CryptoPHP a week later: more than 23.000 sites affected

On November 20th we published our report on CryptoPHP. Since publishing we have, together with other parties, been busy dealing with the affected servers and taking down the CryptoPHP infrastructure.

Sinkhole statistics

With the help of the NCSC,, Shadowserver and Spamhaus we have been able to gather data about the scale of the operation ran by the CryptoPHP authors. Most C2 domains that were active at the time of publishing have been either sinkholed or taken down. From the sinkholed domains we’ve been able to gather statistics.

In total 23.693 unique IP addresses connected to the sinkholes. We are already seeing a decline in sinkhole connections, on the 22nd 20.305 connections were made, on the 23rd 18.994 and on the 24th it was already down to 16.786. These numbers are however not a clear indication, mostly because the servers connecting to our sinkholes were shared hosting with at least 1 or multiple backdoored websites. This means the actual affected websites will be higher. Unfortunately we are also unable to make statistics on whether the affected server is running WordPress, Joomla or Drupal. This information is encrypted using public key encryption as explained in the paper.

A geological map was generated from the sinkhole data, the image below gives an overview of the affected countries.

CryptoPHP Sinkhole Infection_Statistics

Updated information

Since publishing we’ve been keeping an eye on any new developments within CryptoPHP. On the 23rd most of the websites used to spread the backdoored plug-ins and themes went offline, unfortunately they were back up with a new setup a day later and are still active at the time of this publication.
A new version of the backdoor was pushed, although the version number wasn’t changed we did get a new filehash for the backdoor. The SHA1 hash for the file is ‘c4fe641e3410fb047004c9653c79124c32a66446’; the version number is still 1.0.
The updated hash was committed to the github repo with IOCs at:


We noticed that our advice in our paper wasn’t clear to everyone. Spamhaus received a lot of inquiries about what to do with affected servers or how to find them. For this reason we’ve added this section to explain this a bit better.


We have created two Python scripts to help administrators detect CryptoPHP:


Both scripts can be found on our GitHub repo: is for scanning the filesystem for the CryptoPHP backdoor files. It will find all “social*.png” files and determine if it’s malicious.
And script can scan a website to determine if the website is affected by CryptoPHP. This can be useful if you have multiple virtual hosts and don’t know which one is affected.


If CryptoPHP has been found we recommend the following steps:

  1. Remove the “include” of the backdoor. For example, find the script that contains: “<?php include(‘images/social.png’); ?>”. Note that this path can vary.
  2. Remove the backdoor (social*.png) itself by deleting it.
  3. Check your database to see if any extra administrator accounts were added and remove them
  4. Reset the credentials of your own CMS account and other administrators (they were most likely compromised)

The steps above should be sufficient to remove the impact CryptoPHP has had on your website. We do however recommend performing a complete reinstall of your CMS since the system integrity may have been compromised. An attacker may have gained system wide access for example.
For both security and legal reasons we would advise not to install this kind of pirated (nulled) content.

CryptoPHP: Analysis of a hidden threat inside popular content management systems


Update: We’ve published statistics on CryptoPHP and some advice: CryptoPHP a week later: more than 23.000 sites affected

CryptoPHP is a threat that uses backdoored Joomla, WordPress and Drupal themes and plug-ins to compromise webservers on a large scale. By publishing pirated themes and plug-ins free for anyone to use instead of having to pay for them, the CryptoPHP actor is social engineering site administrators into installing the included backdoor on their server.

After being installed on a webserver the backdoor has several options of being controlled which include command and control server communication, mail communication as well as manual control.

Operators of CryptoPHP currently abuse the backdoor for illegal search engine optimization, also known as Blackhat SEO. The backdoor is a well developed piece of code and dynamic in its use. The capabilities of the CryptoPHP backdoor include:

  • Integration into popular content management systems like WordPress, Drupal and Joomla
  • Public key encryption for communication between the compromised server and the command and control (C2) server
  • An extensive infrastructure in terms of C2 domains and IP’s
  • Backup mechanisms in place against C2 domain takedowns in the form of email communication
  • Manual control of the backdoor besides the C2 communication
  • Remote updating of the list of C2 servers
  • Ability to update itself

We’ve identified thousands of backdoored plug-ins and themes which contained 16 versions of CryptoPHP as of the 12th of November 2014. Their first ever version went live on the 25th of September 2013 which was version 0.1, they are currently on version 1.0a which was first released on the 12th of November 2014. We cannot determine the exact number of affected websites but we estimate that, at least a few thousand websites are compromised by CryptoPHP.

Read all the details in the whitepaper: CryptoPHP-Whitepaper-FoxSRT

Cryptolocker variant Torrentlocker making new victims in NL

This posting is an update to Torrentlocker blog postings of October 15 and October 21.


Since past weekend, the Netherlands were hit with another spam run spreading the Cryptolocker variant known as Torrentlocker. Torrentlocker presents itself to victims as Cryptolocker in all cases, however this is a completely different malware. Fox-IT received multiple reports of new victims in the Netherlands and we are currently analyzing the new spam run and malware that was subsequently used.

For the indicators of compromise of this new spam run, see below.

You have fallen victim to Torrentlocker if you find that a number of your (data) files have been encrypted and are unreadable. In case of infection with Torrentlocker, the following notice will appear on the screen of the infected system:


Also, each directory that contains encrypted files will also contain an HTML file with instructions on how to contact and pay the criminals behind this latest wave of Torrentlocker attacks.
What to do if you are a victim?

There are a number of things that you can do yourself to find the original infection and contain the spread of torrentlocker, and possibly restore files to their original state.

  1. Block access to certain resources on the internet in order to minimize the risk of further infections. For information on which resources to block, see section “Indicators of compromise in network traffic”.
  2. Activate system policies that prevent further activity by torrentlocker:
    1. Restrict “delete” permissions. Activate a policy that prevents users from deleting files from shares. We have indications that such a policy may prevent torrentlocker from working effectively. We are currently investigating this claim.
    2. Restrict “write” permissions. To be extra careful, you may change user’s rights on all files to “read-only”. This will prevent any changes to files.
  3. Identify the systems that are infected with torrentlocker. The following steps will help with identification:
    1. Identify who received emails as part of the spam run. In your email messaging logs, search for email messages with characteristics as described in the section “Indicators of compromise in email”. Any hits should provide you with information about who within your organization received emails as part of the spam run and will allow you to remove these emails.
    2. Identify who visited suspicious torrentlocker websites. In your gateway logs (proxy logs, firewall logs, IDS logs etc), search for visits to websites known to be associated with this spam run. Any hits should provide you with evidence which systems within your infrastructure visited those websites and are potentially infected with torrentlocker. More information about what to look for can be found in section “Indicators of compromise in network traffic”.
    3. Identify which systems are infected. After the previous two steps, you may have narrowed down the number of systems that are potentially infected and have caused the files to be encrypted. On suspected systems, you may use the information in the section “Indicators of compromise on hosts”.
  4. Isolate the infected systems from your infrastructure. Once identified, these systems should be carefully isolated from the infrastructure, to prevent further encryption of additional files but at the same time preserve digital traces.
    1. Immediately cease all user activity on infected systems as they may contain important clues for decryption of the encrypted files or additional information about the infection.
    2. Physically disconnect the infected systems from the network.
    3. Do not power off, wipe or reimage infected systems.
  5. Restore backups of the infected files. Backups that are stored offline are not affected. Torrentlocker is known to disable the built-in “Previous Versions” feature in Windows. This fails in some cases allowing you to recover your files via the “Previous Versions” tab in the file properties window. Also, the “Previous versions” feature of cloud storage services like Dropbox might still contain the unencrypted version of your data.
  6. Seek professional assistance. In case backups are not available or only partly available, and you have preserved sufficient digital evidence, you may seek professional assistance in an effort to recover infected files.

About paying the ransom

Several reports have reached us of people who have paid the ransom in order to get their files back. In some cases they were successful or partly successful, in other cases they were not. The currently known problems with paying the ransom to get your files decrypted are:

  • There is no guarantee whatsoever that you will receive a decryption tool after paying;
  • In case your files are encrypted by multiple different infections of Torrentlocker, you will have to pay multiple times;
  • The decryption tool as distributed by the criminals contains flaws. After decryption, the resulting files will be partly corrupted, which may render them unusable;
  • Last but not least: you are aiding criminals.

Indicators of compromise in email

To detect the latest Torrentlocker spam run, you may search your messaging logs for e-mails with the subjects:

Den Haag - Incassoburea Nederland.
Den Haag - Intrum Justitia
Den Haag - Intrum Incasso
Den Haag Incasso Nederland.

And you may search for e-mails from the following sender:

The e-mails are impersonating a Dutch debt collection agency called Intrum Justitia.

incasso mail

Attached to the e-mail is a Word document, containing several malicious macro’s. The recipient of the email is enticed to open the Word document, and to enable macros (if not already enabled).

word macros

If the document is opened and macros are enabled, the macros will download a malicious binary, which acts as a dropper to install Torrentlocker on the system.

Indicators of compromise on disk

The dropper is downloaded to the user’s temporary folder:


Depending on whether it has admin privileges, the dropper drops malware at the following locations:


Indicators of compromise in network traffic

Within your gateway logs (proxy, firewall and IDS logs, etc) you may search for traffic to the following IOC’s in order to identify systems within your infrastructure that visited malicious hosts associated with this attack. This list contains currently known IOC’s and is not necessarily complete.

Dropper download location:


Command and control server hostname:

Command and control server IP’s (of all Torrentlocker campaigns):