ORCA ransomware (virus) - Recovery Instructions Included

ORCA virus Removal Guide

What is ORCA ransomware?

ORCA ransomware can completely damage users' personal data using encryption algorithms

ORCA ransomwareRansomware is one of the most dangerous malware there is

ORCA ransomware belongs to the ZEPPELIN ransomware family which was first discovered in November of 2019. The variant is capable of using complicated encryption algorithms[1] to lock users' personal files, like photos, videos, documents, etc. An infection like this can result in permanent data loss.

When the file-locking malware infiltrates the system, it starts appending files with the .ORCA.victim's_ID extension. So if a file was previously named picture.jpg, after encryption, it would look something like this – picture.jpg.ORCA.53-738-H4T. The icons are also changed to white pages so thumbnails become unavailable.

NAME ORCA
TYPE Ransomware, file locker, crypto virus
MALWARE FAMILY ZEPPELIN ransomware
DISTRIBUTION Infected email attachments, torrent websites, malicious ads
FILE EXTENSION .ORCA.victim's_ID
RANSOM NOTE HOW_TO_RECOVER_DATA.hta
FILE RECOVERY If you do not have backups, the only way to decrypt the files is by getting the key that only the hackers have. There are additional recovery options using third-party software that we cover in this article
MALWARE REMOVAL The malicious program should only be removed with professional security tools to ensure all the malicious files are gone. Keep in mind that the antivirus cannot recover your data
SYSTEM FIX ReimageIntego maintenance tool can fix damaged files and other system errors to help victims avoid having to reinstall the operating system completely

The ransom note

Shortly after the encryption process is done, ORCA ransomware generates a ransom note HOW_TO_RECOVER_DATA.hta on the machine. The full message reads as follows:

YOUR FILES HAVE BEEN ENCRYPTED
Your ID to decrypt: –
Contact us: GoldenSunMola@aol.com | GoldenSunMola@cyberfear.com

Unfortunately for you, due to a serious vulnerability in IT security, you are vulnerable to attacks!
To decrypt files, you need to get a private key.
The only copy of the secret key that can be used to decrypt files is on a private server.
The server will destroy the key within 72h after the encryption is completed.
To save the key for a longer period, you can contact us and provide your ID!

In addition, we collect strictly confidential/personal data.
This data is also stored on a private server.
Your data will be deleted only after payment!
If you decide not to pay, we will publish your data to everyone or resellers.
So you can expect your data to become publicly available in the near future!

It's just a business and we only care about making a profit!
The only way to get your files back is to contact us for further instructions!
To establish a trust relationship, you can send 1 file for test decryption (no more than 5 MB)

Do not waste your time searching for other decryption methods – THERE ARE NONE, you will pay more for your time!
Every day the price of decryption increases!
Do not rename encrypted files.
Do not use third-party programs to decrypt files – they can only do harm!
After payment, you get a decoder (.exe), you only need to run it, and it will do everything by itself.
I only accept Bitcoins! You can learn how to buy them on the Internet.

Ransomware developers use various scare tactics to make people act quickly. They try to pressure victims into paying a ransom. The amount is not specified in the note, which means it is most likely negotiated privately. Victims have to contact crooks within 72 hours or the decryption key will be destroyed.

Additionally, cybercriminals warn that the price will rise every day, and if not paid, they will leak private information. We urge you not to pay the ransom because threat actors cannot be trusted. Many previous ransomware attack victims say that they never received the promised decryption tools after paying.

Besides, they want to be paid in cryptocurrencies[2] because it provides anonymity. However, it is very risky for the victims. It is impossible to get the funds back once you send the cryptocurrency transaction to another wallet. Although it is almost impossible to decrypt data without the cybercriminals' help, there are third-party recovery solutions that help in some cases.

ORCA ransom noteVictims should not get affected by the pressure tactics used in ransom notes

Distribution methods

Most of the time people get infected with ransomware through Torrent websites or peer-to-peer file-sharing platforms. Users often look for “cracked” software but this activity is illegal so it is unregulated. It is impossible to know if the packages you are downloading do not contain any malicious files.

Another common gateway for ransomware is email. Threat actors use social engineering[3] techniques to create convincing letters that look like urgent messages from well-known companies. In the letter, they usually include malicious links or infected attachments. It is best to only open attachments from senders you know.

To avoid malware infections in general, you should only visit websites that you know and trust. Do not click on random links and ads even if they seem to be promoting legitimate products and services. Threat actors can impersonate big tech companies and appear legitimate, so go to the source directly.

One more thing that is often overlooked, is the importance of keeping the operating system and software updated. Hackers can use software vulnerabilities to deliver their malicious programs. Software developers regularly release security patches[4] that should be installed immediately to prevent this from happening.

Remove the intruder from your machine

The first thing you have to do is remove the malicious files that are executing the tasks. If you try to recover the files without eliminating the cause, it can encrypt your files again and result in more damage. Removing the virus yourself should not be an option unless you have experience in this and know what you are doing. 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. Automatic removal is the best option because there is less risk of leaving some of the files on our system. Another thing to note is the malicious program could be preventing you from using the antivirus software, so check that first. If you are unable to do it, proceed with accessing Safe Mode on Windows:

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 XP/7

Windows 10 / Windows 8

  1. Right-click on Start button and select Settings.
  2. Scroll down to pick Update & Security.Update & Security
  3. On the left side of the window, pick Recovery.
  4. Now scroll down to find Advanced Startup section.
  5. Click Restart now.Recovery
  6. Select Troubleshoot.Choose an option
  7. Go to Advanced options.Advanced options
  8. Select Startup Settings.Startup settings
  9. Click Restart.
  10. Press 5 or click 5) Enable Safe Mode with Networking.Press F5 to enable Safe Mode with Networking

Data recovery options

Only hackers hold the decryption key, which can unlock your files, so if you did not back them up previously, you possibly lost your files forever. You can try using data recovery software, but third-party programs cannot always decrypt the files. We suggest at least trying it because it cannot hurt.

Important – only do this if you have already removed ORCA ransomware

Before proceeding, you must copy the corrupted files and place them in a USB flash drive or another external storage. In case something happens, you will at least still have the encrypted files.

  1. Download Data Recovery Pro.
  2. Double-click the installer to launch it.
    ORCA ransomware
  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

Run a maintenance tool to fix system issues

Performance, stability, and usability issues, to the point where a full Windows reinstall is required, are expected after a malware infection. These types of infections 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 able to repair it.

There are tools created just for this purpose. ReimageIntego 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 try fixing the damaged system and avoid reinstallation.

  • 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 processReimage installation
  • The analysis of your machine will begin immediatelyReimage 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

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Compatible with Microsoft Windows Compatible with macOS
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 ORCA 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 Network and internet
  • Click Network and Sharing Center Network and internet 2
  • On the left, pick Change adapter settings Network and internet 3
  • Right-click on your connection (for example, Ethernet), and select Disable Network and internet 4
  • 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

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.

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:

Internet Crime Complaint Center IC3

If your country is not listed above, you should contact the local police department or communications center.

How to prevent from getting ransomware

Access your website securely from any location

When you work on the domain, site, blog, or different project that requires constant management, content creation, or coding, you may need to connect to the server and content management service more often. The best solution for creating a tighter network could be a dedicated/fixed IP address.

If you make your IP address static and set to your device, you can connect to the CMS from any location and do not create any additional issues for the server or network manager that needs to monitor connections and activities. VPN software providers like Private Internet Access can help you with such settings and offer the option to control the online reputation and manage projects easily from any part of the world.

 

Recover files after data-affecting malware attacks

While much of the data can be accidentally deleted due to various reasons, malware is one of the main culprits that can cause loss of pictures, documents, videos, and other important files. More serious malware infections lead to significant data loss when your documents, system files, and images get encrypted. In particular, ransomware is is a type of malware that focuses on such functions, so your files become useless without an ability to access them.

Even though there is little to no possibility to recover after file-locking threats, some applications have features for data recovery in the system. In some cases, Data Recovery Pro can also help to recover at least some portion of your data after data-locking virus infection or general cyber infection. 

 

About the author
Lucia Danes
Lucia Danes - Virus researcher

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