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Onion ransomware: decrypt .onion virus extension files

6 min read
The .onion file virus appears to be the latest incarnation of the Dharma ransomware, a high-profile threat using cryptography to take data hostage.

The CrySiS / Dharma ransomware family is one of the old stagers on the arena of online extortion. It stands out from the rest in a couple of ways. The cybercriminals in charge have released master decryption keys for their toxic offspring twice: in November 2016 and March 2017. These moves have allowed security labs to cook up free decryptors to help victims sort things out. The motivation for doing so still being a mystery, the crooks keep updating their perpetrating program regardless. A recent instance of fine-tuning has brought about quite noteworthy alterations. The ransomware now blemishes skewed files with the .onion extension preceded by victim ID and the bad guys’ email address.

Onion ransomware drops Info.hta recovery manual
Onion ransomware drops Info.hta recovery manual

This type of transformation makes a file named CV.doc assume the shape of the following entry: CV.doc.id-55184EF3.[volantem_diem@aol.com].onion. The ID is going to be unique for every plagued user, and the email address in this extension may to vary depending on the specific campaign. Aside from the one above, some of the reported strings in square brackets include felix_dies@aol.com, nicecrypt@india.com, and 3048664056@qq.com. Obviously, there are more. The Onion ransomware goes with a built-in list of file formats to target in the course of the attack. To spot all matches on a contaminated machine as well as network and removable drives, it runs a scan as soon as the trespass has taken place. The pest then applies asymmetric cipher to scramble the structure of the victims’ personal files and thus completely deny access to them.

Encrypted files with the .onion extension
Encrypted files with the .onion extension

The IOCs (indicators of compromise) in this scenario also include what’s called “ransom notes”. These are files with point-by-point instructions regarding data recovery. The Onion strain of the Dharma ransomware drops the following how-to’s inside encrypted folders and onto the desktop: Info.hta and Readme.txt. The former is an HTML application opening up in a separate window whose title coincides with the email address concatenated to hostage data values. The body of the message goes, “All your files have been encrypted due to a security problem with your PC. If you want to restore them, write us to the email volantem_diem@aol.com.” Again, the email is a variable attribute that will switch from campaign to campaign.

Ultimately, the victim is instructed to send their personal ID to the attackers and follow a walkthrough received in response. The extortionists also provide a free decryption option for up to five files as long as their total size is less than 10 MB and they don’t contain any valuable information. The size of the ransom requested by the .onion file virus ranges from $500-$1,000 worth of Bitcoin. Essentially, that’s the cost of the victim-specific private RSA key and the automated decryption service. Of course, even if data restoration is successful after paying the ransom, that’s a cold comfort for the user who has to redeem files that belong to them anyway. The workaround below that may do the trick without your having to fund the felons’ business, so it’s definitely worth a shot.

Onion ransomware automated removal and data recovery

When faced with ransomware like Onion, 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 Onion 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

Onion 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 Onion 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 Onion ransomware using Safe Mode with Networking

Remove Onion ransomware using Safe Mode with Networking

Get rid of Onion ransomware using System Restore

Get rid of Onion 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 .onion 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 Onion 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 Onion 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 Onion removal tool

One Comment

  1. Joydeb Ghosh

    May 16, 2017 at 10:16 am

    My Adobe Illustrator (.ai) files are encrypted. could not be open, please let me know solution.


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