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.
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.
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
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.
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 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 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.
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 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.