Learn the entirety of facts about the Planetary variant of HC7 ransomware, including the attack vectors, data scrambling method and recovery techniques.
It’s uncommon to see something revolutionary take place in the blackmail malware ecosystem these days. As new, more profitable realms of cybercrime have surfaced lately with the cryptocurrency mining boom underway, ransom Trojans have become mostly the prerogative of crooks reluctant to repurpose their shenanigans. In spite of this, the developers of the so-called HC7 ransomware have managed to add a little bit of novelty to their activity. The latest version of this perpetrating program accepts ransoms based on the Ethereum smart contracts technology. It has pioneered in using Ether coins for payment amongst other file-encrypting strains. Another distinguishing trait of this particular HC7 spinoff is the .PLANETARY extension being appended to hostage files.
The culprit under scrutiny also stands out from the vast majority of ransomware in terms of the propagation. Instead of going the mainstream route of malspam (malicious spam) for spreading, it is installed on computers manually, and it’s not the victims that do it. The attackers leverage specially crafted online reconnaissance tools to scan the Internet for active RDP connections. Then, they attempt to guess or brute-force the access credentials for those remote desktop services. In case of success, the threat actors get enough privileges to execute the Planetary ransomware binary on a compromised machine manually and use the PsExec to contaminate other hosts on the same network, if any. For the record, this is most likely the way this offending code hit some systems of the Western Oregon University (WOU) in mid-March 2018. Unfortunately, a victim won’t notice this type of onslaught taking place until the infection has gone too far with the damage.
Upon execution, the HC7 Planetary virus scours the plagued machine – or enterprise network – for files with specific extensions corresponding to the most widespread data formats. This way, it finds information that’s the most valuable to the user. Then, it applies the symmetric AES cipher to encrypt those personal files and thus make them inaccessible. As mentioned above, an external byproduct of this impact is the concatenation of the .PLANETARY extension to each encrypted file, with the original filenames staying unaltered. Therefore, a sample object Moon.jpg will turn into Moon.jpg.PLANETARY.
One more inalienable component of the attack is the ransom note being dropped onto the infected machine. It is a document named RECOVER.txt that specifies the size of the ransom as well as contact details of the adversary, email@example.com. According to this how-to and the email response received from the hackers, the user is supposed to submit $700 worth of cryptocurrency per computer, or the equivalent of $5,000 for a network of compromised computers. The felons even offer test restoration of one file as proof of decryption viability. The ransom-related method of sorting things out isn’t recommended, though, unless of course the data is absolutely critical. One way or another, try the tips below first and see whether it’s possible to get some files back without paying anything to the ne’er-do-wells.
HC7 Planetary 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.
Planetary 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 Planetary blackmail 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 .PLANETARY 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 the Planetary 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.