Home Guides GandCrab 5.2 ransomware decryptor and removal [upd. May 2019]

GandCrab 5.2 ransomware decryptor and removal [upd. May 2019]

7 min read
In light of the recent GandCrab 5.2 ransomware version release, get insights into its new features and learn how to go about the recovery of encrypted files.
  1. What is Gandcrab v5.2 ransomware?
  2. GandCrab 5.2 ransomware automated removal and data recovery
  3. GandCrab 5.2 ransomware manual removal and file recovery
  4. Ransomware Prevention Tips

What is GandCrab 5.2 ransomware?

Extortion through crypto viruses comes down to all things GandCrab for the second year on end. Whilst some might consider this to be an exaggeration to an extent, the reign of this ransomware on the cyber blackmail battlefield is indisputable and doesn’t appear to be undermined by any other strain. What’s more, it keeps giving birth to spinoffs regularly. A month after version 5.1 went live, GandCrab 5.2 surfaced, and it seems to be backed by even more malicious ambitions at its core.

There is some “catch me if you can” background behind this latest variant. Here’s the story: one of the world’s leading antimalware vendors, Bitdefender Labs, released an automatic decryption tool around mid-February 2019 that supports versions 1, 4 up to 5.1 of the infection. This has become the most likely stimulus for the operators of this nefarious campaign to launch a new edition in quick succession. And here we go – GandCrab 5.2 is already here, and it cannot be cracked using the above-mentioned decryptor.

Like the previous versions, GandCrab 5.2 displays a creepy desktop wallpaper with an alert
Like the previous versions, GandCrab 5.2 displays a creepy desktop wallpaper with an alert

Obviously, the fundamental tweak in the current variant is in the realm of encryption. The crooks figured out which flaw in their crypto mechanism has been unveiled and exploited by the white hats, and they had to hastily fine-tune the cipher part of their nasty routine. Unfortunately, this has become a successful effort and the victims are still bound to negotiate with the criminals if they want their valuable data back. Other than that, the attack looks basically the same on the outside. The tip of the iceberg is still composed of a desktop wallpaper that the ransomware configures to be displayed instead of the one the user prefers. It contains a warning that says, “Encrypted by GandCrab 5.2” and inherits the old wording that goes, “Your files are under strong protection by our software. In order to restore it you must buy decryptor”. Generally, nothing has changed in this context.

The infected user is told to open a file named [RANDOM]-DECRYPT.txt, which is a no-brainer to find as it is dropped into every encrypted folder. This is a ransom note that reiterates the desktop alert, only with a somewhat expanded formulation, and instructs the victim to visit their personal decryptor page using Tor Browser. The malefactors are “generous” enough to offer free decryption of one file as proof of viable recovery. That’s such a cold comfort, though. The extortionists-run payment page, which is an .onion domain, coerces the visitor to send about $1,200 worth of Dash or Bitcoin cryptocurrency in exchange for the decryption software. There is a deadline – typically a week – after which the amount will grow two times.

GandCrab 5.2 additionally underwent an overhaul of the distribution logic. Aside from the commonplace malspam, or rather phishing, as well as booby-trapped software crack tools and exploits kits, the adversaries have begun employing RDP hacks. They use Internet-wide scanning solutions to spot open ports associated with remote desktop services. Such a technique allows the felons to literally break into a vulnerable Windows computer, drop the ransomware binary (rlxbp.exe or similar) and execute it without any conspicuous giveaways.

Once up and running, the offending program first performs a massive data search on the contaminated host. The scan compares all of the user’s files against a hard-coded database of popular formats. This way, GandCrab 5.2 accurately finds the victim’s personal data objects. Next, the pest leverages a combination of RSA and AES cryptosystems to lock down every detected item. The encrypted files also change externally. Each one gets a random-looking extension appended to the original filename. This string is victim-specific and consists of 4-10 characters. For example, a spreadsheet named PieChart.xlsx transforms into something like PieChart.xlsx.srpfsevst. By the way, the extension matches the first part of the ransom note name, so in this case it will be SRPFSEVST-DECRYPT.txt.

So much for the GandCrab 5.2 attack chain. As mentioned above, its victims cannot rely on free decryptor to get their files back. Under the circumstances, there are two options. One is to cough up the money to the criminals and hope they will carry through with their promise. The other is to follow the steps below and try to restore the data in a few alternative ways. The choice is yours, but the latter one is definitely worth a shot.

GandCrab 5.2 ransomware automated removal and data recovery

When faced with ransomware like GandCrab 5.2, one of the best shortcuts in terms of removal is to use Combo Cleaner, a lightweight and incredibly effective application with PC security and optimization features under the hood. It detects and thoroughly deletes threats while giving you insights into the overall health of your computer.

This program’s protection power spans modules that forestall all known types of malware, including ransomware and browser hijackers, and take your online security to the next level by blocking phishing sites and other suspicious web pages. Follow these simple steps to eliminate the infection for good:

1. Download Combo Cleaner installer.

Download GandCrab 5.2 remover

Combo Cleaner scans your PC with no strings attached, but you’ll have to buy its fully functional version to remove the threats it detects. The disk optimization tools that find large files and duplicates are free to use.

Download and run Combo Cleaner installer on your PC

2. Open the CCSetup.exe file to get started. Several subsequent screens will allow you to make initial customizations so that the program works exactly as you need from the get-go.Setup customizations

3. The installation will be followed by an update of malware signatures. Once this process is through, click the Start Scan button in the left-hand sidebar.Start initial scan

4. Combo Cleaner will then check system locations that are most often polluted by Windows malware. The first scan can take a while to finish.Combo Cleaner scan in progress

5. Combo Cleaner will display a system tray notification as soon as the scan is over. Click the Resolve found threats button to view the results.Scan completed

6. The scan summary shows the names and types of the detected threats as well as their statuses and locations. Click the Remove all threats button and follow further on-screen prompts to get rid of these items.Scan results

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 Stellar Data Recovery features this type of a capability and therefore it can be applied in ransom attack scenarios to at least get the most important files back. So use the app to get an idea of what data can be restored and let it do the recovery job. Here is a step-by-step walkthrough:

1. Download and install Stellar Data Recovery.

Download Stellar Data Recovery

2. Open the application, select the types of recoverable files to look for, and click Next.Stellar Data Recovery main screen

3. Choose the areas you want the tool to recover from and click the Scan button.Select which PC areas to recover from

4. Having scanned the specified locations, the program will display a notification about the total amount of recoverable data. Close the dialog and click the Recover button. This will hopefully help you get some of your valuable files back.Recover files

GandCrab 5.2 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 GandCrab 5.2 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.

Remove GandCrab 5.2 ransomware using Safe Mode with Networking

Remove GandCrab 5.2 ransomware using Safe Mode with Networking

Get rid of GandCrab 5.2 ransomware using System Restore

Get rid of GandCrab 5.2 ransomware using System Restore

System Restore enables Windows users to roll back all changes made to the OS since the latest restore point creation time. This feature can help eliminate the most persistent ransomware. Before going this route, though, make sure System Restore had been enabled prior to the breach, otherwise the method will be inefficient.

  • 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.Safe Mode with Command Prompt
  • In the Command Prompt window, type cd restore and hit Entercd restore command
  • Type rstrui.exe in the new command line and press EnterType rstrui.exe command
  • 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.System Restore window
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 GandCrab 5.2

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.

Backups can make your day

Backups can make your day

Not only are you a lucky person in case you’ve been backing up your most important files, but you’re also a wise and prudent user. This isn’t necessarily a resource-heavy activity these days – in fact, some providers of online services are allocating a sufficient size of cloud storage space for free so that every customer can easily upload their critical data without paying a penny. Having removed the GandCrab 5.2 ransomware, therefore, all you have to do is download your stuff from the remote server or transfer it all from an external piece of hardware if that’s the case.

Restore previous versions of encrypted files

Restore previous versions of encrypted files

A positive upshot of using this technique depends on whether or not the ransomware has erased the Volume Shadow Copies of the files on your PC. This is a Windows feature that automatically makes and keeps the backups of data elements on the hard drive as long as System Restore is enabled. The cryptoware in question is programmed to switch off the Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS), but it has reportedly failed to in some cases.

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.

Shadow Explorer

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.

Previous Versions

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 GandCrab 5.2 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. Another benefit of using the antimalware tool is that it will keep ransomware threats from intruding on your computer further on.

Download GandCrab 5.2 removal tool

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  1. Edmonton

    May 5, 2019 at 12:07 pm

    I’ve been hit by the GandCrab v5.2 thing and now files have a weird *.epqcefrts extension. Can’t open them. The good news is, I have the most important ones backed up in the cloud. What do I do now to make sure the data isn’t re-encrypted after I restore it from safe storage?


    • Will Wisser

      May 7, 2019 at 5:52 pm

      Hi Edmonton! You are one of the few lucky and cautious ones who treat the backup mantra seriously. Good for you!
      1. The first thing we’d recommend you do is get rid of GandCrab 5.2 otherwise it will most likely encode everything you restore from backup. Use the steps above to remove it for good.
      2. Then, work out which encrypted files aren’t backed up, if any. This ransomware doesn’t change the original filenames, except the new 5-10 character extension that’s added, so this should make the task easier. If possible, move the still-locked files to a separate folder – perhaps a free decryptor will be released sometime soon.
      3. When done, you can safely restore all your files from backup. It’s up to you what to do with their encrypted copies. If you keep their up-to-date versions in the cloud, then you can simply delete them.


  2. Lizzy

    May 9, 2019 at 7:34 pm

    Hi there. Removed the virus and the scary desktop wallpaper is gone. All files are still locked anyway though. Any suggestions?


    • Will Wisser

      May 10, 2019 at 5:40 pm

      Hello Lizzy. Try the forensic recovery techniques (walkthroughs above) and see if they can do the trick. Otherwise, there is no 100% effective method unless you have a data backup unaffected by the ransomware. The free decrypt tool by Bitdefender mentioned in the article doesn’t support GandCrab version 5.2 at this point. So consider storing all encrypted files in a safe place and wait for another breakthrough of the researchers – hopefully, it’s on its way.


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