Learn what dangers can emanate from an .ace extension file attached to email and how to act in case a ransomware infection intrudes on a computer this way.
Distributors of file-encrypting ransomware appear to be constantly searching for new methods to deposit their code onto Windows machines. There are multiple known attack vectors, including the use of exploit kits and spam. Some threat actors have even abused remote access services to execute ransom Trojans manually. However, the simplest and, by far, the most widespread tactic revolves around phishing, where attackers leverage botnets to send thousands of rogue emails in one fell swoop. Once users open the attached files, the built-in obfuscated scripts download the malware from remote servers. These booby-trapped files usually assume the shape of ZIP or RAR archives that contain troublemaking entities. The crooks have been apparently stumbling into hurdles in this context lately due to the blocking of these suspicious objects on email providers’ end. To avoid blacklisting, online extortionists have begun using new formats, including .ace extension files.
An .ace item denotes a compressed archive that’s functionally similar to the above-mentioned ZIP and RAR packages. From a cybercriminal’s viewpoint, the advantage of embedding ACE files in phishing emails is that this format is not as heavily used across the board. Consequently, the modern email systems may not flag it as something potentially harmful, so it gets through without being impeded. These attachments are typically camouflaged as something important that’s worth opening. For instance, it can be a fake receipt, invoice, failed delivery report, paycheck, job offer, order details, subscription cancellation request and the like. When a recipient unpacks this archive, they will normally see an item inside that looks like a Microsoft Office document, a JS, VBS or EXE file. Be advised it’s an awfully bad idea to open any object inside an .ace archive received over email, otherwise chances are the PC will get infected with ransomware like Locky or Cerber.
The crypto virus will instantly configure the new host system to run its malicious executable at all times. Its stay on the computer will continue with a scan for personal data, where the ransomware looks for common types of files, such as images, documents, databases, and videos. Every detected entity is subject to encryption with a strong algorithm or even a mix of two cryptosystems, namely RSA-2048 and AES-128. Having completed the data scrambling part of its mission, the infection peeps out with its ransom demands for the decryption service. In particular, it provides several secure Tor links pointing to the Locky Decryptor or Cerber Decryptor page. The ransom is to be submitted in Bitcoin, which makes the transaction anonymous enough for the bad guys to stay on the loose. Its size may be anywhere in the range of 0.5 – 1 BTC, or some 350 – 700 USD.
There is currently no free tool that decrypts data locked by the ransomware that arrives via the .ace file virus. Despite this doom and gloom, there are methods that anyone should try before opting for the ransom route. Read the part below and see if the instructions can help restore the scrambled information. Also, peruse the prevention tips to stay away from the .ace extension virus and other ransom Trojans further on.
.Ace file virus automated removal and data recovery
Owing to an up-to-date database of malware signatures and intelligent behavioral detection, the recommended software can quickly locate the infection, eradicate it and remediate all harmful changes. So go ahead and do the following:
1. Download and install the antimalware tool. Open the solution and have it check your PC for PUPs and other types of malicious software by clicking the Start Computer Scan button
2. Rest assured the scan report will list all items that may harm your operating system. Select the detected entries and click Fix Threats to get the troubleshooting completed.
Data recovery toolkit to the rescue
Some strains of ransomware are known to delete the original files after the encryption routine has been completed. As hostile as this activity appears, it can play into your hands. There are applications designed to revive the information that was obliterated because of malfunctioning hardware or due to accidental removal. The tool called Data Recovery Pro by ParetoLogic features this type of capability therefore it can be applied in ransom attack scenarios to at least get the most important files back. So download and install the program, run a scan and let it do its job.
.Ace file virus manual removal and file recovery
Some ransomware strains terminate themselves after completing the encryption job on a computer, but some don’t. Furthermore, the .ace file infection may prevent victims from using popular antimalware tools in order to stay on board for as long as possible. Under the circumstances, it may be necessary to utilize the Safe Mode with Networking or System Restore functionality.
- Restart the machine. When the system begins loading back up, keep pressing the F8 key with short intervals. The Windows Advanced Options Menu (Advanced Boot Options) screen will appear.
- Use arrow keys to select Safe Mode with Networking and hit Enter. Log on with the user account infected by the ransomware.
- Click on the Search icon next to the Start menu button. Type msconfig in the search field and select the System Configuration option in the results. Go to the Boot tab in the upper part of the GUI.
- Under Boot options, select Safe boot and click the Apply button. A prompt will appear to reboot the computer so that the changes take effect. Select the Restart option and wait for the system to load into Safe Mode. Again, log on with the ransomware-stricken user account.
In Safe Mode, the ransom Trojan won’t keep security software from running or otherwise thwart troubleshooting. Open your preferred web browser, download and install an antimalware tool of choice and start a full system scan. Have all the detected ransomware components removed in a hassle-free way.
- Open Windows Advanced Options Menu as described in the previous section: hit F8 repeatedly when the PC is starting up. Use arrow keys to highlight the Safe Mode with Command Prompt entry. Hit Enter.
- In the Command Prompt window, type cd restore and hit Enter
- Type rstrui.exe in the new command line and press Enter
- When the System Restore screen pops up, click Next, select a restore point that predates the contamination, and use the application’s controls to roll back the system to this earlier state.
Be advised that even after the ransomware is removed, files will still be encrypted and inaccessible. The malicious code cleanup part, however, is important because it keeps a relapse of the infection from occurring further on and eliminates all opportunistic malware.
Ways of non-ransom recovery of locked files
Cracking the crypto used by this ransom Trojan is more of a science fiction thing rather than an attainable prospect for the masses. This is why the troubleshooting in predicaments of this sort is a matter of two approaches: one is to pay the ransom, which isn’t an option for many victims; and the other is to apply instruments that take advantage of the ransomware’s possible weaknesses. If the latter is your pick, the advice below is a must-try.
Checking one’s options regarding this workaround is doable in two ways: through the Properties menu of each file or by means of the remarkable open-source tool called Shadow Explorer. We recommend the software-based way because it’s automated, hence faster and easier. Just install the app and use its intuitive controls to get previous versions of the encrypted objects reinstated.
Alternatively, you can leverage the Previous Versions feature, which is native to Windows operating system. This method is more cumbersome that the use of ShadowExplorer, but it can help restore the most important individual files on condition that the ransomware failed to disable the Volume Snapshot Service on the computer. Right-click on a file of choice and select Properties. Then, go to the Previous Versions tab as illustrated below.
Go ahead and pick the file’s latest backup version on the list. Use the Copy or Restore buttons to reinstate this object to a new path or to its original folder, respectively.
Ransomware Prevention Tips
To avoid the .ace file virus and other file-encrypting infections in the future, follow several simple recommendations:
- Toggle your email provider’s anti-spam settings to filter out all the potentially harmful incoming messages. Raising the bar beyond the default protection is an important countermeasure for ransom Trojans.
- Define specific file extension restrictions in your email system. Make sure that attachments with the following extensions are blacklisted: .js, .vbs, .docm, .hta, .exe, .cmd, .scr, and .bat. Also, treat ZIP archives in received messages with extreme caution.
- Rename the vssadmin.exe process so that ransomware is unable to obliterate all Shadow Volume Copies of your files in one shot.
- Keep your Firewall active at all times. It can prevent crypto ransomware from communicating with its C&C server. This way, the threat won’t be able to obtain cryptographic keys and lock your files.
- Back up your files regularly, at least the most important ones. This recommendation is self-explanatory. A ransomware attack isn’t an issue as long as you keep unaffected copies of your data in a safe place.
- Use an effective antimalware suite. There are security tools that identify ransomware-specific behavior and block the infection before it can do any harm.
These techniques are certainly not a cure-all, but they will add an extra layer of ransomware protection to your security setup.
Revise your security status
Post-factum assessment of the accuracy component in malware removal scenarios is a great habit that prevents the comeback of harmful code or replication of its unattended fractions. Make sure you are good to go by running an additional safety checkup.