Cybersecurity threats have been a reality for organizations since the digitalization of industries. Most companies have robust safeguard protocols against common attacks. Unfortunately, in a world that is moving at a rapid pace, threats have become more malicious and sophisticated.

Creating a formidable cybersecurity strategy starts with identifying up-and-coming threats. While still in its relative infancy, Wiper Malware attacks have risen in leap-and-bounds over the last few months. This type of cybersecurity risk is poised to be more destructive than common threats like ransomware

Nevertheless, staying on top of wiper malware development is key to minimizing its effects for your organization. This article explores wiper malware – its origins, basic components, common motivations, and the best preventative measures to deploy against this risk. 

What is Wiper Malware? 

As the name suggests, wiper malware is a type of cybersecurity attack that “wipes” data from the infected system. There are various ways that this can be done. However, its main goal is to destroy the data or make it inaccessible.

Wiper malware attacks are still relatively new. The first instance of this type of threat was observed a decade ago in 2012. The first attack targeted Saudi Aramco and Qatar’s RasGas oil companies. In 2022, wiper malware is notably used in the conflict in Ukraine. 

According to a report conducted by Fortinet, Ukraine was the subject of a wiper malware attack that rendered Viasat KA-SAT modems inoperable: 

“An interesting and recent example is the suspicion that the Acid Rain wiper was used in an attack against the Viasat KA-SAT satellite broadband service provider. The attacker gained access to the management infrastructure of the provider to deploy Acid Rain on KA-SAT modems used in Ukraine. The attack also rendered 5,800 wind turbines inaccessible in Germany.”

Common Wiper Attack Techniques

As mentioned earlier, wiper malware attacks’ main goal is to destroy data. There are various ways this can be achieved. Below are a few of the most common ways:

Overwriting Files

One common way malicious actors execute wiper malware attacks is through overwriting files. In such cases, hackers identify their targets within a system and overwrite the data within said files.

In one instance of a wiper attack utilizing file overwrites, the hackers replaced information with a string of random five-character extensions, destroyed recovery options, and changed the system’s desktop background to a ransom note. 

Encrypting Files

The file encryption technique is pretty straightforward. Malicious entities encrypt a file and destroy the key that accesses it. This is basically equivalent to destroying the file altogether. Beyond employing a brute-force approach to cracking the key, there is no other way to recover the file.

This technique is used particularly by hackers who want to keep up the appearance of a ransomware attack for as long as possible. 

Overwriting MBR

MBR stands for Master Boot Record. This is an essential part of the disk that holds instructions on how to boot the system properly. Without the MBR, the computer won’t start.

While effective, overwriting the MBR doesn’t necessarily destroy data. At the very most, it can cause confusion and delay to the infected network. It is often used in conjunction with other wiper malware techniques. 

Overwriting MFT

MFT refers to the Master File Table. This list exists in every New Technology File System or NTFS. It is essentially a catalog of all files that are housed within a system. If the MFT is compromised, the system will not be able to identify where a file is located.

Similar to MBR overwriting techniques, this doesn’t necessarily destroy data. However, this strategy makes certain files inaccessible to the user. 

Motivations for Wiper Attacks

While the goal of wiper malware is straightforward, the motivation behind an attack isn’t always the same. Understanding the whys of a threat is a step in protecting one’s digital assets. 

Financial Gain

Generally, financial gain is the least common motivation for wiper attacks. Cyberattack actors usually use ransomware tactics if they want monetary compensation from organizations.

Nevertheless, some wiper malware attackers pretend to encrypt data and then ask for a ransom. This tactic is especially destructive because even with a furnished ransom, most organizations would be unable to retrieve information. 

Evidence Destruction

While evidence destruction is a difficult motivator to prove, wiper attacks are an efficient way to destroy incriminating data or at least restrict access to it. 


Again, wiper attacks have become more prevalent in light of the Ukraine crisis. Wiper attacks utilized as a form of cyberwarfare are used to destroy necessary data and files of the opposing side.  This was particularly evident in the recent Viasat KA-SAT attack against Ukraine. 

Protecting Your Organization from Wiper Malware Attack

Wiper malware attacks are destructive. They can put even the largest organization on its knees. Thankfully, there are relatively simple ways organizations can protect themselves from these types of attacks: 

Store Back-ups Off-Site

Sophisticated Wiper malware attacks have the ability to identify backup files within the same system. As such, to protect data and information, it is best to store backups off-site and within a different system altogether. If it’s possible to house offline analog data, then all the better. 

Segment Data

Like off-site back-ups, segmenting data and housing files in different systems is a great technique for minimizing the effects of a wiper attack. Employing this strategy can limit the brunt of an attack to only one level of a system. 

Improve Incident Response

As with all cybersecurity threats, the faster the response time, the less damage and destruction one can expect from a successful attack. The same can be said for wiper attacks. 

Cybersecurity risks are an ever-present and inevitable part of running a modern business. It is crucial to have security protocols in place to protect one’s digital assets.

SecureBrain offers a wide array of cybersecurity products that serve as a second line of defense against malicious actors. Reach out to us by sending an inquiry and scheduling a call with our experts!