Encrypted messages and ciphers have been around for quite some time now. Ever since the development of the first ciphering machine – the Enigma, cryptography has been gaining popularity. In fact, it has become so popular, that the most widespread cryptocurrency – BitCoin uses encryption to be secure, and it’s price has skyrocketed.
However, with the development of cryptography, there is always space to mention the ones which can be referred to as the “wrong hands” in the saying “fallen into the wrong hands” – the malware writers and cyber-criminals. They manipulate the very same cyphers used by the government to guard secrets – cyphers, part of the Suite.B category:
SHA(Secure Hash Algorithm).
AES(Advanced Encryption Standard).
ECDH(Elliptic Curve Diffie–Hellman).
Thus, we should explain what exactly ransomware encryption means.
Without understanding how malware writers use the powerful cipher and how does the cipher exactly work, these are just abbreviations. This is why first we are going to explain what encryption actually is. By theory encryption is the process of encoding information, so that only parties with access can read it, as explained by t.ucsf.edu.
The actual process of encoding (and ransomware encryption) is replacing the characters with other characters. When we meet a set of such characters and a particular methodology in how they are replaced, we meet an encoding cipher. In file encryption, the same principle is applied, with the difference that the regular code of the file is replaced with a different characters. The difference in characters being replaced is essentially a difference in the algorithm being used and its strength. For example, if the algorithm is 256 bit in strength instead of 128 bit, this means that more advanced character formation has been used, meaning its even more difficult for decryption.
Now that we have understood(hopefully) how it works it is time to pay attention to the types of encryption that exist. Officially there are two types recognized:
Symmetric(Private) key encryption – a scheme where the keys are the same for the Sender as well as the Recipient. It is primarily used for communicating securely and is now applied in most chat platforms you see, for example, Viber, Skype, etc.
Public key encryption – this type of encryption includes a public key available for massive access by anyone. The only condition is that the user must know what the decryption key is.
If these are the two primary types of encryption, advanced ransomware viruses, such as Locky, TeslaCrypt, Cerber, CryptXXX and others may employ it in a quite different way to extort users like you for their files. Unlike a year ago where most ransom malware used only one algorithm (usually RSA) to encrypt the files, now we see a tendency where ransomware has gotten smarter. Cyber-criminals not only employ defenses, such as self-deletion and obfuscation to prevent white hat researchers into investigating the malicious samples for code flaws.
They have also used a combination of algorithms to encrypt the files. At first, the file may be encrypted with using a symmetric encryption process, making it unable to be opened. As a second layer of defense, the size of the file may be changed by adding a second algorithm in the header of the already encrypted code. So what we are talking about is an encrypted header which is previously encrypted, as in the figure below:
Ransomware Encryption: Conclusion
File encryption used by ransomware viruses has advanced and is continuing to develop at a rapid rate. This is due to several factors, such as the one of the user. There are users who consider the data which is encoded important for them and they pay the ransom. This makes the cyber-criminals even more powerful and allows them to invest in bigger spam campaigns, spreading their malware even further. This, plus the more sophisticated ransomware viruses being publicly available for sale on deep web forums Is a perfect recipe for widespread ransomware infections of all types. What is worse is that RaaS (Ransomware as a service) is becoming quite widespread now, meaning that even individuals without much technical experience in the sphere can make money of unsuspecting users. We as a part of a security community strongly advise users not to pay any ransom money and look for alternatives and also educate themselves on how to protect their data in the future because suffocating this widespread problem massively may just turn out to be the only viable way to stop it.
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.
2. After you have installed SpyHunter, wait for it to update automatically.
3. After the update process has finished, click on the 'Malware/PC Scan' tab. A new window will appear. Click on 'Start Scan'.
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.
If any threats have been removed, it is highly recommended to restart your PC.
Ransomware Automatic Removal - Video Guide
Step 2: Uninstall and related malware 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.
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 delete most unwanted and malicious programs.
Step 3: Clean any registries, created by on your computer.
The usually targeted registries of Windows machines are the following:
You can access them by opening the Windows registry editor and deleting any values, created by 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: Boot Your PC In Safe Mode to isolate and remove
Manual Removal Usually Takes Time and You Risk Damaging Your Files If Not Careful!
We Recommend To Scan Your PC with SpyHunter
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 5: Try to Restore Files Encrypted by .
Method 1: Use STOP Decrypter by Emsisoft.
Not all variants of this ransomware can be decrypted for free, but we have added the decryptor used by researchers that is often updated with the variants which become eventually decrypted. You can try and decrypt your files using the instructions below, but if they do not work, then unfortunately your variant of the ransomware virus is not decryptable.
1Right-click on the decrypter and click on Run as Administrator as shown below:
2. Agree with the license terms:
3. Click on "Add Folder" and then add the folders where you want files decrypted as shown underneath:
4. Click on "Decrypt" and wait for your files to be decoded.
Note: Credit for the decryptor goes to Emsisoft researchers who have made the breakthrough with this virus.
Method 2: Use data recovery software
Ransomware infections and 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 recommended Data Recovery software by clicking on the link underneath:
Simply click on the link and on the website menus on the top, choose Data Recovery - Data Recovery Wizard for Windows or Mac (depending on your OS), and then download and run the tool.
What is 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 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.
Can Ransomware Cayse Damage?
Yes, ransomware can damage your computer. Ransomware is a malicious software that is designed to block access to your computer or files until a ransom is paid.
Ransomware can also damage your system, corrupt data and delete files, resulting in the permanent loss of important files.
Should I Ignore Viruses, Like ?
No, you should never ignore ransomware. It can encrypt your data and block access to your computer, making it impossible to access your files until you pay a ransom.
Ignoring ransomware could lead to the permanent loss of your data, as well as the potential for the ransomware to spread to other computers on your network. Additionally, paying the ransom does not guarantee that your data will be recovered.
How Does Infect?
Via several ways. 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.
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 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 . files?
You can't. At this point, the . files are encrypted. You can only open them once they are decrypted using a specific decryptionkey 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 . files successfully, then do not despair, because this virus is still new.
Can I Restore "." Files?
Yes, sometimes files can be restored. We have suggested several file recovery methods that could work if you want to restore . 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.
It will scan for and locate ransomware and then remove it without causing any additional harm to your important . files.
Also, keep in mind that viruses like ransomware also install Trojans and keyloggers that can steal your passwords and accounts.
What to Do If I Cant Get The Files Back?
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 can be re-downloaded from the web.
Another clever way 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.
How to 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:
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 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.
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.
Why Is the Ransom Paid in Crypto?
Cryptocurrency is a secure and untraceable form of payment, making it the ideal choice for ransom payments. It is difficult to trace, and the transactions are almost instantaneous. This means it is nearly impossible for authorities to track the payment and recover the money.
Can 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 Research
The content we publish on SensorsTechForum.com, this 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.