What Is ESXiArgs Ransomware?
ESXiArgs is a new ransomware that emerged recently and is already making rounds in the wild. According to statistics, more than 500 hosts have been infected with the ransomware, predominantly in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK.
Security researchers detected several campaigns with slightly different ransom note, all of which share a striking similarity with a previous ransomware which targeted ESXi servers – CheerScrypt. We should mention that VMWare ESXi servers have been targeted by other ransomware families as well, including LockBit, Hive, and RansomEXX.
ESXiArgs Ransomware – Details
|The ransomware encrypts files on your computer system and demands a ransom to be paid to allegedly recover them.
|Files are encrypted and a ransom note with instructions is dropped.
|Spam Emails, Email Attachments
See If Your System Has Been Affected by malware
Malware Removal Tool
ESXiArgs Ransomware – What Is Known So Far?
According to Censys researchers, earlier this month, “reports of a ransomware campaign affecting VMWare ESXi servers began circulating online, including notices from the Austrian CERT, the Italian CSIRT, and French hosting provider OVH.” The advisories informed that a security flaw in VMWare ESXi, known under CVE-2021-21974, has been exploited by malicious actors to spread ransomware.
Given the information outlined in the VMWare advisory, this vulnerability could allow a threat actor to execute remote code, if they have access to a system within the same network segment as ESXi and can access port 427. More specifically, given these conditions, the attacker could be able to trigger the heap-overflow issue in OpenSLP service resulting in remote code execution. The CVE-2021-21974 vulnerability was identified two years ago, with a patch available shortly after. This raises the question of how the threat actor initially gained access to the system, as local network access is required to carry out the attack.
It was also odd to find that some of the hacked servers had SNMP enabled with public access, which allowed researchers to determine which ports were open. Surprisingly, not all of the compromised servers were running the SLP service.
The researchers’ suspicion that the OpenSLP issue (CVE-2021-21974) was not the source of the attack appears to be confirmed, as there have been reports of compromised servers that were not running the SLP protocol. This suggests that the initial observation that the devices were breached using old VMware SLP vulnerabilities was incorrect, as some victims have stated that SLP was disabled on their devices, yet they were still breached and encrypted.
It is also noteworthy that in the newest variant, the ransom note has been updated so that the Bitcoin address is no longer present in the HTTP body, making it harder for researchers to monitor the transactions. The image below shows the modifications made to a compromised host’s services when the attackers implemented the new variant. Now, victims are asked to contact the attackers directly to get the BTC wallet.
Can ESXiArgs Ransomware Be Decrypted?
Yes, CISA created and openly released their “ESXiArgs Ransomware Virtual Machine Recovery Guidance”.
It appears that this update was made in direct reaction to CISA’s decryptor and the findings of security researchers we described above. It is likely the ransomware operators had been monitoring the security community’s updates and were aware that researchers were tracing their transactions. Another possibility is that the criminals were already informed of the fact that the encryption in the original version of the ransomware was simple to bypass prior to its release, which implies they are observing the situation closely.
ESXiArgs Prevention: How to Prevent Ransomware Attacks
CISA’s guidance includes the following tips:
- Restrict access to servers within the network with the Server Message Block (SMB) Protocol to only those necessary, and remove or disable outdated versions of SMB (i.e., SMB version 1). As threat actors often use SMB to propagate malware, enforce phishing-resistant MFA for webmail, VPNs, accounts that access critical systems, and privileged accounts that manage backups.
- Review and monitor all connections between third-party vendors and outside software or hardware for suspicious activity.
- Implement allow-listing policies for applications and remote access that only allow systems to execute known and permitted programs.
- Educate users on the risks of phishing emails, and use strong passwords that are not reused for multiple accounts.
- Require administrator credentials to install software, audit user accounts with elevated privileges, and configure access controls with least privilege in mind.
- Install and regularly update antivirus and antimalware software on all hosts, consider adding email banners to messages from outside the organization, disable hyperlinks in emails, and consider participating in CISA’s AIS program.
Remove ESXiArgs Ransomware
To remove the ransomware, it is best to scan the infected system with an anti-malware program.
What is ESXiArgs Ransomware?
ESXiArgs is a ransomware infection - the malicious software that enters your computer silently and blocks either access to the computer itself or encrypt your files.
Many ransomware viruses use sophisticated encryption algorithms to make your files inaccessible. The goal of ransomware infections is to demand that you pay a ransom payment to get access to your files back.
What Does ESXiArgs Ransomware Do?
Ransomware in general is a malicious software that is designed to block access to your computer or files until a ransom is paid.
Ransomware viruses can also damage your system, corrupt data and delete files, resulting in the permanent loss of important files.
How Does ESXiArgs Infect?
Via several ways.ESXiArgs Ransomware infects computers by being sent via phishing emails, containing virus attachment. This attachment is usually masked as an important document, like an invoice, bank document or even a plane ticket and it looks very convincing to users.
Another way you may become a victim of ESXiArgs is if you download a fake installer, crack or patch from a low reputation website or if you click on a virus link. Many users report getting a ransomware infection by downloading torrents.
How to Open .ESXiArgs files?
You can't without a decryptor. At this point, the .ESXiArgs files are encrypted. You can only open them once they are decrypted using a specific decryption key for the particular algorithm.
What to Do If a Decryptor Does Not Work?
Do not panic, and backup the files. If a decryptor did not decrypt your .ESXiArgs files successfully, then do not despair, because this virus is still new.
Can I Restore ".ESXiArgs" Files?
Yes, sometimes files can be restored. We have suggested several file recovery methods that could work if you want to restore .ESXiArgs files.
These methods are in no way 100% guaranteed that you will be able to get your files back. But if you have a backup, your chances of success are much greater.
How To Get Rid of ESXiArgs Virus?
The safest way and the most efficient one for the removal of this ransomware infection is the use a professional anti-malware program.
It will scan for and locate ESXiArgs ransomware and then remove it without causing any additional harm to your important .ESXiArgs files.
Can I Report Ransomware to Authorities?
In case your computer got infected with a ransomware infection, you can report it to the local Police departments. It can help authorities worldwide track and determine the perpetrators behind the virus that has infected your computer.
Below, we have prepared a list with government websites, where you can file a report in case you are a victim of a cybercrime:
Cyber-security authorities, responsible for handling ransomware attack reports in different regions all over the world:
Germany - Offizielles Portal der deutschen Polizei
United States - IC3 Internet Crime Complaint Centre
United Kingdom - Action Fraud Police
France - Ministère de l'Intérieur
Italy - Polizia Di Stato
Spain - Policía Nacional
Netherlands - Politie
Poland - Policja
Portugal - Polícia Judiciária
Greece - Cyber Crime Unit (Hellenic Police)
India - Mumbai Police - CyberCrime Investigation Cell
Australia - Australian High Tech Crime Center
Reports may be responded to in different timeframes, depending on your local authorities.
Can You Stop Ransomware from Encrypting Your Files?
Yes, you can prevent ransomware. The best way to do this is to ensure your computer system is updated with the latest security patches, use a reputable anti-malware program and firewall, backup your important files frequently, and avoid clicking on malicious links or downloading unknown files.
Can ESXiArgs Ransomware Steal Your Data?
Yes, in most cases ransomware will steal your information. It is a form of malware that steals data from a user's computer, encrypts it, and then demands a ransom in order to decrypt it.
Can Ransomware Infect WiFi?
Yes, ransomware can infect WiFi networks, as malicious actors can use it to gain control of the network, steal confidential data, and lock out users. If a ransomware attack is successful, it could lead to a loss of service and/or data, and in some cases, financial losses.
Should I Pay Ransomware?
No, you should not pay ransomware extortionists. Paying them only encourages criminals and does not guarantee that the files or data will be restored. The better approach is to have a secure backup of important data and be vigilant about security in the first place.
What Happens If I Don't Pay Ransom?
If you don't pay the ransom, the hackers may still have access to your computer, data, or files and may continue to threaten to expose or delete them, or even use them to commit cybercrimes. In some cases, they may even continue to demand additional ransom payments.
Can a Ransomware Attack Be Detected?
Yes, ransomware can be detected. Anti-malware software and other advanced security tools can detect ransomware and alert the user when it is present on a machine.
It is important to stay up-to-date on the latest security measures and to keep security software updated to ensure ransomware can be detected and prevented.
Do Ransomware Criminals Get Caught?
Yes, ransomware criminals do get caught. Law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI, Interpol and others have been successful in tracking down and prosecuting ransomware criminals in the US and other countries. As ransomware threats continue to increase, so does the enforcement activity.
About the ESXiArgs Research
The content we publish on SensorsTechForum.com, this ESXiArgs how-to removal guide included, is the outcome of extensive research, hard work and our team’s devotion to help you remove the specific malware and restore your encrypted files.
How did we conduct the research on this ransomware?
Our research is based on an independent investigation. We are in contact with independent security researchers, and as such, we receive daily updates on the latest malware and ransomware definitions.
To better understand the ransomware threat, please refer to the following articles which provide knowledgeable details.
As a site that has been dedicated to providing free removal instructions for ransomware and malware since 2014, SensorsTechForum’s recommendation is to only pay attention to trustworthy sources.
How to recognize trustworthy sources:
- Always check "About Us" web page.
- Profile of the content creator.
- Make sure that real people are behind the site and not fake names and profiles.
- Verify Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter personal profiles.