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Mole00 ransomware: how to decrypt virus .MOLE00 files

5 min read
Learn how to remove MOLE00 ransomware strain from Windows computer and restore encrypted .MOLE00 extension files without submitting the ransom to attackers.

The Mole ransomware family engages much more social engineering in the attack chain than the vast majority of crypto threats in the wild. Rather than drop bad payloads via tainted malspam attachments alone, the threat actors first dupe victims into visiting a fake Microsoft Word Online site and then persuade them to download and install the latest plugin version for an allegedly important document. The original deceptive email tends to be associated with failed parcel delivery, a theme that grabs most recipients’ attention right away. The newest variant of this hoax, referred to as Mole00, sticks with this particular contamination tactic. This iteration was discovered on July 3 and got its name from the .MOLE00 extension concatenated to each no-longer-accessible file.

Encrypted .MOLE00 files and ransom note
Encrypted .MOLE00 files and ransom note

The above-mentioned trick involving a misleading email, malicious web page and booby-trapped Word plugin ultimately deposits a process named pluginoffice.exe onto a targeted host. Once executed, this unwelcome file triggers the contamination workflow that doesn’t quite take place behind the user’s back. It displays a User Account Control dialog preceded by a “Display Color Calibration” popup. Clicking Yes on the UAC prompt actually grants the ransomware admin permissions on the system. From that moment on, the Mole00 virus starts wreaking havoc according to a well-trodden ransomware route. It establishes connection with the C2 server to exchange cryptographic keys, and then fires up the file-scrambling part of its mission.

_HELP_INSTRUCTION.txt decryption manual dropped by Mole00 ransomware
_HELP_INSTRUCTION.txt decryption manual dropped by Mole00 ransomware

The infection scans local drives and network shares for various types of potentially important files. This being done, it encrypts every detected item with a combo of AES and RSA cryptographic standards. The expectable byproduct of this activity is the scrambling of filenames: they are replaced with 32 hexadecimal characters and appended with the .MOLE00 extension. Also, the ransomware drops recovery manuals into folders with skewed data and on the desktop. The how-to files are currently named _HELP_INSTRUCTION.txt, while the previous Mole ransomware editions used INSTRUCTION_FOR_HELPING_FILE_RECOVERY.txt ransom notes. The message starts with the following, “All of your files are encrypted with RSA-1048 and AES-128 ciphers.” The rest of the note tells the victim to visit a decryption page using Tor browser, enter their “DECRYPT-ID” string and pay 0.5-1 Bitcoin for the private RSA key.

July 2017 update: The most recent version of MOLE ransomware is .MOLE01

Regaining access to .MOLE00 files is challenging due to professional implementation of the above-mentioned cryptosystems by the crooks. Therefore those infected can either cough up the ransom (which is not recommended for ethical reasons), or give a few workarounds a shot. The latter options are extensively covered in the troubleshooting section of this post.

MOLE00 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

Download .MOLE00 file virus remover

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.

Download Data Recovery Pro

Data Recovery Pro

Some ransomware strains terminate themselves after completing the encryption job on a computer, but some don’t. Furthermore, the .master file 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 MOLE00 ransomware using Safe Mode with Networking

Remove MOLE00 ransomware using Safe Mode with Networking

Boot into Safe Mode with Networking. The method to do it depends on the version of the infected operating system. Follow the instructions below for your OS build.

  • 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.Boot into Safe Mode with Networking on Windows Vista and 7
  • 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.Boot options on Windows 8, 8.1 and 10
  • 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.

Get rid of MOLE00 ransomware using System Restore

Get rid of MOLE00 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 .MOLE00 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.

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 .MOLE00 file variant of Mole 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 .MOLE00 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.

Download Mole00 ransomware removal tool

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