ESET Research has compiled a timeline of cyberattacks that used wiper malware and have occurred since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022
This blogpost presents a compiled overview of the disruptive wiper attacks that we have observed in Ukraine since the beginning of 2022, shortly before the Russian military invasion started. We were able to attribute the majority of these attacks to Sandworm, with varying degrees of confidence. The compilation includes attacks seen by ESET, as well as some reported by other reputable sources like CERT-UA, Microsoft, and SentinelOne.
Note: Approximate dates (~) are used when the exact date of deployment in uncertain or unknown. In some cases, the date of discovery or (in the case of non-ESET discoveries) the date of publication of the attack is used.
Among numerous waves of DDoS attacks that had been targeting Ukrainian institutions at the time, the WhisperGate malware struck on January 14th, 2022. The wiper masqueraded as ransomware, echoing NotPetya from June 2017 – a tactic that would also be seen in later attacks.
On February 23rd, 2022, a destructive campaign using HermeticWiper targeted hundreds of systems in at least five Ukrainian organizations. This data wiper was first spotted just before 17:00 local time (15:00 UTC): the cyberattack preceded, by only a few hours, the invasion of Ukraine by Russian Federation forces. Alongside HermeticWiper, the HermeticWizard worm and HermeticRansom faux ransomware were also deployed in the campaign.
Invasion and spring wave
On February 24th, 2022, with the Ukrainian winter thawing away, a second destructive attack against a Ukrainian governmental network started, using a wiper we have named IsaacWiper.
Also on the day of the invasion, the AcidRain wiper campaign targeted Viasat KA-SAT modems, with spillover outside of Ukraine as well.
Another wiper, initially disclosed by Microsoft, is DesertBlade, reportedly deployed on March 1st, 2022 and again around March 17th, 2022. The same report also mentions attacks using wipers from the Hermetic campaign, namely HermeticWiper (Microsoft calls it FoxBlade) around March 10th, 2022, HermeticRansom (Microsoft calls it SonicVote) around March 17th, 2022, and an attack around March 24th, 2022 using both HermeticWiper and HermeticRansom.
CERT-UA reported on its discovery of the DoubleZero wiper on March 17th, 2022.
On March 14th, 2022, ESET researchers detected an attack using CaddyWiper, which targeted a Ukrainian bank.
On April 1st, 2022, we detected CaddyWiper again, this time being loaded by the ArguePatch loader, which is typically a modified, legitimate binary that is used to load shellcode from an external file. We detected a similar scenario on May 16th, 2022, where ArguePatch took the form of a modified ESET binary.
We also detected the ArguePatch-CaddyWiper tandem on April 8th, 2022, in perhaps the most ambitious Sandworm attacks since the beginning of the invasion: their unsuccessful attempt to disrupt the flow of electricity using Industroyer2. In addition to ArguePatch and CaddyWiper, in this incident, we also discovered wipers for non-Windows platforms: ORCSHRED, SOLOSHRED, and AWFULSHRED. For details, see the notification by CERT-UA, and our WeLiveSecurity blogpost.
A quieter summer
The summer months saw fewer discoveries of new wiper campaigns in Ukraine as compared to the previous months, yet several notable attacks did occur.
We have worked together with CERT-UA on cases of ArguePatch (and CaddyWiper) deployments against Ukrainian institutions. The first incident took place in the week starting June 20th, 2022, and another on June 23rd, 2022.
With temperatures dropping in preparation for the northern winter, on October 3rd, 2022 we detected a new version of CaddyWiper deployed in Ukraine. Unlike the previously used variants, this time CaddyWiper was compiled as an x64 Windows binary.
On October 5th, 2022, we identified a new version of HermeticWiper that had been uploaded to VirusTotal. The functionality of this HermeticWiper sample was the same as in the previous instances, with a few minor changes.
On October 11th, 2022, we detected Prestige ransomware being deployed against logistics companies in Ukraine and Poland. This campaign was also reported by Microsoft.
On the same day, we also identified a previously unknown wiper, which we named NikoWiper. This wiper was used against a company in the energy sector in Ukraine. NikoWiper is based on the SDelete Microsoft command line utility for securely deleting files.
On November 11th, 2022, CERT-UA published a blogpost about an attack using the Somnia faux ransomware.
On November 21st, 2022, we detected in Ukraine new ransomware written in .NET that we named RansomBoggs. The ransomware has multiple references to the movie Monsters, Inc. We observed that the malware operators used POWERGAP scripts to deploy this filecoder.
In 2023 the disruptive attacks against Ukrainian institutions continue.
On January 1st, 2023, we detected execution of the SDelete utility at a Ukrainian software reseller.
Another attack using multiple wipers, this time against a Ukrainian news agency, took place on January 17th, 2023, according to CERT-UA. The following wipers were detected in this attack: CaddyWiper, ZeroWipe, SDelete, AwfulShred, and BidSwipe. BidSwipe is noteworthy, as it is a FreeBSD OS wiper.
On January 25th, 2023, we detected a new wiper, written in Go and that we named SwiftSlicer, being deployed against Ukrainian local government entities.
In almost all the above-mentioned cases, Sandworm used Active Directory Group Policy (T1484.001) to deploy its wipers and ransomware, specifically using the POWERGAP script.
The use of disruptive wipers – and even wipers masquerading as ransomware – by Russian APT groups, especially Sandworm, against Ukrainian organizations is hardly new. Since around 2014, BlackEnergy employed disruptive plugins; the KillDisk wiper was a common denominator in Sandworm attacks in the past; and the Telebots subgroup has launched numerous wiper attacks, most infamously NotPetya.
Yet the intensification of wiper campaigns since the military invasion in February 2022 has been unprecedented. On a positive note, many of the attacks have been detected and thwarted. However, we continue to monitor the situation vigilantly, as we expect the attacks to continue.
ESET Research also offers private APT intelligence reports and data feeds. For any inquiries about this service, visit the ESET Threat Intelligence page
|SHA-1||Filename||ESET detection name||Description|
|189166D382C73C242BA45889D57980548D4BA37E||stage1.exe||Win32/KillMBR.NGI||WhisperGate stage 1 MBR overwriter.|
|A67205DC84EC29EB71BB259B19C1A1783865C0FC||N/A||Win32/KillFiles.NKU||WhisperGate stage 2 final payload.|
|48F54A1D93C912ADF36C79BB56018DEFF190A35C||ukcphone.exe||Win32/Agent.AECG||ArguePatch shellcode loader.|
|6FA04992C0624C7AA3CA80DA6A30E6DE91226A16||peremoga.exe||Win32/Agent.AECG||ArguePatch shellcode loader.|
|9CE1491CE69809F92AE1FE8D4C0783BD1D11FBE7||pa1.pay||Win32/KillDisk.NDA||Encrypted CaddyWiper shellcode.|
|3CDBC19BC4F12D8D00B81380F7A2504D08074C15||wobf.sh||Linux/KillFiles.C||AwfulShred Linux wiper.|
|8FC7646FA14667D07E3110FE754F61A78CFDE6BC||wsol.sh||Linux/KillFiles.B||SoloShred Solaris wipe.|
|796362BD0304E305AD120576B6A8FB6721108752||eset_ssl_filtered_cert_importer.exe||Win32/Agent.AEGY||ArguePatch shellcode loader.|
|8F3830CB2B93C21818FDBFCF526A027601277F9B||spn.exe||Win32/Agent.AEKA||ArguePatch shellcode loader.|
|3D5C2E1B792F690FBCF05441DF179A3A48888618||mslrss.exe||Win32/Agent.AEKA||ArguePatch shellcode loader.|