ZONEware ransomware / virus (Virus Removal Instructions) - Decryption Steps Included

ZONEware virus Removal Guide

What is ZONEware ransomware virus?

ZONEware can encrypt numerous files on the affected computer

Ransom note by ZONEware ransomware

ZONEware is a file-encrypting virus that appends .ZW extension to targeted files and demands to pay 0.25376 Bitcoins for data recovery. The instructions how to pay the ransom popups on the computer’s screen as soon as data encryption is done. Besides, malware places Ransom Note.txt file to each folder that includes encrypted files.

In the ransom note, ZONEware ransomware claims that data is locked with a military-grade encryption algorithm. However, malware researchers haven’t confirmed what cipher the virus use. Unfortunately, criminals do not lie. Victims have to obtain a decryption tool in order to use their files again.

Crooks warn that users should not try to decrypt files themselves. According to them, “it will only make the situation worse.” However, sending 0.2 Bitcoins to the provided address is not a good idea. There’s no information that ZONEware virus is decryptable. Thus, crooks might just take your money and leave with the encoded data.

Right now the only way to restore all of the files is to use backups. Otherwise, chances to access documents, photographies or music files are low. However, you should not give up and follow hacker’s orders. No matter how important personal data is, you have to focus on ZONEware removal.

When ZONEware enters the system, it makes several modifications. It might alter Windows Registry and install numerous malicious files.[1] In this way, ransomware boots with system startup and can run in the background. Having ransomware installed undoubtedly makes computer sluggish and unprotected. So, it’s important to clean malevolent components to use the device safely.

Crypto-viruses are complicated infections that are often hard to remove. Security specialists do not recommend deleting malware-related files manually. Ransomware might inject malicious code into legit processes, so it might be impossible to eliminate them properly without professional help. Thus, you should obtain a reputable malware removal tool for ZONEware removal. We suggest ReimageIntego.

The example of ZONEware ransomware virusZONEware ransomware virus appends .ZW file extension and drops a .txt file in all folders with encrypted files.

Strategies used for ransomware distribution

.ZW file extension virus might be spreading using all “traditional” ransomware distribution methods. The variety of techniques allows reaching users all over the world, including Hungary[2] or the Czech Republic. Therefore, it doesn’t matter that authors of ransomware greet victims in English. Malware might end up on computers located all over the world because of these strategies:

  • spam emails with infected links or attachments;
  • malicious ads that might be placed on legitimate and potentially dangerous websites;
  • fake software downloads available on various file-sharing sites or torrents;
  • bogus updates that might pop up when browsing the web;
  • exploit kits;
  • insecure RDP configuration.

Many ransomware-type viruses share the same dissemination methods. So, you have to be aware of them and act smart when browsing the web.[3] Double-checking information before opening or downloading content from the Internet is a must. If you don’t take cyber security seriously, even the strongest antivirus cannot protect you.

Powerful malware removal tool can eliminate ZONEware from the computer immediately

As you already know, the only safe way to remove ZONEware from the device is to employ a professional malware removal tool. We want to remind that this type of cyber infection is complicated and attempts to wipe out it manually, might end up with a damaged system. Thus, do not risk and invest in reputable anti-malware tool, such as ReimageIntego.

However, automatic ZONEware removal may not be smooth. Malware might stop you from installing or running security software. However, this problem might be solved by following our instructions below.

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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 ZONEware virus. Follow these steps

Manual removal using Safe Mode

Reboot the device into Safe Mode with Networking to eliminate the virus:

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

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:

  1. Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc on your keyboard to open Windows Task Manager.
  2. Click on More details.
    Open task manager
  3. Scroll down to Background processes section, and look for anything suspicious.
  4. Right-click and select Open file location.
    Open file location
  5. Go back to the process, right-click and pick End Task.
    End task
  6. Delete the contents of the malicious folder.

Step 3. Check program Startup

  1. Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc on your keyboard to open Windows Task Manager.
  2. Go to Startup tab.
  3. Right-click on the suspicious program and pick Disable.
    Startup

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:

  1. Type in Disk Cleanup in Windows search and press Enter.
    Disk cleanup
  2. 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).
  3. Scroll through the Files to delete list and select the following:

    Temporary Internet Files
    Downloads
    Recycle Bin
    Temporary files

  4. Pick Clean up system files.
    Delete temp files
  5. You can also look for other malicious files hidden in the following folders (type these entries in Windows Search and press Enter):

    %AppData%
    %LocalAppData%
    %ProgramData%
    %WinDir%

After you are finished, reboot the PC in normal mode.

Remove ZONEware using System Restore

  • 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 ZONEware. 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 ReimageIntego and make sure that ZONEware removal is performed successfully.

Bonus: Recover your data

Guide which is presented above is supposed to help you remove ZONEware from your computer. To recover your encrypted files, we recommend using a detailed guide prepared by 2-spyware.com security experts.

The only way to recover all your files is to use backups. Those who do not have them are advised to try alternative methods. There's no guarantee that they will work, but hopefully, they will help to restore at least some files.

If your files are encrypted by ZONEware, you can use several methods to restore them:

Try Data Recovery Pro after ZONEware attack

This tool is designed to restore corrupted files, so it MIGHT help to recover files with .ZW extension.

  • Download Data Recovery Pro;
  • Follow the steps of Data Recovery Setup and install the program on your computer;
  • Launch it and scan your computer for files encrypted by ZONEware ransomware;
  • Restore them.

Take advantage of Windows Previous Versions feature

If System Restore was enabled before the attack, you can copy previously saved version of your files by following these steps:

  • Find an encrypted file you need to restore and right-click on it;
  • Select “Properties” and go to “Previous versions” tab;
  • Here, check each of available copies of the file in “Folder versions”. You should select the version you want to recover and click “Restore”.

ShadowExplorer helps if Shadow Volume Copies are not deleted

If Shadow Volume Copies were not deleted by ransomware, you can obtain this tool and restore files using it:

  • 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.

Malware researchers haven't created ZONEware decryptor yet.

Finally, you should always think about the protection of crypto-ransomwares. In order to protect your computer from ZONEware and other ransomwares, use a reputable anti-spyware, such as ReimageIntego, SpyHunter 5Combo Cleaner or Malwarebytes

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.

About the author
Olivia Morelli
Olivia Morelli - Ransomware analyst

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