Red CERBER 2017 Virus (_READ_THIS_FILE_ Update) - Restore Files - How to, Technology and PC Security Forum |

Red CERBER 2017 Virus (_READ_THIS_FILE_ Update) – Restore Files

This article has been created to help you remove Red CERBER ransomware’s _READ_THIS_FILE_ variant and help you restore files that have been encrypted by this virus.

One of the most devastating ransomware infections out there, called Red CERBER ransomware has been reported to be released in a new malicious version. Ever since the Red wallpaper Cerber variants were released, the previous versions were using different names for ransom notes – _{random}_README_.hta,_HELP_DECRYPT_{RANDOM}.hta or _HELP_HELP_HELP_{RANDOM}.hta. Now, the format of the ransom notes is _READ_THIS_FILE_{random}.hta and the virus has other incremental changes in addition to these ones. It aims to encrypt the files on compromised computers and leave a 4 A-Z 0-9 file extension after the encrypted files, for example .bfO5. The victim is always asked to pay for a program that is special and will decrypt the encoded files which are no longer openable after infection. In case you have become a victim of this Cerber ransomware variant, recommendations are to read this article carefully.

Threat Summary

TypeRansomware Virus
Short DescriptionThis Cerber ransomware variant encrypts files with the RSA-512 cipher and an RC4 encryption algorithm adding four randomly generated A-Z 0-9 characters(ex. .b43s) 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 _READ_THIS_FILE_{random}.hta file. Also may add the following audio message after encryption:
Distribution MethodSpam Emails, Email Attachments, File Sharing Networks, Malicious Executable in Torrent Trackers.
Detection Tool See If Your System Has Been Affected by Red CERBER


Malware Removal Tool

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.
User ExperienceJoin our forum to Discuss Cerber Ransomware.

Red CERBER 2017 – How Does It Infect

The infection procedure of this Red CERBER ransomware variant is still a very widespread and powerful e-mail and other forms of spam. To assist with this, there are multiple forms of .ZIP and other archived type of files that are send via multiple methods:

  • The Nemucod Trojan downloader.
  • The pseudoDarkleech Rig EK.
  • Rig EK version 4.0.

The latest reports of infections by Red CERBER ransomware are also connected with the usage of a so-called “BLANK SLATE” malicious spam. These particular messages are blank e-mails without any content what so ever carrying the malicious attachment with themselves. The way the attack is carried is that the malicious attachments are .ZIP files. The zip files are carrying either a document or a malicious javascript type of files (.js). The malicious JavaScript causes infection immediately after being opened and the .doc file which is a Microsoft Word file says you need to enable the content. As reported by PaloAlto networks the files are spread with double archives. The first archive in which are the malicious file has a name, like and it is also archived in another .zip archive with a name that has 9 random digits, for example

To learn how to protect yourself from malicious archives without having to open them, please read the following related article:

Red CERBER 2017’s Infection – What Has Changed

Not much has changed when an infection with the Red CERBER virus takes place, but there are some changes, indeed. The first change is the C2 servers which are used to connect and download the malicious payload. The latest variant of Red CERBER using _READ_THIS_FILE_.hta ransom note has been reported to connect to the following remote hosts:

→ with a subnet mask 27 with a subnet mask 27 with a subnet mask 22

What follows through is the standard Red CERBER infection procedure. Numerous files are downloaded by connecting to distribution sites. These sites are not online for long periods of time and they are used to download the malicious payload onto the computer of the user via unsecured ports on it. The payload may consist of the following type of files:

  • Three executables, one with single digit as a name, for example 3.exe, one with three digits, for example 232.exe and one with random digits and letters, for example 52Si7.exe.
  • Two .dat files, named read.php and user.php.

After the files of this Red CERBER variant are dropped on the computer which has been infected, the malware activates scripts that perform different unauthorized by the user activities:

  • It drops files that appear as if they are legitimate.
  • It reads the allowing and trusted programs lists on Windows.
  • It looks for different processes that are running and spawns new processes with legitimate names to avoid detection. May even spawn concealed processes that do not appear in the Windows Task Manager.

It modifies the following system files – wscript.exe, WScript.exe, WScript.exe,mui, sortdefault.nls, wshom.ocx, stdole2.tlb, KERNELBASE.dll.mui, msxml3.dll.

In addition to this, the virus( may also attack the following Windows Registry Editor sub-keys to modify settings that will suit it’s needs which are to encrypt the files uninterruptedly:


Amongst other activities of the Red CERBER 2017 virus may be included the before-seen shutting down of significant database processes which may be running. It was previously detected in the code of the ransomware that the following processes are scanned for and if detected, ended as tasks, to ensure database encryption:

→ msftesql.exe sqlagent.exe sqlbrowser.exe sqlservr.exe sqlwriter.exe oracle.exe ocssd.exe dbsnmp.exe synctime.exe mydesktopqos.exe agntsvc.exeisqlplussvc.exe xfssvccon.exe mydesktopservice.exe ocautoupds.exe agntsvc.exeagntsvc.exe agntsvc.exeencsvc.exe firefoxconfig.exe tbirdconfig.exe ocomm.exe mysqld.exe mysqld-nt.exe mysqld-opt.exe dbeng50.exe sqbcoreservice.exe

Red CERBER 2017 – The Encryption Process

The encryption procedure of Red CERBER has remained rather the same, with the exclusion that there was an intermediary version of it’s previous HELP_HELP_HELP ransomware variant. This version initially began with changing the names on the encrypted files, but it later stopped changing their names and changed only their file extensions. Then, the ones who are behind the virus, if the same hackers, may have decided to switch back to changing the names of the files in this version.

Whatever the case may be, files encrypted by the _READ_THIS_FILE_ Red CERBER variant appear in a completely random way and cannot be recognized at all, for example:

For the encryption process, the virus may still use the same RSA-512 encryption algorithm. It is combined with an RC4 encryption mode and results in the files becoming no longer openable. What is worse about this is that after the virus encrypts the files on the compromised computer, it generates two types of RSA keys – public and private. Both are required to decrypt your files, especially the private key. While the public key could be factorized, using Python in Ubuntu, it is very difficult to calculate the private key, especially, because of the fact that a unique type of key has been used for each file or set of files – it is simply because of the configuration.

Similar to the other Red CERBER ransomware iterations, the virus still targets files that are used very often on user PC’s:

→ ” .123″, ” .1cd”, “.3dm”, “.3ds”, “.3fr”, “.3g2”, “.3gp”, “.3pr”, “.602”, “.7z”, “.7zip”, “.aac”, “.ab4”, “.abd”, “.acc”, “.accdb”, “.accde”, “.accdr”, “.accdt”, “.ach”, “.acr”, “.act”, “.adb”, “.adp”, “.ads”, “.aes”, “.agdl”, “.ai”, “.aiff”, “.ait”, “.al”, “.aoi”, “.apj”, “.apk”, “.arc”, “.arw”, “.ascx”, “.asf”, “.asm”, “.asp”, “.aspx”, “.asset”, “.asx”, “.atb”, “.avi”, “.awg”, “.back”, “.backup”, “.backupdb”, “.bak”, “.bank”, “.bat”, “.bay”, “.bdb”, “.bgt”, “.bik”, “.bin”, “.bkp”, “.blend”, “.bmp”, “.bpw”, “.brd”, “.bsa”, “.bz2”, “.c”, “.cash”, “.cdb”, “.cdf”, “.cdr”, “.cdr3”, “.cdr4”, “.cdr5”, “.cdr6”, “.cdrw”, “.cdx”, “.ce1”, “.ce2”, “.cer”, “.cfg”, “.cfn”, “.cgm”, “.cib”, “.class”, “.cls”, “.cmd”, “.cmt”, “.config”, “.contact”, “.cpi”, “.cpp”, “.cr2”, “.craw”, “.crt”, “.crw”, “.cry”, “.cs”, “.csh”, “.csl”, “.csr”, “.css”, “.csv”, “.d3dbsp”, “.dac”, “.das”, “.dat”, “.db”, “.db3”, “.db_journal”, “.dbf”, “.dbx”, “.dc2”, “.dch”, “.dcr”, “.dcs”, “.ddd”, “.ddoc”, “.ddrw”, “.dds”, “.def”, “.der”, “.des”, “.design”, “.dgc”, “.dgn”, “.dif”, “.dip”, “.dit”, “.djv”, “.djvu”, “.dng”, “.doc”, “.docb”, “.docm”, “.docx”, “.dot”, “.dotm”, “.dotx”, “.drf”, “.drw”, “.dtd”, “.dwg”, “.dxb”, “.dxf”, “.dxg”, “.edb”, “.eml”, “.eps”, “.erbsql”, “.erf”, “.exf”, “.fdb”, “.ffd”, “.fff”, “.fh”, “.fhd”, “.fla”, “.flac”, “.flb”, “.flf”, “.flv”, “.forge”, “.fpx”, “.frm”, “.fxg”, “.gbr”, “.gho”, “.gif”, “.gpg”, “.gray”, “.grey”, “.groups”, “.gry”, “.gz”, “.h”, “.hbk”, “.hdd”, “.hpp”, “.html”, “.hwp”, “.ibank”, “.ibd”, “.ibz”, “.idx”, “.iif”, “.iiq”, “.incpas”, “.indd”, “.info”, “.info_”, “.iwi”, “.jar”, “.java”, “.jnt”, “.jpe”, “.jpeg”, “.jpg”, “.js”, “.json”, “.k2p”, “.kc2”, “.kdbx”, “.kdc”, “.key”, “.kpdx”, “.kwm”, “.laccdb”, “.lay”, “.lay6”, “.lbf”, “.lck”, “.ldf”, “.lit”, “.litemod”, “.litesql”, “.lock”, “.ltx”, “.lua”, “.m”, “.m2ts”, “.m3u”, “.m4a”, “.m4p”, “.m4u”, “.m4v”, “.ma”, “.mab”, “.map “.max”, “.mbx”, “.md”, “.mdb”, “.mdc”, “.mdf”, “.mef”, “.mfw”, “.mid”, “.mkv”, “.mlb”, “.mml”, “.mmw”, “.mny”, “.money”, “.moneywell”, “.mos”, “.mov”, “.mp3”, “.mp4”, “.mpeg”, “.mpg”, “.mrw”, “.ms11”, “.msf”, “.msg”, “.mts”, “.myd”, “.myi”, “.nd”, “.ndd”, “.ndf”, “.nef”, “.nk2”, “.nop”, “.nrw”, “.ns2”, “.ns3”, “.ns4”, “.nsd”, “.nsf”, “.nsg”, “.nsh”, “.nvram”, “.nwb”, “.nx2”, “.nxl”, “.nyf”, “.oab”, “.obj”, “.odb”, “.odc”, “.odf”, “.odg”, “.odm”, “.odp”, “.ods”, “.odt”, “.ogg”, “.oil”, “.omg”, “.one”, “.onenotec2”, “.orf”, “.ost”, “.otg”, “.oth”, “.otp”, “.ots”, “.ott”, “.p12”, “.p7b”, “.p7c”, “.pab”, “.pages”, “.paq”, “.pas”, “.pat”, “.pbf”, “.pcd”, “.pct”, “.pdb”, “.pdd”, “.pdf”, “.pef”, “.pem”, “.pfx”, “.php”, “.pif”, “.pl”, “.plc”, “.plus_muhd”, “.pm”, “.pm!”, “.pmi”, “.pmj”, “.pml”, “.pmm”, “.pmo”, “.pmr”, “.pnc”, “.pnd”, “.png”, “.pnx”, “.pot”, “.potm”, “.potx”, “.ppam”, “.pps”, “.ppsm”, “.ppsx”, “.ppt”, “.pptm”, “.pptx”, “.prf”, “.private”, “.ps”, “.psafe3”, “.psd”, “.pspimage”, “.pst”, “.ptx”, “.pub”, “.pwm”, “.py”, “.qba”, “.qbb”, “.qbm”, “.qbr”, “.qbw”, “.qbx”, “.qby”, “.qcow”, “.qcow2”, “.qed”, “.qtb”, “.r3d”, “.raf”, “.rar”, “.rat”, “.raw”, “.rb”, “.rdb”, “.re4”, “.rm”, “.rtf”, “.rvt”, “.rw2”, “.rwl”, “.rwz”, “.s3db”, “.safe”, “.sas7bdat”, “.sav”, “.save”, “.say”, “.sch”, “.sd0”, “.sda”, “.sdb”, “.sdf”, “.secret”, “.sh”, “.sldm”, “.sldx”, “.slk”, “.slm”, “.sql”, “.sqlite”, “.sqlite-shm”, “.sqlite-wal”, “.sqlite3”, “.sqlitedb”, “.sr2”, “.srb”, “.srf”, “.srs”, “.srt”, “.srw”, “.st4”, “.st5”, “.st6”, “.st7”, “.st8”, “.stc”, “.std”, “.sti”, “.stl”, “.stm”, “.stw”, “.stx”, “.svg”, “.swf”, “.sxc”, “.sxd”, “.sxg”, “.sxi”, “.sxm”, “.sxw”, “.tar”, “.tax”, “.tbb”, “.tbk”, “.tbn”, “.tex”, “.tga”, “.tgz”, “.thm”, “.tif”, “.tiff”, “.tlg”, “.tlx”, “.txt”, “.uop”, “.uot”, “.upk”, “.usr”, “.vb”, “.vbox”, “.vbs”, “.vdi”, “.vhd”, “.vhdx”, “.vmdk”, “.vmsd”, “.vmx”, “.vmxf”, “.vob”, “.vpd”, “.vsd”, “.wab”, “.wad”, “.wallet”, “.war”, “.wav”, “.wb2”, “.wk1”, “.wks”, “.wma”, “.wmf”, “.wmv”, “.wpd”, “.wps”, “.x11”, “.x3f”, “.xis”, “.xla”, “.xlam”, “.xlc”, “.xlk”, “.xlm”, “.xlr”, “.xls”, “.xlsb”, “.xlsm”, “.xlsx”, “.xlt”, “.xltm”, “.xltx”, “.xlw”, “.xml”, “.xps”, “.xxx”, “.ycbcra” “.yuv”, “.zip”

What is interesting is that Red CERBER is configured so that it skips certain Windows folders to encrypt, so that your operating system is still inact:

\\documents and settings\\all users\\documents\\
\\microsoft sql server\\
\\the bat!\\

After an encryption takes place, just like with other Red CERBER ransomware variants, the ransom notes are dropped, with the following names:

  • _READ_THIS_FILE_{random}.jpg
  • _READ_THIS_FILE_{random}.txt
  • _READ_THIS_FILE_{random}.hta

The virus is also very thorough in it’s Tor-based payment web page, which can be accessed from the instruction files:

There, you are requested to pay a hefty ransom fee for a decryptor, which is highly inadvisable, because:

  • You cannot trust cyber-criminals.
  • You may not get all your files back by paying a hefty ransom fee.

Remove Red CERBER 2017 and Restore Encrypted Files with Random Names

Before attempting any removal or file restoration by this ransomware infection, we would recommend that you backup all your files, even if they are encrypted.

Then, for the removal of the virus, you have two approaches, both illustrated in the instructions below. You can begin to hunt for the files manually by taking advantage of the manual instructions after isolating the threat in safe mode. However, if you lack the time or the experience in malware removal, experts strongly recommend to use a specific anti-malware program which will automatically remove all associated files with CERBER and protect your system in the future too.

In case you are wondering how to restore your files, there are several alternative methods which you can attempt to use in step “2. Restore files encrypted by Red CERBER” below. They are in no way tested, so we advise using them on copies of your files and solely at your own risk. They are not 100% effective, but we have reports on our forums, that indicate that users were able to restore multiple files that were important to them this way.


Ventsislav Krastev

Ventsislav has been covering the latest malware, software and newest tech developments at SensorsTechForum for 3 years now. He started out as a network administrator. Having graduated Marketing as well, Ventsislav also has passion for discovery of new shifts and innovations in cybersecurity that become game changers. After studying Value Chain Management and then Network Administration, he found his passion within cybersecrurity and is a strong believer in basic education of every user towards online safety.

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