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ProLock ransomware: decrypt .prolock files and remove virus

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A new ransomware called ProLock is out there increasingly haunting enterprise computer networks and demanding huge amounts of Bitcoin for data decryption.
  1. What is the ProLock ransomware?
  2. ProLock ransomware automated removal and data recovery
  3. ProLock ransomware manual removal and file recovery
  4. Ransomware Prevention Tips


What is the ProLock ransomware?

This strain debuted in early March 2020 as PwndLocker and has since gone through a big overhaul to try and become a major player in the extortion arena. The remake took place about a month after the original release and wasn’t only about switching to the new name, ProLock. Its authors additionally modified their cryptographic implementation from the ground up to address a serious flaw that allowed the previously victimized companies to restore their data without the secret decryption key. Obviously, the unsuccessful launch of this campaign didn’t discourage its operators from starting over. The no-longer-crackable ProLock, or ProLocker, ransomware is currently spreading mayhem in the corporate ecosystem without leaving any easy workarounds for its prey. The revamped threat is trivial to identify: it appends the .proLock extension to every hostage file and creates a rescue note named [HOW TO RECOVER FILES].txt.

Folder with encrypted .proLock files and ransom note in it
Folder with encrypted .proLock files and ransom note in it

To infiltrate a network, the makers of this ransomware probe it for weak links such as unsecured remote desktop protocol (RDP) ports and vulnerabilities in software deployed by the organization. The contamination vectors also include spam emails and exploit kits. If a loophole is pinpointed or an email recipient opens a harmful attachment, the criminals furtively deposit a booby-trapped BMP file onto the target server. When opened with a regular image processor, this object gives hardly any clues that it could be malicious. It looks like a solid black sheet with several inconspicuous white artifacts in a small portion of the layout. However, its hexadecimal structure turns out to obfuscate binary data that ends up being embedded into memory via a peculiar PowerShell command.

[HOW TO RECOVER FILES].txt ProLock ransom note
[HOW TO RECOVER FILES].txt ProLock ransom note

Once the attackers get access to a server, they run PsExec tool to deposit the infection onto all machines on the local network. Then, the data traversal stage is put into effect so that ProLock finds every bit of information that could be important. When scanning, the ransomware ignores executables and common types of critical operating system files to ascertain that the breached hosts continue to function properly and nothing breaks the extortion chain. The data spotted in the aftermath of this routine is subject to encryption based on RSA-2048 cipher, plus each item is concatenated with the .proLock string. By using the asymmetric cryptographic algorithm competently, the perpetrators make sure that the recovery is impossible unless they provide the private key and the decryption tool. Predictably, this will only happen if the company submits the ransom. To find out the options for addressing the disaster, the users are instructed to read the ransom note, a document named [HOW TO RECOVER FILES].txt.

ProLock payment page
ProLock payment page

The note mentions that the “decryption fee” is payable in Bitcoin and the price depends on how fast the victim starts cooperating. To get the process going, the user is supposed to open the ProLock Info page in Tor Browser. If for some reason this can’t be done, there is an extra option to contact the crooks by email at chec1kyourf1les@protonmail.com. The felons state that they won’t keep the decryption keys for more than a month. Interestingly, the TXT recovery manual imposes an additional flavor of pressure by emphasizing that the attackers have gathered the organization’s sensitive data before the encryption. This is a way to intimidate the victim into thinking that the files will be leaked if they refuse to pay up. It’s unknown at this point whether this claim is a bluff or a real threat, though.

The Tor payment page says the user can decrypt one or a few files for free as proof that the malefactors actually have a viable recovery tool and the right key. The Payment Information section specifies the size of the ransom. It depends on the number of encrypted computers and can reach dozens of Bitcoins worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s an unacceptable demand most businesses can’t afford to meet. Moreover, sending funds in any ransomware scenario is always a shot in the dark because the victim may never hear back from the cybercriminals. Under the circumstances, it’s best to seek assistance from other sources first. For a start, try the following recommendations to remove ProLock ransomware and see if they can help reinstate the most valuable files.

Prolock ransomware automated removal and data recovery

When dealing with the Prolock threat, you can get a lot of mileage out of the Malwarebytes automatic security tool that will pinpoint and iron out the infection in minutes. Malwarebytes is one of the big names in the anti-malware industry with an immaculate track record of protecting systems against all prevalent forms of harmful code.

The solution uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to detect both known and zero-day threats, including potentially unwanted programs (PUPs), ransomware, exploits, and malicious sites. It boasts low system footprint, high scanning speed, and intuitive interface where every module clearly explains what it does. Follow the steps below to come through the malware predicament unscathed:

1. Download and install the latest version of Malwarebytes onto your PC.

As part of this step, you will be prompted to specify where you are installing the program (personal or work computer) and toggle the advanced setup options if you so desire. You can use all the premium features for 14 days free of charge.

Download Prolock virus remover

2. Once the application is up and running, go ahead and click on the Scan button in the bottom middle part of the GUI. Click the Scan button

3. Wait until Malwarebytes checks for updates of its proprietary Katana detection engine and scans the memory, startup items, registry, and file system for threats. Malwarebytes scan in progress

4. When the scan is completed, go over the report listing the infections that have been identified. Make sure there are checkmarks next to all the unwanted items and click on the Quarantine button as shown below. Malwarebytes scan results

5. You will be prompted to restart your computer to finish the removal process. Click Yes to do it immediately or close the dialog and restart later on. Restart to complete the removal process

6. As soon as the threats have been moved to Quarantine, they can no longer harm your computer. If you are sure that you won’t need to restore any of those items at a later point, click on the Detection History pane at the bottom left of the Malwarebytes home screen, select the Quarantined items tab, and click Delete. Delete quarantined items

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

Prolock 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 Prolock 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 Prolock ransomware using Safe Mode with Networking

Remove Prolock ransomware using Safe Mode with Networking

Get rid of Prolock ransomware using System Restore

Get rid of Prolock 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 encrypted .proLock 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 Prolock 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 Prolock 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 Prolock ransomware removal tool

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