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Notes about reverse engineering the Petya2017 ransomware
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Petya 2017 reversing notes


These notes relate facts that have been found while reversing a sample of the Z017 so called "Petya" (NotPetya?) malware. The sample is a DLL. Signatures of this DLL:

  • MD5: 71b6a493388e7d0b40c83ce903bc6b04
  • SHA1: 34f917aaba5684fbe56d3c57d48ef2a1aa7cf06d
  • SHA256: 027cc450ef5f8c5f653329641ec1fed91f694e0d229928963b30f6b0d7d3a745

We tried as much as possible to double check what is stated here, but we might have missed some things. Please note that this is still work in progress.

Part of the work on retrieving the bootloader has been done by lafouine.


Cryptographic high level view:

  • There are actually two ransoms.
  • First encryption process (before rebooting): the first megabyte of files with specific extensions are encrypted with the same random AES key in CBC mode. This key is encrypted with a static public RSA key, and the result is saved on disk in a "ransom" file. We didn't find so far a way to recover this AES key.
  • Bootloader: if the process has the appropriate rights and if the system isn't using UEFI, sector 0-18 of the hard drive are overwritten with a custom bootloader. Sector 32-34 are overwritten with other data (see below)
  • The system then reboots using the undocumented API NtRaiseHardError. If this API isn't available, it will use classical APIs to do so.
  • Second "encryption" process (by the bootloader, post reboot): we haven't fully reversed this yet so we won't claim anything, although it seems there are similarities with what is described here: The effects is that the structure of the NTFS filesystem seems broken, although the file contents seems to be still there. We don't know yet whether this process is destructive or not.

For now, we don't have any way to decrypt any of the two encryption processes.


The Petya DLL exports only one external symbol. We don't have the binary that dropped this DLL, but we guess this is loading it and calling this symbol.

The Petya DLL runs several threads. We only checked the ones related to the cryptographic scheme and the writing of the bootloader.

We will now detail the various encryption processes and what we have on the bootloader.

Encryption process 1 (pre-reboot)

The DLL looks for files whose extension is one of these: 3ds, 7z, accdb, ai, asp, aspx, avhd, back, bak, c, cfg, conf, cpp, cs, ctl, dbf, disk, djvu, doc, docx, dwg, eml, fdb, gz, h, hdd, kdbx, mail, mdb, msg, nrg, ora, ost, ova, ovf, pdf, php, pmf, ppt, pptx, pst, pvi, py, pyc, rar, rtf, sln, sql, tar, vbox, vbs, vcb, vdi, vfd, vmc, vmdk, vmsd, vmx, vsdx, vsv, work, xls, xlsx, xvd, zip.

These files are encrypted with the same randomly generated AES 128 key, which is created using CryptGenKey. The CBC mode is used, with an IV which seems to be of 16 null bytes (this still needs to be confirmed). One thing to notice is that only the first megabyte (as in 1048576 bytes) is encrypted. Encryption happens using CryptEncrypt. If the file is less than 1MB, it is thus fully encrypted. See above in the pseudo-code for some notes about padding. After this encryption process is done, the AES key is encrypted with a static public 2048-bit RSA key embedded in the DLL, using CryptExportKey. It is then written in base64 in the file C:\Users\$user\AppData\VirtualStore\README.txt or C:\README.txt, depending on the rights the ransomware process has. Here is an example of such file:

Ooops, your important files are encrypted.

If you see this text, then your files are no longer accessible, because
they have been encrypted. Perhaps you are busy looking for a way to recover
your files, but don't waste your time. Nobody can recover your files without
our decryption service.

We guarantee that you can recover all your files safely and easily.
All you need to do is submit the payment and purchase the decryption key.

Please follow the instructions:

1.  Send $300 worth of Bitcoin to following address:


2.  Send your Bitcoin wallet ID and personal installation key to e-mail
    Your personal installation key:


The "installation" key here is indeed the encrypted AES key in base64.

This is the "first" ransom.

The public RSA key blob is in public_key/rsa_public_key. A "decoded" version is in public_key/rsa_public_key.txt.

Here is a pseudo (C) code of what's happening here (function APIs have been changed and error tests have been removed for the sake of clarity):

// Based on function Ox10001E51
void thread_encrypt() {
  HCRYPTPROV hProv = [generate cryptographic context using CryptAcquireContext];
  aesKey = genKey(hProv);
  cryptFiles(hProv, aesKey);
  CryptReleaseContext(hProv, 0);

// Based on function Ox10001B4E
HCRYPTKEY genKey(hProv) {
  CryptGenKey(hProv, CALG_AES_128, 1u, &Ret);
  CryptSetKeyParam(Ret, KP_MODE, &mode, 0);
  CryptSetKeyParam(Ret, KP_PADDING, &pad, 0);
  return Ret;

// Based on function Ox10001973
void cryptFiles(hProv, aesKey) {
  for every file candidate F:
    cryptFile(hProv, aesKey);

// Based on function 0x1000189A
void cryptFile(hProv, aesKey, Path) {
  // Get handle to Path
  HANDLE hFile = CreateFile(...);
  uint64_t size;
  // This is not the exact Windows API, but this makes the explanation easier...
  GetFileSizeEx(hFile, &size);
  bool final;
  // Compute encryption size
  if (size <= 0x100000) {
     // Here, the next multiple of 16 of Size is computed. Indeed, when the
     // file is less than 1MB, CryptEncrypt this will use PKCS5 padding for
     // the last block. Our file will be thus at most one 16 byte block larger.
     size = ((size/16) + 1)*16;
     final = TRUE;
  else {
    // If we have 1MB of data to encrypt, then the Final is set to FALSE.
    // Indeed, CryptEncrypt will *always* add a final padding block, even if
    // the size of the data to encrypt is a multiple of 16. In this case, if
    // it has set the Final flag to TRUE, 16 bytes would have been overwritten
    // in the original file (as encryption is done in-place, see above),
    // with no chance of retrieving them.
    final = FALSE;
  // MemoryMap isn't a Windows API. This is basically just to say that
  // only "size" bytes are memory mapped.
  void* buffer = MemoryMap(hFile, size);
  DWORD sizeEncrypted;
  CryptEncrypt(hProv, 0, final, buffer, &sizeEncrypted, size);
  // This makes sure that encrypted data are effectively written on the
  // hard disk.
  // Then close the memory map and the file.

// Based on function Ox10001D32
void finalize(hProv, aesKey) {
  HCRYPTKEY rsaPubKey = getStaticRSAPubKey(hProv):
  void* keyEncryptedb64 = exportKey(aesKey, rsaPubKey);
  // and then write the ransom in the README.txt file, with the base64
  // encoded version of the encrypted AES key.

void* exportKey(aesKey, rsaPubKey)
  DWORD size;
  CryptExportKey(aesKey, rsaPubKey, SIMPLEBLOB, 0, 0, &size);
  void* buffer = LocalAlloc(0x40, size);
  CryptExportKey(aesKey, rsaPubKey, SIMPLEBLOB, 0, buffer, &size);
  DWORD b64size;
  CryptBinaryToStringW(buffer, size, CRYPT_STRING_BASE64, 0, &b64size);
  void* bufb64 = LocalAlloc(0x40, 2*b64size);
  CryptBinaryToStringW(buffer, size, CRYPT_STRING_BASE64, buf64, &b64size);
  return bufb64;

HCRYPTKEY getStaticRSAPubKey(hProv)
  // Basically calls:
  //   CryptDecodeObjectEx on a static buffer
  //   Give the result of this decoding process to CryptImportKey, with dwFlags = 0
  // This RSA key seems to have been generated by CryptGenKey (it has the
  // MS format of public RSA key exported with CryptExportKey).
  return rsaPubKey;

AES key recovery attempts

We checked whether CryptDestroyKey and CryptReleaseContext indeed wiped the AES key from memory. We did that because there are chances that the memory isn't wiped by the BIOS after a soft reboot ( Moreover, if the system is configured to do so, NtRaiseHardError can create a full memory dump on disk before rebooting ( This is unfortunately not the default setting.

Unfortunately, at least on WinXP 32 bits and Win10 64 bits, CryptDestroyKey actually wipes the AES key from memory. Here are WinDbg screenshots that show how and by whom the key is wipped from memory (using the test program aes_key/ransom_key) (running under WinXP 32 bits):

Here, we can see that the AES key is still present in memory (CryptDestroyKey hasn't been called):

WinDbg part 1

We set a breakpoint on the address we found, and run CryptDestroyKey. We can see above that the memnuke internal function is called on the buffer we found:

WinDbg part 1

After CryptDestroyKey and CryptReleaseContext were run, we can see that the key isn't in memory anymore:

WinDbg part 1

See the aes_key directory for materials to reproduce this.

We encourage people to retry these experiments on other Windows variants, even other similar idea! There might be other traces in memory that would lead to the recovery of the AES key.

Bootloader rewriting

As a recall for this section, a sector is defined as 512 bytes.

The bootloader is written by the function 0x100014A9 (that we'll call genMBR), launched after the first encryption process. This is done only if the system isn't using UEFI, and if the process has the proper rights to overwrite the MBR.

This function overwrites the sector from 0 to 18 (inclusive) with code included in the DLL. It then write the sector 32 with 40 random bytes and the installation key, which is another random string. It writes the sector 33 with 512 bytes of value 0x7. The sector 34 is overwritten with the original MBR xored with 0x7.

Reverse of the first stage of the bootloader

This part has mainly been done by lafouine. Notes were written by myself.

The first thing the bootloader does is loading itself into memory. Indeed, only the first sector (the MBR) is loaded by the BIOS into memory. It uses the int 0x13 interruption with the register ah at 0x42 to read sectors from the disk ( The python script bootloader/ simulates this and recreate a file correctly "mapped" that can now be loaded into IDA. Be sure to rebase the binary at the 0x7C00 address and disassemble it as 16 bit code.

The reversing of the crypto part of this bootloader is still WIP. Some observations are noted below, but must only be considered as hypotheses and not confirmed facts.

"Encryption" process 2 (post-reboot, bootloader)

Warning: this section only contains assumptions based on observations when infecting a virtual machine on purpose. This still needs confirmation by a proper reverse engineering of the bootloader, and also based on previous work on old variants of the malware.

When the machine reboots, the NTFS partition where Windows resides is still mountable and readable. After the "fake" chkdsk has run, the partition can still be mounted but the structure seems to be broken because no files can be accessed. The files data are actually still there. This has been tested by explicitely searching for a file content of a .txt written before infection (cf. above, .txt files are not encrypted by the first encryption process).

Some reports say that only the ntfs mft section is encrypted. This seems to be coherent with what we observe.

Moreover, the installation key shown by the bootloader is an encoded variant of the 40 random bytes generated by the genMBR function above. It seems to be the only input to the "encryption" process takes. If this process isn't destructive, it seems raisonnable to think that it could be reserved, given this installation key.

This assumption seems raisonnable as old variant of petya had been reversed and a "keygen" had been produced (

Note that even if this encryption process is "cracked", the first encryption process still need to be reversed!


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