Get a full security profile of Locky ransomware’s new Jaff variant and learn data recovery options that may put the Bitcoin ransom out of the equation.
May 2017 update: The latest Jaff ransomware edition uses .wlu extension for encrypted files
A new sample of file-encrypting ransomware, which is most likely a spinoff of the Locky infection, is currently gaining momentum in its distribution. Dubbed Jaff after the extension it appends to every enciphered entry, this threat shares quite a few characteristics with its predecessors and features a couple of fundamental differences at the same time. As far as the external manifestation goes, the newcomer has a file marker of its own. The targeted files on a victim’s computer get suffixed with the .jaff string. The version-specific file token tends to swap with every new iteration of Locky.
The ransom notes, which provide a walkthrough for data decryption, are now named ReadMe.txt, ReadMe.bmp and ReadMe.html. The infection drops a combo of these how-to’s into each encrypted directory and onto the desktop, complementing the nefarious guidance with recovery instructions that come to occupy the greater part of the desktop background. The wording of these help files has changed as compared to the previous editions of the ransomware. This time they read, “Jaff decryptor system. Files are encrypted! To decrypt files you need to obtain the private key. The only copy of the private key, which will allow you to decrypt your files, is located on a secret server in the Internet.”
The strength of data encryption by Jaff ransomware revolves around the use of the AES-128 symmetric cryptographic algorithm. Since the cipher implementation is flawless, the ransomware poses a serious obstacle to brute-forcing and forensic methods of information recovery. But before the pest gets to the crypto phase proper, it runs a scan for the victim’s important data in the background. The Jaff virus goes equipped with a built-in list of targeted file extensions, so it isn’t likely to miss any potentially valuable document, video, image, database, or other entities stored in a widespread format. Then, having completed the encoding job, the infection leaves a slew of inaccessible items behind. As opposed to previous Locky editions, this one does not affect the filenames. Instead, it only concatenates the strain-specific extension, making a sample file Document.pdf turn into Document.pdf.jaff.
This aggressive program is making the rounds via malicious spam generated by the Necurs botnet, the same one that propped the large-scale circulation of other Locky variants. In the current malspam wave, targeted uses receive emails with the subject Copy_[random digits], File_[random digits], Document_[random digits] or similar. The attachment is named nm.pdf. When opened, it ends up triggering a Microsoft Word file that says the document is protected and instructs the recipient to enable content, or macros. As soon as an unwary user does this, Jaff will be automatically executed on the machine.
The aftermath of the onslaught involves an online decryption spot, which is a resource named the Jaff Decryptor System. By design, it is a replica of the Locky Decryptor page. It is protected by The Onion Router anonymity tool, so victims are supposed to visit it using the appropriate software called Tor Browser. The link to this page is unique for every infected user – it is indicated in the ransom notes along with the victim’s personal ID. The restoration workflow includes several steps: registering a Bitcoin wallet if the victim doesn’t use one; purchasing 2.03 BTC (currently worth about 3,600 USD); sending this digital cash to a particular Bitcoin address; and finally, refreshing the page to download the automatic decryptor. Although this scheme reportedly works in most cases, it’s strongly recommended to try all possible alternatives first. Whereas the Jaff ransomware is programmed to delete Volume Shadow Copies of all encrypted files, this attempt may end up unsuccessful. Therefore, trying to restore previous versions of the jumbled data items is worthwhile. Keep reading this guide to learn additional best practice tips on handling the Jaff version of Locky ransomware plague.
Jaff 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.
Jaff 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 Jaff 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 .jaff 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 Jaff 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.