Since the crypto ransomware called Erebus is professionally designed and currently cannot be cracked, it is shaping up to be another serious security problem.
There is no computer completely immune to ransomware. What is more, these threats are getting increasingly sophisticated over time. Even if one exercises due caution with files that go with malicious spam, there is always probability of crooks leveraging RDP or exploit kits that need a minimum of user action to deploy the bad program. A recent extortion hoax depositing the Erebus ransomware on Windows machines shows how efficient these campaigns can be. This sample has been circulating since February 2017, but it’s not until early June that a significant upswing in its distribution took root. Erebus is unusual in several ways. First of all, it is capable of getting around UAC (User Account Control) on an infected host. Secondly, in addition to encrypting files proper, it scrambles every file extension.
This strain is making the rounds by dint of spam generated by a large network of bots. The contagious emails may impersonate various local service providers, including ISPs, as well as international delivery companies, potential employers or even law enforcement agencies. Regardless of the email subject, the gist of the attack vector lies in the attachment. If opened, what looks like an innocuous invoice, job offer or scanned fax will unleash the infection behind the recipient’s back. As it has been mentioned, payload execution is followed by a UAC circumvention trick, where the bad code makes changes to the system registry in order to tweak certain file associations. This enables the ransomware process to run at elevated privileges without displaying any authorization prompts.
A number of media resources are unveiling some disconcerting details on the current Erebus outbreak. The ransomware reportedly hit a high-profile target around June 10, which has led to immense collateral damage. Nayana, a web hosting company based in South Korea, had 153 of its Linux servers contaminated with the crypto malware in question. Consequently, about 3,400 websites hosted on the hijacked servers got affected in the aftermath of this compromise. As per official coverage of this incident, the threat actors originally demanded a whopping 10 Bitcoin (about $27,000) for data decryption but ended up reducing it down to 5.4 Bitcoin, which is still a hefty amount. Nayana officials claim to be negotiating with the crooks at the time of this writing and have called in local authorities to investigate.
Once executed, the Erebus ransomware identifies files stored in the most popular data formats. The built-in list of these formats isn’t as broad as with most crypto infections, but it does cover the most potentially valuable information. Then, it encrypts the contents of every such file using AES (Advanced Encryption Standard), which makes it impossible to open or edit the data without the criminals-owned secret key. Additionally, Erebus jumbles up file extension through the use of ROT-23, a variant of the so-called Caesar cipher. Meanwhile, filenames are not altered. As a result, a sample spreadsheet named Receipt.xlsx will turn into an entry named Receipt.uipu.
Having completed the encryption, the Trojan displays a “Files crypted!” popup dialog. It reads, “Every important file on this computer was crypted. Please look on your document or desktop folder for a file called README.html for instructions on how to decrypt them.” Indeed, the Erebus virus drops a troubleshooting how-to named README.html onto the desktop and into every directory with locked files. This ransom note includes unique victim ID, the list of hostage data entries, and a button leading to a Tor-based decryption service page. The latter instructs the victim to submit 0.085 Bitcoin (about $230) during 96 hours. This is a fairly small amount compared to other extortion waves, but that’s cold comfort anyway. No free decryption tool supports the Erebus ransomware at this time, so the data recovery techniques below are must-try.
Erebus 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.
Erebus 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 Erebus 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 recovery of files encrypted by Erebus
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 Erebus 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.
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