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Decrypt and remove SaveTheQueen ransomware

7 min read
Here is a summary of the ransomware species that adds .SaveTheQueen extension to encrypted files and spreads across a computer network in a fairly unusual way.
  1. What is SaveTheQueen ransomware?
  2. SaveTheQueen ransomware automated removal and data recovery
  3. SaveTheQueen ransomware manual removal and file recovery
  4. Ransomware Prevention Tips

What is SaveTheQueen ransomware?

Ransomware developers have always been notoriously creative in terms of the naming convention they apply to their nasty products. One of the recent examples is a strain that concatenates .SaveTheQueen string to encrypted data, hence the way the victims and security analysts typically refer to this threat. The “royal” theme additionally makes itself felt in the ransom note, a document named .SaveTheQueen.HelpMe.txt. It instructs the victim to contact the attackers within seven days and lists the following email addresses for that purpose: GodSaveMe@tutamail.com and GodSaveYou@tuta.io. The note pressures the victim further by stating that the unique private key will be permanently erased after this deadline expires. Whatever has motivated the ransomware operators to boil their malicious program’s manifestation down to this aristocratic subject, the infection is a serious problem for the victim and entails has nothing to do with monarchical nobility and condescension.

Folder with encoded .SaveTheQueen files
Folder with encoded .SaveTheQueen files

Having surfaced in late November 2019, SaveTheQueen ransomware primarily zeroes in on computer networks rather than individual users. The attack relies on poisoning the SYSVOL share on the would-be victim organization’s domain controller. For those uninitiated, the polluted entity is a folder leveraged to implement uniform policies, deploy scripts, and synchronize data across an enterprise network. The caveat is that nobody can modify the contents of SYSVOL directory unless they have permissions high enough to manage the functioning of the network. Obviously, the operators of this ransomware have found a workaround to escalate their privileges and thereby push their offending code throughout the organization quickly and inconspicuously. The most likely method is to execute a phishing attack against an employee who has the required scope of access. This domain controller hack is one of the techniques harnessed by the attackers and there are more vectors in their repertoire such as RDP compromise and the use of exploit kits.

Contents of .SaveTheQueen.HelpMe.txt ransom note
Contents of .SaveTheQueen.HelpMe.txt ransom note

As soon as SaveTheQueen ransomware has infiltrated the target and infected as many machines as it could, the classic data search stage kicks in. The malicious program scans computers for files that are likely to pose the most value. As a rule, those are all types of Office documents, databases, images, videos, and other potentially important items that fall into the category of proprietary business information. The pest skips entries in the following paths: Windows, Program Files, Program Files (x86), AppData, and Inetpub. It also ignores files stored in such formats as EXE, DLL, ISO, and MSI. Both of these filters are intended to avoid system failure and make sure that the victim can move on to exploring the ransom demands and adhere to the malefactors’ plan.

All the files spotted during this scan undergo cryptographic skewing with AES, a symmetric algorithm that might not be the strongest cipher out there, but it’s nearly impossible to crack if implemented professionally. Unfortunately, whoever has developed this ransom Trojan appears to be adept at cryptography and there are no apparent flaws in this facet of their activity. Once the encryption is completed, the original filenames are stained with .SaveTheQueen extension. For instance, an arbitrary image file Seaside.jpg will turn into an inaccessible object named Seaside.jpg.SaveTheQueen.

The rescue note .SaveTheQueen.HelpMe.txt is dropped onto the desktop of every ransomware-stricken computer. It’s also created in all paths that contain scrambled data. Its opening sentence says “Do not panic!” and may seem soothing, but this feeling vanishes as the user reads further. The document lays stress upon the fact that there is no way to recover the files except purchasing the decryption key owned by the crooks. The above-mentioned contact email addresses are the sole link between the victim and the adversary at this point of the raid. The felons will respond with the specific size of the ransom based on the type of the victim, plus they will provide the receiving Bitcoin address to submit the funds.

Those infected should bear one fundamental thing in mind: dealing with ransomware actors is risky business. First of all, no assurance they give is trustworthy, so you may not get your files back even if you take the ransom route. Secondly, by paying up you’ll provide the attackers with extra resources to stick with their revolting business model. One way or another, it’s by all means a good idea to try a few best recovery practices before making that decision. Follow the steps below to get the hang of these techniques.

SaveTheQueen ransomware automated removal and data recovery

When faced with ransomware like SaveTheQueen, 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 SaveTheQueen 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

SaveTheQueen 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 SaveTheQueen 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 SaveTheQueen ransomware using Safe Mode with Networking

Remove SaveTheQueen ransomware using Safe Mode with Networking

Get rid of SaveTheQueen ransomware using System Restore

Get rid of SaveTheQueen 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 .SaveTheQueen 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 SaveTheQueen 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 SaveTheQueen 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 SaveTheQueen removal tool

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