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Hermes 2.1 ransomware virus. How to remove? (Uninstall guide)

removal by Gabriel E. Hall - - | Type: Ransomware

Hermes 2.1 is a ransomware virus currently attacking South Koreans via Flash zero-day exploit

The ransom note by Hermes 2.1 ransomware

Questions about Hermes 2.1 ransomware virus

Hermes 2.1 is a ransomware-type cyber infection that belongs to the same family as Hermes ransomware and Hermes 2.0. It has been detected at the end of 2017 by the group of cybersecurity experts attacking computers of English-speaking users. In March 2018, a new Hermes 2.1 ransomware variant has been detected. Currently it is targeting South Korean PC users via 7 exploit kit called GreenFlash Sundown Flash Player, which allows spreading Hermes 2.1 virus via Flash zero-day. The new variant is redeployed from svchosta.exe file and encrypts files using a combination of RSA public key and AES cipher. Each encrypted file gets a .HERMES file extension, while the previous variants were known for appending .hrm marker. 

Name Hermes 2.1
Type Ransomware
Versions Hermes, Hermes 2.0
Danger level High. Initiates modifications on Windows registry, compromises Windows startup, creates many batch files, and encrypts personal files
Detection date October 2017. The latest version – March 2018.
File Extensions .HERMES, .hrm
Cryptography RSA and AES
Target English-speaking users and South Korean PC users
Ransom Note DECRYPT_INFO.txt and DECRYPT_INFORMATION.html
Distribution Exploit kits, malspam campaigns, fake software updates or cracks, Trojan horses

Another feature of this dangerous cyber threat is that it deletes shadow volume copies. Likewise, people can only decrypt the corrupted files with the original decrypter or cloud backup copies[1].

The difference between the older and newer version of Hermes 2.1 is that it has started using a new file marker at the end of the compromised file's content. According to the previous analysis, it used to leave HERMES file marker while now it has been supplemented with numerous random characters and symbols. 

As it is mentioned above, new Hermes 2.1 virus variant doesn't use the .HRM extension anymore. However, it is not the most important feature of the updated version. The latest offspring now combines AES-256 algorithm which is encrypted by RSA-2048 algorithm. This change makes it only harder for IT professionals to generate the decryption key because each encoded file features a diverse coding. 

Although, other features of Hermes 2.1 remain the same — its developer still  places the mp3 code of Vivaldi‘s Spring composition[2]. Additionally, the perpetrator continues to mention Wichita State University located in Kansas city and leaves two emails with considerations whether these details were left intentionally or unintentionally:

  1. BM-2cTSTDcCD5cNqQ5Ugx4US7momFtBynwdgJ@bitmessage.ch; 
  2. BM2cT72URgs1AWGV6Wy6KBu2yuj3ychN5vxC@bitmessage.ch

Fortunately, Hermes 2.1 malware and its newest version is already detectable by the majority of security applications as Trojan[Ransom]/Win32.AGeneric, Ransom.Hermes. Trojan.GenericKD.6154143, etc. It functions via the file called as ClrgraphicsOperation and My video.exe. 

Certainly, the malware might disguise under alternative file. If you noticed some of your files already locked and marked with the .HRM extension or you receive DECRYPT_INFO.txt, and DECRYPT_INFORMATION.html, it is high time you initiated Hermes 2.1 removal.

You can remove Hermes 2.1 with the help of one of professional security software. We suggest using Reimage, but first your must disable the virus to unblock your system and get access to download the antivirus. Learn how to do that from the guide which is attached at the end of this article.

Hermes 2.1 crypto-malware ID

The latest Hermes 2.1 variant spreads via Office documents embedded with Flash exploit: South Koreans under attack

South Korean Emergency Response Team (KrCERT) publicized about Hermes 2.1 ransomware virus which is currently attacking South Koreans via Flash Player 28.0.0.137 vulnerability using a sophisticated exploit kit dubbed as GreenFlash Sundown.[3] The same exploit has earlier been used by Lazarus,[4] a group of North Korean hackers who have previously attacked Taiwanese bank.

Ransomware payload is being distributed via malicious Word Office documents. Multiple scam campaigns have already been initiated to spread the payload widely. The first attack has been initiated via compromised Korean website at the end of February 2018. 

Once the Hermes 2.1 ransomware payload is executed, it creates a svchosta.exe file in %TEMP% folder. During the execution, the victim is asked for a permission to run the script. Even though the permission is not given, the virus starts encryption anyway. 

Hermes 2.1 ransomware version

Upon encryption, it creates a file UNIQUE_ID_DO_NOT_REMOVE, which contains private RSA key and a ransom note named DECRYPT_INFORMATION.html in C:\Users\Public\ directory. The ransom note contains the following information:

All your important files are encrypted!

Your files have been encrypted using RSA2048 algorithm with unique public-key stored on your PC. 
There is only one way to get your files back: contact with us, pay, and get decryptor software.
We accept Bitcoins, and other cryptocurrencies, you can find exchanges in bestbitcoinexchange.io
You have unique idkey (in a yellow frame), write it in letter when contact with us.
Also you can decrypt 1file for test, its guarantee what we can decrypt your files. 

Each encrypted files gets the HERMES file extension. The victim is asked to contact the crooks via pretty040782@gmail.com or pretty040782@keemail.me. The size of the ransom is unknown, though it may vary from 200 to 1500 USD. 

Ransomware researches noticed an interesting tendency of this ransomware to exit the encryption code it it detects registry key for Russian (0x419), Belarusian (423), or Ukrainian (422) language codes. Thus, we can only guess that the North Korean hackers are collaborating with Russian-speaking countries. 

The original Hermes 2.1 ransomware variant known as Hermes has been  cracked down. Security experts created a free Hermes decryptor. Despite some minor modifications, the core behavior of all three variants of this ransomware are very similar, so you should try a free decryptor. 

Hermes 2.1 virus related files

If the decryptor failed to unlock your files, the best solution you have is to remove Hermes 2.1 completely and then recover your data using backups or other alternative methods. 

Those who wonder how to protect themselves form this infection has only one option – to install a reputable anti-virus and keep its definitions up-to-date. Besides, stay away from questionable email messages and DO NOT open their attachments. 

Common attack vectors of ransomware

Unfortunately, criminals employ multiple distribution techniques to help them infiltrate the ransomware on as many computers as possible. As a result, it might become hard to identify the potential sources of this dangerous cyber threat. However, we aim to raise awareness and help regular computer users protect their systems.

These are the most common attach vectors of ransomware:

  • Exploit kits;
  • Malspam campaigns;
  • Fake software updates or cracks;
  • Trojan horses.

Considering the executable name, it is likely that the malware is spread in gaming sites at the moment. If you value your data, you should consider avoiding such domains. It is common knowledge that pirated software, keygens, and cracks have been popular tool exploited by malware developers.

Likewise, in order to limit the possibility of Hermes 2.1 hijack, install a couple of different security applications. In addition, be careful reviewing spam emails especially if they are sent by the official institutions. Examine the content of the message and inquire the official institution again to verify the received attachment. 

Instructions on how to uninstall Hermes 2.1 virus

Unfortunately, ransomware-type viruses are explicitly dangerous and hazardous computer threats. Even IT experts might struggle to remove Hermes 2.1 from the victimized systems. Likewise, regular computer users should not try to eliminate the malware without any assistance.

You can get rid of Hermes 2.1 with the help of robust malware removal software. However, this is a complex virus which might block your system and prevent you from installing the antivirus. You should de-activate the ransomware by booting you computer into Safe Mode. 

Instructions on how to do that are appended at the end of this article. Afterward, you should be able to access the tool and complete Hermes 2.1 removal. Only after the elimination is complete, proceed to data recovery. Experts from DieViren.de[5] suggest you might try using the free Hermes decrypter designed for the original version.

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If you failed to remove infection using Reimage, submit a question to our support team and provide as much details as possible.
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To remove Hermes 2.1 virus, follow these steps:

Remove Hermes 2.1 using Safe Mode with Networking

It is important that you disable the ransomware before installing antivirus software. If you fail to do so, it will block you from downloading any content which might be used against the virus. Learn how to boot your system into Safe Mode with Networking:

  • Step 1: Reboot your computer to Safe Mode with Networking

    Windows 7 / Vista / XP
    1. Click Start Shutdown Restart OK.
    2. When your computer becomes active, start pressing F8 multiple times until you see the Advanced Boot Options window.
    3. Select Safe Mode with Networking from the list Select 'Safe Mode with Networking'

    Windows 10 / Windows 8
    1. Press the Power button at the Windows login screen. Now press and hold Shift, which is on your keyboard, and click Restart..
    2. Now select Troubleshoot Advanced options Startup Settings and finally press Restart.
    3. Once your computer becomes active, select Enable Safe Mode with Networking in Startup Settings window. Select 'Enable Safe Mode with Networking'
  • Step 2: Remove Hermes 2.1

    Log in to your infected account and start the browser. Download Reimage or other legitimate anti-spyware program. Update it before a full system scan and remove malicious files that belong to your ransomware and complete Hermes 2.1 removal.

If your ransomware is blocking Safe Mode with Networking, try further method.

Remove Hermes 2.1 using System Restore

Here is another method which might help you circumvent the system of the ransomware:

  • Step 1: Reboot your computer to Safe Mode with Command Prompt

    Windows 7 / Vista / XP
    1. Click Start Shutdown Restart OK.
    2. When your computer becomes active, start pressing F8 multiple times until you see the Advanced Boot Options window.
    3. Select Command Prompt from the list Select 'Safe Mode with Command Prompt'

    Windows 10 / Windows 8
    1. Press the Power button at the Windows login screen. Now press and hold Shift, which is on your keyboard, and click Restart..
    2. Now select Troubleshoot Advanced options Startup Settings and finally press Restart.
    3. Once your computer becomes active, select Enable Safe Mode with Command Prompt in Startup Settings window. Select 'Enable Safe Mode with Command Prompt'
  • Step 2: Restore your system files and settings
    1. Once the Command Prompt window shows up, enter cd restore and click Enter. Enter 'cd restore' without quotes and press 'Enter'
    2. Now type rstrui.exe and press Enter again.. Enter 'rstrui.exe' without quotes and press 'Enter'
    3. When a new window shows up, click Next and select your restore point that is prior the infiltration of Hermes 2.1. After doing that, click Next. When 'System Restore' window shows up, select 'Next' Select your restore point and click 'Next'
    4. Now click Yes to start system restore. Click 'Yes' and start system restore
    Once you restore your system to a previous date, download and scan your computer with Reimage and make sure that Hermes 2.1 removal is performed successfully.

Bonus: Recover your data

Guide which is presented above is supposed to help you remove Hermes 2.1 from your computer. To recover your encrypted files, we recommend using a detailed guide prepared by 2-spyware.com security experts.

If your files are encrypted by Hermes 2.1, you can use several methods to restore them:

Data Recovery Pro might be useful

Initially, experts have developed this tool to assist the users if their information has been damaged during the system crash or they unintentionally deleted them. However, in some cases it might be helpful if you are the victim of ransomware attack as well.

Experts say you might try Hermes 2.1 Decryptor

Since Hermes 2.1 is an offspring of the original Hermes program, you can try using its decryption tool here

Finally, you should always think about the protection of crypto-ransomwares. In order to protect your computer from Hermes 2.1 and other ransomwares, use a reputable anti-spyware, such as Reimage, Plumbytes Anti-MalwareWebroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus or Malwarebytes Anti Malware

About the author

Gabriel E. Hall
Gabriel E. Hall - Passionate web researcher

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