Written by Tomas Meskauskas on
ATLAS ransomware removal instructions
What is ATLAS?
First discovered by malware security researcher Marcelo Rivero, ATLAS is an updated version of CHIP ransomware. Following successful infiltration, ATLAS encrypts files using RSA cryptography. During encryption, this malware appends the ".ATLAS" extension to the name of each compromised file (for example, "sample.jpg" is renamed to "sample.jpg.ATLAS"). ATLAS then creates a text file ("ATLAS_FILES.txt"), placing it on the desktop.
The text file contains a message that informs victims of the encryption. As compared to other ransomware-type viruses, the message is rather short - it simply states that files are encrypted and that the victim must contact developers via one of the email addresses ("email@example.com", "firstname.lastname@example.org", or "email@example.com") provided. As mentioned above, ATLAS uses an RSA encryption algorithm and, thus, public (encryption) and a private (decryption) keys are generated. Cyber criminals store the private key on a remote server and victims are encouraged to pay a ransom to receive it. The cost is currently unknown, however, ransomware developers usually demand between .5 and 1.5 Bitcoins. These people should never be trusted - Research shows that cyber criminals often ignore victims once the ransoms are paid. Paying does not guarantee successful decryption of you files and there is a high probability that you will be scammed. Furthermore, you will support cyber criminals' malicious businesses. Never attempt to contact these people or pay any ransom. Unfortunately, there are no tools capable of restoring files encrypted by ATLAS - the only solution is to restore files/system from a backup.
Screenshot of a message encouraging users to pay a ransom to decrypt their compromised data:
ATLAS has very similar characteristics to PadCrypt, Fluffy-TAR, Xorist, SADStory, and dozens of other ransomware-type viruses. As with ATLAS, these viruses also encrypt various data and make ransom demands. There are just two major differences: 1) type of encryption algorithm [symmetric/asymmetric] used, and; 2) cost of decryption. Ransomware is mostly distributed via spam emails (malicious attachments), third party software download sources (torrents, eMule, freeware download and free file hosting websites, etc.), fake software update tools, and trojans. Therefore, be cautious when opening files received from suspicious emails, and when downloading software from unofficial sources. Furthermore, use a legitimate anti-virus/anti-spyware suite and keep your installed applications up-to-date. Bear, however, in mind that malware is often distributed via fake updaters. Therefore, using third party tools to update installed software is risky.
Text presented within ATLAS ransomware text file ("ATLAS_FILES.txt"):
YOUR ID: -
Hello! All Your files are encrypted!
For more specific instructions, please contact us as soon as possible:
Attention: DO NOT USE ANY PUBLIC DECRYPTERS!
YOU CAN DAMAGE YOUR FILES!
Kind regards, Support Team.
YOUR ID: -
Screenshot of files encrypted by ATLAS (".ATLAS" extension):
ATLAS ransomware removal:
Quick menu: Quick solution to remove .ATLAS virus
- What is ATLAS?
- STEP 1. ATLAS virus removal using safe mode with networking.
- STEP 2. ATLAS ransomware removal using System Restore.
Windows XP and Windows 7 users: Start your computer in Safe Mode. Click Start, click Shut Down, click Restart, click OK. During your computer start process, press the F8 key on your keyboard multiple times until you see the Windows Advanced Option menu, and then select Safe Mode with Networking from the list.
Video showing how to start Windows 7 in "Safe Mode with Networking":
Windows 8 users: Start Windows 8 is Safe Mode with Networking - Go to Windows 8 Start Screen, type Advanced, in the search results select Settings. Click Advanced startup options, in the opened "General PC Settings" window, select Advanced startup. Click the "Restart now" button. Your computer will now restart into the "Advanced Startup options menu". Click the "Troubleshoot" button, and then click the "Advanced options" button. In the advanced option screen, click "Startup settings". Click the "Restart" button. Your PC will restart into the Startup Settings screen. Press F5 to boot in Safe Mode with Networking.
Video showing how to start Windows 8 in "Safe Mode with Networking":
Windows 10 users: Click the Windows logo and select the Power icon. In the opened menu click "Restart" while holding "Shift" button on your keyboard. In the "choose an option" window click on the "Troubleshoot", next select "Advanced options". In the advanced options menu select "Startup Settings" and click on the "Restart" button. In the following window you should click the "F5" button on your keyboard. This will restart your operating system in safe mode with networking.
Video showing how to start Windows 10 in "Safe Mode with Networking":
Log in to the account infected with the ATLAS virus. Start your Internet browser and download a legitimate anti-spyware program. Update the anti-spyware software and start a full system scan. Remove all entries detected.
If you cannot start your computer in Safe Mode with Networking, try performing a System Restore.
Video showing how to remove ransomware virus using "Safe Mode with Command Prompt" and "System Restore":
1. During your computer start process, press the F8 key on your keyboard multiple times until the Windows Advanced Options menu appears, and then select Safe Mode with Command Prompt from the list and press ENTER.
2. When Command Prompt mode loads, enter the following line: cd restore and press ENTER.
3. Next, type this line: rstrui.exe and press ENTER.
4. In the opened window, click "Next".
5. Select one of the available Restore Points and click "Next" (this will restore your computer system to an earlier time and date, prior to the ATLAS ransomware virus infiltrating your PC).
6. In the opened window, click "Yes".
7. After restoring your computer to a previous date, download and scan your PC with recommended malware removal software to eliminate any remaining ATLAS ransomware files.
To restore individual files encrypted by this ransomware, try using Windows Previous Versions feature. This method is only effective if the System Restore function was enabled on an infected operating system. Note that some variants of ATLAS are known to remove Shadow Volume Copies of the files, so this method may not work on all computers.
To restore a file, right-click over it, go into Properties, and select the Previous Versions tab. If the relevant file has a Restore Point, select it and click the "Restore" button.
If you cannot start your computer in Safe Mode with Networking (or with Command Prompt), boot your computer using a rescue disk. Some variants of ransomware disable Safe Mode making its removal complicated. For this step, you require access to another computer.
To protect your computer from file encryption ransomware such as this, use reputable antivirus and anti-spyware programs. As an extra protection method, you can use programs called HitmanPro.Alert and EasySync CryptoMonitor, which artificially implant group policy objects into the registry to block rogue programs such as ATLAS ransomware.
HitmanPro.Alert CryptoGuard - detects encryption of files and neutralises any attempts without need for user-intervention:
Malwarebytes Anti-Ransomware Beta uses advanced proactive technology that monitors ransomware activity and terminates it immediately - before reaching users' files:
- The best way to avoid damage from ransomware infections is to maintain regular up-to-date backups. More information on online backup solutions and data recovery software Here.
Other tools known to remove ATLAS ransomware: