Brand new variant of the CryptoMix ransomware is out that speckles encrypted files with the .MOLE03 extension and still encrypts them beyond regular recovery.
Things are apparently going well for the architects of the CryptoMix ransomware campaign. They keep on coining new versions, one in two weeks on average. This continuous refreshing of the malicious code is somewhat strange, because there isn’t much change accompanying these updates. The most conspicuous tweak in the latest release, for instance, is the new .MOLE03 extension being appended to hostage files. The same would apply to previous iterations that played around with digits and introduced hardly any functional novelty. Anyway, the cybercriminals’ motivation is something only they can explain, but the strength of the cipher and the crooks’ well-balanced OPSEC persevere as the time goes by, making this ransomware prolific.
The propagation of the MOLE03 virus circles around the spam vector. There are generally two schemes involved. One has to do with trojanized email attachments that, once opened, download and execute the ransomware process on the targeted host. The other engages an intermediate entity, a fake Microsoft Word Online website linked-to from deceptive malspam emails. Either way, victims who end up opening or downloading the booby-trapped file – attachment or phony plugin – unwittingly let the ransomware inside. Then, the infection starts scanning the PC for personal data. It goes equipped with a predefined list consisting of the most popular file extensions, so when a matching item is spotted on the local drives, removable media or network shares it gets encrypted.
By applying a combo of RSA-2048 and AES-128 cryptographic algorithms, MOLE03 ransomware renders files inaccessible for good. Additionally, it scrambles filenames to turn them into strings of random hexadecimal characters, thus making file identification impossible. The .MOLE03 extension concatenated to each file adds a final stroke to the data tweaking routine. To let the victim know what happened and how to sort things out, the virus drops rescue notes named _HELP_INSTRUCTION.txt. Its contents have been slightly modified in this variant of CryptoMix. The warning part of the how-to goes, “!_! INFORMATIONS!_! All your files are encrypted with RSA_2048 and AES_128 ciphers.”
The ransom note contains the victim’s unique decrypt-ID, which must be entered in the specially crafted Tor page titled “MOLE00-02 RETURN FILES!” The felons must have been in a hurry when launching the .MOLE03 edition as they forgot to include it in the title of their malicious decryption service site. The victim is informed right away that the size of the ransom is 1.0 Bitcoin, which covers the decrypt tool and the private RSA key. If the infected person agrees to pay up, they are supposed to leave their decrypt-ID and email address, and the attackers will purportedly contact them within 24 hours to provide further instructions. That’s what the extortion chain looks like. Those who are unwilling to pay the ransom should commence the troubleshooting with MOLE03 ransomware removal and then move on with alternative data recovery techniques.
MOLE03 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.
MOLE03 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 .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.
- 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 .MOLE03 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 .MOLE03 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.