GoldenEye ransomware / virus (Removal Instructions) - Decryption Methods Included

GoldenEye virus Removal Guide

What is GoldenEye ransomware virus?

GoldenEye virus is the new malware variant from Mischa and Petya ransomware creators

GoldenEye Petya

Authors of Petya and Mischa ransomware[1] viruses have developed a new one, which is called the GoldenEye virus. Despite that the virus is named after the sequel of the James Bond film franchise[2], the cyber threat has no other associations with it. This is common and considered the most dangerous piece of malware – cryptocurrency extortion-focused file-locker. The infection starts with silent infiltration and file alterations until it ends in ransom note delivery.

The malicious software brings updated Petya and Mischa viruses into the computer and uses them to corrupt data stored on the disks. Upon arrival on the target system, GoldenEye ransomware finds a random .exe application on the system, copies its name, and saves its executive file under the copied name in the %APPDATA% folder.

This file is then automatically executed and run. First of all, the virus unfolds a high-level attack, which reads files on the system and encrypts them with AES encryption in CBC mode. This key is 32 bytes long and cannot be guessed or brute-forced easily. In fact, it is nearly impossible to do so. This means that once common data gets encrypted, it is impossible to recover those pieces without the author.

Paying is not an option, since these malware creators are known for being greedy and cruel. You are left with a few alternate data recovery methods. However, note that virus removal is crucial since file recovery on the insecure system can end in permanent file damage.

Name GoldenEye ransomware
Type Cryptovirus, file-locker, malware
Related Petya and Mischa
Encryption method AES encryption in CBC mode
Ransom note YOUR_FILES_ARE_ENCRYPTED.TXT
Distribution Files got from malicious emails, websites or during the pirating of software, game cracking
Elimination Ransomware can get persistent, but running the proper scan with an anti-malware tool can help eliminate malware properly
Repair The system gets significantly affected when such a virus controls various processes. Since the damage can be left behind, run the tool like ReimageIntego to find and fix corrupted pieces

During the encryption, GoldenEye appends specific file extensions to the files to show the victim which files were encoded. Once the ransomware encrypts all data, it attempts to bypass User Account Control (UAC) to implement a low-level attack and install Petya ransomware on the PC.

In case the UAC is set to maximum, an annoying pop-up asking to allow the malicious program to make changes on the computer comes up repeatedly.

The “Yes” will execute Petya, and the “No” option will get you, Mischa. In case the UAC is set to low or default, the malware bypasses it and successfully installs Petya[3]. After encrypting the victim's files, the file-locking malware saves YOUR_FILES_ARE_ENCRYPTED.TXT ransom note on the desktop, which provides “three easy steps” on how to restore encrypted data.

While NotPetya/Petya.a wreaks global havoc, the Goldeneye virus makes a move as well

Besides May 12, which netizens may remember as the day when notorious WannaCry came into daylight, the world will remember June 27, 2017, as well. On this day, a new threat struck the virtual community. Though initially, it raises assumptions that it was none other than the latest version of Petya, soon specialists have found that it is an independent malware labeled as NotPetya/Petna/Petya.a.[4]

It managed to break into systems of governmental institutions, advertising agencies in the UK, nuclear power plant in Ukraine, wreak operation of petrol stations in the USA.

Fortunately, an IT specialist has found a way how to prevent cyber assault for now.[5] Users have to create a text file or download the file.

While everyone has concentrated attention on the latter threat, it seems that the developers of the original Petya virus were working on another campaign. The Cadbury chocolate factory located in Tasmania was reported to have been hit by the Goldeneye version, though, according to the ransom image, it might be the same Petya.a virus.[6] Similar reports have been recorded in Romania as well.[7]

GoldenEye ransomwareIn this picture, you can see a Twitter account of the author and the ransom note (YOUR_FILES_ARE_ENCRYPTED.TXT) that the virus leaves on the system after it encrypts files.

Speaking about the low-level part, the malware crashes the system and starts it with a bogus CHKDSK. This system tool is supposed to check logical file system errors; however, this fake version implements Master File Table encryption via Salsa20.

Once this procedure is finished, the computer displays a golden screen with an ASCII skull blinking on it. The screen says “PRESS ANY KEY!” and then displays the same information like YOUR_FILES_ARE_ENCRYPTED.TXT ransom note. It states that the data in hard disks was encoded by using a complex military-grade encryption method and asks for a ransom. Victims are instructed to follow access Tor network and proceed with the payment.

Usually, it demands 1,3 BTC which equals approximately 1000 USD. Needless to say, that it is unwise to pay the crooks since racketeers earn stunning amounts of money from the ransomware business and there are few reports of returned data [8]. The information from the ransom note is displayed below.

The hardisks of your computer have been encrypted with an military grade encryption algorithm. There is no way to restore your data without a special key. You can purchase this key on the darknet page shown in step 2.
To purchase your key and restore your data, please follow these three easy steps:
1. Download Tor Browser . If you need help please google for “access onion page”.
2. Visit one of the following pages with the Tor browser :
[page link] [page link]

3. Enter your personal decryption code there:
[address]

If you already purchased your key, please enter it below.

The provided web addresses can be accessed only via the Tor browser. The indicated pages are designed for each victim individually. The web page consists of three sections – Payment, FAQ, and Support. The crooks promise to provide the decryption key right after the victim pays the indicated ransom.

GoldenEye Decrypter requires a correct key in order to work, otherwise, all files could be destroyed. Therefore, the Decrypter provides an option to backup encrypted files so that in case the victim enters the wrong key, another chance to decrypt them would be left.

If you have become a victim of the malware attack, we highly suggest you remove GoldenEye malware via Safe Mode with Networking using anti-malware tools like Malwarebytes or SpyHunter 5Combo Cleaner. Read instructions on how to begin the automatic threat removal below the post.

The transmission preferences

As common for the type of such viruses, the infection takes place after a victim opens an infected email and enables macro settings [9]. The latest version of this ransomware was detected to be the German version. It seems that the actor behind this ransomware, who calls himself/herself Janus, provides an affiliate program for anyone who wants to join him and help to distribute the ransomware.

As common for ransomware, the payload is disguised in a fake report attachment. The very message is entitled to Bewerbung and addresses a victim in a formal manner. It might disguise in the following .xls files: Wiebold-Bewerbung.xls, Meinel-Bewerbung.xls, Seidel-Bewerbung.xls, Wüst-Bewerbung.xls, Born-Bewerbung.xls, and Schlosser-Bewerbung.xls.

Afterward, when they are opened, you are asked to enable the content. Likewise, the ransomware activates incorporated base64 strings to proceed further with the encryption. As for the prevention tips, do not rush to open any emails even if they might be sent by the FBI or the police officer. Verify the sender before opening the attachments.

Get rid of Goldeneye ransomware and only then recover files

Firstly, you need to eradicate the file-encrypting malware. For that, you can employ an anti-spyware tool, for example, SpyHunter 5Combo Cleaner or Malwarebytes. Make sure that virus definitions are updated for the software to remove GoldenEye virus completely. Only when the process is complete, you might proceed to data recovery options. We have provided several of them for your convenience.

If you cannot complete GoldenEye removal due to the locked screen or a non-responding computer, do not panic and use our guidelines. The system can also get restored using ReimageIntego. Since Petya has been cracked down after a while, the new version might be terminated eventually, though it might take a while.

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What to do if failed?
If you failed to fix virus damage using Reimage Intego, submit a question to our support team and provide as much details as possible.
Reimage Intego has a free limited scanner. Reimage Intego offers more through scan when you purchase its full version. When free scanner detects issues, you can fix them using free manual repairs or you can decide to purchase the full version in order to fix them automatically.
Alternative Software
Different software has a different purpose. If you didn’t succeed in fixing corrupted files with Reimage, try running SpyHunter 5.
Alternative Software
Different software has a different purpose. If you didn’t succeed in fixing corrupted files with Intego, try running Combo Cleaner.

Getting rid of GoldenEye virus. Follow these steps

Important steps to take before you begin malware removal

File encryption and ransomware infection are two independent processes (although the latter would not be possible without the former). However, it is important to understand that malware performs various changes within a Windows operating system, fundamentally changing the way it works.

IMPORTANT for those without backups! → 
If you attempt to use security or recovery software immediately, you might permanently damage your files, and even a working decryptor then would not be able to save them.

Before you proceed with the removal instructions below, you should copy the encrypted files onto a separate medium, such as USB flash drive or SSD, and then disconnect them from your computer. Encrypted data does not hold any malicious code, so it is safe to transfer to other devices.

The instructions below might initially seem overwhelming and complicated, but they are not difficult to understand as long as you follow each step in the appropriate order. This comprehensive free guide will help you to handle the malware removal and data recovery process correctly.

If you have any questions, comments, or are having troubles with following the instructions, please do not hesitate to contact us via the Ask Us section.

IMPORTANT! →
It is vital to eliminate malware infection from the computer fully before starting the data recovery process, otherwise ransomware might re-encrypt retrieved files from backups repeatedly.

Scan your system with anti-malware

If you are a victim of ransomware, you should employ anti-malware software for its removal. Some ransomware can self-destruct after the file encryption process is finished. Even in such cases, malware might leave various data-stealing modules or could operate in conjunction with other malicious programs on your device. 

SpyHunter 5Combo Cleaner or Malwarebytes can detect and eliminate all ransomware-related files, additional modules, along with other viruses that could be hiding on your system. The security software is really easy to use and does not require any prior IT knowledge to succeed in the malware removal process.

Repair damaged system components

Once a computer is infected with malware, its system is changed to operate differently. For example, an infection can alter the Windows registry database, damage vital bootup and other sections, delete or corrupt DLL files, etc. Once a system file is damaged by malware, antivirus software is not capable of doing anything about it, leaving it just the way it is. Consequently, users might experience performance, stability, and usability issues, to the point where a full Windows reinstall is required.

Therefore, we highly recommend using a one-of-a-kind, patented technology of ReimageIntego repair. Not only can it fix virus damage after the infection, but it is also capable of removing malware that has already broken into the system thanks to several engines used by the program. Besides, the application is also capable of fixing various Windows-related issues that are not caused by malware infections, for example, Blue Screen errors, freezes, registry errors, damaged DLLs, etc.

  • Download the application by clicking on the link above
  • Click on the ReimageRepair.exe
    Reimage download
  • If User Account Control (UAC) shows up, select Yes
  • Press Install and wait till the program finishes the installation process Reimage installation
  • The analysis of your machine will begin immediately Reimage scan
  • Once complete, check the results – they will be listed in the Summary
  • You can now click on each of the issues and fix them manually
  • If you see many problems that you find difficult to fix, we recommend you purchase the license and fix them automatically. Reimage results

By employing ReimageIntego, you would not have to worry about future computer issues, as most of them could be fixed quickly by performing a full system scan at any time. Most importantly, you could avoid the tedious process of Windows reinstallation in case things go very wrong due to one reason or another.

Restore files using data recovery software

Since many users do not prepare proper data backups prior to being attacked by ransomware, they might often lose access to their files permanently. Paying criminals is also very risky, as they might not fulfill the promises and never send back the required decryption tool.

While this might sound terrible, not all is lost – data recovery software might be able to help you in some situations (it highly depends on the encryption algorithm used, whether ransomware managed to complete the programmed tasks, etc.). Since there are thousands of different ransomware strains, it is immediately impossible to tell whether third-party software will work for you.

Therefore, we suggest trying regardless of which ransomware attacked your computer. Before you begin, several pointers are important while dealing with this situation:

  • Since the encrypted data on your computer might permanently be damaged by security or data recovery software, you should first make backups of it – use a USB flash drive or another storage.
  • Only attempt to recover your files using this method after you perform a scan with anti-malware software.

Install data recovery software

  1. Download Data Recovery Pro.
  2. Double-click the installer to launch it.
    Launch installer
  3. Follow on-screen instructions to install the software. Install program
  4. As soon as you press Finish, you can use the app.
  5. Select Everything or pick individual folders where you want the files to be recovered from. Select what to recover
  6. Press Next.
  7. At the bottom, enable Deep scan and pick which Disks you want to be scanned. Select Deep scan
  8. Press Scan and wait till it is complete. Scan
  9. You can now pick which folders/files to recover – don't forget you also have the option to search by the file name!
  10. Press Recover to retrieve your files. Recover files

Find a working decryptor for your files

File encryption is a process that is similar to applying a password to a particular file or folder. However, from a technical point of view, encryption is fundamentally different due to its complexity. By using encryption, threat actors use a unique set of alphanumeric characters as a password that can not easily be deciphered if the process is performed correctly.

There are several algorithms that can be used to lock data (whether for good or bad reasons); for example, AES uses the symmetric method of encryption, meaning that the key used to lock and unlock files is the same. Unfortunately, it is only accessible to the attackers who hold it on a remote server – they ask for a payment in exchange for it. This simple principle is what allows ransomware authors to prosper in this illegal business.

While many high-profile ransomware strains such as Djvu or Dharma use immaculate encryption methods, there are plenty of failures that can be observed within the code of some novice malware developers. For example, the keys could be stored locally, which would allow users to regain access to their files without paying. In some cases, ransomware does not even encrypt files due to bugs, although victims might believe the opposite due to the ransom note that shows up right after the infection and data encryption is completed.

Therefore, regardless of which crypto-malware affects your files, you should try to find the relevant decryptor if such exists. Security researchers are in a constant battle against cybercriminals. In some cases, they manage to create a working decryption tool that would allow victims to recover files for free.

Once you have identified which ransomware you are affected by, you should check the following links for a decryptor:

No More Ransom Project

If you can't find a decryptor that works for you, you should try the alternative methods we list below. Additionally, it is worth mentioning that it sometimes takes years for a working decryption tool to be developed, so there are always hopes for the future.

Create data backups to avoid file loss in the future

One of the many countermeasures for home users against ransomware is data backups. Even if your Windows get corrupted, you can reinstall everything from scratch and retrieve files from backups with minimal losses overall. Most importantly, you would not have to pay cybercriminals and risk your money as well.

Therefore, if you have already dealt with a ransomware attack, we strongly advise you to prepare backups for future use. There are two options available to you:

  • Backup on a physical external drive, such as a USB flash drive or external HDD.
  • Use cloud storage services.

The first method is not that convenient, however, as backups need to constantly be updated manually – although it is very reliable. Therefore, we highly advise choosing cloud storage instead – it is easy to set up and efficient to sustain. The problem with it is that storage space is limited unless you want to pay for the subscription.

Using Microsoft OneDrive

OneDrive is a built-in tool that comes with every modern Windows version. By default, you get 5 GB of storage that you can use for free. You can increase that storage space, but for a price. Here's how to setup backups for OneDrive:

  1. Click on the OneDrive icon within your system tray.
  2. Select Help & Settings > Settings.
    Go to OneDrive settings
  3. If you don't see your email under the Account tab, you should click Add an account and proceed with the on-screen instructions to set yourself up.
    Add OneDrive account
  4. Once done, move to the Backup tab and click Manage backup.
    Manage backup
  5. Select Desktop, Documents, and Pictures, or a combination of whichever folders you want to backup.
  6. Press Start backup.
    Pick which folders to sync

After this, all the files that are imported into the above-mentioned folders will be automatically backed for you. If you want to add other folders or files, you have to do that manually. For that, open File Explorer by pressing Win + E on your keyboard, and then click on the OneDrive icon. You should drag and drop folders you want to backup (or you can use Copy/Paste as well).

Using Google Drive

Google Drive is another great solution for free backups. The good news is that you get as much as 15GB for free by choosing this storage. There are also paid versions available, with significantly more storage to choose from.

You can access Google Drive via the web browser or use a desktop app you can download on the official website. If you want your files to be synced automatically, you will have to download the app, however.

  1. Download the Google Drive app installer and click on it.
    Install Google Drive app
  2. Wait a few seconds for it to be installed. Complete installation
  3. Now click the arrow within your system tray – you should see Google Drive icon there, click it once.
    Google Drive Sign in
  4. Click Get Started. Backup and sync
  5. Enter all the required information – your email/phone, and password. Enter email/phone
  6. Now pick what you want to sync and backup. You can click on Choose Folder to add additional folders to the list.
  7. Once done, pick Next. Choose what to sync
  8. Now you can select to sync items to be visible on your computer.
  9. Finally, press Start and wait till the sync is complete. Your files are now being backed up.

Manual removal using Safe Mode

Important! →
Manual removal guide might be too complicated for regular computer users. It requires advanced IT knowledge to be performed correctly (if vital system files are removed or damaged, it might result in full Windows compromise), and it also might take hours to complete. Therefore, we highly advise using the automatic method provided above instead.

Step 1. Access Safe Mode with Networking

Manual malware removal should be best performed in the Safe Mode environment. 

Windows 7 / Vista / XP
  1. Click Start > Shutdown > Restart > OK.
  2. When your computer becomes active, start pressing F8 button (if that does not work, try F2, F12, Del, etc. – it all depends on your motherboard model) multiple times until you see the Advanced Boot Options window.
  3. Select Safe Mode with Networking from the list. Windows 7/XP
Windows 10 / Windows 8
  1. Right-click on Start button and select Settings.
    Settings
  2. Scroll down to pick Update & Security.
    Update and security
  3. On the left side of the window, pick Recovery.
  4. Now scroll down to find Advanced Startup section.
  5. Click Restart now.
    Reboot
  6. Select Troubleshoot. Choose an option
  7. Go to Advanced options. Advanced options
  8. Select Startup Settings. Startup settings
  9. Press Restart.
  10. Now press 5 or click 5) Enable Safe Mode with Networking. Enable safe mode

Step 2. Shut down suspicious processes

Windows Task Manager is a useful tool that shows all the processes running in the background. If malware is running a process, you need to shut it down:

  1. Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc on your keyboard to open Windows Task Manager.
  2. Click on More details.
    Open task manager
  3. Scroll down to Background processes section, and look for anything suspicious.
  4. Right-click and select Open file location.
    Open file location
  5. Go back to the process, right-click and pick End Task.
    End task
  6. Delete the contents of the malicious folder.

Step 3. Check program Startup

  1. Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc on your keyboard to open Windows Task Manager.
  2. Go to Startup tab.
  3. Right-click on the suspicious program and pick Disable.
    Startup

Step 4. Delete virus files

Malware-related files can be found in various places within your computer. Here are instructions that could help you find them:

  1. Type in Disk Cleanup in Windows search and press Enter.
    Disk cleanup
  2. Select the drive you want to clean (C: is your main drive by default and is likely to be the one that has malicious files in).
  3. Scroll through the Files to delete list and select the following:

    Temporary Internet Files
    Downloads
    Recycle Bin
    Temporary files

  4. Pick Clean up system files.
    Delete temp files
  5. You can also look for other malicious files hidden in the following folders (type these entries in Windows Search and press Enter):

    %AppData%
    %LocalAppData%
    %ProgramData%
    %WinDir%

After you are finished, reboot the PC in normal mode.

Finally, you should always think about the protection of crypto-ransomwares. In order to protect your computer from GoldenEye and other ransomwares, use a reputable anti-spyware, such as ReimageIntego, SpyHunter 5Combo Cleaner or Malwarebytes

How to prevent from getting ransomware

Protect your privacy – employ a VPN

There are several ways how to make your online time more private – you can access an incognito tab. However, there is no secret that even in this mode, you are tracked for advertising purposes. There is a way to add an extra layer of protection and create a completely anonymous web browsing practice with the help of Private Internet Access VPN. This software reroutes traffic through different servers, thus leaving your IP address and geolocation in disguise. Besides, it is based on a strict no-log policy, meaning that no data will be recorded, leaked, and available for both first and third parties. The combination of a secure web browser and Private Internet Access VPN will let you browse the Internet without a feeling of being spied or targeted by criminals. 

No backups? No problem. Use a data recovery tool

If you wonder how data loss can occur, you should not look any further for answers – human errors, malware attacks, hardware failures, power cuts, natural disasters, or even simple negligence. In some cases, lost files are extremely important, and many straight out panic when such an unfortunate course of events happen. Due to this, you should always ensure that you prepare proper data backups on a regular basis.

If you were caught by surprise and did not have any backups to restore your files from, not everything is lost. Data Recovery Pro is one of the leading file recovery solutions you can find on the market – it is likely to restore even lost emails or data located on an external device.

About the author
Olivia Morelli
Olivia Morelli - Ransomware analyst

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References
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