New Ransomware Strain Evades Detection by All but One Antivirus Engine

Researchers discovered a new strain of Dharma ransomware that is able to evade detection by nearly all of the antivirus solutions on the market.

In October and November 2018, researchers with Heimdal Security uncovered four strains of Dharma, one of the oldest ransomware families in existence. One of the strains slid past a total of 53 antivirus engines listed on VirusTotal and 14 engines used by the Jotti malware scan. Just one of the security scanners included in each of those utilities picked up on the strain’s malicious behavior.

In its analysis of the strain, Heimdal observed a malicious executable dropped through a .NET file and another associated HTML Application (HTA) file that, when unpacked, directed victims to pay a ransom amount in bitcoin.

How Persistent Is the Threat of Ransomware?

The emergence of the new Dharma strain highlights ransomware’s ongoing relevance as a cyberthreat. Europol declared that it remains the key malware threat in both law enforcement and industry reporting. The agency attributed this proclamation to financially motivated malware attacks increasingly using ransomware over banking Trojans, a trend that it anticipates will continue for years to come.

Europol identified this tendency despite a surge in activity from other threats. For example, Comodo Cybersecurity found that crypto-mining malware rose to the top of detected malware incidents in the first three months of 2018. In so doing, malicious cryptominers supplanted ransomware as the No. 1 digital threat for that quarter, according to Comodo research.

Defend Against New Malware Strains With Strong Endpoint Security

Security professionals can help keep ransomware off their networks by using an endpoint management solution that provides real-time visibility into their endpoints. Experts also recommend using tools that integrate with security information and event management (SIEM) software to streamline responses to potential incidents.

Sources: Heimdal Security, Europol, Comodo Cybersecurity

David Bisson

Contributing Editor

David Bisson is an infosec news junkie and security journalist. He works as Contributing Editor for Graham Cluley...