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Over the last weekend, Iowa-based NEW Cooperative Inc. was the latest victim of the ransomware group BlackMatter. According to the company, which operates as a farmers’ cooperative, the incident has been actively handled, but at the time of this writing the full impact of the attack is not clear.

In the media inquiries section of its website, BlackMatter explicitly lists a series of critical infrastructure targets that should not be targeted by its malicious operations. An organization the size of NEW Cooperative could very well be categorized as critical infrastructure. If that’s the case, this attack could have significant consequences. Modern supply chains are sometimes found to be vulnerable to sudden disruptions, with the full effects often understood only much later.

In this blog, we describe the process that Nozomi Networks Labs took to analyze the BlackMatter ransomware executable, as well as ways the malware hinders analysis, and how we were able to overcome them. We provide some scripts that can help other researchers extract key information from other instances of this ransomware that surface in the wild.

Organizations undergoing digital transformation need to focus on operational technology security.
An Iowa-based farmers’ cooperative was hit by BlackMatter ransomware. Nozomi Networks Labs analyzes the executable.

Main Functionality

The ransomware encrypts victims’ files with a version of the ChaCha20 and RSA algorithms. RSA is used to ensure that decryption is not possible without the private key stored on the attackers’ side. The malware leaves a note in the form of a README file with the steps to follow to decrypt them. In addition, it changes the wallpaper to bring attention to them:

Wallpaper changed by the BlackMatter ransomware executable, drawing attention to a README file with decryption steps.
(Click to enlarge)
In addition, the malware performs various common ransomware actions such as:

  • Deleting shadow copies (local backups) by first listing them using WMI query SELECT * FROM Win32_ShadowCopy
  • Deleting files in the recycle bin
  • Terminating processes and services specified in the configuration
  • Changing the wallpaper to point to the README text file for decryption instructions
  • Elevation:Administrator!new:{3E5FC7F9-9A51-4367-9063-A120244FBEC7} is used for UAC (user account control) bypass
  • Encrypted files will get a new file extension matching the victim id seen in the README file name prefix and also stored in the registry. This victim id is derived from the MachineGuid registry value.

Anti-debugging Techniques

The malware attempts to thwart analysis by hiding which WinAPIs it relies on. To circumvent this, the malware resolves some of the required import functions by their hashes:

Identification of WinAPI function by hashed name
To further complicate analysis, in case of bulk WinAPI address resolution by hashes, the malware uses a unique way of storing the addresses found. Instead of just storing them in a table, for every resolved WinAPI address, it randomly chooses one of five different ways to encode it (rol, ror, xor, xor+rol or xor+ror) and stores the encoded address together with a dynamically built code snippet that will decode it just before the call:
Building code snippets to dynamically decrypt each API address and transfer control to it
Here is one of the result proxy code snippets:
Dynamically built code snippet to call the API
Another anti-debugging trick used by malware is checking the presence of the 0xABABABAB sequence at the end of private heap blocks that it allocates to store these snippets. If the debugger is attached, this sequence will be added and the malware won’t store the address of the snippet in its custom import table, which will later result in the debugged sample crashing.
Malware checks for the presence of the 0xABABABAB sequence revealing the debugger
The strings are commonly decrypted on the fly, just before being used:
With the help of IDAPython functionality, it is possible to automatically find and decrypt most of them:
Here are some of the most important decrypted strings we pulled from the ransomware sample (see the script used below):
SELECT * FROM Win32_ShadowCopy
Times New Roman
Control Panel\Desktop
Control Panel\International
SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion
Program Files


The sample’s encrypted configuration is stored in the .rsrc section, additionally compressed, and the individual fields are base64-encoded. The decrypted C2 configuration can be seen below. The sample can interact with both plain HTTP and HTTPS endpoints as evidenced by the set of C2.

Configuration decryption and base64-encoded C2
Malware generates random HTTP query values when it communicates with these C2:
Network communication with one of the C2
To secure communication, the AES algorithm is used.
Details of the targeted system in plaintext
Here is the extracted configuration:
        "SHA256_SAMPLE":        "706F3EEC328E91FF7F66C8F0A2FB9B556325C153A329A2062DC85879C540839D",
        "RSA_KEY":        "232FBA5316E1C9A3F0E603EF0ECB534A1FC1E8BA5F89DBD886D98FBF88EEDDE66CC65E00BBB827CD0262B65C505D95A008C48427A73AE6EB888EB47A8A6246B43326931A7D59DFDAD141A054B445C51FBA1E3DF3F41CBA82AF44B96F21388C00DD696F7B3B976313C662B6283C0D082B5E68F3FFD7946A72C67F8A698172BE70",
        "COMPANY_VICTIM_ID":        "90A881FFA127B004CEC6802588FCE307",
        "AES_KEY":        "B59C952C492BD3D1F8F5140AA2855CDE",
        "BOT_MALWARE_VERSION":        "2.0",
        "ODD_CRYPT_LARGE_FILES":        "false",
        "NEED_MAKE_LOGON":        "true",
        "MOUNT_UNITS_AND_CRYPT":        "true",
        "CRYPT_NETWORK_RESOURCES_AND_AD":        "true",
        "TERMINATE_PROCESSES":        "true",
        "STOP_SERVICES_AND_DELETE":        "true",
        "CREATE_MUTEX":        "true",
        "PREPARE_VICTIM_DATA_AND_SEND":        "true",
        "PRINT_RANSOM_NOTE":        "true",
        "PROCESS_TO_KILL":        [{
                        "":        "encsvc"
                }, {
                        "":        "thebat"
                }, {
                        "":        "mydesktopqos"
                }, {
                        "":        "xfssvccon"
                }, {
                        "":        "firefox"
                }, {
                        "":        "infopath"
                }, {
                        "":        "winword"
                }, {
                        "":        "steam"
                }, {
                        "":        "synctime"
                }, {
                        "":        "notepad"
                }, {
                        "":        "ocomm"
                }, {
                        "":        "onenote"
                }, {
                        "":        "mspub"
                }, {
                        "":        "thunderbird"
                }, {
                        "":        "agntsvc"
                }, {
                        "":        "sql"
                }, {
                        "":        "excel"
                }, {
                        "":        "powerpnt"
                }, {
                        "":        "outlook"
                }, {
                        "":        "wordpad"
                }, {
                        "":        "dbeng50"
                }, {
                        "":        "isqlplussvc"
                }, {
                        "":        "sqbcoreservice"
                }, {
                        "":        "oracle"
                }, {
                        "":        "ocautoupds"
                }, {
                        "":        "dbsnmp"
                }, {
                        "":        "msaccess"
                }, {
                        "":        "tbirdconfig"
                }, {
                        "":        "ocssd"
                }, {
                        "":        "mydesktopservice"
                }, {
                        "":        "visio"
        "SERVICES_TO_KILL":        [{
                        "":        "mepocs"
                }, {
                        "":        "memtas"
                }, {
                        "":        "veeam"
                }, {
                        "":        "svc$"
                }, {
                        "":        "backup"
                }, {
                        "":        "sql"
                }, {
                        "":        "vss"
                }, {
                        "":        "msexchange"
        "C2_URLS":        [{
                        "":        "https://mojobiden[.]com"
                }, {
                        "":        "http://mojobiden[.]com"
                }, {
                        "":        "https://nowautomation[.]com"
                }, {
                        "":        "http://nowautomation[.]com"
        "LOGON_USERS_INFORMATION":        [{
                        "":        "<redacted>"
                }, {
                        "":        "<redacted>"
                }, {
                        "":        "<redacted>"
                }, {
                        "":        "<redacted>"
                }, {
                        "":        "<redacted>"
                }, {
                        "":        "<redacted>"
        "RANSOM_NOTE":        [{
                        "":        "      ~+                                       \r\n               *       +\r\n         '     BLACK        |\r\n     ()    .-.,='``'=.    - o -         \r\n           '=/_       \\     |           \r\n        *   |  '=._    |                \r\n             \\     `=./`,        '    \r\n          .   '=.__.=' `='      *\r\n +             Matter        +\r\n      O      *        '       .\r\n\r\n>>> What happens?\r\n   Your network is encrypted, and currently not operational. \r\n   We need only money, after payment we will give you a decryptor for the entire network and you will restore all the data.\r\n\r\n>>> What data stolen?\r\n   From your network was stolen 1000 GB of data.\r\n   If you do not contact us we will publish all your data in our blog and will send it to the biggest mass media.\r\n   Blog post link: http://<redacted>.onion/<redacted>\r\n\r\n>>> What guarantees? \r\n   We are not a politically motivated group and we do not need anything other than your money. \r\n   If you pay, we will provide you the programs for decryption and we will delete your data. \r\n   If we do not give you decrypters or we do not delete your data, no one will pay us in the future, this does not comply with our goals. \r\n   We always keep our promises.\r\n\r\n>> How to contact with us? \r\n   1. Download and install TOR Browser (\r\n   2. Open http://<redacted>.onion/<redacted>\r\n  \r\n>> Warning! Recovery recommendations.  \r\n   We strongly recommend you to do not MODIFY or REPAIR your files, that will damage them."
Overall, there are multiple similarities with the DarkSide ransomware family, including the way the victim id is derived from the MachineGuid value, the encryption techniques used, and the way the configuration is structured and protected. More information on the DarkSide executable can be found in our previous blog.

BlackMatter Ransomware Protection and Indicators of Compromise

Nozomi Networks customers using our Threat Intelligence service are already covered against the described threat. In addition, Nozomi Networks Labs is monitoring this situation as it evolves and will extend coverage to customers and keep the community informed of major updates.

For security professionals defending critical infrastructure operations, general recommendations for cyber resiliency against ransomware is found in our latest OT/IoT Security Report.

For security researchers, the descriptions provided in this blog of how BlackMatter evades analysis, and how to extract key information from the code should be useful as the malware evolves.

The indicators of compromise (IOC) that we learned from this analysis, as well as the scripts we used in the analysis are found below.

List of IOCs
// Created by Nozomi Networks Labs
import "pe"
rule blackmatter_ransomware : blackmatter ransomware {
                date = "2021-09-20"
                name = "BlackMatter - RANSOMWARE"
                author = "Nozomi Networks Labs"
                description = "Generic detection for BlackMatter ransomware"
                actor = "BlackMatter"
                x_threat_name = "BlackMatter ransomware"
                x_mitre_technique = "T1486"
                hash1 = "706f3eec328e91ff7f66c8f0a2fb9b556325c153a329a2062dc85879c540839d"
                hash2 = "9cf9441554ac727f9d191ad9de1dc101867ffe5264699cafcf2734a4b89d5d6a"
                hash3 = "b0e929e35c47a60f65e4420389cad46190c26e8cfaabe922efd73747b682776a"
                hash4 = "2cdb5edf3039863c30818ca34d9240cb0068ad33128895500721bcdca70c78fd"
                hash5 = "f7b3da61cb6a37569270554776dbbd1406d7203718c0419c922aa393c07e9884"
                hash6 = "8f1b0affffb2f2f58b477515d1ce54f4daa40a761d828041603d5536c2d53539"
                hash7 = "e4a2260bcba8059207fdcc2d59841a8c4ddbe39b6b835feef671bceb95cd232d"
                nn_ts = "1632088800.0"
                nn_sig = "f7c69f3b527ffb3f0c2aa613e902d8d4f0e39966048bb6cfa57556115fa18ed9"
                nn_id = "92f90d15-9392-4076-96b5-1e42ac9874c5"
                uint16(0)==0x5a4d and uint32( uint32(0x3c))==0x00004550 and filesize <100KB and pe.imphash()=="2e4ae81fc349a1616df79a6f5499743f"

IDAPython Scripts

Here is a script to restore the custom import table dynamically populated by malware. It defines the new hotkey Z that should be pressed when the cursor is located at the bulk decryption function (in case of this sample, at the RVA 0x78EC).

# Author: Alexey Kleymenov (a member of Nozomi Networks Labs)
import os
import struct
import pefile
import ida_kernwin
PATH_TO_DLLS = 'c:\\windows\\system32\\'
def extract_api_hashes(start):
    Returns a dictionary where keys are import functions to write data and values are list of hashes
    The first hash is the DLL name's hash, the rest are WinAPI names' hashes
    decryptor_address = start
    print('Bulk API decryptor address: %x' % decryptor_address)
    api_hashes = {}
    for head in Heads():
        flags = GetFlags(head)
        if isCode(flags):
            prev = prev_head(head)
            prev_2 = prev_head(prev)
            if print_insn_mnem(head) == 'call' and get_operand_value(head, 0) == decryptor_address:
                print('Found the decryptor called: %x' % head)
                if print_insn_mnem(prev) == 'push' and print_insn_mnem(prev_2) == 'push':
                    func_hashes = get_operand_value(prev_2, 0)
                    import_table = get_operand_value(prev, 0)
                    api_hashes[import_table] = []
                    for i in range(0, 0xffff, 4):
                        api_hash = struct.unpack("<I", get_bytes(func_hashes + i, 4))[0]
                        if api_hash == 0xCCCCCCCC:
                            api_hashes[import_table].append(api_hash ^ HARDCODED_XOR_KEY)
                    print('Non-standard arguments %x' % head)
    return api_hashes
def calculate_checksum(name, value):
    Standard ror 0x0D
    for symbol in name:
        value = ((value >> 0x0D) | (value << (0x20 - 0x0D))) & 0xFFFFFFFF
        value += ord(symbol) & 0xFFFFFFFF
    return value
def build_mappings(dll_filepath, dll_hashes):
    This function calculates API checksums for the DLLs of interest
    dll_name = os.path.basename(dll_filepath)
    dll_checksum = calculate_checksum(dll_name.lower() + '\x00', 0)
    result = {}
    if dll_checksum in dll_hashes:
        dll = pefile.PE(dll_filepath, fast_load=True)
        if hasattr(dll, 'DIRECTORY_ENTRY_EXPORT'):
            dll_name = dll_name.replace('.', '_')
            result[dll_checksum] = {'dll_name': dll_name}
            export_directory = dll.DIRECTORY_ENTRY_EXPORT
            for symbol in export_directory.symbols:
                if is not None:
                    api_name ='latin-1')
                    api_checksum = calculate_checksum(api_name + '\x00', dll_checksum)
                    result[api_checksum] = {'dll_name': dll_name, 'api_name': api_name}
    return result
def parse_dlls(path_to_dlls, dll_hashes):
    This function goes through all the files in the specified path and calculates export hashes for DLLs matching by name hashes
    list_dlls = os.listdir(path_to_dlls)
    mappings = {}
    for dll_filename in list_dlls:
        full_path = os.path.join(path_to_dlls, dll_filename)
        mappings.update(build_mappings(full_path, dll_hashes))
    return mappings
def decrypt_all():
    The function expects the cursor to be located at the bulk decryption function
    start = get_screen_ea()
    api_hashes = extract_api_hashes(start)
    dll_hashes = []
    for _, hashes in api_hashes.items():
    dll_mappings = parse_dlls(PATH_TO_DLLS, dll_hashes)
    for import_table, hashes in api_hashes.items():
        dll_hash = hashes[0]
        api_hashes = hashes[1:]
        if dll_hash in dll_mappings:
            print('Found DLL hash %x = %s' % (dll_hash, dll_mappings[dll_hash]['dll_name']))
            for i, api_hash in enumerate(api_hashes):
                if api_hash in dll_mappings:
                    addr = import_table + (i+1)*4
                    print('Found API hash for %x = %s (%s)' % (addr, dll_mappings[api_hash]['api_name'], dll_mappings[api_hash]['dll_name']))
                    set_name(addr, dll_mappings[api_hash]['api_name'])
                    print('API hash %x not found' % api_hash)
            print('DLL hash %x not found' % dll_hash)
ida_kernwin.add_hotkey("z", decrypt_all)
In addition, here is a script to automatically search for and decrypt most of the encrypted strings:
# Author: Alexey Kleymenov (a member of Nozomi Networks Labs)
import struct
import ida_kernwin
def is_utf16_heur(string):
    counter = 0
    for val in string:
        if val == 0:
            counter += 1
    if counter/float(len(string)) > 0.4:
        return True
    return False
def decrypt_string(start_addr):
    addr = start_addr
    result = b""
    for i in range(0xFFFF):
        instr = print_insn_mnem(addr)
        if instr != 'mov' or 'dword ptr' not in GetDisasm(addr):
        value = get_operand_value(addr, 1)
        decoded_value = value ^ HARDCODED_XOR_KEY
        result += struct.pack("<I", decoded_value)
        addr = next_head(addr)
    result_orig = result
    if is_utf16_heur(result):
        result = result.decode('utf-16le')
        result = result.decode('latin-1')
    if all(ord(c) < 128 for c in result):
        result = result.rstrip('\x00')
        result = 'hex: ' + result_orig.hex()
    print('%x - %s' % (start_addr, result))
    set_cmt(start_addr, result, 0)
def decrypt_string_manual():
    start_addr = get_screen_ea()
def search_for_encrypted_strings():
    for head in Heads():
        flags = GetFlags(head)
        if isCode(flags):
            if print_insn_mnem(head) == 'xor' and 'dword ptr' in GetDisasm(head) and get_operand_value(head, 1) == HARDCODED_XOR_KEY:
                next = next_head(head)
                if print_insn_mnem(next) == 'add' and get_operand_value(next, 1) == 4:
                    prev = prev_head(head)
                    if 'mov     ecx' in GetDisasm(prev):
                        num = get_operand_value(prev, 1)
                        for i in range(num):
                            prev = prev_head(prev)
                        # print('Found the encryption string candidate: %x' % prev)
ida_kernwin.add_hotkey(",", decrypt_string_manual)
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