DMA Locker: New Ransomware, But No Reason To Panic

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DMA Locker is another ransomware that appeared at the beginning of this year. For now it has been observed to be active only on a small scale (source) – but we just want to warn you that it exists. And don’t even think to pay the ransom, because its encryption is far weaker than the one announced.

Analyzed samples

  • d35344b1f48764ba083e51438121e6a9 – Polish version type 2 (from Jan 2016) <- main focus of this analysis
  • 4190df2af81ece296c465e245fc0caea – English version type 2 (from Jan 2016)
  •  6fbd3cdcafd6695c384a1119873786aa – Polish version type 1 (from Dec 2015)

// Special thanks to malware hunters: @PhysicalDrive0 , @JAMESWT_MHT and @siri_urz for their respective help in collecting the samples!

Behavioral analysis

When deployed, the ransomware moves itself into C:\ProgramData (or C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Dokumenty\), renamed to fakturax.exe and drops another, modified copy:ntserver.exe. File faktura.exe is removed after execution. Depending on its version, it may also drop some other files in the same location.

dropped_dmaSymptoms of this ransomware can be recognized by a red window popping up on the screen. So far, it has been observed in two language versions – Polish or English. An example of the English is below:dma_englishEarlier version comes with a bit different GUI (also Polish or English variant):

ver0In contrast to other ransomware that are offering a separate decrypter, DMA Locker comes with a decrypting feature built-in. It is available from the GUI with ransom note. If the user enters a key (32 characters long) in the text field and clicks the button, the program switches to the decryption mode (using supplied key):


The program is not very stable and may crash during encryption. An older version has been observed to sometimes crash after finishing encryption – but before displaying any info about what happened, which may be very confusing for the victim. What makes things worse is the fact that it does not change file extensions. So, in such a case the only visible symptom will be that the attacked person cannot open some of his/her files.

Newer versions also add keys to the autorun. One is to deploy a dropped copy of the program, and the other to display a ransom note in TXT format (via notepad). However, the copy of the program (ntserver.exe) – is not always dropped successfully and then only the TXT note may be displayed.



It is detected by Malwarebytes Anti-Malware as Ransom.DMALocker:



In the ransom note, the authors mention that the data is encrypted by AES and RSA. Well – it is a plain lie. In fact they rolled their own crypto… Consequences are predictable – it can be broken.

Even after the first look at encrypted content we can guess, that none of the mentioned strong cryptographic algorithms have been used.

Left – raw bytes of original BMP, right – the same BMP encrypted by DMA Locker:

enc_square1_bmp enc_square1

Let’s compare some more files and see how they changed after being encrypted by DMA Locker.

Example 1 – HTML files:

comparison of original files:


comparison of the same files encrypted:

Example 2 – PNG files:

comparison of original files:


comparison of the same files encrypted:


As we can see, when the beginnings of original files are identical, the beginnings of encrypted outputs also are. But it seems that encryption is done in some chunks – possibly 8 or 16 bytes at once. Look at the comparison of PNG files – from 0x10 they have been encrypted differently – although they both have zeros at positions 0x10, 0x11…

Anyways, it is enough material to judge that we are not dealing with any strong crypto…


This ransomware is distributed without any packing and no defense against analysis has been observed. All the used strings and called API functions are in plain text. In fact, the malware even “helps” the analyst by  providing a lot of debug strings describing all it’s activities (original + translation):

[+] Plik jest aktualnie zaszyfrowany, pomijanie.. //The file is already encrypted, skipping..
[*] Rozmiar pliku = %I64d bajtow.. //File size = %I64d bytes.. 
[+] Rozpoczeto szyfrowanie pliku: %s //Started encrypting the file: %s 
[+] Zakonczono szyfrowanie pliku: %s //Finished encrypting the file: %s
[+] Rozpoczeto zapisywanie z pamieci do pliku: %s //Started dumping from memory to a file: %s
[+] Zakonczono zapisywanie z pamieci do pliku: %s //Finished dumping from memory to a file: %s
[*] Plik jest aktualnie odszyfrowany, pomijanie.. //The file is already decrypted, skipping..
[+] Rozpoczeto deszyfrowanie pliku: %s //Started decrypting file: %s
[+] Zakonczono deszyfrowanie pliku: %s //Finished decrypting file: %s
Alokacja, error: %d //Allocation error: %d
DMA Locker
Otwieranie pliku: %d //Opening file: %d

Thanks to the logs, finding important part of the code is trivial!

At the beginning of the execution a new thread is deployed – whose role is to check for the presence of following processes:

  • rstrui.exe
  • ShadowExplorer.exe
  • sesvc.exe
  • cbengine.exe

If any of them is detected, malware tries to terminate it. Just after deploying this thread malware logs (in Polish):
[+] Blocking processes of system recovery


Instead of a list of attacked extensions, this malware contains two blacklists. One for directories:

blacklisted_pathand another for file extensions:

blacklisted_extFiles that contain in their path blacklisted substrings are skipped.

Malware enumerates all the files – browsing first logical drives, after that network resources – trying to encrypt each and every file (except the blacklisted)


A single flag decides whether the malware is in encryption or decryption mode:


Encryption (as well as decryption) is deployed in a new thread:

encryption_startEncryption key

The encryption key is 32 byte long. In newer version of the malware it is hard-coded at the end of the original file, and then read. However, there is a twist.

During execution, two copies of the original file are dropped: fakturax.exe and ntserver.exe – but only fakturax.exe contains the key – ntserver.exe have it cleaned. After reading the key,fakturax.exe is removed and the key is lost along with it. That’s why, we can easily recover the key if, by any means, we managed to persist the original copy of the malware sample (it is not a problem if we know the source of infection, i.e in case if the malware arrived as an e-mail attachment).

In the examined variant of the malware (referred as the type 2, i.e4190df2af81ece296c465e245fc0caea) – it was enough to find the key at the end of the original sample:


and enter it to the text field:


in order to get all the files back.

Encryption algorithm

Although the authors claimed that they used AES and RSA, in reality they made their own symmetric crypto.

File is encrypted chunk by chunk – single unit have 16 bytes (4 DWORDs). The key is 32 bytes long, and is preprocessed before the encryption. Both elements – the preprocessed key and a chunk of the input file – are copied to a buffer, that is supplied to the encrypting procedure.

Below – a sample file: square.png processed by the encrypting function. Used key: “11111…”. (The copied chunk of the file has been selected on the picture)


after encryption (output marked gray):


output is then copied back to the original buffer, containing the full file. Every encrypted file has a content prefixed by “ABCXYZ11” – a magic value, used by the ransomware to recognize encrypted files (it has been introduced in the newer version). Below, we can see the sample file after being dumped on the disk.


The encrypting algorithm is cryptographically weak, consist of several subroutines containing simple mathematical operations, mainly XORs, during which the chunk of the input is scrambled with the preprocessed key. Variants of it are slightly different for different samples. More details about reversing it will be provided in the next post.


Don’t believe everything malware authors tell you. Nowadays we are facing an invasion of new families of ransomware – some authors are beginners. In this case, they copied the list of threats from more advanced and mature pieces of malware – but they were not able to deliver what they stated. If you encountered a ransomware, it is better to try to gather information about it before taking any steps. In case you cannot find any information, the best way is to make a topic on the forum of your favorite vendor or contact some known analyst. We are in a constant search of samples of new threats, trying to describe and solve the problems.