July 17, 2015 By Douglas Bonderud 2 min read

While TeslaCrypt doesn’t have the name recognition of CryptoWall or the clout of its parent program CryptoLocker, the malware nonetheless made waves earlier this year by ransoming unique targets such as avid gamers’ saved files for their favorite titles. Now, Threatpost reports that TeslaCrypt authors have upped their game with new encryption protocols that make it more difficult — if not impossible — to fully recover data.

Small Potatoes

According to The Register, the original TeslaCrypt series generated more than $76,000 in bitcoins for its makers between February and April 2015. This is a far cry from the $3 million taken by CryptoLocker just a few years ago, but speaks to a decent rate of return; 163 victims out of approximately 1,200 total paid the ransom, for a success rate hovering around 13 percent. By distributing the malware among U.S. businesses and individual users and relying on the AES-256 encryption algorithm, the ransomware was able to lock file formats tied to productivity suites, video games and creative applications.

TeslaCrypt went the extra step of creating a tech department that provided users information on how to obtain bitcoins and even offered to decrypt single files as a show of good faith. The malware’s market share dried up when Cisco released a decryption tool based on hidden code in the malware itself, allowing users to bypass demands for bitcoins.

Big Dreams for Encryption Methods

Now TeslaCrypt is back with Version 2.0.0. According to SC Magazine, it is also trading on another name: When infected, users are taken to an HTML page copied from CryptoWall, and under this guise, the malware demands payment in bitcoin. The only difference here is the destination — if users pay up, the money is sent to TeslaCrypt’s Tor-based servers.

Researchers aren’t sure why TeslaCrypt chose to stand on the shoulders of other code; Fedor Sinitsyn of Kaspersky Lab wrote in an analysis on Securelist that “perhaps the attackers wanted to impress the gravity of the situation on their victims.” With many CryptoWall files still unrecoverable, there’s a good chance he’s right.

But that’s not the only change for TeslaCrypt. Version 2.0.0 comes with an updated encryption method using the AES-256-CBC algorithm with session_priv as the key. What’s more, the use of an ECDH algorithm lets the malware-makers decrypt all files with a single master key.

Security firms looking for another hidden decryption mechanism are out of luck — the file that saved all encrypted data along with this code has been removed in Version 2.0.0., meaning critical files aren’t just locked down but actually removed from a user’s machine altogether. Nonpayment, therefore, comes with significant risk.

However, TeslaCrypt’s new version isn’t quite the predator it seems at first glance. While security firms haven’t cracked the decryption code just yet, the malware authors’ reliance on name-dropping better-constructed code means they’re not entirely confident in the form or function of TelsaCrypt. In other words, it’s just a matter of time until Version 2.0.0 gives up its secrets.

In the meantime, both avid gamers and responsible corporations should take the time to ensure backup copies are up-to-date, accessible and ready at a moment’s notice. TeslaCrypt has leveled up, but it’s not game over yet — Version 2.0.0 is part substance but largely smoke.

More from

ITG05 operations leverage Israel-Hamas conflict lures to deliver Headlace malware

11 min read - As of December 2023, IBM X-Force has uncovered multiple lure documents that predominately feature the ongoing Israel-Hamas war to facilitate the delivery of the ITG05 exclusive Headlace backdoor. The newly discovered campaign is directed against targets based in at least 13 nations worldwide and leverages authentic documents created by academic, finance and diplomatic centers. ITG05’s infrastructure ensures only targets from a single specific country can receive the malware, indicating the highly targeted nature of the campaign.X-Force tracks ITG05 as a…

Exploiting GOG Galaxy XPC service for privilege escalation in macOS

7 min read - Being part of the Adversary Services team at IBM, it is important to keep your skills up to date and learn new things constantly. macOS security was one field where I decided to put more effort this year to further improve my exploitation and operation skills in macOS environments. During my research, I decided to try and discover vulnerabilities in software that I had pre-installed on my laptop, which resulted in the discovery of this vulnerability. In this article, I…

Taking the complexity out of identity solutions for hybrid environments

4 min read - For the past two decades, businesses have been making significant investments to consolidate their identity and access management (IAM) platforms and directories to manage user identities in one place. However, the hybrid nature of the cloud has led many to realize that this ultimate goal is a fantasy. Instead, businesses must learn how to consistently and effectively manage user identities across multiple IAM platforms and directories. As cloud migration and digital transformation accelerate at a dizzying pace, enterprises are left…

IBM identifies zero-day vulnerability in Zyxel NAS devices

12 min read - While investigating CVE-2023-27992, a vulnerability affecting Zyxel network-attached storage (NAS) devices, the IBM X-Force uncovered two new flaws, which when used together, allow for pre-authenticated remote code execution. Zyxel NAS devices are typically used by consumers as cloud storage devices for homes or small to medium-sized businesses. When used together, the flaws X-Force discovered allow a remote attacker to execute arbitrary code on the device with superuser permissions and without requiring any credentials. This results in complete control over the…

Topic updates

Get email updates and stay ahead of the latest threats to the security landscape, thought leadership and research.
Subscribe today