FAQ on the WanaCry ransomware outbreak

Last updated: May 16th 2017

A ransomware variant known as WanaCry/WanaCrypt0r has spread on a massive scale around the world since the 12th of May 2017. For more information about the context with regards to this WanaCry variant, see also our earlier blog. The section below outlines the frequently asked questions and corresponding answers.

Q: What makes this ransomware variant so dangerous?
A: This variant of WanaCry posesses the capability to spread itself as a so-called worm, beside the fact that the ransomware starts encrypting possible important data on systems. This means that the initial infection in a network is possibly not only system that could be impacted, but potentialy a large amount of systems in the internal network as well. This might result in your business processes coming to a grinding halt.

Q: What was the initial infection vector for the ransomware outbreak?
A: As there is no evidence that the initial infection vector is email, after 72 hours of research by the security community, Fox-IT believes the infection vector is more likely to be vulnerable machines directly exposing SMB to the internet.
At the moment it appears that the only confirmed infection vector is the usage of the ETERNALBLUE SMB exploit.

Q: Which versions of Windows are vulnerable?
A: The SMB exploit works on all versions of Windows, which have not yet been patched by MS17-010 on the 14th of March 2017, except for Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016, as they are already protected in the default configuration.

Q: What about Windows XP?
A: Microsoft has also released a patch for the unsupported operating systems Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

Q: Are we safe from WanaCry if we apply the security update to Windows Server 2003?
A: Yes, but the patch KB4012598 applies specifically to this SMB exploit, known as ETERNALBLUE. However, similar NSA exploits, leaked by the Shadow Brokers, for vulnerabilities in Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP were published that lead to remote code execution (RCE). This includes the ERRATICGOPHER exploit for SMBv1 and the ESTEEMAUDIT exploit for RDP, which could be repurposed by malicious actors to create the next ransomworm.

Q: How many endpoints are affected?
A: The sinkhole statistics currently show a total of 160,000+ infections, this amount is still rapidly increasing.

Q: Should we block the ‘kill-switch’ domain on our firewall/proxy?
A: No you should not. When the malware is capable of reaching the ‘kill-switch’ domain it will not further spread the malware. Please note that when you block this domain, it will in fact continue spreading both internal and external.

Q: Is the kill switch domain being monitored (counting infections, origin infections)?
A: Yes the sinkhole statistics can be found here.

Q: Do we expect new attacks with the same Modus Operandi (MO)?
A: This is very likely, as this is a lucrative way of earning money for criminals. It is unknown at what moment in time a new attack will start and we do not have indications at this point in time that another campaign is scheduled.

Q: Where can I find the ‘kill switch’ domain?
A: Two ‘kill-switch’ domains have been seen in the wild:


Q: Is the malware persistant and will it become active after a reboot of the end point.
A: Yes, a registry run-key is added to the registry:

HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run\\ = “\tasksche.exe”

Q: How can I check if an endpoint was infected?
A: Though there is no specific script there are several specific indicators for this ransomware campaign which can be used to detect compromised machines, such as:

HKLM\SOFTWARE\WanaCrypt0r\\wd = “”
HKCU\Control Panel\Desktop\Wallpaper: “\@WanaDecryptor@.bmp”

Q: Is CIFS also vulnerable?
A: CIFS is a dialect of the SMBv1 protocol, and is impacted by this vulnerability.

Q: What impact will disabling SMB v1 have on end users?
A: Please note that this might differ depending on the situation. It is highly recommended to follow the best practices with regards to applying patches, meaning that a thorough impact assessment needs to take place to determine the actual impact of disabling SMBv1. Please note that at least those systems that could solely communicate via SMBv1 will be impacted, for example an old file sharing system.

Q: What are Anti-Virus vendors doing about this?
A: It seems logical that most cybersecurity companies are currently working on finding out all of the details that are related to this attack. It also seems very likely that all cybersecurity vendors are creating prevention and detection capabilities. Though new detection or prevention capabilities can only be applied if updates for these products are being downloaded and installed. We would not encourage customers to focus and wait on these vendors to prevent these kind of attacks but rather focus on installing the Microsoft update (MS17-010) that will prevent the spreading completely.

Q: What if infected laptops are currently offline because people are enjoying their weekends and are returning on monday?
A: It depends on which stage the infection is in the victim machine. If the machine has already been infected and was half way during the infection then it is very likely that the victim machine will continue encrypting files and start spreading when it will become active again. Therefor we strongly suggest to install the Microsoft update (MS17-010).

Q: What are the chances that a new campaign will be launched with more or improved functionality?
A: Based on our experience it is very likely that the same or other attacker(s) will start launching new campaigns rather sooner then later. We expect that they have learned from the small mistakes they have made in the initial version, such as not registering the ‘kill switch’ domain. They could also improve the malwares functionalities that can bypass current prevention or detection techniques. Therefor we strongly suggest to install the Microsoft update (MS17-010).

Additionally, the exploitation of this vulnerability will serve as an example for other (cyber) criminals seeking to achieve similar goals, so called copycats.

Q: Do we have to block the the ‘kill switch’ domain in the firewall, or other security controls like Proxy Servers?
A: NO! Do not block access to the unique ‘kill switch’ domain as infected clients will then start using the SMB exploit against reachable machines that are vulnerable.

The unique ‘kill-switch’ domain has been registrered by a known security researcher. By doing this the ransomware and the spreading mechanism used in the current malware campaign will not function.
If you block access to this domain then an infected client will start encrypting all of your files and will start spreading to available vulnerable devices.

Q: Does the ‘kill-switch’ domain need a valid HTTP connection or is resolving this domain name enough for the malware to stop functioning?
A: Yes, the ‘kill-switch’ domain does need a valid HTTP connection to a webserver listening on port 80. If the malware is not able to make a succesfull connection on port 80 it will start the ransomware and spreading process.

Q: Is the Linux Samba equivalent also vulnerable?
A: No, the Linux Samba protocol is not vulnerable to this exploit, only the Microsoft SMB protocol, without the latest Microsoft patch (MS17-010) installed, is affected.

Q: There are some reports of WannaCry variants with no ‘kill-switch’ functionality, have you seen this?
A: Yes, Fox-IT has this variant. It seems that someone modified the original malware sample. Likely with a common tool like hexedit. There has been another sample where the ‘kill switch’ domain has been completely patched out, thus resulting in a corrupt binary. Fox-IT is actively monitoring for new versions of the WanaCry ransomware.

Q: Has the ransomware’s implementation of the encryption process been looked at, to see if files are recoverable?
A: The crypto that is used in the malware seems to have been implemented in an unbreakable way. At this point decryption does not seem possible.

Q: Is there anything known about what group is behind this ransomware campaign?
A: Fox-IT, like other security researchers, is investigating connections of WanaCry to other known groups.