THREAT REMOVAL

PHOBOS Ransomware – Remove + How to Restore .PHOBOS Files

This blog post aims to help you by showing how to remove Phobos ransomware and how to restore AES encrypted files with .PHOBOS file extension without having to pay ransom.

A virus, from the file encryption type, called Phobos ransomware has been detected by malware researchers. The ransomware, also named Phobos, uses a unique victim ID after the infection and utilizes AES encryption to make the important files on your computer no longer able to be opened. After it encrypts the files, the virus adds the .PHOBOS file extension to the encrypted files along with the e-mail of the cyber-crimianals to contact them. The end goal of this virus is to get you to buy BitCoin and pay the cyber-criminals in order to restore your encrypted files.

Threat Summary

NamePHOBOS
TypeRansomware, Cryptovirus
Short DescriptionEncrypts the files via AES cipher and then drops a ransom note, asking victims to pay ransom in return for their files.
SymptomsFiles are encrypted with the .PHOBOS file extension and a Phobos.hta ransom note file has been added.
Distribution MethodSpam Emails, Email Attachments, Executable files
Detection Tool See If Your System Has Been Affected by malware

Download

Malware Removal Tool

User ExperienceJoin Our Forum to Discuss PHOBOS.
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.

PHOBOS Ransomware – Update April 2019

Phobos ransomware has a few minor changes made to it in April, 2019. One of the is the new ransom note stored inside a text file called info.txt. The note has the following contents:

!!! All of your files are encrypted !!!
To decrypt them send e-mail to this address: posiccimen1982@aol.com.
If we don’t answer in 48h., send e-mail to this address: stanodexne1982@aol.com
If there is no response from our mail, you can install the Jabber client and write to us in support of waitheisenberg@xmpp.jp

In addition, there is probably a malicious spam campaign that is spreading the Phobos cryptovirus now as we are seeing a rise in the searches for this threat.

PHOBOS Ransomware – Update January 2019

The Phobos ransomware is back after a long time of absence. Two new variants have been circling the Internet since the month of December 2018. It appears there are already victims of the new versions. Both of them use the .phobos extension appended to encrypted files. The following e-mail addresses are given for contacting the cybercriminals:

  • Job2019@tutanota.com
  • Cadillac.407@aol.com

Not much is changed since the official release of PHOBOS ransomware. 5,000 US dollars is the ransom sum that is demanded by the criminals.

PHOBOS Ransomware – Infection

The cyber-criminals behind PHOBOS ransomware aim to perform multiple different types of techniques in order to spread the infection file of PHOBOS ransomware. The main of those techniques is reported to be e-mail spam. Such spam messages aim to trick you into thinking they are legitimate and get you to download a malicious attachment uploaded on the them. Here is an example of how a malicious spam (malspam), spreading PHOBOS ransomware may look like:

The malicious files may also be embedded in an external web link that is sent with the e-mail, like a button linking to a dropbox account or other form of account for online file sharing, from which the malicious file is directly downloaded. This is done with the purpose of bypassing any e-mail vendors that may detect the message as malicious. Here is how such an e-mail may appear like:

The files themselves may either be direct executable files that infect you after opening or they may also be malicous Microsoft Office documents with macros in them. Such files come as legitimate documents and after you open them, you see a locked Microsoft document that asks you to “Enable Content” by clicking on a yellow bar above it. From there, the malicious macros are activated and infection takes place:

PHOBOS Ransomware – Malicious Activity

When an infection with PHOBOS ransomware takes place, the malicious payload fo the ransomware virus is dropped on the victim’s computer. The payload consists of one or more malicious files that may have random names and may be hidden in the commonly used Windows directories by malware, which are the following:

After the payload is dropped, PHOBOS ransomware obtains administrative permissions, which allows the malware to create multiple different types of registry entries in the Windows reigstry editor. Some of them target the Run and RunOnce registry keys of Windows. These sub-keys are responsible for the automatic execution of the malicious file of PHOBOS ransomware, that is responsble for file encryption. The sub-keys in which you can find those entries have the following location:

→ 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

In addition to attacking your Windows registry editor, the PHOBOS virus also may delete the shadow volume compies of your Windows machine, by executing a batch (.bat) script as a background application, without you noticing it. The script may run Windows Command Prompt as an administrator and execute the following commands to delete the copies and disable recovery:

→ process call create “cmd.exe /c
vssadmin.exe delete shadows /all /quiet & bcdedit.exe /set {default} recoveryenabled no & bcdedit.exe /set {default} bootstatuspolicy ignoreallfailures”

>

In additions to the malicious files, a Phobos.hta ransom note is dropped on the victims’ computers and it looks like the following:

Text from Phobos.hta:

“All your files are encrypted
Hello World
Data on this PC turned into a useless binary code
To return to normal, please contact us by this email: OttoZimmennan@pmtonmall.di
Set topic of your message to ‘Encryption ID:{CUSTOM ID}’
Interesting Facts:
1. Over time, the cost increases, do not waste your time
2. Only we can help you, for sure, no one else.
3. BE CAREFUL !!! If you still try to find other solutions to the problem, make a backup copy of the files you want to experiment on, and play with them.
Otherwise they can be permanently damaged
4. Any services that offer you help or just take money from you and disappear, or they will be intermediaries between us, with inflated value. Since the antidote is only among the creators of the virus”

PHOBOS Ransomware – Encryption Process

The encryption of PHOBOS ransomware is conducted via the AES encryption algorithm (Advanced Encryption Standard). It is the type of cipher that alters a small part of the original file with the cipher’s symbols, just about enough to make the file no longer openable. The way the encryption works is that it generates a decryption key which can revert the encryption process, but this assymetric key is known only to the cyber-criminals. In addition to this, the PHOBOS ransowmare also scans the victim’s computer for the following file types:

→ “PNG .PSD .PSPIMAGE .TGA .THM .TIF .TIFF .YUV .AI .EPS .PS .SVG .INDD .PCT .PDF .XLR .XLS .XLSX .ACCDB .DB .DBF .MDB .PDB .SQL .APK .APP .BAT .CGI .COM .EXE .GADGET .JAR .PIF .WSF .DEM .GAM .NES .ROM .SAV CAD Files .DWG .DXF GIS Files .GPX .KML .KMZ .ASP .ASPX .CER .CFM .CSR .CSS .HTM .HTML .JS .JSP .PHP .RSS .XHTML. DOC .DOCX .LOG .MSG .ODT .PAGES .RTF .TEX .TXT .WPD .WPS .CSV .DAT .GED .KEY .KEYCHAIN .PPS .PPT .PPTX ..INI .PRF Encoded Files .HQX .MIM .UUE .7Z .CBR .DEB .GZ .PKG .RAR .RPM .SITX .TAR.GZ .ZIP .ZIPX .BIN .CUE .DMG .ISO .MDF .TOAST .VCD SDF .TAR .TAX2014 .TAX2015 .VCF .XML Audio Files .AIF .IFF .M3U .M4A .MID .MP3 .MPA .WAV .WMA Video Files .3G2 .3GP .ASF .AVI .FLV .M4V .MOV .MP4 .MPG .RM .SRT .SWF .VOB .WMV 3D .3DM .3DS .MAX .OBJ R.BMP .DDS .GIF .JPG .CRX .PLUGIN .FNT .FON .OTF .TTF .CAB .CPL .CUR .DESKTHEMEPACK .DLL .DMP .DRV .ICNS .ICO .LNK .SYS .CFG”

After the files are encrypted, PHOBOS ransomware adds the .PHOBOS file extension and a unique ID plus the e-mail in which to contact the cyber-criminals. The encrypted files can no longer be opened and look like the following:

Remove PHOBOS Ransomware and Restore Encrypted Files

In order to get rid of this ransomware infection from your computer system, recommendations are to follow the removal instructions below this article. They are divided in manual and automatic removal solutions. While the manual instructions can be useful for you if you have experience in malware removal, experts often recommend following the automatic removal manual. It includes using an advanced anti-malware software to automatically scan your computer for and remove PHOBOS ransomware completely and safely.

If you want to restore files that have been encrypted by PHOBOS ransomware, it is reccomended to tru the alternative removal methods which we have suggested down below in step “2. Restore files encrypted by PHOBOS” They are specifically designed to help you try and restore as many encrypted files as possible without having to pay the ransom

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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 PHOBOS from Windows.


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

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 PHOBOS 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 PHOBOS 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 PHOBOS 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 PHOBOS 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 PHOBOS.

Ransomware infections and PHOBOS 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 PHOBOS from Mac OS X.


Step 1: Uninstall PHOBOS 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 PHOBOS:

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 PHOBOS. 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 PHOBOS. 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 PHOBOS 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 PHOBOS. 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 PHOBOS:


Download

SpyHunter for Mac



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

Ransomware infections and PHOBOS 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.


PHOBOS FAQ

What is PHOBOS ransomware and how does it work?

PHOBOS 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 PHOBOS ransomware infect my computer?

Via several ways.PHOBOS 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 PHOBOS 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 .PHOBOS files?

You can't. At this point the .PHOBOS 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 .PHOBOS files successfully, then do not despair, because this virus is still new.

One way to restore files, encrypted by PHOBOS 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 ".PHOBOS" files (Other Methods)?

Yes, sometimes files can be restored. We have suggested several file recovery methods that could work if you want to restore .PHOBOS 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 PHOBOS 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 PHOBOS ransomware and then remove it without causing any additional harm to your important .PHOBOS files.

Also, keep in mind that viruses like PHOBOS 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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