XHAMSTER virus Removal Guide
What is XHAMSTER ransomware?
XHAMSTER ransomware is a cryptovirus that uses blackmail after the file encryption
One of the ransom notes appear as the pop-up window
XHAMSTER ransomware is a threat that uses a complex extension for the files that get encrypted. The malicious computer virus locks various personal files with the help of encryption algorithms and makes them inaccessible, so people are eager to pay the demanded amount of cryptocurrency. This is the variant of a well-known Phobos ransomware threat.
These creators focus on extortion because it is the way to make a profit. Users are encouraged to follow the instructions and transfer the demanded sum in exchange for the alleged decryption. These particular tactics are common and used by many other ransomware-type threats, but it is very rare that cybercriminals release these files or even provide an option for file recovery that users can obtain.
More details on the cryptovirus
XHAMSTER ransomware virus is a major threat that cannot be left unattended in the machine. Besides the file-locking these infections can damage the machine further and affect critical features and functions, so make sure to remove this threat fully. That can be achieved with the help of anti-malware tools. Decryption officially is not possible, so rely on alternate options that we include here.
The threat renames files once they get locked, and the original code is altered. The pattern this virus uses includes the victims' id and the contacting option, then comes the unique .XHAMSTER appendix that indicates this particular name for the ransomware.
One of the examples could be file named 2.jpg becoming an unopenable piece renamed to 2.jpg.id[C279F237-2797].[ICQ@xhamster2020].XHAMSTER. Once this is done threat releases info.hta and info.txt files on the machine, so the victim has information about the payment and file recovery options.
|Ransom messages||info.hta, info.txt|
|Contact||@xhamster2020 on ICQ|
|Distribution||Infected files attached to emails as links or files, malicious pages, torrent services|
|Elimination||Threats can be terminated with the anti-malware tools or security software that finds and removes all ransomware pieces|
|Repair||Virus damage can still trigger issues on the computer, so run ReimageIntego for the proper system performance improvement|
The pop-up with a ransom message version reads:
All your files have been encrypted!
All your files have been encrypted due to a security problem with your PC.
If you want to restore them, install ICQ software on your PC here hxxps://icq.com/windows/
or on mobile phone from Appstore/Google Play Market search for “ICQ”
Write to our ICQ @xhamster2020 hxxps://icq.im/xhamster2020
Write this ID in the title of your message –
You have to pay for decryption in Bitcoins. The price depends on how fast you write to us.
Free decryption as guarantee
Before paying you can send us up to 5 files for free decryption. The total size of files must be less than 3Mb (non archived), and files should not contain valuable information. (databases,backups, large excel sheets, etc.)
Do not rename encrypted files.
Do not try to decrypt your data using third party software, it may cause permanent data loss.
Decryption of your files with the help of third parties may cause increased price (they add their fee to our) or you can become a victim of a scam.
Be assured we are the only people who can recover your files and there is no free tool.
Removal of the infection
Experts note that these threats that focus on money extortion can affect more than the common data encryption. You need to treat the infection properly, and the way to do so is ruining anti-malware tools for the proper XHAMSTER ransomware removal. AV detection engine-based applications can indicate possibly malicious files and terminate them.
File locker can run additional rounds of file encryption once you repair your files or replace locked data with pieces from backups. It is crucial to remove the threat before any other steps. SpyHunter 5Combo Cleaner or Malwarebytes can help you here because these applications are powerful antivirus tools that can find and eliminate various infections, including the cryptovirus.
XHAMSTER file virus developers instruct victims to pay the demanded amount and contact them via ICQ for the payment details. This is not the option because threat actors like this have no mercy, and there are no guarantees that your data will get recovered.
There are ways to recover locked data, but paying the cryptocurrency amount that criminals demand from you is never a good idea. Decryption tools rarely are developed, and more often criminals trigger permanent damage to those files instead of releasing the tool for the data affected by XHAMSTER ransomware. Remove the virus asap and move on with alternate options.
The scary message is a method to encourage people to pay
Option for the virus damage repair
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 reinstallation is required. Therefore, we highly recommend using a one-of-a-kind, patented technology of ReimageIntego repair. The program can find XHAMSTER ransomware virus damage and altered system data, so secondary processes stop.
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
- 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.
How does ransomware infiltrate machines?
XHAMSTER ransomware as any other version of the Phobos file virus spreads around using malicious files with macro viruses or different code triggering the infiltration. These infections are known for spreading around quickly because users are not paying attention to details and allow the virus to run on the machine.
Threats can end up infecting the computer when a file attachment from an email is opened, or the link on the message gets clicked on and interacted with. Files can run the payload on the system quickly and cause the drop of dangerous malware like the XHAMSTER file virus.
Threat is locking files on the machine and marking them with a pattern including ID and the contact option
The infection has no symptoms and can be masked with additional pop-ups or processes, so the infiltration is silent until those commonly used files get affected and fully locked by the XHAMSTER ransomware virus. Avoid deceptive messages, misleading emails that are suspicious to avoid these major infections.
Getting rid of XHAMSTER virus. Follow these steps
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
- 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.
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.
Manual removal using Safe Mode
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
- 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.
- Press Restart.
- Now press 5 or click 5) Enable Safe Mode with Networking.
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:
- Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc on your keyboard to open Windows Task Manager.
- Click on More details.
- Scroll down to Background processes section, and look for anything suspicious.
- Right-click and select Open file location.
- Go back to the process, right-click and pick End Task.
- Delete the contents of the malicious folder.
Step 3. Check program Startup
- Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc on your keyboard to open Windows Task Manager.
- Go to Startup tab.
- Right-click on the suspicious program and pick Disable.
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:
- Type in Disk Cleanup in Windows search and press Enter.
- 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).
- Scroll through the Files to delete list and select the following:
Temporary Internet Files
- Pick Clean up system files.
- You can also look for other malicious files hidden in the following folders (type these entries in Windows Search and press Enter):
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 XHAMSTER and other ransomwares, use a reputable anti-spyware, such as ReimageIntego, SpyHunter 5Combo Cleaner or Malwarebytes
How to prevent from getting ransomware
Stream videos without limitations, no matter where you are
There are multiple parties that could find out almost anything about you by checking your online activity. While this is highly unlikely, advertisers and tech companies are constantly tracking you online. The first step to privacy should be a secure browser that focuses on tracker reduction to a minimum.
Even if you employ a secure browser, you will not be able to access websites that are restricted due to local government laws or other reasons. In other words, you may not be able to stream Disney+ or US-based Netflix in some countries. To bypass these restrictions, you can employ a powerful Private Internet Access VPN, which provides dedicated servers for torrenting and streaming, not slowing you down in the process.
Data backups are important – recover your lost files
Ransomware is one of the biggest threats to personal data. Once it is executed on a machine, it launches a sophisticated encryption algorithm that locks all your files, although it does not destroy them. The most common misconception is that anti-malware software can return files to their previous states. This is not true, however, and data remains locked after the malicious payload is deleted.
While regular data backups are the only secure method to recover your files after a ransomware attack, tools such as Data Recovery Pro can also be effective and restore at least some of your lost data.