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Dissecting GandCrab Version 4.3


GandCrab is a ransomware that has been around for over a year and steadily altered (I explicitly do not say “improved”) its code. The author(s) version their builds, the version I analyzed in this blog post is GandCrab’s interal version 4.3 with the Sha256 c9941b3fd655d04763721f266185454bef94461359642eec724d0cf3f198c988.

Dissecting GandCrab Version 4.3

GandCrab has been around for a while, but gained relevance for us, when we received incoming requests for incident response engagement, primarily from medium-sized companies. On the 24 th of August 2018 GandCrab started to push some e-mail based campaigns against German speaking countries, as already described by our esteemed colleague Hauke here https://www.gdata.de/blog/2018/09/31078-professionelle-ransomware-kampagne-greift-personalabteilungen-mit-bewerbungen-an (G DATA’s corporate blog is typically obfuscated in German).

In the meantime Bitdefender released a tool to decrypt several variants of GandCrab, including the analyzed one https://labs.bitdefender.com/2018/10/gandcrab-ransomware-decryption-tool-available-for-free/

To the best of our knowledge, the tool does not use any flaw in the encryption of GandCrab, but it uses a copy of the master private key, which can be used to revert the whole encryption. Details on how the encryption is done by GandCrab can be found later on in this article.


We analyzed GandCrab as needed, when initially starting with the analysis, we had about zero knowledge about the internal details of GandCrab. This article is meant as a walkthrough of the analysis process, with some focus on the execution flow of GandCrab, as well as the analysis of the kernel driver exploit comprised in this sample. As we are documenting in retrospect, various blog posts on GandCrab already exist that document its features, tricks and oddities. You can find a very good feature comparison and timeline here https://www.vmray.com/cyber-security-blog/gandcrab-ransomware-evolution-analysis/ , you can find an additional timeline, a few details about the kernel driver exploit added in version 4.2.1 as well as an explanation of the latest feature of each version here https://www.fortinet.com/blog/threat-research/a-chronology-of-gandcrab-v4-x.html

Starting the analysis Unpacking

The step of unpacking the sample will be skipped here, as it takes around 30 seconds if you have the correct setup and know what you will expect in the unpacked form. At our first encounter with the sample, we didn’t know what to expect, so it took us a few minutes.

Removing the junk code

When putting the sample into IDA, you are first greeted by a scrambled main function, which trips IDA a bit up.

Dissecting GandCrab Version 4.3

After rolling my eyes and being afraid I had not unpacked the sample properly, I looked at some random functions identified by IDA and noticed, that most of the code looked readable, but several functions also had the same anti-disassembling trick.

Hoping to see a cool VM packer or some advanced obfuscation tricks, I started to analyze the junk code, which starts at the first call in line number 3.

Obviously, the two conditional short jumps two instructions later point to a location which was not properly disassembled by IDA. After fixing the disassembly of the jump target, the code looks like this.

Dissecting GandCrab Version 4.3

So, reading the disassembly, we have a call, which only pushes the return address on the stack. This return address, being the topmost stack element, is then increased by 0x11. In the next step, depending on the state of the ZF bit (or simply “zero flag”), either the JNZ or the JZ condition triggers and jumps to the pop eax, jmp eax instructions, which pop the altered return address from the stack and jump to it. Disassembling the jump target two bytes after the jump itself yields us the following result:

Dissecting GandCrab Version 4.3

We can see that the jmp eax leads us to the call to address 0x40414B. Since afterwards the ExitProcess is called, we can assume that 0x40414B is the main function of GandCrab. Disassembling this function in IDA looks like this:

Dissecting GandCrab Version 4.3

Well, we’ve seen this byte sequence at the function prologue somewhere before…

In case you’re only reading the text and not really looking at the pictures, you might have missed that the function prologue is not only looking the same for both functions we have seen so far, but it is the very same byte sequence.

Also, IDA did not notice that a new function starts at address 0x40414B, which is why it placed the “loc_40414B” label there.

After succeeding in decompiling the function when simply NOPing out the junk instructions by hand, I wrote a short IDA python script to patch all locations where the junk instructions where:

<em>import idaapi</em> <em>tmp = "E8 00 00 00 00 3E 83 04 24 11 75 05 74 03 E9 28 14 58 FF E0 00 E9"</em> <em>patchbytes = "\x90\x90\x90\x90\x90\x90\x90\x90\x90\x90\x90\x90\x90\x90\x90\x90\x90\x90\x90\x90\x90\x90"</em> <em>cur = 0</em> <em>while cur != 0xffffffffL:</em> <em> cur = FindBinary(0, SEARCH_DOWN, tmp)</em> <em> print hex(cur)</em> <em> idaapi.patch_many_bytes(cur, patchbytes)</em>

The Python script prints each location where it patched something, so I could then check if IDA detected this location as the start of a function and test if I could decompile it. Of course, defining a function could also be done by a script, but for 29 functions, this was still doable by hand, and the IDA API is also not the most intuitive API to use when you’re in a bit of a hurry.

So yep, patching was rather trivial, as Fortinet confirmed: https://www.fortinet.com/blog/threat-research/a-chronology-of-gandcrab-v4-x.html

Following the execution flow

After a few small hurdles described before, we can start looking at GandCrab and analyze the execution flow step by step.

Before doing so, here is a reference of what we’re going to see and which functions calls which one. Since there will be a lot of function calls and returns, it is easy to get lost, so take this as a reference (maybe put it on a second screen, print it, open it in a second tab, …) while you’re reading the rest of this article:

main ----Eleveate Privileges ----closeRunningProcesses ----mainFunction --------bIsSystemLocaleNotOk --------bCheckMutex --------decryptPubKey --------0x00401C56 --------0x00405B7D --------encRC4 --------internetThread ------------0x004047BD ------------contactCnC --------startEncryption ------------decryptFileEndings ------------createRSAkeypair ------------saveKeysToRegOrGetExisting ----------------getKeypairFromRegistry ----------------encrypPubKey --------------------getRandomBytes --------------------importRSAkeyAndEncrypt

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