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Hermes 2.1 ransomware removal and .HRM files decryption

7 min read
Here is a summary of the Hermes 2.1 ransomware issue, including the distribution vectors used by this threat, its impact, and ways to remedy the hostage data.
  1. What is the Hermes 2.1 ransomware?
  2. Hermes 2.1 ransomware automated removal and data recovery
  3. Hermes 2.1 ransomware manual removal and file recovery
  4. Ransomware Prevention Tips

What is the Hermes 2.1 ransomware??

The authors of the ransomware to be analyzed in this article must be familiar with the Greek mythology. In this ancient symbolic paradigm, not only is Hermes the god of commerce, athletes, and travelers, but he is also the patron of thieves and trickery. The latter two implications are particularly appropriate when it comes to the Hermes 2.1 ransomware. This e-predator silently trespasses on Windows computers, efficiently encrypts the user’s important files, and holds them for ransom while leaving a negligible chance of alternative recovery. The threat is a trifle to identify because it causes a very peculiar footprint in the contaminated system. It spans the .HRM extension being affixed to every scrambled file, plus a ransom note named DECRYPT_INFORMATION.html created on the desktop and inside all folders with no-longer-accessible data in them.

Encrypted .HRM files and ransom note created by Hermes 2.1

This lineage of file-encrypting ransomware was originally spotted in February 2017. Back then, security analysts found an imperfection in the way the first iteration of the pest generated secret crypto keys. This allowed them to create a free recovery tool that made numerous victims’ day. However, it took the malicious actors less than two months to fix the flaw, and the v2 release shaped up to be bad news for those infected. Gradual evolution of this nasty family didn’t stop at that point, having spawned the latest sub-version called Hermes 2.1 ever since. Among other things, it goes with cryptographic implementation tweaks that complicate the troubleshooting considerably. Also, the strain-specific file extension is now prepended with the attackers’ email address supportdecrypt@firemail.cc so that the victim quickly figures how to contact the adversaries for “assistance”. Therefore, a sample file test.jpg will be transformed into test.jpg.[supportdecrypt@firemail.cc].HRM. Note that the contact info may vary, depending on the cybercriminal group that managed to infect the machine as well as the sub-variant of the infection.

Contents of Hermes 2.1 ransomware’s DECRYPT_INFORMATION.html recovery manual

As part of its interaction with the victim, Hermes 2.1 ransomware drops a ransom message DECRYPT_INFORMATION.html, which has been mentioned above. The infection leaves it inside all directories containing encrypted data, plus it creates one on the desktop for more visibility. To get started with the fix imposed by the attackers, the user is instructed to copy their unique ID Key (provided in the ransom note), paste it into the body of an email, send the message, and wait for a reply with further steps. Here is the full text of the warning:

“Hermes 2.1 ransomware,

Your files has [sic.] been encrypted using RSA2048 algorithm with unique public-key stored on your PC. There is only one way to get your files back: contact with us, pay, and get decryptor software. We accept Bitcoin, and other cryptocurrencies, you can find exchangers on bestbitcoinexchange.io.

You have unique idkey (in a yellow frame), write it in letter when contact [sic.] us. Also you can decrypt 1 file for test, its [sic.] guarantee what we can decrypt your files.”

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that whoever wrote this isn’t a native English speaker. However, the crooks’ OPSEC (operations security) is fairly professional as they skillfully hide their location and identities behind the anonymous email and cryptocurrency mixing services. As a result, the gang in charge of Hermes 2.1 has been on the loose for almost three years now, and they continue to fine-tune their dirty business. Back to the point, the part in the note about test decryption of an arbitrary file for free is supposed to be a reassurance of a kind. Nevertheless, it’s definitely not a guarantee of subsequent decryption even if the extortionists actually carry through with this minimal portion of their claims. Ultimately, the victims are coerced to send $500-$1,500 worth of Bitcoin (or other cryptocurrency of choice) to a wallet address sent by the malefactors in response to the plagued user’s original email message.

Hermes 2.1 ransomware is distributed in an old school way. Spam is to blame for the rapid proliferation of this menace, for the most part. The perpetrators use botnets to send catchy emails in bulk. The subjects range from job applications to missed delivery, but the messages have one thing in common: they carry ransomware-riddled attachments on board. These files are typically disguised as regular Word documents, but their contents cannot be viewed unless the unwitting recipient enables macros. Once this happens, a covert script is executed and instantly downloads the harmful program from the attackers’ Command & Control server.

Therefore, the fundamentals of avoiding the Hermes 2.1 virus are all about reasonable caution with documents arriving with dubious emails. There can be instances of propagation via software bundles, torrents, and exploit kits, but these are the exception rather than the rule. In case the culprit has taken root on a PC and encrypted one’s valuable data, the restoration techniques might not be restricted to paying a fortune for the criminals’ decryptor. A file backup stored outside the virus-tainted machine is the most effective vector. In some scenarios, the best practices of forensic recovery may come in handy. Keep reading to learn what extra options can help dodge the quandary.

Hermes 2.1 ransomware automated removal and data recovery

When faced with ransomware like Hermes 2.1, 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 Hermes 2.1 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

Hermes 2.1 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 Hermes 2.1 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 Hermes 2.1 ransomware using Safe Mode with Networking

Remove Hermes 2.1 ransomware using Safe Mode with Networking

Get rid of Hermes 2.1 ransomware using System Restore

Get rid of Hermes 2.1 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 Hermes 2.1

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 Hermes 2.1 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 Hermes 2.1 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 Hermes 2.1 removal tool

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