Users who got their personal files encrypted and appended with the .aes_ni_0day or .aes256 extension should leverage this tutorial for recovery assistance.
Just like fingerprints in a real-world crime investigation, every ransomware attack is accompanied by unique IOCs (indicators of compromise) that make it possible to identify the specific crypto threat and the family it represents. One of such infections currently running rampant takes victims’ files hostage and blemishes them with the .aes_ni_0day or .aes256 extension. The former file suffix is inherent to the latest edition of the pest circulating as of mid-April 2017, and the latter refers to a variant that’s been around since December 2016. The offending program proper is called the AES-NI ransomware. The cryptographic facet of this menace involves symmetric AES-256 and RSA-2048 algorithms. While each one is strong enough to thwart brute-forcing as long as it’s implemented right, a combination of both poses an insurmountable obstacle to recovery of the data.
To let the affected user know what happened and what to do next, the plague leaves a ransom note named “!!! READ THIS – IMPORTANT !!!.txt” on the desktop and inside folders with scrambled data. The wording in this how-to varies, depending on whether it’s a server edition of the ransomware or one that affects individual computers. In case a server got hit, the note will start with the following phrase, “AES-NI, special version: NSA exploit edition. INTRO: If you are reading it, your server was attacked with NSA exploits. Make World Safe Again.” The next part is basically the same for both AES-NI versions. It goes, “SORRY! Your files are encrypted. File contents are encrypted with random key (AES-256 bit; ECB mode). Random key is encrypted with RSA public key (2048 bit). We strongly recommend you not to use any “decryption tools”. These tools can damage your data, making recovery impossible.”
Either way, to obtain the RSA private key and get the locked information back, victims are instructed to reach the threat actors via email using one of the following addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, those infected can contact the attackers over Bitmessage or Jabber instant messenger, the corresponding IDs being indicated in the “!!! READ THIS – IMPORTANT !!!.txt” ransom note mentioned above. A really weird thing, though, is that the crooks also tell users to create a topic regarding their issue on Bleeping Computer security forums in case they don’t receive an email response in 48 hours. To put it mildly, that’s an interesting way for criminals to get in touch with their preys.
The size of the ransom fluctuates from incident to incident. Obviously, an organization will have to pay more than a home user. The lowest amount reported by victims at this point is 1.5 Bitcoin, which is worth about 1,800 USD. That’s still higher than the average size across the board. Given the numerous adverse effects, it goes without saying that end users and companies should do their best to prevent ransom Trojans like AES-NI from attacking them. Unlike the majority of its counterparts, this particular strain mostly propagates via Remote Desktop Protocol. This is old school hacking in action. Aside from hardening RDP related defenses, users should prioritize their data and back up at least the most important files. If the .aes_ni_0day / .aes256 file ransomware has already gotten inside and done its filthy job, start the troubleshooting with the steps below.
AES-NI ransomware 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.
AES-NI ransomware manual removal and file recovery
Some ransomware strains terminate themselves after completing the encryption job on a computer, but some don’t. Furthermore, the AES-NI virus 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 .aes_ni_0day / .aes256 files recovery
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 .aes_ni_0day / .aes256 files ransomware 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.