Destructive ‘HermeticWiper’ Malware Targets Computers in Ukraine


Just as Russia was preparing to launch an invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainian government websites were disrupted by DDoS attacks and cybersecurity firms reported seeing what appeared to be a new piece of malware on hundreds of devices in the country.

The new malware, dubbed “HermeticWiper” by the cybersecurity community, is designed to erase infected Windows devices. The name references a digital certificate used to sign a malware sample — the certificate was issued to a Cyprus-based company called Hermetica Digital.

“At this time, we haven’t seen any legitimate files signed with this certificate. It’s possible that the attackers used a shell company or appropriated a defunct company to issue this digital certificate,” explained endpoint security firm SentinelOne, whose researchers have been analyzing the new malware.

The malware has also been analyzed by researchers at ESET and Symantec. Each of the companies has shared indicators of compromise (IoCs) associated with HermeticWiper.

ESET first spotted HermeticWiper on Wednesday afternoon (Ukraine time) and the company said hundreds of computers in Ukraine had been compromised.

ESET noted that the malware samples it observed were compiled in late December 2021, which suggests the attack might have been in the works for nearly two months.

Research conducted by the cybersecurity firm suggests that at least in one case the malware may have been delivered after attackers took control of a victim’s Active Directory server.

The wiper abuses legitimate drivers associated with an application called EaseUS Partition Master. It attempts to corrupt the master boot record (MBR) of every physical drive, as well as every partition on these drives.

This is the second destructive malware attack aimed at Ukraine in 2022. In January, threat actors defaced Ukrainian government websites and unleashed wiper malware named WhisperGate, which had been disguised as ransomware.

While the cybersecurity companies analyzing HermeticWiper have not attributed the malware to any known threat group — given the current situation — the most likely culprit is Russia. In the case of the wiper malware used in the January attacks, Ukraine said it had evidence that Russia was responsible.

Related: Ukraine Attacks Involved Exploitation of Log4j, October CMS Vulnerabilities

Related: New ‘Cyclops Blink’ Malware Linked to Russian State Hackers Targets Firewalls

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.

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