Cerber3 Ransomware

Also Known As: Cerber3 virus
Distribution: Moderate
Damage level: Severe

Cerber3 ransomware removal instructions

What is Cerber3?

Cerber3 is an updated version of Cerber - high-risk ransomware-type malware. Following successful infiltration, Cerber3 encrypts files, generates random file names (10 characters), and appends the ".cerber3" extension to the name of each encrypted file. For example, "sample.jpg" might be renamed to "G0s-4kha_J.cerber3". The desktop wallpaper is then modified and three files created: "# HELP DECRYPT #.html", "# HELP DECRYPT #.txt", and "# HELP DECRYPT #.url". Newer variants of this ransomware use "@__README__@.html", "@__README__@.txt" and "@__README__@.url". While the ".txt" and ".html" files contain identical ransom-demand messages, the ".url" file redirects victims to the Cerber3 payment website. To restore their files, victims must pay a ransom.

The ransom-demand message states that files are encrypted and that the user must pay a ransom of 0.7154 Bitcoin (currently equivalent to ~$410) to restore them. If payment does not fall within the given time frame, the ransom will double to 1.4308 Bitcoin. As compared to the previous Cerber version, the size of ransom is relatively low - previously, the cost was 1.24 Bitcoin (or 2.48 after the time frame had elapsed). The previous time frame, however, was also shorter (5 days, rather than 7). As with the previous version, Cerber3 allows victims to decrypt a single selected file free of charge as a guarantee that files can be decrypted. This, however, must be done on Cerber3's website, which is located within the Tor network. Cyber criminals use Tor network and Bitcoin currency, since it allows them to remain anonymous and significantly diminishes the chance of being apprehended by the authorities. Cerber3 uses asymmetric cryptography and, thus, public (encryption) and private (decryption) keys are generated during the encryption. The private key is stored on remote servers controlled by the developers of Cerber3. Decryption without this key is impossible and, therefore, claims that there is no way to restore files without Cerber3's decryptor are unfortunately correct. There are currently no tools capable of decrypting files compromised by Cerber3. Thus, the only solution is to restore your system from a backup.

Screenshot of a message (wallpaper) encouraging users to contact the developers of Cerber3 ransomware to decrypt their compromised data:

Cerber3 decrypt instructions

Cerber3 is virtually identical to dozens of other ransomware-type viruses such as CTB-Locker, CryptoWall, Locky, and CryptoLocker. All encrypt files and demand hundreds of dollars in exchange for a decryption key. The files are often encrypted using asymmetric cryptography (some low-end ransomware uses 'symmetric') and, thus, the only noticeable difference is size of ransom. Research shows, however, that cyber criminals often ignore victims, despite payments made. Therefore, you are strongly advised never to contact these people or pay the ransom. There is a high probability that you will be scammed - cyber criminals will take your money and return nothing. Furthermore, ransomware-type viruses are often distributed using fake software updaters, trojans, peer-to-peer (P2P) networks (for example, Torrent), and malicious files attached to spam emails. Therefore, keep your installed programs up-to-date and use a legitimate anti-virus/anti-spyware suite. Furthermore, be very cautious when downloading files from third party sources and never open files sent from unrecognized/suspicious emails. The key to computer safety is caution.

Screenshot of Cerber3 text file (# HELP DECRYPT #.txt):

Cerber3 ransomware text file

Screenshot of Cerber3 html file (# HELP DECRYPT #.html):

Cerber3 ransomware html file

Ransom-demand message presented in Cerber3 text and html files:

C_E_R_B_E_R R_A_N_S_O_M_W_A_R_E


Cannot you find the files you need? Is the content of the files that you looked for not readable??? It is normal because the files' names, as well as the data in your files have been encrypted. Great! You have turned to be a part of a big community "#Cerb3r Ransomware".
!!! If you are reading this message it means the software "Cerber" has !!! been removed from your computer. !!! HTML instruction ("# DECRYPT MY FILES #.html") always contains a !!! working domain of your personal page!


What is encryption?
-------------------
Encryption is a reversible modification of information for security reasons but providing full access to it for authorized users. To become an authorized user and keep the modification absolutely reversible (in other words to have a possibility to decrypt your files) you should have an individual private key. But not only it. It is required also to have the special decryption software (in your case "Cerber Decryptor" software) for safe and complete decryption of all your files and data.


Everything is clear for me but what should I do?
------------------------------------------------
The first step is reading these instructions to the end. Your files have been encrypted with the "Cerber Ransomware" software; the instructions ("# DECRYPT MY FILES #.html" and "# DECRYPT MY FILES #.txt") in the folders with your encrypted files are not viruses, they will help you. After reading this text the most part of people start searching in the Internet the words the "Cerber Ransomware" where they find a lot of ideas, recommendations and instructions. It is necessary to realize that we are the ones who closed the lock on your files and we are the only ones who have this secret key to open them. !!! Any attempts to return your files with the third-party tools can !!! be fatal for your encrypted files. The most part of the third-party software change data within the encrypted file to restore it but this causes damage to the files. Finally it will be impossible to decrypt your files. When you make a puzzle, but some items are lost, broken or not put in its place - the puzzle items will never match, the same way the third-party software will ruin your files completely and irreversibly. You should realize that any intervention of the third-party software to restore files encrypted with the "Cerber Ransomware" software may be fatal for your files. !!! There are several plain steps to restore your files but if you do !!! not follow them we will not be able to help you, and we will not try !!! since you have read this warning already. For your information the software to decrypt your files (as well as the private key provided together) are paid products. After purchase of the software package you will be able to: 1. decrypt all your files; 2. work with your documents; 3. view your photos and other media; 4. continue your usual and comfortable work at the computer. If you understand all importance of the situation then we propose to you to go directly to your personal page where you will receive the complete instructions and guarantees to restore your files.

What should you do with these addresses?
----------------------------------------
If you read the instructions in TXT format (if you have instruction in HTML (the file with an icon of your Internet browser) then the easiest way is to run it): 1. take a look at the first address (in this case it is hxxp://4kqd3hmqgptupi3p.nxmu0x.bid/AA4D-0A83-136F-0046-177F); 2. select it with the mouse cursor holding the left mouse button and moving the cursor to the right; 3. release the left mouse button and press the right one; 4. select "Copy" in the appeared menu; 5. run your Internet browser (if you do not know what it is run the Internet Explorer); 6. move the mouse cursor to the address bar of the browser (this is the place where the site address is written); 7. click the right mouse button in the field where the site address is written; 8. select the button "Insert" in the appeared menu; 9. then you will see the address hxxp://4kqd3hmqgptupi3p.nxmu0x.bid/AA4D-0A83-136F-0046-177F appeared there; 10. press ENTER; 11. the site should be loaded; if it is not loaded repeat the same instructions with the second address and continue until the last address if falling. If for some reason the site cannot be opened check the connection to the Internet; if the site still cannot be opened take a look at the instructions on omitting the point about working with the addresses in the HTML instructions. If you browse the instructions in HTML format: 1. click the left mouse button on the first address (in this case it is hxxp://4kqd3hmqgptupi3p.nxmu0x.bid/AA4D-0A83-136F-0046-177F); 2. in a new tab or window of your web browser the site should be loaded; if it is not loaded repeat the same instructions with the second address and continue until the last address. If for some reason the site cannot be opened check the connection to the Internet. Additional information: You will find the instructions for restoring your files in those folders where you have your encrypted files only. The instructions are made in two file formats - HTML and TXT for your convenience. Unfortunately antivirus companies cannot protect or restore your files but they can make the situation worse removing the instructions how to restore your encrypted files. The instructions are not viruses; they have informative nature only, so any claims on the absence of any instruction files you can send to your antivirus company. Cerber Ransomware Project is not malicious and is not intended to harm a person and his/her information data. The project is created for the sole purpose of instruction regarding information security, as well as certification of antivirus software for their suitability for data protection. Together we make the Internet a better and safer place. If you look through this text in the Internet and realize that something is wrong with your files but you do not have any instructions to restore your files, please, contact your antivirus support. Remember that the worst situation already happened and now it depends on your determination and speed of your actions the further life of your files.

Screenshot of Cerber3 Tor website:

Cerber3 ransomware website

Screenshot of files encrypted by Cerber3 ransomware (10 random characters with .cerber3 extension):

Cerber3 ransomware encrypting victim's files

Cerber3 ransomware removal:

Instant automatic malware removal: Manual threat removal might be a lengthy and complicated process that requires advanced computer skills. Malwarebytes is a professional automatic malware removal tool that is recommended to get rid of malware. Download it by clicking the button below:
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Isolating the infected device:

Some ransomware-type infections are designed to encrypt files within external storage devices, infect them, and even spread throughout the entire local network. For this reason, it is very important to isolate the infected device (computer) as soon as possible.

Step 1: Disconnect from the internet.

The easiest way to disconnect a computer from the internet is to unplug the Ethernet cable from the motherboard, however, some devices are connected via a wireless network and for some users (especially those who are not particularly tech-savvy), disconnecting cables may seem troublesome. Therefore, you can also disconnect the system manually via Control Panel:

Navigate to the "Control Panel", click the search bar in the upper-right corner of the screen, enter "Network and Sharing Center" and select search result: Disconnecting computer from the Internet (step 1)

Click the "Change adapter settings" option in the upper-left corner of the window: Disconnecting computer from the Internet (step 2)

Right-click on each connection point and select "Disable". Once disabled, the system will no longer be connected to the internet. To re-enable the connection points, simply right-click again and select "Enable". Disconnecting computer from the Internet (step 3)

Step 2: Unplug all storage devices.

As mentioned above, ransomware might encrypt data and infiltrate all storage devices that are connected to the computer. For this reason, all external storage devices (flash drives, portable hard drives, etc.) should be disconnected immediately, however, we strongly advise you to eject each device before disconnecting to prevent data corruption:

Navigate to "My Computer", right-click on each connected device and select "Eject": Ejecting external storage devices

Step 3: Log-out of cloud storage accounts.

Some ransomware-type might be able to hijack software that handles data stored within "the Cloud". Therefore, the data could be corrupted/encrypted. For this reason, you should log-out of all cloud storage accounts within browsers and other related software. You should also consider temporarily uninstalling the cloud-management software until the infection is completely removed.

Identify the ransomware infection:

To properly handle an infection, one must first identify it. Some ransomware infections use ransom-demand messages as an introduction (see the WALDO ransomware text file below).

Identify ransomware-type infection (step 1)

This, however, is rare. In most cases, ransomware infections deliver more direct messages simply stating that data is encrypted and that victims must pay some sort of ransom. Note that ransomware-type infections typically generate messages with different file names (for example, "_readme.txt", "READ-ME.txt", "DECRYPTION_INSTRUCTIONS.txt", "DECRYPT_FILES.html", etc.). Therefore, using the name of a ransom message may seem like a good way to identify the infection. The problem is that most of these names are generic and some infections use the same names, even though the delivered messages are different and the infections themselves are unrelated. Therefore, using the message filename alone can be ineffective and even lead to permanent data loss (for example, by attempting to decrypt data using tools designed for different ransomware infections, users are likely to end up permanently damaging files and decryption will no longer be possible even with the correct tool).

Another way to identify a ransomware infection is to check the file extension, which is appended to each encrypted file. Ransomware infections are often named by the extensions they append (see files encrypted by Qewe ransomware below).

Identify ransomware-type infection (step 2)

This method is only effective, however, when the appended extension is unique - many ransomware infections append a generic extension (for example, ".encrypted", ".enc", ".crypted", ".locked", etc.). In these cases, identifying ransomware by its appended extension becomes impossible.

One of the easiest and quickest ways to identify a ransomware infection is to use the ID Ransomware website. This service supports most existing ransomware infections. Victims simply upload a ransom message and/or one encrypted file (we advise you to upload both if possible).

Identify ransomware-type infection (step 3)

The ransomware will be identified within seconds and you will be provided with various details, such as the name of the malware family to which the infection belongs, whether it is decryptable, and so on.

Example 1 (Qewe [Stop/Djvu] ransomware):

Identify ransomware-type infection (step 4)

Example 2 (.iso [Phobos] ransomware):

Identify ransomware-type infection (step 5)

If your data happens to be encrypted by a ransomware that is not supported by ID Ransomware, you can always try searching the internet by using certain keywords (for example, ransom message title, file extension, provided contact emails, cryptowallet addresses, etc.).

Search for ransomware decryption tools:

Encryption algorithms used by most ransomware-type infections are extremely sophisticated and, if the encryption is performed properly, only the developer is capable of restoring data. This is because decryption requires a specific key, which is generated during the encryption. Restoring data without the key is impossible. In most cases, cyber criminals store keys on a remote server, rather than using the infected machine as a host. Dharma (CrySis), Phobos, and other families of high-end ransomware infections are virtually flawless, and thus restoring data encrypted without the developers' involvement is simply impossible. Despite this, there are dozens of ransomware-type infections that are poorly developed and contain a number of flaws (for example, the use of identical encryption/decryption keys for each victim, keys stored locally, etc.). Therefore, always check for available decryption tools for any ransomware that infiltrates your computer.

Finding the correct decryption tool on the internet can be very frustrating. For this reason, we recommend that you use the No More Ransom Project and this is where identifying the ransomware infection is useful. The No More Ransom Project website contains a "Decryption Tools" section with a search bar. Enter the name of the identified ransomware, and all available decryptors (if there are any) will be listed.

Searching for ransomware decryption tools in nomoreransom.org website

Restore files with data recovery tools:

Depending on the situation (quality of ransomware infection, type of encryption algorithm used, etc.), restoring data with certain third-party tools might be possible. Therefore, we advise you to use EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Pro. This tool supports over a thousand data types (graphics, video, audio, documents, etc.) and it is very intuitive (little knowledge is necessary to recover data).

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EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Pro

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Step 1: Perform a scan.

Hover your mouse over the partition you wish to scan and select "Scan". You can also select a specific folder, or click shortcut icons to scan the Desktop or Recycle Bin: Scanning the storage drive with EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard PRO (step 1)

Wait for EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Pro to complete the scan. The scanning duration depends on the volume of files (both in quantity and size) that you are scanning (for example, several hundreds gigabytes could take over an hour to scan). Therefore, be patient during the scanning process. We also advise against modifying or deleting existing files, since this might interfere with the scan. If you add additional data (for example, downloading files/content) while scanning, this will prolong the process: Scanning the storage drive with EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard PRO (step 2)

Step 2: Recover data.

Once the process is complete, select the folders/files you wish to restore and simply click "Recover". Note that some free space on your storage drive is necessary to restore data. Note also that the trial version of EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Pro is only capable of scanning drives and listing recoverable files - to restore them, you must purchase a license: Recovering data with EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Pro

Step 3: Save the scan session (optional).

We recommend that you save the scanning session once you have completed recovery, in case you decide to recover additional files later. Simply click the "Save Scan Session" icon in the upper-right corner of the screen and choose the location for the file to be saved. This will save a lot of time, since you will not need to re-scan the storage drive the next time you wish to restore something. Bear in mind, however, that data removed after the scanning session has finished will not be listed: Saving scan session in EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Pro

Create data backups:

Proper file management and creating backups is essential for data security. Therefore, always be very careful and think ahead.

Partition management: We recommend that you store your data in multiple partitions and avoid storing important files within the partition that contains the entire operating system. If you fall into a situation whereby you cannot boot the system and are forced to format the disk on which the operating system is installed (in most cases, this is where malware infections hide), you will lose all data stored within that drive. This is the advantage of having multiple partitions: if you have the entire storage device assigned to a single partition, you will be forced to delete everything, however, creating multiple partitions and allocating the data properly allows you to prevent such problems. You can easily format a single partition without affecting the others - therefore, one will be cleaned and the others will remain untouched, and your data will be saved. Managing partitions is quite simple and you can find all necessary information on Microsoft's documentation web page.

Data backups: The most reliable backup method is to use an external storage device and keep it unplugged. Copy your data to an external hard drive, flash (thumb) drive, SSD, HDD, or any other storage device, unplug it and store it in a dry place away from sun and extreme temperatures. This method is, however, quite inefficient, since data backups and updates need to be made regularly. You can also use a cloud service or remote server. Here, an internet connection is required and there is always the chance of a security breach. Therefore, you should consider using an application to create data backups locally.

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EaseUS Todo Backup

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We recommend using the EaseUS Todo Backup application. The "Home" edition of EaseUS Todo Backup is usually more than adequate for regular users, however, the "Business" edition is more suitable for companies and large computer networks. The EaseUS Todo Backup application provides extensive data protection features. You can easily create backups, and encrypt and compress them for enhanced protection and storage saving purposes. It also allows you to set backup schedules, create bootable devices, and restore the system if a crash occurs. You can easily choose where to store the created backup: locally; uploaded to an external drive; FTP; cloud storage, or elsewhere. In summary, EaseUS Todo Backup is an all-in-one tool, which provides all features required to properly backup your data.

Creating a data backup:

The backup process is virtually identical regardless of the item (file, partition, entire system) you wish to backup. Taking the File Backup feature as an example:

Step 1: Choose which item to backup.

Click on the "Menu" icon in the upper-left corner of the screen to reveal the menu and select "File Backup": Creating data backups with EaseUS Todo Backup tool (step 1)

Select the files you want to backup. You can also enter a name and description of the backup that will be created: Creating data backups with EaseUS Todo Backup tool (step 2)

Step 2: Change the default settings.

The EaseUS Todo Backup application provides a variety of additional options that can be added/modified while creating the backup. For example, you can encrypt data (add a password), select the compression rate (how much the backup should be compressed), performance (how many system resources should be allocated), add an email notification (you receive an email once the process is complete) and so on.

To open the options window, click the "Backup options" button in the lower-left corner of the screen: Creating data backups with EaseUS Todo Backup tool (step 3)

Select the settings you want to change and click "Save". You can also reset your changes by clicking "Reset to initial settings": Creating data backups with EaseUS Todo Backup tool (step 4)

Step 3: Select the backup destination.

As mentioned above, EaseUS Todo Backup allows you to choose where backups are saved - locally or externally.

Click the "Browse..." button and select the location you want the backup to be saved: Creating data backups with EaseUS Todo Backup tool (step 5)

Step 4: Safety measures and process completion.

Depending on the location you have chosen, there are a number of measures you should or should not take. If you are uploading to an internet-connected location (for example, Cloud storage, FTP, etc.), be sure to maintain your internet connection, otherwise you will have to start again. The same applies to external storage devices - do not unplug them until the process is complete.

The progress bar displays estimated time remaining until completion. Large backups (hundreds of gigabytes) can take hours to create (depending on storage device speed, internet connection, etc.). Therefore, the application also allows you to optionally choose what the system should do (shut down, sleep or hibernate) once the process has finished: Creating data backups with EaseUS Todo Backup tool (step 6)

The best way to avoid damage from ransomware infections is to maintain regular up-to-date backups.

About the author:

Tomas Meskauskas

Tomas Meskauskas - expert security researcher, professional malware analyst.

I am passionate about computer security and technology. I have an experience of over 10 years working in various companies related to computer technical issue solving and Internet security. I have been working as an author and editor for pcrisk.com since 2010. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay informed about the latest online security threats. Contact Tomas Meskauskas.

PCrisk security portal is brought by a company RCS LT. Joined forces of security researchers help educate computer users about the latest online security threats. More information about the company RCS LT.

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Malware activity

Global malware activity level today:

Medium threat activity

Increased attack rate of infections detected within the last 24 hours.

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