Yet another variant of the notorious Dharma ransomware has been detected in the wild, this time using the .zzzzz file extension mimicking the notorious Locky ransomware. This ransomware which was recently discovered is claimed by malware researchers to be an updated version of CrySiS ransomware variants with more sophisticated encryption and decryption. Users who have paid the ransom of 3 BTC requested by the Dharma crooks after it encrypts the files report that they are provided software with which they scan their computer and get a unique key only to send it back to the cyber-criminals and then get the decryptor. Even though it is tempting, we highly advise against following any guidelines of the README.txt and .jpg files dropped by Dharma after the infection and instead read the following article to learn how to remove dharma ransomware from your computer and how to try and restore your missing files.
|Short Description||Dharma encrypts user files and leaves as contact e-mail addresses to contact the criminals behind it and pay the ransom fee.|
|Symptoms||Changes file extension of encrypted files to .zzzzz and the e-mail address for contact. Changes wallpaper to one with ransom instructions that have the backup ransom e-mail. Adds ransom notes in README.txt and README.jpg files.|
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|User Experience||Join our forum to Discuss Dharma .zzzzz.|
|Data Recovery Tool||Windows 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.|
Dharma .zzzzz Ransomware – More Information
Distribution of Dharma
The first stage of getting infected by this virus is to interact with malicious objects. So far, concerning this variant of Dharma ransomware, it’s methods of infecting are similar to the other .wallet and .dharma variants. The virus may utilize a mixture of tools to cause an infection:
- Obfuscation malware to activate the payload dropper without any security software noticing it.
- Exploit kits to download the payload of the virus without the user noticing.
- Spamming software to spread spam messages with malicious attachments.
- Archivers to archive the malware and hide it from spam filters and malware checks online.
- Malicious scripts to cause an infection via a malicious web links or .hta, .htm, html, .js, .wsf or other similar files or macros in infected Microsoft Office or Adobe documents.
All of these tools may be used in a variety of combination to get users infected by this ransomware virus. It may come onto your computer via a malicious URL posted on social media websites, like Facebook, Twitter and other web pages, causing redirects to a scripted host. Another scenario is if you receive such a web link directly via a message from a compromised account, like a Skype message for example, saying “Check this out :D”. There is also the potential scenario of becoming infected with the .zzzzz variant of Dharma ransomware via spammed e-mail messages that contain a malicious attachment masked as a .zip .rar or other archived “document”, pretending to be an invoice. Furthermore, you can become infected by Dharma ransomware as a result of clicking on an advertisement caused by a potentially unwanted program (PUP) on your computer. Also, it is less likely but it is possible to become infected by the .zzzzz variant by simply opening a suspicious file downloaded via torrents uploaded by the hackers on a p2p website.
Dharma .zzzzz Version – Post-Infection Analysis
After having infected users with malware, Dharma ransomware is very specific on it’s activity. For starters, it may begin to kill any processes that might interfere with it’s encryption process or file dropping, using different versions of the taskkill command:
→ taskkill /pid 1230 /pid 1241 /pid 1253
taskkill /f /fi “USERNAME eq NT AUTHORITY\SYSTEM” /im notepad.exe
taskkill /s srvmain /f /im notepad.exe
taskkill /s srvmain /u maindom\hiropln /p [email protected] /fi “IMAGENAME eq note*” /im *
taskkill /s srvmain /u maindom\hiropln /fi “USERNAME ne NT*” /im *
taskkill /f /fi “PID ge 1000” /im *
After having done, this, Dharma .zzzzz ransomware may create different files in the dominant Windows folders. The files may have different functions and have different names, for example:
After this is done, Dharma .zzzzz variant may begin to scan a wide variety of file types to encrypt, including videos, photos, various documents, audio files, pictures and other types of files. Similar to CrySiS, it may begin to hunt for the following types of files:
After encryption, the files appear in proximity to the following:
In addition to this, the ransomware is also reported render the files completely non-openable after encoding and to leave behind a ransom note asking to contact an e-mail. The note is contained in a README.txt or README.jpg file and may be the following:
At the moment, your system is not protected.
We can fix it and restore files.
To restore the system write to this address:
When the e-mail associated with Dharma .zzzzz ransomware is contacted, the cyber-criminals request amount somewhere between 2 and 3 BTC depending on the importance of the files. In some instances they were also willing to bring down the price down to 1 BTC. After the victim pays the ransom, he is provided with a scanning software:
This scanning software aims to scan for and discover what seems to be a public key and appears like the following:
This key is then inputted into the decryption software after which it discovers a decryption key which is used again with the “help” of the cyber-crooks and the software to decrypt the encoded files.
Remove Dharma .zzzzz Ransomware and Restore Encrypted Files
Even though it seems tempting, malware researchers and cyber-security experts strongly advise the victims of Dharma’s .zzzzz ransomware variant to focus on removing the ransomware virus and using alternative methods like the ones in the instructions in step “2. Restore files encrypted by Dharma .zzzzz”. Paying the ransom will only cause support the cyber-criminals’ malicious activity and let them develop and further spread this ransomware to infect other people.
But, before trying the alternative decryption instructions, we strongly urge you to perform the actions below:
1. Backup the encrypted files and create several copies of them.
2. Remove Dharma, preferably by following the instructions below.
3. Focus on trying to restore the files using alternative methods, like the ones we have suggested below in step “2. Restore files encrypted by Dharma”.
Manually delete Dharma .zzzzz from your computer
Note! Substantial notification about the Dharma .zzzzz threat: Manual removal of Dharma .zzzzz 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.