Home > Trojan > Skip-2.0 Malware: How Chinese Hackers Target MSSQL Servers

Skip-2.0 Malware: How Chinese Hackers Target MSSQL Servers

Тhe emergence of Skip-2.0, a sophisticated piece of malware targeting Microsoft SQL Servers, has sounded alarms across the cybersecurity landscape. Orchestrated by the notorious Winnti Group, known for their covert operations, this malware grants attackers unprecedented access to sensitive databases, raising significant concerns over data integrity and security.

This article analyzes Skip-2.0, from its origins and mechanics to its profound impact on SQL servers, offering invaluable insights and defense strategies against such evolved cybersecurity threats.

Skip-2.0 Malware

Skip-2.0: Quick Details

Name Skip-2.0
Type Malware
Removal Time Around 15 Minutes to scan the system and detect any threats
Removal Tool See If Your System Has Been Affected by malware


Malware Removal Tool

What Is Skip-2.0?

Skip-2.0 might sound like the name of a futuristic robot, but in reality, it’s a sophisticated piece of malware that has raised alarm bells for its targeted attacks on Microsoft SQL Servers. Created by the infamous Winnti Group, known for their stealthy cyber operations, Skip-2.0 represents a significant threat due to its ability to bypass authentication mechanisms and manipulate databases secretly. Understanding what Skip-2.0 is and how it operates is critical for anyone concerned about cybersecurity and the integrity of their data systems.

Origin and Discovery of Skip-2.0

The discovery of the Skip-2.0 backdoor came to light when researchers stumbled upon a sample of this previously undocumented threat. Believed to be the brainchild of the Winnti Group, a collective with a history dating back to at least 2012, Skip-2.0 targets older but widely used versions of Microsoft SQL Server. This discovery highlights the continuous threat posed by cybercriminal groups that aim to exploit vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure.

Technical Breakdown: The Mechanics of Skip-2.0

Once deployed, Skip-2.0 embeds itself within the SQL Server process, specifically targeting the sqlserv.exe process. From there, it focuses on a DLL file, sqllang.dll, which is essential for SQL Server’s operation. By hooking into various functions of this DLL, Skip-2.0 gains the ability to intercept and manipulate database requests.

What sets Skip-2.0 apart is its ability to authenticate any login attempt using a ‘magic’ password, essentially giving attackers an all-access pass to the database contents. Such capabilities make Skip-2.0 a powerful tool for data theft, manipulation, and unauthorized access. The stealthy nature of this backdoor, along with its ability to hide illicit activities from logs, poses a formidable challenge to detecting and mitigating its impact.

To safeguard against threats like Skip-2.0, adopting measures such as regular security scans, updating security products, implementing strong password policies, and fostering a culture of cybersecurity awareness is essential. For organizations seeking advanced protection, leveraging specialized security solutions like SpyHunter can help detect and neutralize sophisticated malware threats. SpyHunter’s advanced scanning technology is capable of identifying rootkits, trojans, and other forms of malware, offering an additional layer of security to vulnerable systems.

Why MSSQL Servers? The Targeted Database Dilemma

Microsoft SQL Servers, commonly known as MSSQL Servers, are at the heart of many business operations, storing critical data ranging from customer information to financial records. The significance of these databases makes them a prime target for cyber espionage groups. These attackers aim to exploit valuable data, which can result in economic gains or strategic advantages. MSSQL Servers’ widespread use in industries and their role in storing sensitive data magnify the impact of any successful breach, underlining the need for robust security measures.

The Appeal of MSSQL Servers to Cyber Espionage Groups

Cyber espionage groups like the Winnti Group are drawn to MSSQL Servers for several reasons. First, their ubiquity in the corporate environment means that gaining access to one server can potentially open up access to a treasure trove of sensitive data. Second, the servers often contain data that is critical for the day-to-day operations of a business, ranging from financial transactions to personal data, making them a valuable target for espionage, ransomware, and other malicious activities. The ability to stealthily manipulate this data can have far-reaching consequences, both financially and operationally, for the affected organizations.

Assessing the Impact: How Skip-2.0 Affects Your Data

The infiltration of Skip-2.0, a sophisticated MSSQL Server backdoor developed by the Winnti Group, highlights the advanced methods used by attackers to compromise data systems discreetly. Once installed, Skip-2.0 allows unauthorized users to bypass authentication mechanisms using a so-called “magic password”. This ability to gain undetected access presents a severe threat to data integrity and security. The backdoor enables attackers to execute commands, modify, or delete database contents at will, critically undermining the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the data.

For businesses relying on MSSQL Servers, the presence of Skip-2.0 can lead to significant operational disruptions, financial losses, and damage to reputations. Ensuring the security of these databases is not just a technical necessity but a critical component of maintaining trust and operational stability. In this context, deploying advanced security solutions like SpyHunter can provide an essential security layer by detecting and removing sophisticated threats like Skip-2.0, thus safeguarding vital organizational data against espionage activities.

Deciphering the Mode of Attack: Skip-2.0’s Methodology

The discovery of the Skip-2.0 backdoor has shed light on a sophisticated methodology employed by hackers to infiltrate and persist within Microsoft SQL (MSSQL) Server environments. Understanding this mode of attack provides essential insights into the evolving threats to database security and the means to counteract them.

Initial Access: How Hackers Infiltrate MSSQL Servers

Gaining initial access to MSSQL Servers is a critical step for attackers aiming to deploy the Skip-2.0 backdoor. The approach typically involves exploiting vulnerabilities in the server’s security or leveraging previously compromised credentials. Attackers often target servers that are already weakened by insufficient security practices, ensuring that they can proceed with injecting the malicious skip-2.0 code without immediate detection. This method underscores the importance of maintaining rigorous security protocols and regular updates to protect against unauthorized access.

The Role of sqllang.dll in Skip-2.0’s Effectiveness

The sqllang.dll, a core component of the MSSQL Server, plays a pivotal role in the Skip-2.0 backdoor’s effectiveness. By injecting malicious code into this DLL, Skip-2.0 manipulates the server’s authentication mechanisms, enabling attackers to gain unauthorized access with a “magic password.” This process involves hooking into multiple functions within sqllang.dll to alter the server’s normal authentication process, essentially allowing the backdoor to bypass security measures quietly. The use of such a technique highlights the sophistication behind Skip-2.0’s design and the critical need for consistent monitoring and updating of security measures within MSSQL Server environments.

Recognizing the strategies deployed by the Winnti Group and other adversaries in targeting MSSQL Servers is crucial for developing defenses that can detect and mitigate such threats. Continuous improvement in security practices and the adoption of advanced detection tools like SpyHunter are vital steps in safeguarding valuable database assets against the increasingly clever and covert methods employed by attackers.

In recent cybersecurity findings, a striking similarity has been observed between the latest MSSQL Server backdoor, dubbed skip-2.0, and the toolset traditionally associated with the notorious Winnti Group. This connection highlights the sophisticated nature of the threats posed by state-sponsored cyber espionage groups. With skip-2.0, the attackers have devised a method to stealthily infiltrate and manipulate databases, revealing a direct link to the tactics and techniques of the Winnti Group. This casts a spotlight on the ongoing and evolving cybersecurity threats from groups capable of launching intricate attacks on global industries.

The Winnti Group: A Brief Overview

The Winnti Group has been a significant player on the cyber espionage stage since at least 2012, engaging in high-profile supply-chain attacks primarily targeting the video game and software industries. Known by various monikers – Blackfly, Suckfly, Wicked Panda, BARIUM, and APT41, across different cybersecurity firms – the collective is infamous for its use of a repertoire of malicious tools aimed at economic espionage and intelligence gathering. This group’s ability to continually refine and expand its arsenal poses a substantial threat to organizational security, underlining the critical importance of maintaining advanced cybersecurity defenses.

Evidence Tying Skip-2.0 to Chinese Cyberspies

The linkage between skip-2.0 and the Winnti Group is supported by the backdoor’s use of specific tools and methods characteristic of the group. Notably, skip-2.0 utilizes a VMProtected launcher and a custom malware packer, both of which have been staples in Winnti’s operations. Furthermore, the backdoor’s ability to grant unauthorized access to MSSQL servers by using ‘magic’ passwords mirrors the covert tactics previously observed in the group’s attacks. This reinforces the understanding that skip-2.0 is indeed a part of the Winnti Group’s growing inventory of cyber weapons. By deploying such tools, the group enhances its capability to conduct espionage discretely, reaffirming the need for vigilant cybersecurity measures, like those offered by SpyHunter, to detect and mitigate such threats.

The ties between this sophisticated backdoor and the Winnti Group reveal a pattern of ongoing innovation by state-sponsored hackers. It’s vital for organizations to employ comprehensive security solutions like SpyHunter, which is designed to detect and block the latest threats from groups like Winnti. By understanding the connections between emerging threats and known adversaries, cybersecurity experts can better safeguard sensitive data and systems against the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats.

Defensive Measures: Protecting Your Servers from Skip-2.0

With the emergence of sophisticated backdoors like skip-2.0, safeguarding your MSSQL servers has never been more critical. The skip-2.0 threat, leveraging compromised MSSQL Server versions 11 and 12, poses a real danger to data integrity and security. The importance of implementing comprehensive defensive strategies to prevent such threats cannot be overstated. The following measures offer a foundation to fortify your servers against skip-2.0 and similar backdoors.

Key Strategies to Secure MSSQL Servers Against Hacking Attempts

Protecting your servers from threats like skip-2.0 involves several layered security strategies. First and foremost, educating users on the risks associated with unsolicited emails can significantly reduce the chance of initial compromise. In addition, keeping operating systems and security products updated ensures vulnerabilities are promptly patched. Regular security scans of your IT estate provide early detection of potential intrusions, while practicing least privilege through non-administrative accounts for daily activities minimizes the spread of any breach. Moreover, enforcing strong password policies and monitoring network, proxy, and firewall logs for unusual activity are essential steps in securing your MSSQL servers.

  • Conduct awareness training to discourage the opening of suspicious email attachments or links.
  • Ensure timely updates of all software, focusing on operating systems and security solutions.
  • Perform frequent anti-virus and security sweeps across your network and devices.
  • Limit day-to-day operations to non-administrative accounts to reduce the impact of potential attacks.
  • Adopt and enforce strict password guidelines to strengthen access control.
  • Regularly review logs for signs of abnormal activity that could indicate an intrusion.
  • Reset user accounts accessed from compromised systems using a securely configured computer.

Why Ordinary Antivirus Software Isn’t Enough

While traditional antivirus software plays a vital role in detecting and mitigating malware, specialized threats like skip-2.0 require more sophisticated detection capabilities. Ordinary antivirus solutions may not recognize or effectively counter such advanced persistent threats, which often employ evasion techniques or hide within legitimate processes. This gap in detection underscores the necessity for a security solution that can identify and neutralize more complex forms of malware.

The Critical Role of SpyHunter in Detecting and Neutralizing Skip-2.0

In environments where the threat landscape constantly evolves, SpyHunter stands out as a premier security solution capable of detecting and neutralizing threats like skip-2.0. Unlike traditional antivirus software, SpyHunter is designed to find and eradicate advanced malware forms that hide deep within your system. With its robust behavioral detection technology, SpyHunter can identify suspicious activities indicative of backdoors and other threats, offering comprehensive protection against even the most sophisticated attacks. By integrating SpyHunter into your cybersecurity strategy, you provide your MSSQL Servers with an added layer of security, ensuring peace of mind in the face of evolving threats.

Real-World Incidents: A Look at Skip-2.0 Attacks

The discovery of the Skip-2.0 backdoor has sent ripples through the cybersecurity community, marking a significant advancement in the toolbox of the Winnti Group. This newly found threat specifically targets Microsoft SQL Servers, exploiting them to create a hidden entry point for attackers. The sophisticated nature of this backdoor allows unauthorized users to bypass standard authentication methods, potentially leading to data theft, system manipulation, or further network compromise. Below, we go through real-world incidents where Skip-2.0 was actively employed, highlighting the stealth and efficacy of this sophisticated malware piece.

Case Studies: How Organizations Fought Back Against Skip-2.0

As the cybersecurity world grapples with the implications of Skip-2.0, several organizations have stepped into the spotlight, sharing their battles and victories against this backdoor. These case studies not only serve as a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of cybersecurity professionals but also offer valuable insights into effective defense strategies.

  • Detecting the Undetectable: One of the first companies to encounter Skip-2.0 noticed unusual activity on their network through meticulous monitoring of system logs and irregular patterns in database access. Their IT team, utilizing advanced anomaly detection tools and conducting thorough system audits, managed to isolate suspicious SQL commands. Further investigation revealed the presence of Skip-2.0, which had been lying dormant for weeks.
  • Teamwork Leads to Success: Another case involved a multinational corporation that immediately assembled a crisis response team upon detection of Skip-2.0 indicators. This cross-functional group included members from IT, cybersecurity, and external consultants specializing in advanced persistent threats (APTs). By combining forces, they were able to trace the backdoor’s footprint, remove it, and fortify their defenses against future attacks.
  • Continuous Education Pays Off: In a different scenario, a university’s IT department thwarted an attempt to inject Skip-2.0 into their network. Thanks to ongoing cybersecurity training and awareness programs, the staff recognized the early signs of a spear-phishing attempt – a common delivery method for such backdoors. This proactive approach prevented the payload from being executed, showcasing the power of education in cybersecurity.
  • Investing in Security Solutions: Recognizing the evolving threat landscape, a financial institution that narrowly escaped a Skip-2.0 attack decided to overhaul its security infrastructure. This included updating their SQL servers, implementing real-time monitoring software, and adopting comprehensive endpoint security solutions like SpyHunter. Such preemptive measures not only safeguard against known threats but also prepare organizations for unknown malware variants that may emerge.

These real-world confrontations with Skip-2.0 underline the importance of vigilance, prepared teamwork, and the implementation of advanced security solutions in the battle against cyber threats. Moreover, they emphasize the role of education and sophisticated detection tools in identifying and neutralizing such incursive malware.

In summary, while Skip-2.0 represents a real challenge posed by the Winnti Group, the collective experiences of organizations that have faced this threat head-on provide a blueprint for effective defense. From leveraging cutting-edge technologies and fostering a culture of cybersecurity awareness to enlisting specialized software like SpyHunter, these lessons form a critical arsenal in protecting our digital frontiers.


Protecting your digital assets is no longer a simple task of installing an antivirus but requires a layered approach to security, blending traditional defenses with more advanced protective measures.

To safeguard against the sophistication of modern cyber threats, adopting a multi-faceted security strategy is essential. This includes staying up-to-date with the latest cybersecurity trends and attacks, understanding the nature of fileless malware, and implementing rigorous security practices. Key practices recommended by experts like CISA include regular updates to antivirus signatures and engines, maintaining current operating system patches, and employing strong password policies. In addition, disabling unnecessary services, enabling firewalls, and exercising caution with email attachments and downloads are critical.

Moreover, education and awareness play pivotal roles in enhancing security postures. Users should be trained to recognize potential threats and understand the importance of security measures in place. For those instances when traditional security steps might not be sufficient, specialized security software such as SpyHunter can offer an added layer of protection. Its capabilities to detect and remove sophisticated malware, including fileless threats, make it a valuable tool in the ongoing fight against cybercrime.

Milena Dimitrova

An inspired writer and content manager who has been with SensorsTechForum since the project started. A professional with 10+ years of experience in creating engaging content. Focused on user privacy and malware development, she strongly believes in a world where cybersecurity plays a central role. If common sense makes no sense, she will be there to take notes. Those notes may later turn into articles! Follow Milena @Milenyim

More Posts

Follow Me:

Preparation before removing Skip-2.0.

Before starting the actual removal process, we recommend that you do the following preparation steps.

  • Make sure you have these instructions always open and in front of your eyes.
  • Do a backup of all of your files, even if they could be damaged. You should back up your data with a cloud backup solution and insure your files against any type of loss, even from the most severe threats.
  • Be patient as this could take a while.
  • Scan for Malware
  • Fix Registries
  • Remove Virus Files

Step 1: Scan for Skip-2.0 with SpyHunter Anti-Malware Tool

1. Click on the "Download" button to proceed to SpyHunter's download page.

It is recommended to run a scan before purchasing the full version of the software to make sure that the current version of the malware can be detected by SpyHunter. Click on the corresponding links to check SpyHunter's EULA, Privacy Policy and Threat Assessment Criteria.

2. After you have installed SpyHunter, wait for it to update automatically.

SpyHunter 5 Scan Step 1

3. After the update process has finished, click on the 'Malware/PC Scan' tab. A new window will appear. Click on 'Start Scan'.

SpyHunter 5 Scan Step 2

4. After SpyHunter has finished scanning your PC for any files of the associated threat and found them, you can try to get them removed automatically and permanently by clicking on the 'Next' button.

SpyHunter 5 Scan Step 3

If any threats have been removed, it is highly recommended to restart your PC.

Step 2: Clean any registries, created by Skip-2.0 on your computer.

The usually targeted registries of Windows machines are the following:

  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
  • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce
  • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce

You can access them by opening the Windows registry editor and deleting any values, created by Skip-2.0 there. This can happen by following the steps underneath:

1. Open the Run Window again, type "regedit" and click OK.
Remove Virus Trojan Step 6

2. When you open it, you can freely navigate to the Run and RunOnce keys, whose locations are shown above.
Remove Virus Trojan Step 7

3. You can remove the value of the virus by right-clicking on it and removing it.
Remove Virus Trojan Step 8 Tip: To find a virus-created value, you can right-click on it and click "Modify" to see which file it is set to run. If this is the virus file location, remove the value.

Step 3: Find virus files created by Skip-2.0 on your PC.

1.For Windows 8, 8.1 and 10.

For Newer Windows Operating Systems

1: On your keyboard press + R and write explorer.exe in the Run text box and then click on the Ok button.

Remove Virus Trojan Step 9

2: Click on your PC from the quick access bar. This is usually an icon with a monitor and its name is either “My Computer”, “My PC” or “This PC” or whatever you have named it.

Remove Virus Trojan Step 10

3: Navigate to the search box in the top-right of your PC's screen and type “fileextension:” and after which type the file extension. If you are looking for malicious executables, an example may be "fileextension:exe". After doing that, leave a space and type the file name you believe the malware has created. Here is how it may appear if your file has been found:

file extension malicious

N.B. We recommend to wait for the green loading bar in the navigation box to fill up in case the PC is looking for the file and hasn't found it yet.

2.For Windows XP, Vista, and 7.

For Older Windows Operating Systems

In older Windows OS's the conventional approach should be the effective one:

1: Click on the Start Menu icon (usually on your bottom-left) and then choose the Search preference.

Remove Virus Trojan

2: After the search window appears, choose More Advanced Options from the search assistant box. Another way is by clicking on All Files and Folders.

Remove Virus Trojan Step 11

3: After that type the name of the file you are looking for and click on the Search button. This might take some time after which results will appear. If you have found the malicious file, you may copy or open its location by right-clicking on it.

Now you should be able to discover any file on Windows as long as it is on your hard drive and is not concealed via special software.

Skip-2.0 FAQ

What Does Skip-2.0 Trojan Do?

The Skip-2.0 Trojan is a malicious computer program designed to disrupt, damage, or gain unauthorized access to a computer system.

It can be used to steal sensitive data, gain control over a system, or launch other malicious activities.

Can Trojans Steal Passwords?

Yes, Trojans, like Skip-2.0, can steal passwords. These malicious programs are designed to gain access to a user's computer, spy on victims and steal sensitive information such as banking details and passwords.

Can Skip-2.0 Trojan Hide Itself?

Yes, it can. A Trojan can use various techniques to mask itself, including rootkits, encryption, and obfuscation, to hide from security scanners and evade detection.

Can a Trojan be Removed by Factory Reset?

Yes, a Trojan can be removed by factory resetting your device. This is because it will restore the device to its original state, eliminating any malicious software that may have been installed. Bear in mind, that there are more sophisticated Trojans, that leave backdoors and reinfect even after factory reset.

Can Skip-2.0 Trojan Infect WiFi?

Yes, it is possible for a Trojan to infect WiFi networks. When a user connects to the infected network, the Trojan can spread to other connected devices and can access sensitive information on the network.

Can Trojans Be Deleted?

Yes, Trojans can be deleted. This is typically done by running a powerful anti-virus or anti-malware program that is designed to detect and remove malicious files. In some cases, manual deletion of the Trojan may also be necessary.

Can Trojans Steal Files?

Yes, Trojans can steal files if they are installed on a computer. This is done by allowing the malware author or user to gain access to the computer and then steal the files stored on it.

Which Anti-Malware Can Remove Trojans?

Anti-malware programs such as SpyHunter are capable of scanning for and removing Trojans from your computer. It is important to keep your anti-malware up to date and regularly scan your system for any malicious software.

Can Trojans Infect USB?

Yes, Trojans can infect USB devices. USB Trojans typically spread through malicious files downloaded from the internet or shared via email, allowing the hacker to gain access to a user's confidential data.

About the Skip-2.0 Research

The content we publish on SensorsTechForum.com, this Skip-2.0 how-to removal guide included, is the outcome of extensive research, hard work and our team’s devotion to help you remove the specific trojan problem.

How did we conduct the research on Skip-2.0?

Please note that our research is based on an independent investigation. We are in contact with independent security researchers, thanks to which we receive daily updates on the latest malware definitions, including the various types of trojans (backdoor, downloader, infostealer, ransom, etc.)

Furthermore, the research behind the Skip-2.0 threat is backed with VirusTotal.

To better understand the threat posed by trojans, please refer to the following articles which provide knowledgeable details.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using our website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.
I Agree