Home Guides SamSam ransomware decryption and removal (Dec. 2018 upd.)

SamSam ransomware decryption and removal (Dec. 2018 upd.)

6 min read
Remove and decrypt SamSam, a ransomware strain targeting major organizations and municipal services that has seen a spike in activity throughout 2018.

Most crypto ransomware families follow a proliferation logic where they blindly try to attack as many computers as possible by means of malicious spam or application exploits. The SamSam ransomware 2018 isn’t like that at all. It is distributed in a strictly targeted fashion. The operators of this campaign first choose an organization to compromise, do their homework by conducting thorough reconnaissance, and then strike the victim with a nearly 100% certainty that the incursion will pan out.

The entry point for every such raid is RDP. In plain words, the adversary literally hacks into a machine by taking advantage of a loophole in the Remote Desktop Protocol. Since the malefactors focus on hitting companies, healthcare institutions and local governments, the contaminated host is then leveraged to pass the harmful payload over to the other computers on the same network. As a result, the attack surface may increase exponentially, allowing the crooks to act from a position of strength in their ransom negotiations.

SamSam ransomware 2018 message with demands
SamSam ransomware 2018 message with demands

After such a straightforward intrusion via RDP brute-forcing, the SamSam ransomware 2018 rapidly intoxicates the entire enterprise IT infrastructure, with the number of infected workstations possibly being in the thousands. Then, the power of cryptography enables the offending program to render all popular types of data on these computers inaccessible. Specifically, the crypto parasite employs the RSA-2048 cipher, which is asymmetric and extremely hard – if not impossible – to crack. The names of hostage files tend to be appended with a new extension to make it clear what exactly has been locked down. For instance, the filename suffix concatenated by one of the latest SamSam 2018 variants is .weapologize. This doesn’t sound like a sincere apology, does it? The other extensions previously used by this culprit include .VforVendetta, .powerfulldecrypt, .noproblemwedecfiles, .otherinformation, .letmetrydecfiles, .encryptedyourfiles, .breeding123, .moments2900, .country82000, and .areyoulovemyrans.

A ransom note is one more inalienable element of the SamSam breach. It configures the plagued hosts to display a splash screen that explains what happened to the files and provides a walkthrough for data decryption. The most recent iteration drops and triggers a note named 0000-SORRY-FOR-FILES.html. A few others reported by victims include WE-MUST-DEC-FILES.html, 000-NO-PROBLEM-WE-DEC-FILES.html, 000-IF-YOU-WANT-DEC-FILES.html, LET-ME-TRY-DEC-FILES.html, and 001-READ-FOR-DECRYPT-FILES.html. When it comes to this campaign, there is no such thing as a static size of the ransom. It depends on how lucky the felons get and how many computers they manage to infect in one hit. The amount can reach a Bitcoin worth of tens of thousands of dollars for a major hacked organization. Overall, according to experts’ estimates, the perpetrators have made more than $6 million during the whole period of their disgusting activity.

As a side note, the SamSam blackmail virus is one of the oldest lineages on the ransomware battlefield. It has been in the wild since 2016, and it’s not until late 2018 that its authors have been apprehended and are currently facing charges in the United States for hacks and extortion that have caused the infected organizations hefty losses and unprecedented disruption. The devs turned out to be two Iranian cybercriminals. Over the years, they have reportedly compromised high-profile entities, including the Colorado Department of Transportation, the Port of San Diego, the City of Atlanta, Hancock Health, the Nebraska Orthopedic Hospital, and a number of other organizations most of which are based in the U.S.

At this point, it’s not clear if the whole gang has been arrested or whether someone else from the extortionist crew is still on the loose and will continue to go the well-trodden path of extortion. One way or another, if the SamSam ransomware 2018 has encrypted important data on a computer network, the following tips can make a good starting point for the recovery.

SamSam 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 SamSam 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 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

SamSam 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 SamSam 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 SamSam ransomware using Safe Mode with Networking

Remove SamSam ransomware using Safe Mode with Networking

Get rid of SamSam ransomware using System Restore

Get rid of SamSam 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 files encrypted by SamSam ransomware 2018

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 SamSam 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 SamSam 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 SamSam ransomware removal tool

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