THREAT REMOVAL

Make Money from Ransomware Operations – Exposed

how-to-ransomware-making-money-scheme-sensorstechforumA new form of crime has been rapidly increasing. Botnets, banking malware, legitimate malware (adware) and other bunches of malicious code that aim only for one – profit. The most profitable of those however remains to be the new form of extortion, known as ransomware. The reason such type of threats work and generate profits to crooks is that they do not have to do much to motivate users into paying, just notify that their files have been damaged temporary and will be reversed to working state if they pay a hefty ransom fee via the untraceable online currency BitCoin. But the ransomware infection is not as simple as it is effective. In fact, it is a very complicated operation in some cases, especially when organized crime is involved with it’s infection and distribution. We have decided to uncover a hypothetical cyber-crime operation, by compiling research on massive ransomware threats such as Cerber and Locky ransomware which have generated hundreds of millions the past few months.

To explain this better we have divided this informative article into several stages of preparing to create a hypothetical ransomware virus. We have separated the stages into the actual tools needed, the strategy of how the virus operates and the marketing and handling of payments and profits generated by the ransomware virus. Just like a legitimate organization, the ones behind ransomware are also structured and have different individuals responsible for different activities and this is what differentiates successful ransomware viruses from unsuccessful.

What Tools Do You Need

There are several very important tools that are required to create a ransomware virus. They may not always be the same tools, but we have decided to separate them into key components required:

Command and Control Server

It can be a local server connected to the web or a web server available from any device that is concealed, for example, hosted on Tor network. The command and control server also needs to have it’s platform or at least a mechanism or software working in good symbiosis with the ransomware virus. Many advanced threats have active tracking, live payment amount updating the malware from distance and others.

Payload

The payload’s source code may be downloaded for free online, like the situation with the HiddenTear ransomware. Then, anyone with coding experience in in several required programming languages like C# or C++ can create a ransomware infection payload.

Furthermore, based on the coding skills of the operator or the payload of the ransomware, it can be quite interesting. Many new ransomware viruses have introduced new “features” besides the simple “infect and notify” tricks. They have improved communication with the victims via services such as BitMessage, added payment tracking, a simplified decryption operation, defensive tools, like CBC-mode and others. Cerber ransowmare, for example, had the unique feature of displaying a .vbs voice message that directly tells victims what had happened to their files.

Distribution Malware

This is the key component when it comes to a successful infection. The distribution of the ransomware infection can be done via:

  • Spamming software that may spam e-mails containing malicious links and attachments or spam such on other websites.
  • Exploit kits.
  • Joined files which are obfuscated with malware obfuscators.
  • Malicious JavaScript that directly downloads an obfuscated payload.
  • Other malware that may have already infected the computer, like Trojan.Downloaders or Worms.

Botnets are also a quite astonishing and genius method of spreading ransomware, but for them, one has to know their way around the deep web and the cyber-criminal society, more importantly, know the botnet operators. If a botnet virus spreads a downloader that can additionally download malware on the infected computer, it can simultaneously infect thousands, if not millions of computers at the same time without any notices.

What Do The Big Guys do?

Distribution and logistics have become the bottleneck of ransomware operations, and the “big guys” know that. This is what drove these organized groups to expand and change the ransomware landscape forever, adding a paradigm known as RaaS (ransomware as a service) and other third-party and affiliate schemes.

Such schemes allow for users to skip all of the headaches of manually having to create ransomware viruses for themselves, but instead purchase a ransomware virus online. Here is an online advertisement for the first variant of Cerber ransomware which was later decrypted:

cerber-ransomware-affiliate-offering-sensorstechhforum

Payment Handling

Similar to previously uncovered organized ransom operations in which cyber-criminals had individuals responsible for different operations such as managing the command and control center, spreading the malware, laundering the money, extracting the money from BitCoin and others, nowadays the scenery has become global, and the profits have gone through the roof.

Take Cerber ransomware, for instance. The creator of the ransomware who offers it as a service takes care partially of only some key ransomware operations, such as maintaining the malicious payload and the distribution malware that is used to cause a successful infection and also maintaining untraceable payments. To do this, it is required to think proactively. This is why CheckPoint researchers report that the clever cyber-criminals use a so-called BitCoin Mixing Services as defensive measure when it comes to untraceable payments.

Let me explain how it works. Since law enforcement is gaining on cyber-crime all the time and despite that BitCoin payments are untraceable, BitCoin wallets’ activity can be monitored. And what law enforcement officials take advantage of is exactly that – they monitor BitCoin wallets that are extremely active when it comes to the rate of their transactions and the amounts of funds going through them. With some additional tools and assistance, law enforcement officials can even track down the owners of the wallets if they are careless. This is why clever cyber-criminals use Mixing Services for BitCoin wallets. This is custom software that uses algorithms that completely randomize (and revolutionize) the way untraceable payments are handled by displaying a different BitCoin address for different infections. One address can be tracked, but what if there are 100 addresses and the payment goes via a different address on a random basis every time when a computer is infected?

bitcoin-wallet-mixing-sensorstechforum Image Source: Check Point

Ransomware Marketing and Victim Service

This I what many tech journalists and malware researchers consider to be the key when it comes to ransomware infections. If you know how to display the ransom note in a serious manner and use instructions simple enough for anyone to understand, your profit Is hypothetically guaranteed. This is why many ransomware developers use scary statements such as:

  • “Data recovery software or experts will not help you recover your files.”
  • “In case you attempt to restore your files, they will be permanently corrupted, and you will no longer have access to them”.
  • “We will double the payment amount in 24 hours and destroy the decryption key in 48 h.”
  • “There is a unique decryption key for every file, and only we have those.”
  • “We will give half the money to charity and poor children.”
  • “We are going to decrypt one(or more) files for free to show you that this works.”

One particular ransomware, called Comrade Circle even offers to it’s victims not to pay for anything and begin to make money by becoming a victim to partner of the cyber-criminals, promising great profits. Here is the unique proposition in it’s ransom note:

ransomware-comrade-circle-ransom-note-senosrstechforum

This is very interesting, but what there are also other approaches which can hypothetically increase payment rate. Many cyber-criminals have focused on lowering the price as a form of a strategy making it not worth it to wait for researchers to develop free decryptor. Because face it, paying 50$ seems logically the right choice than waiting for a decryptor that may or may not be released at some point. But this is also a wrong move, and it means that you support the cyber-criminals, this is why malware researchers advise paying nothing to them because it is identical to cooperating with the crooks.

Some cyber-criminal organizations directly skip the complications and risk of affiliate schemes and use another strategy to cause damage and generate profits – infect organizations. This is because of a hospital, for example, is way more lucrative target for massive ransomware infection, because, for example, one ransom payment of $10,200 is better that 17 payments of 600$ that may or may not be done. Not only this, but it is better regarding security because the BitCoin addresses and other information may be used only once and then disposed of. This significantly simplifies it for the cyber-criminals. The complication of this for the crooks is that they will have to prepare a targeted attack which can happen in hundreds of different ways, like using someone who has access, hacking one computer to insert a worm, leaving a flash drive in the parking lot and others.

Money Laundering

When it comes to laundering the profits each cyber-criminal has his ways, but lately there has been a tendency to use online gaming currencies to launder money online.

Related Article: Money Laundering Scheme Using Gaming Currencies Revealed

What Is the Real-Life Impact

The real life impact of ransomware operations is well, quite frankly, devastating. It has cost over 209 million dollars of damages on places all over the world according to FBI reports. The truth is that this threat can be prevented by simply managing the data better. In case you or your organization has been hit by ransomware and lost all of the key files, you should know how to safely store your files in the future and prevent such devastation from occurring again. We have conducted a research and as a result of it came up with several methods that are crucial for securing your data.

Safely Store Your Important Files and Protect Them from Malware

Whether it seems tempting to participate in ransomware or not, it is still illegal, and there are real after effects if one gets caught. These negative consequences have become even more serious than some other real world offenses so we as users should fight together against ransomware and cyber-crime in general and develop new methods to protect ourselves because in the technological times of the 21st century everything is saved online and this is what cyber-crooks rely upon.

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Ventsislav Krastev

Ventsislav is a cybersecurity expert at SensorsTechForum since 2015. He has been researching, covering, helping victims with the latest malware infections plus testing and reviewing software and the newest tech developments. Having graduated Marketing as well, Ventsislav also has passion for learning new shifts and innovations in cybersecurity that become game changers. After studying Value Chain Management, Network Administration and Computer Administration of System Applications, he found his true calling within the cybersecrurity industry and is a strong believer in the education of every user towards online safety and security.

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Attention! SensorsTechForum strongly recommends that all malware victims should look for assistance only by reputable sources. Many guides out there claim to offer free recovery and decryption for files encrypted by ransomware viruses. Be advised that some of them may only be after your money.

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.


OFFER

REMOVE IT NOW (PC)
with Anti-Malware
We recommend you to download SpyHunter and run free scan to remove all virus files on your PC. This saves you hours of time and effort compared to doing the removal yourself.
SpyHunter 5 free remover allows you, subject to a 48-hour waiting period, one remediation and removal for results found. Read EULA and Privacy Policy


Windows Mac OS X

How to Remove Ransomware from Windows.


Step 1: Boot Your PC In Safe Mode to isolate and remove Ransomware

OFFER

Manual Removal Usually Takes Time and You Risk Damaging Your Files If Not Careful!
We Recommend To Scan Your PC with SpyHunter

Keep in mind, that SpyHunter’s scanner is only for malware detection. If SpyHunter detects malware on your PC, you will need to purchase SpyHunter's malware removal tool to remove the malware threats. Read our SpyHunter 5 review. Click on the corresponding links to check SpyHunter's EULA, Privacy Policy and Threat Assessment Criteria

1. Hold Windows key() + R


2. The "Run" Window will appear. In it, type "msconfig" and click OK.


3. Go to the "Boot" tab. There select "Safe Boot" and then click "Apply" and "OK".
Tip: Make sure to reverse those changes by unticking Safe Boot after that, because your system will always boot in Safe Boot from now on.


4. When prompted, click on "Restart" to go into Safe Mode.


5. You can recognise Safe Mode by the words written on the corners of your screen.


Step 2: Uninstall Ransomware and related software from Windows

Here is a method in few easy steps that should be able to uninstall most programs. No matter if you are using Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista or XP, those steps will get the job done. Dragging the program or its folder to the recycle bin can be a very bad decision. If you do that, bits and pieces of the program are left behind, and that can lead to unstable work of your PC, errors with the file type associations and other unpleasant activities. The proper way to get a program off your computer is to Uninstall it. To do that:


1. Hold the Windows Logo Button and "R" on your keyboard. A Pop-up window will appear.


2. In the field type in "appwiz.cpl" and press ENTER.


3. This will open a window with all the programs installed on the PC. Select the program that you want to remove, and press "Uninstall"
Follow the instructions above and you will successfully uninstall most programs.


Step 3: Clean any registries, created by Ransomware 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 Ransomware there. This can happen by following the steps underneath:

1. Open the Run Window again, type "regedit" and click OK.


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


3. You can remove the value of the virus by right-clicking on it and removing it.
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.

IMPORTANT!
Before starting "Step 4", please boot back into Normal mode, in case you are currently in Safe Mode.
This will enable you to install and use SpyHunter 5 successfully.

Step 4: Scan for Ransomware 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.

SpyHunter5-update-2018


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

SpyHunter5-Free-Scan-2018


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-Free-Scan-Next-2018

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

Step 5 (Optional): Try to Restore Files Encrypted by Ransomware.

Ransomware infections and Ransomware aim to encrypt your files using an encryption algorithm which may be very difficult to decrypt. This is why we have suggested a data recovery method that may help you go around direct decryption and try to restore your files. Bear in mind that this method may not be 100% effective but may also help you a little or a lot in different situations.

1. Download the reccomended Data Recovery software by clicking on the link underneath:

Simply click on the link and on the website menus on top, choose Data Recovery - Data Recovery Wizard for Windows or Mac (depending on your OS), and then download and run the tool.


Windows Mac OS X

Get rid of Ransomware from Mac OS X.


Step 1: Uninstall Ransomware and remove related files and objects

OFFER
Manual Removal Usually Takes Time and You Risk Damaging Your Files If Not Careful!
We Recommend To Scan Your Mac with SpyHunter for Mac
Keep in mind, that SpyHunter for Mac needs to purchased to remove the malware threats. Click on the corresponding links to check SpyHunter’s EULA and Privacy Policy


1. Hit the ⇧+⌘+U keys to open Utilities. Another way is to click on “Go” and then click “Utilities”, like the image below shows:


2. Find Activity Monitor and double-click it:


3. In the Activity Monitor look for any suspicious processes, belonging or related to Ransomware:

Tip: To quit a process completely, choose the “Force Quit” option.


4. Click on the "Go" button again, but this time select Applications. Another way is with the ⇧+⌘+A buttons.


5. In the Applications menu, look for any suspicious app or an app with a name, similar or identical to Ransomware. If you find it, right-click on the app and select “Move to Trash”.


6: Select Accounts, after which click on the Login Items preference. Your Mac will then show you a list of items that start automatically when you log in. Look for any suspicious apps identical or similar to Ransomware. Check the app you want to stop from running automatically and then select on the Minus (“-“) icon to hide it.


7: Remove any left-over files that might be related to this threat manually by following the sub-steps below:

  • Go to Finder.
  • In the search bar type the name of the app that you want to remove.
  • Above the search bar change the two drop down menus to “System Files” and “Are Included” so that you can see all of the files associated with the application you want to remove. Bear in mind that some of the files may not be related to the app so be very careful which files you delete.
  • If all of the files are related, hold the ⌘+A buttons to select them and then drive them to “Trash”.

In case you cannot remove Ransomware via Step 1 above:

In case you cannot find the virus files and objects in your Applications or other places we have shown above, you can manually look for them in the Libraries of your Mac. But before doing this, please read the disclaimer below:

Disclaimer! If you are about to tamper with Library files on Mac, be sure to know the name of the virus file, because if you delete the wrong file, it may cause irreversible damage to your MacOS. Continue on your own responsibility!

1: Click on "Go" and Then "Go to Folder" as shown underneath:

2: Type in "/Library/LauchAgents/" and click Ok:

3: Delete all of the virus files that have similar or the same name as Ransomware. If you believe there is no such file, do not delete anything.

You can repeat the same procedure with the following other Library directories:

→ ~/Library/LaunchAgents
/Library/LaunchDaemons

Tip: ~ is there on purpose, because it leads to more LaunchAgents.


Click the button below below to download SpyHunter for Mac and scan for Ransomware:


Download

SpyHunter for Mac



Step 3 (Optional): Try to Restore Files Encrypted by Ransomware.

Ransomware infections and Ransomware aim to encrypt your files using an encryption algorithm which may be very difficult to decrypt. This is why we have suggested a data recovery method that may help you go around direct decryption and try to restore your files. Bear in mind that this method may not be 100% effective but may also help you a little or a lot in different situations.

1. Download the reccomended Data Recovery software by clicking on the link underneath:

Simply click on the link and on the website menus on top, choose Data Recovery - Data Recovery Wizard for Windows or Mac (depending on your OS), and then download and run the tool.


Ransomware FAQ

What is Ransomware ransomware and how does it work?

Ransomware 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 algorithm how 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.

How does Ransomware ransomware infect my computer?

Via several ways.Ransomware Ransomware infects computers by being sent via phishing e-mails, 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.

After you download and execute this attachment, a drive-by download occurs and your computer is infected with the ransomware virus.

Another way, you may become a victim of Ransomware 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 .Ransomware files?

You can't. At this point the .Ransomware files are encrypted. You can only open them once they are decrypted.

Decryptor did not decrypt my data. What now?

Do not panic and backup the files. If a decryptor did not decrypt your .Ransomware files successfully, then do not despair, because this virus is still new.

One way to restore files, encrypted by Ransomware ransomware is to use a decryptor for it. But since it's a new virus, advised that the decryption keys for it may not be out yet and available to the public. We will update this article and keep you posted as soon as this decryptor is released.

How Do I restore ".Ransomware" files (Other Methods)?

Yes, sometimes files can be restored. We have suggested several file recovery methods that could work if you want to restore .Ransomware files.

These methods are in no way 100% guarantee that you will be able to get your files back. But if you have a backup, your chances of success are much greater.

How do I get rid of Ransomware ransomware virus?

The safest way and the most efficient one for the removal of this ransomware infection is the use a professional anti malware software. It will scan for and locate Ransomware ransomware and then remove it without causing any additional harm to your important .Ransomware files.

Also, keep in mind that viruses like Ransomware ransomware also install Trojans and keyloggers that can steal your passwords and accounts. Scanning your computer with an anti-malware software will make sure that all of these virus components are removed and your computer is protected in the future.

What to Do If nothing works?

There is still a lot you can do. If none of the above methods seem to work for you, then try these methods:

  • Try to find a safe computer from where you can can login on your own line accounts like One Drive, iDrive, Google Drive and so on.
  • Try to contact your friends, relatives and other people so that they can check if they have some of your important photos or documents just in case you sent them.
  • Also, check if some of the files that were encrypted it can be re-downloaded from the web.
  • Another clever way to get back some of your files is to find another old computer, a flash drive or even a CD or a DVD where you may have saved your older documents. You might be surprised what will turn up.
  • You can also go to your email account to check if you can send any attachments to other people. Usually what is sent the email is saved on your account and you can re-download it. But most importantly, make sure that this is done from a safe computer and make sure to remove the virus first.

More tips you can find on our forums, where you can also asks any questions about your ransomware problem.

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