A cybercriminal organization has been attacking Windows users with a hybrid ransomware and data stealer program that encrypts machines while in Safe Mode in order to render endpoint protection programs moot.

Dubbed Snatch, the malware "runs itself in an elevated permissions mode, sets registry keys that instructs Windows to run it following a Safe Mode reboot, then reboots the computer and starts encrypting the disk while it’s running in Safe Mode," according to a blog post published this week by cyber firm Sophos, whose Managed Threat Response (MTR) team and SophosLabs researchers have been analyzing the threat. 

Forcing Safe Mode is a clever strategy because most software, including security programs, do not run in that environment, explains blog post author Sophos principal researcher Andrew Brandt.

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