The architects of the Kirk ransomware campaign are apparently big fans of the Star Trek TV series as they use the apropos theme and terms for their warnings.
With the ubiquity of file-encrypting Trojans floating around the worldwide web, it’s hard to surprise the community of security researchers these days. The threat actors have tried their hand at utilizing different ciphers and methods for interacting with those infected. However, the new sample called the Kirk ransomware has succeeded in adding some zest to the somewhat flat e-extortion landscape. First off, as the name suggests, this strain engages the Star Trek movie theme in nearly every facet of its activity. Other than the denomination proper, the featured paid decryption tool is called Spock, which denotes another famous fictional character. Furthermore, every hostage is appended with the .kirked extension – the associations here are clear, too.
There isn’t much evidence regarding the way the Kirk ransomware propagates at this point. One discovered entry point involves a booby-trapped copy of LOIC, a well-known open source network testing solution. However, the wording of the tool’s name slightly deviates from the genuine one and has an extra “-al” affixed to the “Orbit” part, coming out this way: Low Orbital Ion Cannon. This contagious entity fires the ransomware process in the background. What happens next is the Kirk virus generates a unique AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) key whose value is isolated to a specific infected machine. To harden the crypto, the infection then encodes said AES key using asymmetric RSA-4096 algorithm. The resulting chunk of data assumes the shape of a file called “pwd”, which is an inalienable component of the further extortion workflow.
Having completed these manipulations with encryption-related data, the ransomware starts scanning local drives for more than 600 types of files. Each entry that meets the hard-coded format based criteria is then subject to scrambling through the use of the AES key mentioned above. A byproduct of this misdemeanor is concatenation of the .kirked extension to each enciphered item. In the upshot, a file named Flowchart.xlsx gets renamed to Flowchart.xlsx.kirked. Of course, there is no way to access such objects in a regular way. At this point, the attackers’ warning messages step in.
The Kirk ransomware leaves a recovery how-to called RANSOM_NOTE.txt. Along with the plaintext file, it also displays a window titled “Kirk” containing the entirety of the decryption information. In particular, it reads, “Your computer has fallen victim to the Kirk malware and important files have been encrypted – locked up so they don’t work. This may have broken some software, including games, office suites etc.” The warning message also includes a list of the most popular targeted file formats, with a remark that the perpetrating code zeroes in on “an additional 441 file extensions”. The fix revolves around purchasing the secret key and what’s called the Spock, which is a custom decryption tool.
Interestingly, the ransom is payable in Monero (XMR), a cryptocurrency that’s an alternative of the more widespread Bitcoin. The initial amount requested by the attackers is set to 50 XMR, which is the equivalent of $1,100. This offer is valid for the first two days. Then, the size goes up to 100 XMR and reaches a whopping 500 XMR in 30 days. If a plagued user decides to pay up, they are supposed to send the above-mentioned “pwd” file and the ID of the completed payment to one of the following email addresses: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Having validated the payment transaction, the felons will purportedly send the Spock solution and the decryption key in response.
Since there is no free decryption tool for the Kirk ransomware at this point, victims have three options: pay the ransom; lose their data; or try a few tips and tricks and restore at least some files. The latter option is probably the most reasonable route to start with. Peruse the part below to learn more. To wrap up, there is currently a clone of this sample being distributed – it’s called the Lick ransomware and it uses the .licked file extension. So beware of these two and stay away from suspicious downloads on the Internet.
Kirk 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.
Kirk 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 Kirk 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 .kirked extension 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 Kirk 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.