Severity scale:  
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Karma ransomware virus. How to remove? (Uninstall guide)

removal by Olivia Morelli - - | Type: Ransomware
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Beware of Karma ransomware, which pretends to be a Windows optimization program

Karma virus is an extremely dangerous ransomware that spreads in a form of a fake Windows optimization program called Windows-TuneUp, which was designed particularly for distribution of this ransomware virus. Windows-TuneUp spreads via software bundling, and it proves that software bundling helps to spread not only potentially unwanted programs but malicious software as well. It turns out that this malicious file-encrypting software was distributed (used to, because currently, this ransomware is no longer active because its Command&Control servers were taken down already) along other freeware and presented as recommended additional software that can help the user speed up a slow computer and fix other perfomance-related issues. This malicious program even used to have an official website; however, it is no longer active. Clearly, scammers had put great efforts into making people believe that Windows-TuneUp is a legitimate tool; however, it didn’t take long to realize that in reality it is a Trojan that disseminates Karma ransomware.

Let us explain how this malware infects victim’s PC without being caught. When the victim downloads and installs this program, it automatically launches and pretends to be checking the system for errors and problems that need to be fixed. While the victim explores the panel of this fake optimization tool, the virus actually scans system folders and encrypts target files with a sophisticated cipher. The real intention of this PC optimization software emerges when it triggers a ransom note (either # DECRYPT MY FILES #.html or # DECRYPT MY FILES #.txt) on the screen, which says:

Is the content of the files that you looked for not readable?
It is normal because the data in your files have been encrypted.
Great!!
You have turned to be a part of big community #karma #ransomware.
Continue reading because this is the only way out.

We, as malware researchers quickly notice where the idea of the ransom note came from. It appears that Karma virus copies text from the infamous Cerber ransomware, which is likely the most active ransomware virus nowadays. What is more, just like first versions of Cerber, it adds a particular file extension to encrypted files to help the victim identify the virus and realize how many files have been encrypted. Clearly, it appends .karma file extension to encoded data. Although at the moment nobody knows how to decrypt these files for free, you should not even consider the option of paying the ransom. Criminals might just leave you with encrypted data and take your money away. The author of this virus calls itself “SAFFRON-WOLF,” as we can see it hidden in the ransomware code. Since there is no way to get Karma decryptor without paying, we recommend you to rethink what data backups you have. Maybe you have some USBs or CDs containing essential information? Perhaps you have sent some important files through email, and now you can recover them from there? Or maybe you have a data backup stored on an external drive? If so, use it to recover your files after completing Karma removal. Please do not try to decrypt encoded data before you remove Karma ransomware.

Karma virus pretends to be a PC optimizer

How did your computer get infected with this virus?

After a successful infiltration, the virus checks whether a target is a virtual machine (emulation of a computer system). If it is, it simply removes itself. If it is a real computer, it continues to run and connects to its remote servers to get the unique encryption key for the machine. It uses it to encrypt all files, except those stored in the boot, drivers, program files, program files (x86), programdata, Windows, users\all users, appdata\local, appdata\locallow,public\videos\sample videos, public\music\sample music, appdata\roaming, public\pictures\sample pictures and also skips Tor browser folder. The virus is programmed to relaunch Windows-TuneUp.exe as soon as the user closes it.

While typical ransomware viruses are mainly distributed via phishing emails, malvertising and exploit kits, this is one of the first examples that shows ransomware can be distributed via deceptive software bundles. Normally, software bundling is a legitimate software distribution technique used to promote legitimate third-party programs. However, in this case, we can see that software bundles are being used to spread malware, too. We recommend you to perform a security check when installing new programs to your system and arrange Advanced or Custom settings for the installation to see additional programs added to your download. Then simply deselect them. Even better – do not download suspicious programs from vague file sharing sites. It is highly advisable to stay away from suspicious software, especially computer optimizers, tune-up tools and other programs that promise to enhance your browser’s performance. In most cases, they appear to be useless tools, and we already know a few examples of PC optimization software that promise the victim to keep the PC running at its peak performance, while in reality they only decrease its speed, display annoying pop-ups or even initiate malicious activities. 

Remove Karma ransomware and Windows-TuneUp malware from the system

Karma virus is a severe PC infection, and it must be eliminated as soon as possible. You must remove Windows-TuneUp program at the same time, too. These suspicious programs make the system vulnerable and can allow additional malware infect your system easily. To remove Karma malware, employ a strong anti-malware or anti-spyware software like Reimage. The virus will likely attempt to stop your security tool from running, so please follow these Karma removal guidelines presented below to prepare your PC before launching anti-malware software.

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What to do if failed?
If you failed to remove infection using Reimage, submit a question to our support team and provide as much details as possible.
Reimage is recommended to uninstall Karma ransomware virus. Free scanner allows you to check whether your PC is infected or not. If you need to remove malware, you have to purchase the licensed version of Reimage malware removal tool.

More information about this program can be found in Reimage review.

More information about this program can be found in Reimage review.

Manual Karma virus Removal Guide:

Remove Karma using Safe Mode with Networking

Reimage is a tool to detect malware.
You need to purchase Full version to remove infections.
More information about Reimage.

To remove this malware from your PC, follow these instructions carefully. We highly recommend using anti-malware tools for Karma removal because you need to find and uninstall both Karma ransomware and also Windows-TuneUp virus. These programs can alter Windows Registry keys, set new preferences, alter settings and completely devastate the computer system, which is why we do not recommend you to try to fix the computer manually. It takes a lot of time, patience and experience to fix a computer that has been attacked by ransomware manually, so we always recommend using anti-malware tools.  

  • 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 Karma

    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 Karma removal.

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

Remove Karma using System Restore

Reimage is a tool to detect malware.
You need to purchase Full version to remove infections.
More information about Reimage.

  • 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 Karma. 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 Karma removal is performed successfully.

Bonus: Recover your data

Guide which is presented above is supposed to help you remove Karma 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 Karma, you can use several methods to restore them:

Utilize Data Recovery Pro

Data Recovery Pro is a software that is often used for data recovery. We suggest it to you because it might be able to recover part of encoded files.

Check if the virus deleted Volume Shadow Copies or not

Volume Shadow Copies are important files that can help you restore files if their original copies get modified or encrypted. To restore your files, use a tool called ShadowExplorer. We strongly recommend you to follow these guidelines:

  • Download Shadow Explorer (http://shadowexplorer.com/);
  • Follow a Shadow Explorer Setup Wizard and install this application on your computer;
  • Launch the program and go through the drop down menu on the top left corner to select the disk of your encrypted data. Check what folders are there;
  • Right-click on the folder you want to restore and select “Export”. You can also select where you want it to be stored.

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

About the author

Olivia Morelli
Olivia Morelli - Ransomware analyst

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  • paolo

    Karma attacked me a week ago!

  • Ambert

    I have to fix my computer somehow… I hve removed that tuneup program but couldnt find karma, gotta run an antivirus tool. Ugh, I dont have one…

  • Costa

    Why there are so many criminals in this world… they just keep creating those ransomware viruses one after another…

  • Lauren1

    Eliminated Karma, but my files are encrypted… can somebody help me to recover them?

  • Frank

    Best thing to is to FACTORY RESET YOUR PC, take off files you can onto a new clean drive/pen/usb disk etc. Factory reset the PC, do all updates (this will take a while), install anti-visus software and check the drives.

    If you get infected again from your backups then put them in the bin and factory reset all over again.