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GandCrab v5.0 ransomware decryption and removal

6 min read
GandCrab v5.0 is an outcome of the latest overhaul of the dangerous ransomware that now adds a random extension to filenames and uses a new ransom note.

New version releases are a normal thing in the evolution of major ransomware families. Sometimes these updates pursue to simply fine-tune the infections functionally, with hardly any conspicuous changes visible to the naked eye. In some cases, the blackmail viruses are revamped from the ground up so that even security researchers find it hard to identify them. But most of the time, these are moderate tweaks that give the data-encrypting baddies a fresh look and feel. The latter holds true for the recent GandCrab ransomware upgrade to version 5.0 as of late September 2018. The most obvious change is the new filename skewing tactic. Whereas the previous variant appended the .KRAB extension to encrypted files, GandCrab v5.0 uses a random one instead.

GandCrab v5.0 now appends file extensions consisting of 5 random characters
GandCrab v5.0 now appends file extensions consisting of 5 random characters

The extension is unique for every victim and consists of 5 random characters. It’s unclear at this point how exactly this string is derived. It may be grabbed from the infected computer’s specific hardware ID that’s not encountered on any other machine – a technique similar to how the ill-famed Cerber ransomware fetched extensions from hosts’ GUID value during its peak performance period. Anyway, a sample document named 7.docx, having been encrypted by GandCrab v5, will turn into something like 7.docx.icmso. Of course, editing the filename by deleting the rogue suffix will in no way make the item accessible again. That’s because cryptography is involved in the extortion chain. The ransomware scans the plagued computer and network drives for important files and encrypts them using asymmetric cipher. The above-mentioned extension is merely an external token that makes it easy for the victim to distinguish normal files from encoded ones.

[capitalized file extension]-DECRYPT.html ransom note by GandCrab v5.0
[capitalized file extension]-DECRYPT.html ransom note by GandCrab v5.0

After completing the data encryption part of the attack, GandCrab v5.0 follows the well-trodden ransomware path drops a rescue note. This is one more thing that makes this particular version different from its predecessor. The how-to is now named [capitalized extension]-DECRYPT.html. In our sample scenario, it would be ICMSO-DECRYPT.html. Again, the first part of the name matches the victim-specific filename tail, so it’s going to vary across the infected user base. A copy of the ransom note appears on the desktop, and every folder containing hostage files will get one added to it as well. Its intro goes:

All your files, documents, photos, databases and other important files are encrypted and have the extension: .ICMSO. The only method of recovering files is to purchase an [sic] unique private key. Only we can give you this key and only we can recover your files.

The manual also instructs the infected user to install Tor browser and open their personal link in it. The link leads to GandCrab v5.0 payment page, which coerces the victim to send $1,200 worth of Bitcoin or DASH cryptocurrency to the adversaries. The deadline to redeem files is set to 3 days, and the price will double afterwards. A script displaying the amount of time left before the increase puts some additional pressure on the user. By the way, the payment page is perhaps the only component of version 5 that didn’t undergo any noticeable modifications since the previous release.

Another thing that’s now inherent to the GandCrab ransomware is that the desktop background is replaced with a warning image. It addresses the prey by their username and ironically says their files are “under strong protection” by the malefactors’ software. Unfortunately, cryptography experts and security analysts are still struggling to find a way to decrypt GandCrab v5.0. Just like its precursors, it is professionally designed crypto-wise and the private key is uncrackable. The only good news is that the encoded data may be recoverable in other ways, for instance, by means of forensic tools. See the part below for details.

GandCrab v5.0 ransomware automated removal and data recovery

When faced with ransomware like GandCrab v5.0, 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 v5.0 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 v5.0 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 v5.0 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 v5.0 ransomware using Safe Mode with Networking

Remove GandCrab v5.0 ransomware using Safe Mode with Networking

Get rid of GandCrab v5.0 ransomware using System Restore

Get rid of GandCrab v5.0 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 v5.0

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 v5.0 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 v5.0 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 v5.0 removal tool

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