A new variant of the Scarab ransomware is doing the rounds that appends the .ERROR extension to locked files and uses firstname.lastname@example.org contact email.
Losing vigilance for just a moment while surfing the web makes users vulnerable to attack. This isn’t an attempt of ours to dramatize the state of things – in fact, simply opening an innocuous-looking document attached to a catchy email is enough to get infected with malicious code like ransomware. In early October 2018, numerous home users and enterprises started reporting incidents of what was originally thought to be a new blackmail virus in action. The culprit circulates by means of spam, encrypts victims’ important files, adds the .ERROR string to them and drops a ransom note named HOW TO RECOVER ENCRYPTED FILES.TXT. A bit of scrupulous inspection into the indicators of compromise, though, has revealed that this is a fresh edition of the long-running ransom Trojan codenamed Scarab.
As mentioned above, the infection chain commences in a way that doesn’t deviate from the most common ransomware scenario. The .ERROR files virus arrives in the form of a payload encapsulated in an email attachment. The booby-trapped file, typically a Microsoft Word document, contains macros that surreptitiously download the entirety of Scarab’s components from the criminals Command and Control server. The spam recipient is manipulated into loading this file and then enabling macros, given the arresting email subject like “Invoice”, “Important notice”, “Utility bill” or something similar. Ransomware distributors are good at social engineering, so the success rate of their malspam waves is appreciable. Once the ransomware is in, things dynamically slip out of the victim’s control.
First, Scarab silently tries to deactivate VSS (Volume Snapshot Service) so that the user is unable to restore data items based on their shadow copies at a later point. Then, it traverses all the local disks, removable drives and network drives for dozens of the most popular file types – this way, it obtains the list of files that bear value to the victim. Of course, the extortion logic presupposes encryption to make sure the important information becomes inaccessible. The Trojan uses AES (Advanced Encryption Standard), which is a symmetric cipher that’s not considered the strongest across the board, but it’s still impossible to crack as long as the implementation is competent. By applying this cryptosystem, the Scarab virus successfully locks down all of the plagued user’s personal files and blemishes them with the .ERROR string. The filenames proper stay unaltered, so a sample image named Spectacular.jpg will end up looking like this: Spectacular.jpg.ERROR.
The finishing stroke of the onslaught boils down to a ransom note being dropped onto the desktop and across folders with hostage data. Again, it’s a file named HOW TO RECOVER ENCRYPTED FILES.TXT. It goes, “Warning read this carefully!!!!!! Your personal identifier [victim ID]. Your documents, photos, databases, saved games and other important data were encrypted. Data recovery requires a decryptor. To receive the decryptor, you should send an email to the email address email@example.com.”
The victims who reach out to the adversary over the indicated contact details receive a response shown above. According to it, they are supposed to submit 0.4 Bitcoin to the attacker in exchange for the decryption service. The malefactors “kindly” offer free decryption of up to three files to demonstrate that they have the right recovery mechanisms at their disposal. There have been reports of the ransom size being negotiable, but this probably depends on the victim’s reasoning as well as the crooks’ mood. In order not to leave it all to chance, the best tactic is not to get infected in the first place. Opening a suspicious email attachment is always a slippery slope, so users should refrain from doing it no matter how curious they are. If the contamination has already taken place, consider following the steps below to check what’s recoverable beyond ransom.
.ERROR 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.
.ERROR 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 .ERROR blackmail 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 .ERROR 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 .ERROR Scarab 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.