ZFX ransomware (virus) - Recovery Instructions Included
ZFX virus Removal Guide
What is ZFX ransomware?
ZFX ransomware infection can result in permanent data loss if victims do not have backups
Ransomware is a serious threat that can cause irreparable damage
The Makop ransomware family includes ZFX ransomware, a new strain discovered by security vendors. The file was flagged as malicious by 54 security vendors and two sandboxes. When the virus infects the victims' devices, it immediately begins the encryption process by employing complex algorithms.
The .ZFX extension, a string of random characters, and the email address cryptedData@tfwno.gf are appended to the affected files. For example, if a file was previously named picture.jpg, it would look like this after encryption – picture.jpg. [4GH54CR1]. [CryptedData@tfwno.gf].ZFX. Even in preview mode, the icons change to blank pages, making it impossible to see the content. When you try to open the damaged files, you get an error message saying that Windows is unable to open the file.
A ransom note +README-WARNING+.txt is generated on the user's PC shortly after to inform them of what has happened and what they should do if they want to recover the files. The developers of this ransomware do not specify how much they want for a decryption key or software. The malicious program also modifies the desktop wallpaper that reads “Your files were encrypted! Please contact us for decryption.”
|TYPE||Ransomware, cryptovirus, data-locking malware|
|MALWARE FAMILY||Makop ransomware|
|DISTRIBUTION||Email attachments, peer-to-peer file-sharing platforms, malicious ads|
|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 the 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
+README-WARNING+.txt reads as follows:
::: Hey :::
Q: What's going on?
A: Your files have been encrypted. The file structure was not affected, we did our best to prevent this from happening.
Q: How to recover files?
A: If you want to decrypt your files, you will need to pay us.
Q: What about guarantees?
A: It's just business. We are absolutely not interested in you and your transactions, except for profit. If we do not fulfill our work and obligations, no one will cooperate with us. It's not in our interest.
To check the possibility of returning files, you can send us any 2 files with SIMPLE extensions (jpg, xls, doc, etc… not databases!) and small sizes (max 1 mb), we will decrypt them and send them back to you. This is our guarantee.
Q: How to contact you?
A: You can write to us at our mailboxes: CryptedData@tfwno.gf
Q: How will the decryption process take place after payment?
A: After payment, we will send you our scanner-decoder program and detailed instructions for use. With this program you will be able to decrypt all your encrypted files.
Q: If I don't want to pay bad people like you?
A: If you do not cooperate with our service – it does not matter to us. But you will lose your time and data because only we have the private key. In practice, time is much more valuable than money.
DO NOT try to modify encrypted files yourself!
If you try to use third party software to recover your data or antivirus solutions – back up all encrypted files!
Any changes to the encrypted files may result in damage to the private key and, as a result, the loss of all data.
::::::IF WE HAVE NOT RESPONSE YOU BY MAIL WITHIN 24 HOURS::::::
Spare contact for communication:
If we have not answered your email within 24 hours, you can contact us via the free messenger qTox
Download from the link hxxps://tox.chat/download.html
Next go qTox 64-bit
after downloading the program, install it and go through a short registration.
Our Tox ID
The above text is a ransom note from a group of cybercriminals claiming to have encrypted the victim's files and demanding payment for their decryption. The note includes a FAQ section with basic information about the attack, including how to contact the attackers and how the decryption process will take place.
The attackers warn the victims not to attempt to modify the encrypted files or use third-party software, as this may result in further damage. The ransom note also provides a secondary contact method in case the attackers do not respond within 24 hours.
Victims should not pay the ransom demand as there is no guarantee that the attackers will actually provide the decryption key or software. Furthermore, paying the ransom may encourage the attackers to continue their criminal activities and target other victims. Instead, victims should consult with a cybersecurity professional for assistance in recovering their data.
Cybercriminals ask for a ransom to decrypt files but it is not recommended to pay
Phishing emails are one of the most common methods used to spread ransomware. These emails often appear to be from legitimate sources and contain a malicious attachment or a link to a malicious website. When the attachment or link is opened, the malware infects the system and encrypts the user's files, demanding a ransom for their recovery.
Exploit kits are another common method for spreading ransomware. These kits automate the process of identifying and exploiting vulnerabilities in software, often by using malicious ads on websites. Once the vulnerability is exploited, the malware is installed on the system, leading to a ransomware attack.
Ransomware can also spread through unsecured networks, such as those in public Wi-Fi hotspots or connected devices in the Internet. In these cases, the malware can spread rapidly, infecting all connected devices and potentially causing widespread damage.
It is important to be cautious when opening attachments and links from unknown sources, and to keep software and operating systems up-to-date to prevent exploitation of vulnerabilities. Additionally, having a reliable backup of important data can help minimize the damage in case of a ransomware attack.
Start the removal process
The most important thing to do is to disconnect the affected machine from the local network. Disconnecting the ethernet cable should suffice for home users. If this occurred at your workplace, doing so may be difficult; therefore, we have instructions for corporate environments at the bottom of this post.
Attempting to recover your data first may result in permanent loss. It also has the ability to encrypt your files a second time. It will not stop until you remove the malicious files that are causing it. Unless you have prior experience, you should not attempt to remove the malicious program yourself. Manual removal of ransomware is extremely difficult and should only be attempted by 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 that necessitate a full Windows reinstall are not uncommon after malware infection. These viruses can change the Windows registry database, harm vital bootup and other sections, delete or corrupt DLL files, and so on. When malware corrupts a system file, antivirus software cannot repair it.
Manual troubleshooting of such damage is also difficult and time-consuming. That is why RestoroIntego was created. It can repair a significant portion of the damage caused by an infection like this. Blue screen errors, freezes, registry errors, damaged DLLs, and other issues can render your computer completely inoperable. You could avoid having to reinstall Windows entirely by using this maintenance tool.
- 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 ZFX 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 ZFX 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
Choose a proper web browser and improve your safety with a VPN tool
Online spying has got momentum in recent years and people are getting more and more interested in how to protect their privacy online. One of the basic means to add a layer of security – choose the most private and secure web browser. Although web browsers can't grant full privacy protection and security, some of them are much better at sandboxing, HTTPS upgrading, active content blocking, tracking blocking, phishing protection, and similar privacy-oriented features. However, if you want true anonymity, we suggest you employ a powerful Private Internet Access VPN – it can encrypt all the traffic that comes and goes out of your computer, preventing tracking completely.
Lost your files? Use data recovery software
While some files located on any computer are replaceable or useless, others can be extremely valuable. Family photos, work documents, school projects – these are types of files that we don't want to lose. Unfortunately, there are many ways how unexpected data loss can occur: power cuts, Blue Screen of Death errors, hardware failures, crypto-malware attack, or even accidental deletion.
To ensure that all the files remain intact, you should prepare regular data backups. You can choose cloud-based or physical copies you could restore from later in case of a disaster. If your backups were lost as well or you never bothered to prepare any, Data Recovery Pro can be your only hope to retrieve your invaluable files.
- ^ Key (cryptography). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
- ^ What Is Phishing?. Phishing. Phishing 101.
- ^ What is an Exploit Kit?. Paloaltonetworks. Threat Research.
- ^ In Windows, what is Safe Mode used for and why?. Computer. Operating Systems.