Also known as MarsJoke ransomware, this malware is everything but a joke. It uses a strong AES-256 encryption algorithm to encode the files of an infected computer. The virus is deemed to be widespread and very dangerous, primarily because of the encryption algorithm which would take years to directly crack. Malware researchers however are constantly working on discovering flaws in the virus code by reverse engineering ransomware viruses. This is why instead of paying the ransom money of 0.7 or 1.1 BTC to the cyber-criminals who encrypted them and get your files back, it is strongly suggested to focus on removing the virus yourself instructions for which you can find below and trying to restore the files using alternative solutions while a decryptor is released.
|Short Description||The ransomware encrypts files with AES-256 encryption cipher and asks a ransom payment of either 0.7 or 1.1 BTC for decryption.|
|Symptoms||Files are encrypted with either the .a19 or .ap19 file extensions and become inaccessible. A ransom note with instructions for paying the ransom is displayed.|
|Distribution Method||Spam Emails, Email Attachments, File Sharing Networks.|
|Detection Tool|| See If Your System Has Been Affected by JokeFromMars |
Malware Removal Tool
|User Experience||Join our forum to Discuss JokeFromMars Ransomware.|
|Data Recovery Tool||Windows Data Recovery by Stellar Phoenix Notice! This product scans your drive sectors to recover lost files and it may not recover 100% of the encrypted files, but only few of them, depending on the situation and whether or not you have reformatted your drive.|
JokeFromMars Ransomware – Spreading Capabilities
This virus is very specific, because it does not limit itself to targeting the average home user. The ones who created JokeFromMars ransomware must have a lot of bravery in them, because this virus targets government branches and facilities as well as educational facilities and may even target police building. Most of the attacks were reported on government buildings in the USA. Not only this, but there were also other organizations that were targeted by JokeFromMars, even though the infection of those type of organizations was much less than law enforcement and other important government branches – hospitals, telecommunication branches, insurance offices, production offices and others.
These type of targets may mean that the creators of JokeFromMars may have not limited themselves to only one method of spreading malware. The group behind this virus may have monitored the security of those organizations to target them using a tailor-made hacking technique consisting of different techniques and methods to slither malware – meaning that the organization of this group is very strict.
One method that may have been used to target organizations is the hands-on approach. Similar to the TV series, Mr. Robot, the attackers may drop a flash drive on a parking lot or anywhere where the employees of the organization may discover it. Everything else does it’s job as a consequence of the curiosity of the one who finds the flash drive. The flash drive may hack the computer of the employee and obtain privilege over important credentials, such as the working e-mail address username and password. Then, the attackers may use this e-mail and other network information to penetrate the inner network of the organization and send malicious files to other computers on the building. Depending on how good the attacker is at performing infections, he may send malicious e-mail attachments from the e-mail of the initially infected victim, increasing the credibility of the contents of the address. However, the attackers behind JokeFromMars may do the dirty job themselves by personally infecting all of the computers of the orginzation as a result of infecting a central server which gives them access to all the computers in the network as well as read and write permission.
Of course, there are many scenarios by which these attacks may have been conducted, but fact of the matter is that JokeFromMars ransomware is a very serious threat and all of the systems in the organization should be scanned for other malware as well, before being put into usage.
JokeFromMars Ransomware – More Information
As soon as it has infected a given system, JokeFromMars may drop multiple files, including an encryption module in several key Windows folders. The files may contain different names, for example:
Malware researchers at ProofPoint have detected the JokeFromMars virus to drop an executable, named sysmonitor.exe in one situation.
Once the files are dropped, the JokeFromMars virus may modify the Windows Registry Editor adding custom registry values that run the malicious executable when Windows boots uninterrupted. The following keys may b6e targeted:
→ 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\
After this is done, JokeFromMars may cause a system restart and display a fake error message. But what is particularly interesting is that upon system restart, the virus scans for and encrypts widely used types of files, like:
- Adobe documents.
- Microsoft Office documents.
- Audio files.
- Other widely used file types.
Malware researchers at ESG report that the JokeFromMars virus has been pre-programmed to target the following file extensions for encryption:
→ .3gp, .7z, .apk, .avi, .bmp, .cdr, .cer, .chm, conf, .css, .csv, .dat, .db, .dbf, .djvu, .dbx, .docm, ,doc, .epub, .docx .fb2, .flv, .gif, .gz, .iso .ibooks,.jpeg, .jpg, .key, .mdb .md2, .mdf, .mht, .mobi .mhtm, .mkv, .mov, .mp3, .mp4, .mpg .mpeg, .pict, .pdf, .pps, .pkg, .png, .ppt .pptx, .ppsx, .psd, .rar, .rtf, .scr, .swf, .sav, .tiff, .tif, .tbl, .torrent, .txt, .vsd,.wmv, .xls, .xlsx, .xps, .xml, .ckp, zip, .java, .py, .asm, .c, .cpp, .cs, .js, .php, .dacpac, .rbw, .rb, .mrg, .dcx, .db3, .sql, .sqlite3, .sqlite, .sqlitedb, .psd, .psp, .pdb, .dxf, .dwg, .drw, .casb, .ccp, .cal, .cmx, .cr2.
When it has detected the files, JokeFromMars encrypts their code using a strong AES-256 encryption algorithm. After encryption the files can no longer be opened and may have either the .a19 or .ap19 file extension added to them, for example:
- New Text Document.txt.ap19
The JokeFromMars ransomware also manages to drop files in widely opened folders, like %Program Files%, %Documents and Settings% and others.
In this frame of mind, it’s ransom note files and a .bat file for decryption are dropped in those folders:
- !!! For Decrypt !!!.txt
- !!! Readme For Decrypt !!!.txt
The ransom note belonging to JokeFromMars is the following:
Your personal files are encrypted !!!
Your documents, photos, databases and other important files have been encrypted with strongest encryption algorithm AES-256 and unique key, generated for this computer.
Private decryption key is stored on a secret Internet server and nobody can decrypt your files until you pay and obtain the decryption key. If you see the main locker window follow the instructions on the locker. Otherwise, it’s seems that you or you antivirus deleted the locker program. Now you have the last chance to decrypt your files;
Open site hxxp://rd7v7mhidgrulwqg.onion.link or hxxp://rd7v7mhidgrulwqg.torlink.co or hxxp://rd7v7mhidgrulwqg.onion.to in your browser. They are public gates to the secret server.
If you have problems with gates, use direct connection:
1.Download Tor Browser from hxxp://torproject.org/
2.In the Tor Browser open the rd7v7mhidgrulwqg.onion
Note that this server is available via Tor Browser only. Retry in 1 hour if site is not reachable.
3.Copy and paste the following public key in the input form on server. Avoid misprints.
4.Follow the instructions on the server.
These instructions are also saved to the file named ReadMeFilesDecrypt!!!.txt in Documents folder. You can open it and use copy-paste for address and key.
Malware researchers feel convinced that whoever wrote this ransomware virus has had a lot of experience with such threats, since the ransom notes used, are not only reported to resemble the infamous CTB Locker ransomware but are also reported to be written in a very detailed manner with a very good quality as well.
Not only this, but the virus creates extra difficulty for users by displaying a screen-lock with the detailed instructions for decryption.
JokeFromMars Ransomware Conclusion, Removal and File Restoration Alternatives
As a bottom line, this is a very serious threat and it is not to be taken lightly. It is strongly advisable not to pay any ransom money to the cyber-criminals associated with this virus because it is no guarantee that you will get your files back.
To remove JokeFromMars ransomware it is strongly advisable that you follow the removal instructions we have prepared for you underneath. They are methodologically designed to help locate and delete the files manually. However, if you are having difficulties to go around the lock screen, we recommend booting your computer in safe mode and scanning it with an advanced anti-malware tool to help automatically get it rid of the JokeFromMars threat. For organizations, recommendations are to focus on the central server and scan for malware there after which to make your way through all the infected computers in the organization.
In case the JokeFromMars virus has caused damages to your organization, it is strongly advisable to immediately disconnect all devices between them and from the web to isolate this threat. Then it is recommended to backup the encrypted files, clean the devices of malware and try alternative methods to restore the files, like the ones in step “ 2.Restore files encrypted by JokeFromMars” below while a researchers come up with a free solution. We will be on the lookout in the meantime and update this article as soon as official free working decryptor is discovered.