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New Cerber README.hta Ransomware Remove and Restore Encrypted Files

new-cerber4-ransomware-remove-sensorstechforum-com-2016This is an instructive article to help you remove Cerber README.hta Ransomware and restore encrypted files.

Cerber ransomware virus has appeared out into the wild in a new variant using a README.hta file, according to malware researcher Michael Gillespie. What differs in this version of Cerber is that it drops a the .hta file with completely new ransom demands and encrypts the files of infected computers with random file extensions with 4 alpha numerical characters, for example .a123 or .y2k2. Since there have already been three versions of the notorious ransomware virus plus it’s massive affiliate campaign is running wild all over the world, this is a strong indicator that the developers of the virus may have created a completely new version or heavily modified the older Cerber ransomware. The Cerber virus’ purpose is to extort infected users to make a ransom payoff ranging from 0.5 to 1.5 BTC by following the instructions in the readme file. Anyone who has been affected by this or any other versions of the virus should not pay any type of ransom since malware researchers are constantly on the lookout for a free decryption solution. Instead, we advise you to back up your files, remove this ransomware and try several alternative methods to revert your files by following the instructions below.

UPDATE! New _README_{RANDOMID}_.hta variant of Cerber ransomware has been discovered December 1st, 2016. More information about it on the web link below:
Updated Cerber Ransomware _README_.hta Remove and Restore Encrypted Files

Threat Summary

NameCerber
TypeRansomware Virus
Short DescriptionThis Cerber ransomware variant encrypts files with the RSA or AES ciphers adding four randomly generated A-Z 0-9 characters(ex. .z33f) as a file extension to the encrypted files and asks a ransom payoff for decryption.
SymptomsFiles are enciphered and become inaccessible by any type of software. A ransom note with instructions for paying the ransom shows as a “README.hta” file.
Distribution MethodSpam Emails, Email Attachments, File Sharing Networks, Malicious Executable in Torrent Trackers.
Detection Tool See If Your System Has Been Affected by Cerber

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Malware Removal Tool

Data Recovery ToolStellar Phoenix Data Recovery Technician’s License 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.
User ExperienceJoin our forum to Discuss Cerber Ransomware.
Data Recovery ToolWindows 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.

The Latest Cerber Virus – How Does it Spread

There is not much change in how Cerber causes infections. Just like the 1st Cerber as well as the second and of course Cerber 3 ransomware, the virus uses affiliate campaigns to be widespread. This widely broadens the spreading methods because the creators of the ransomware do not spread it themselves, but instead may use a complex network of affiliates all over the world who want to make profits illegally.

The developers of Cerber may, however, sell the ransomware as a service along with an advanced exploit kit which is “the bottleneck” of the infection process. This is primarily because it guarantees a successful infection by exploiting bugs in Windows or obfuscating a malicious executable so that it runs undetected by firewalls or antivirus programs.

Given that Cerber may already have a huge affiliate network, a different set of tools and approaches may have been undertaken to spread the virus. Some of those tools may include:

  • Malware obfuscators to hide the malicious file.
  • Spam bots and fake online accounts to spread the virus via malicious web links as comments on websites or via social media.
  • Temporary self-destructible e-mail service to remain untraceable.
  • Spamming software to massively send e-mails to a pre-modified list of users.
  • A pre-configured set of fake, phishing e-mails.

All of those tools may be used to replicate Cerber ransomware’s malicious executable under different forms. One of the forms may be as a malicious attachment uploaded in an e-mail, disguised as an Invoice or another important document. It may also be drive-by downloaded via a malicious URL posted in the phishing message.

Cerber Ransomware – What Does This Variant Do

After having compromised a computer, the Cerber malware may attempt a connection with the C&C (Command and Control) servers belonging to the cyber-criminals. After this has been performed, Cerber then may download and drop one or more malicious files of the following file types:

.vbs, .exe, .dll, .tmp, .bat, .cmd, .hta

The malicious files may have different purposes and may be dropped in important Windows directories, most likely believed to be:

  • %AppData%
  • %SystemDrive%
  • %Temp%
  • %Roaming%
  • %System%
  • %Local%
  • %LocalRow%

After the malicious files have been dropped, Cerber ransomware gets down to the point. The virus may use an administrative command to delete the shadow copies of the infected computer, erasing all types of previous file versions. The command is the following:

cerber-ransomware-shadow-command-sensorstechforum-3

Cerber may also immediately begin encrypting files on the compromised computer. It usually looks for widely used types of files, such as videos, photos, audio files, documents and others that may be important to you.

In addition to this, Cerber may also add value strings with a path to the malicious executables in the Run and RunOnce keys of Windows and make the virus run every time Windows starts and encrypt every newly added files as well.

After encryption, Cerber ransomware renders the files unusable and generates a unique decryption key. This key may be encrypted additionally and sent to the C&C server of the ones controlling the malware.

Files encrypted by this Cerber variant usually look like the following:

cerber-ransomware-new-encrypted-files-sensorstechforum

The ransom note of Cerber ransomware also suggests that a CBC (Cipher Block Chaining) mode may be used when encrypting the files which essentially breaks the files if a third-party decryption software is directly used on them.

Cerber’s ransom note is also dropped in a README.hta file and it has the following brief message with a web link to a payment page:

“CERBER RANSOMWARE
Instructions
Can’t you find the necessary files?
Is the content of your files not readable?
It is normal because the files’ names and the data in your files have been encrypted by “Cerber Ransomware”.
It means your files are NOT damaged! Your files are modified only. This modification is reversible.
From now it is not possible to use your files until they will be decrypted.
The only way to decrypt your files safely is to buy the special decryption software “Cerber Decryptor”.
Any attempts to restore your files with the third-party software will be fatal for your files!
You can proceed with purchasing of the decryption software at your personal page:
Please wait…
{Unique link for the victim}”

Remove New Cerber Ransomware and Restore Encrypted Files

Whatever the case may be, it is very important to get rid of Cerber as soon as possible instead of paying any form of ransomware to cyber-criminals for obvious reasons:

  • You support the cyber-criminals’ organization.
  • No guarantee you will receive your files back.

Malware researchers often recommend to users infected by Cerber to create copies of the encrypted files and backing them up on an external drive if a decryptor is released for free, like it happened with the 1st version of Cerber.

To remove Cerber ransomware, please follow the instructions posted below. In case you are having a tough time removing the files manually, the best solution for you is to use an advanced anti-malware software which will automatically take care of the malicious files and registry objects created by the ransomware.

To attempt alternative file restoration methods, we advise you to take a look at our suggestions in step “2. Restore Files Encrypted by Cerber” below. They may or may not work in your situation, and the outcome may vary, but we have users who report restoring at least some of their important files. The outcome of how many files you will be able to revert comes down to whether or not you have a backup, whether or not you have reformatted your hard drive and other variables.

Manually delete Cerber from your computer

Note! Substantial notification about the Cerber threat: Manual removal of Cerber requires interference with system files and registries. Thus, it can cause damage to your PC. Even if your computer skills are not at a professional level, don’t worry. You can do the removal yourself just in 5 minutes, using a malware removal tool.

1. Boot Your PC In Safe Mode to isolate and remove Cerber files and objects
2.Find malicious files created by Cerber on your PC

Automatically remove Cerber by downloading an advanced anti-malware program

1. Remove Cerber with SpyHunter Anti-Malware Tool and back up your data
2. Restore files encrypted by Cerber
Optional: Using Alternative Anti-Malware Tools

Vencislav Krustev

A network administrator and malware researcher at SensorsTechForum with passion for discovery of new shifts and innovations in cyber security. Strong believer in basic education of every user towards online safety.

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  • VISHAL GOYAL

    Hi, yesterday my computer infected by this cerber ransomware and encrypted .doc and .mdb (accounting software) files and the extension after encyption is .B712. Please suggest what to do, how to delete the ransomware from my pc and how to decrypt my data

    • Hello VISHAL,

      Unfortunately, there’s still no decryption solution for this new version. However, you can still try to restore some of your data by using data recovery software. As stated in the article:

      To remove Cerber ransomware, please follow the
      instructions posted below the article. In case you are having a tough time removing the files manually, the best solution for you is to use an advanced
      anti-malware software which will automatically take care of the
      malicious files and registry objects created by the ransomware.

      To attempt alternative file restoration methods, we advise you to take a look at our suggestions in step “2. Restore Files Encrypted by Cerber” below.
      They may or may not work in your situation, and the outcome may vary,
      but we have users who report restoring at least some of their important
      files.

      • Nurun Nabi

        i have two important folder . you told that you have some users but which one?

  • Nurun Nabi

    please urgent need help, yesterday my computer infected by this cerber
    ransomware and
    encrypted .doc and .xl and .pdf files and the extension
    after encryption is .9cff. Please give me a suggestion or any solution
    for decrypt it. already i have deleted all cerber ransomware but i can
    not decrypt my data. all file look like the following picture

    • Nurun Nabi

      already i have followed all procedure that is described in this page above but i can not recover my file..please suggest me what can i do?

      • Hello, Nurun.

        At this point, there is not much that can be done about it. Simply back up your files store them somewhere safe after which remove the virus. If a decryptor is released in public, we will update this article or create a new one with links to it here. Make sure to check regularly.

  • Hello, thanks for asking. There is no decryptor for this virus, but you can try with the older version, although i do not believe this will work.

    Here is the link: http://sensorstechforum.com/decrypt-encrypted-files-cerber-ransomware/

    I strongly suggest you TO MAKE COPIES of the encrypted files because direct decryption may break them permanently and they will become destroyed forever.

  • Kent Yau

    Hi, I’ve got infected and I could find the readme.hta files in my Google drive. So after sync, it’s everywhere – Google drive in my other devices. How to tackle this problem? Thanks.

    • wow, i have never head cerber spread to Google Drive, this is new.. for now you can back up the encrypted files on a flash drive or other external memory carrier (USB stick, CD drive, etc.) and wait for a decryptor to be released. GIven how many cerber instances were decrypted you may have to wait longer. In the meantime you can try using data recovery software. And next time do not use Google Drive, but use a third-party cloud-backup program, like SOS Online Backup, for example: http://sensorstechforum.com/sos-online-backup-software-review/

  • Darshan Panchal

    hi, i have same problem as like STEPAN FIKRLE’S iSSUE.
    In my Pc All Files are Encrypted, The encryption Looks like 2in0sY9NQU.9175.
    this renamed Extension .9175 is by every encrypted file.
    i tried With All Data Recovery Tolls of Older Version & All Articles But it do not Work.

    So,Please Also Suggest me How To Solve it?

    • Hi Darshan,

      Unfortunately there is no working decrypter for this ransomware. Always back up your data to avoid ransomware damage.

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