Key group ransomware (Removal Instructions)
Key group virus Removal Guide
What is Key group ransomware?
Key group ransomware encrypts users' files and demands them to pay a ransom
Ransomware is a dangerous virus that uses encryption algorithms
The Key group file-locking variant belongs to the Xorist ransomware family. It is considered to be a ransomware-type malware that uses encryption to lock personal files, like photos, videos, and documents. This version is known to change the desktop wallpaper as well. Infections like this can potentially result in permanent data loss if users do not have backups.
The affected files are appended with the .keygroup777 or .keygroup extension. The icons are also changed to white pages so thumbnails are unavailable. Users are unable to open, view, or use the encrypted files. Ransomware attacks have been gradually increasing in numbers so users should learn about the safety precautions they can take to avoid them.
|TYPE||Ransomware, cryptovirus, data-locking malware|
|MALWARE FAMILY||Xorist ransomware|
|DISTRIBUTION||Email attachments, torrent websites, peer-to-peer file sharing platforms, software vulnerabilities|
|FILE EXTENSION||keygroup777 or .keygroup|
|RANSOM NOTE||A pop-up window and HOW TO DECRYPT FILES.txt|
|FILE RECOVERY||If no backups are available, recovering data is almost impossible. We list alternative methods that could help you in some cases below|
|MALWARE REMOVAL||Scan your machine with anti-malware software to eliminate malicious files. This will not recover your data.|
|SYSTEM FIX||Malware can seriously tamper with Windows systems, causing errors, crashes, lag, and other stability issues. To remediate the OS and avoid its reinstallation, we recommend scanning it with the RestoroIntego repair tool|
The ransom note
Key group ransomware generates two notes on the device – a pop-up window and a text file “HOW TO DECRYPT FILES.txt.” The ransom note is a message from the ransomware developers. Usually, they try to pressure or intimidate victims into paying money for a decryption tool. Some even give a time limit and threaten to leak the data if their demands are not met.
The ransom amount varies greatly. It can be anywhere from a couple of dollars, to thousands of dollars. Some cybercriminals specify the amount in the note, and some negotiate privately depending on the importance of the information. If the encrypted files belong to a business, there is a chance that threat actors will ask for a significant amount of money.
We strongly advise against paying the ransom as cyber criminals cannot be trusted. Many previous ransomware victims have come forward and said that they never received the promised decryption tools. Besides, most often they ask to be paid in cryptocurrencies because it provides anonymity.
But once you send a cryptocurrency transaction to another wallet it is impossible to get it back. There are no refunds, and often it is hard or impossible to find out to who the digital wallet belongs. Even though there are almost no other options to decrypt your files, it is too much of a risk.
Victims are asked to pay the price if they want to use their data again
Generally, users get infected with ransomware and other malware because they are not careful while browsing the web or do not know certain security rules they should apply. Here is a list of things you should not do if you want to avoid virus infections:
- Do not use unsafe file downloading sources. Torrent websites and peer-to-peer file-sharing platforms are unregulated, so they are the perfect breeding ground for all kinds of malware. It is impossible to know if the files you are downloading are not malicious.
- Do not open email attachments from unknown senders. Cybercriminals can create letters that look like important and urgent messages from well-known companies, and they can trick people into opening infected email attachments or malicious links using social engineering.
What you should do instead:
- Use official web stores and developer websites. It may be tempting to install “cracked” software for free because buying programs can be expensive. However, it may save you money in the long run by keeping your system safe and running smoothly.
- Keep your operating system and software updated. Hackers can use software vulnerabilities to deliver their malicious programs. Software developers release security patches regularly so they should be installed as soon as they come out to ensure the safety of your system.
Ransomware removal process
The important thing to do is to disconnect the affected machine from the local network as we talked about the dangers of that previously. For home users, disconnecting the ethernet cable should do the job. If this happened at your workplace, doing that might be complicated, so we have instructions for corporate environments at the bottom of this post.
If you try to recover your data first, it can result in permanent loss. It can also encrypt your files the second time. It will not stop until you remove the malicious files causing it first. You should not attempt removing the malicious program yourself unless you have experience. Manual removal of ransomware is extremely complicated and is suitable for people with advanced IT skills.
Use anti-malware tools like SpyHunter 5Combo Cleaner or Malwarebytes to scan your system. This security software should find all the related files and entries and remove them automatically for you. In some cases, malware does not let you use antivirus in normal mode, so you need to access Safe Mode and perform a full system scan from there:
Windows 7 / Vista / XP
- Click Start > Shutdown > Restart > OK.
- 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.
- Select Safe Mode with Networking from the list.
Windows 10 / Windows 8
- Right-click on Start button and select Settings.
- Scroll down to pick Update & Security.
- On the left side of the window, pick Recovery.
- Now scroll down to find Advanced Startup section.
- Click Restart now.
- Select Troubleshoot.
- Go to Advanced options.
- Select Startup Settings.
- Click Restart.
- Press 5 or click 5) Enable Safe Mode with Networking.
Repair corrupted system files
Performance, stability, and usability issues, to the point where a full Windows reinstall is required, are nothing unusual after a malware infection. These types of viruses 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 cannot fix it.
Manual troubleshooting of such damage is also very complicated and can take a long time. This is why RestoroIntego was developed. It can fix a lot of the damage caused by an infection like this. Blue Screen errors, freezes, registry errors, damaged DLLs, etc., can make your computer completely unusable. By using this maintenance tool, you could prevent yourself from having to reinstall Windows completely.
- Download the application by clicking on the link above
- Click on the ReimageRepair.exe
- If User Account Control (UAC) shows up, select Yes
- Press Install and wait till the program finishes the installation process
- The analysis of your machine will begin immediately
- 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.
Try recovering data with third-party software
Only hackers hold the decryption key, which can unlock your files, so if you did not back them up previously, there is a good chance that you will never get them back. You can try using data recovery software, but keep in mind that third-party programs cannot always decrypt files. Whatever the situation may be, we suggest at least trying this method. Before you proceed, copy the corrupted files and place them in a USB flash drive or another external storage device. And remember – only do this if you have already removed the Key group ransomware.
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
- Download Data Recovery Pro.
- Double-click the installer to launch it.
- Follow on-screen instructions to install the software.
- As soon as you press Finish, you can use the app.
- Select Everything or pick individual folders where you want the files to be recovered from.
- Press Next.
- At the bottom, enable Deep scan and pick which Disks you want to be scanned.
- Press Scan and wait till it is complete.
- You can now pick which folders/files to recover – don't forget you also have the option to search by the file name!
- Press Recover to retrieve your files.
Getting rid of Key group virus. Follow these steps
Isolate the infected computer
Some ransomware strains aim to infect not only one computer but hijack the entire network. As soon as one of the machines is infected, malware can spread via network and encrypt files everywhere else, including Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices. If your computer is connected to a network, it is important to isolate it to prevent re-infection after ransomware removal is complete.
The easiest way to disconnect a PC from everything is simply to plug out the ethernet cable. However, in the corporate environment, this might be extremely difficult to do (also would take a long time). The method below will disconnect from all the networks, including local and the internet, isolating each of the machines involved.
- Type in Control Panel in Windows search and press Enter
- Go to Network and Internet
- Click Network and Sharing Center
- On the left, pick Change adapter settings
- Right-click on your connection (for example, Ethernet), and select Disable
- Confirm with Yes.
If you are using some type of cloud storage you are connected to, you should disconnect from it immediately. It is also advisable to disconnect all the external devices, such as USB flash sticks, external HDDs, etc. Once the malware elimination process is finished, you can connect your computers to the network and internet, as explained above, but by pressing Enable instead.
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
- Free Ransomware Decryptors by Kaspersky
- Free Ransomware Decryption Tools from Emsisoft
- Avast decryptors
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:
- Click on the OneDrive icon within your system tray.
- Select Help & Settings > Settings.
- 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.
- Once done, move to the Backup tab and click Manage backup.
- Select Desktop, Documents, and Pictures, or a combination of whichever folders you want to backup.
- Press Start backup.
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.
- Download the Google Drive app installer and click on it.
- Wait a few seconds for it to be installed.
- Now click the arrow within your system tray – you should see Google Drive icon there, click it once.
- Click Get Started.
- Enter all the required information – your email/phone, and password.
- Now pick what you want to sync and backup. You can click on Choose Folder to add additional folders to the list.
- Once done, pick Next.
- Now you can select to sync items to be visible on your computer.
- Finally, press Start and wait till the sync is complete. Your files are now being backed up.
Report the incident to your local authorities
Ransomware is a huge business that is highly illegal, and authorities are very involved in catching malware operators. To have increased chances of identifying the culprits, the agencies need information. Therefore, by reporting the crime, you could help with stopping the cybercriminal activities and catching the threat actors. Make sure you include all the possible details, including how did you notice the attack, when it happened, etc. Additionally, providing documents such as ransom notes, examples of encrypted files, or malware executables would also be beneficial.
Law enforcement agencies typically deal with online fraud and cybercrime, although it depends on where you live. Here is the list of local authority groups that handle incidents like ransomware attacks, sorted by country:
- USA – Internet Crime Complaint Center IC3
- United Kingdom – ActionFraud
- Canada – Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre
- Australia – ScamWatch
- New Zealand – ConsumerProtection
- Germany – Polizei
- France – Ministère de l'Intérieur
If your country is not listed above, you should contact the local police department or communications center.
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.
- ^ Dominic Fraser. What are encryption keys and how do they work?. Medium. Blogging Website.
- ^ Georgina Torbet. 5 Security Reasons Not to Download Cracked Software. Makeuseof. Security Blog.
- ^ Blue screen of death. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.