrypted versions as proof that the decryption software (and key) works on their files (and to encourage payment and restoration of business).

Timing

Snake allows cybercriminals to not only target chosen businesses network but also to choose the time of the attack and the time that encryption takes place could, therefore, be after hours, thereby making it more difficult for admins to control the damage caused by the attack. Also, cybercriminals can choose to install additional password-stealing trojans and malware infections together with the Snake ransomware infection.

What To Do If Infected

If your network is infected with Snake ransomware there is, of course, no guarantee that paying the ransom will mean that you are sent any decryption software by the cybercriminals and it appears unlikely that those who targeted your company to take your money would do anything other to help than just take that money and disappear.

Some companies on the web are offering Snake removal (for hundreds of dollars), and there are some recommendations that running Spyhunter anti-malware software on your systems may be one way to remove this particularly damaging ransomware.

Ransomware Protection

News of the severity of Snake is a reminder to businesses that protection from malware is vital.  Ways in which companies can protect themselves from falling victim to malware, including ransomware include:

– Staff education and training e.g. about the risks of and how to deal with phishing and other suspicious and malicious emails, and other threats where social engineering is involved.

– Ensuring that all anti-virus software, updates and patching are up to date.

– Staying up to date with malware and ransomware resources e.g. the ‘No More Ransom’ portal (https://www.nomoreransom.org/ ), which was originally released in English, is now available in 35 other languages, and thanks to the cooperation between more than 150 partners, provides a one-stop-shop of tools that can help to decrypt ransomware infections – see https://www.nomoreransom.org/en/decryption-tools.html.

– Making sure that there is a regular and secure backup of company data, important business file and folders.

– Developing (and communicating to relevant staff) and updating a Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan.