Horsuke Ransomware

Also Known As: Horsuke virus
Distribution: Low
Damage level: Severe

Horsuke ransomware removal instructions

What is Horsuke?

Recently discovered by malware security researcher, S!Ri, Horsuke is a ransomware-type virus designed to infiltrate the system and encrypt most stored files. During encryption, Horsuke appends filenames with the ".horsuke@nuke.africa" extension (e.g., "sample.jpg" is renamed to "sample.jpg.horsuke@nuke.africa"). Compromised data immediately becomes unusable. Once encryption is complete, Horsuke generates a text file ("HOW TO RECOVER ENCRYPTED FILES.TXT"), placing a copy in every existing folder, and changes the desktop wallpaper.

As usual, the new text file contains a ransom-demand message informing users of the encryption and encouraging them to contact Horsuke's developers. It is stated that decryption requires a unique key that victims must pay for. Unfortunately, this information is accurate. Although it is currently unknown whether Horsuke uses symmetric or asymmetric cryptography (this information is not provided), a unique key (generated individually for each victim) is necessary to restore data. These keys are stored on a remote server controlled by cyber criminals and victims are encouraged to pay ransoms for their release. The cost is not specified and supposedly depends on how quickly the victim decides to make contact, however, ransomware developers typically demand $500-$1500 in Bitcoins or another cryptocurrency. Horsuke's developers also allow victims to attach up to three files (maximum 10Mb in total, non-archived), which are restored and returned - this, supposedly to 'guarantee' that decryption is possible. In fact, cyber criminals can never be trusted. Research shows that these people often ignore victims, once payments are submitted. Paying typically gives no positive result and users are scammed. Therefore, never contact these people and certainly do not submit any payments. Unfortunately, there are currently no tools capable of cracking Horsuke's encryption and restoring files free of charge. There is just one solution: to restore everything from a backup.

Screenshot of a message encouraging users to pay a ransom to decrypt their compromised data:

Horsuke decrypt instructions

Horsuke is virtually identical to Sepsis, CryptON, RSAUtil, RansomAES, and dozens of other ransomware-type viruses. All are developed by different cyber criminals, but have identical behavior - they encrypt data and makes ransom demands. In most cases, these viruses have just two major differences: 1) cost of decryption, and; 2) type of cryptography used. Most employ RSA, AES, and other similar algorithms that generate unique decryption keys. Therefore, unless the virus is still in development or has certain bugs/flaws (the key is hard-coded, stored locally, or similar), restoring files without involvement of developers (contacting these people is not recommended) is impossible. Ransomware presents a strong case for maintaining regular data backups, however, it is important to store them on a remote server (e.g., Cloud) or an unplugged storage device (Flash drive, external hard drive or similar). If not, backups are encrypted together with regular data.

How did ransomware infect my computer?

Developers proliferate ransomware in various ways, however, the most common five are: 1) trojans; 2) fake software update tools; 3) spam emails; 4) peer-to-peer [P2P] networks, and; 5) unofficial software download sources. Trojans are very simple - most open "backdoors" for other viruses to infiltrate the system. Fake updaters infect the computer by exploiting outdated software bugs/flaws or simply downloading and installing malware rather than updates. Spam emails are delivered with email attachments (e.g., JavaScript files, MS Office documents, etc.) that, once opened, execute scripts designed to download and install malware. P2P networks (torrents, eMule, etc.) and other third party download/installation tools (freeware download websites, free file hosting sites, etc.) present malware as legitimate software. Therefore, users are often tricked into downloading/installing software. In summary, the main reasons for computer infections are the lack of security knowledge and careless behavior of many users.

Threat Summary:
NameHorsuke virus
Threat TypeRansomware, Crypto Virus, Files locker
SymptomsCan't open files stored on your computer, previously functional files now have a different extension, for example my.docx.locked. A ransom demanding message is displayed on your desktop. Cyber criminals are asking to pay a ransom (usually in bitcoins) to unlock your files.
Distribution methodsInfected email attachments (macros), torrent websites, malicious ads.
DamageAll files are encrypted and cannot be opened without paying a ransom. Additional password stealing trojans and malware infections can be installed together with a ransomware infection.
Removal

To eliminate Horsuke virus our malware researchers recommend scanning your computer with Spyhunter.
▼ Download Spyhunter
Free scanner checks if your computer is infected. To remove malware, you have to purchase the full version of Spyhunter.

How to protect yourself from ransomware infections?

The key to computer safety is caution. Therefore, to prevent ransomware infections, be very cautious when browsing the Internet. Keep installed applications up-to-date. Bear in mind, however, that criminals proliferate malware via fake updaters. Therefore, apps should be updated using implemented functions or tools provided by the official developer only. The same rule applies to downloading software. Never use third party download/installation tools, since they are likely to include rogue apps. Software should be downloaded from official sources only, using direct download links. We also advise you to think twice before opening email attachments. If the file seems irrelevant or has been received from a suspicious email address, delete the email immediately and certainly do not open any file. Having a legitimate anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed and running is also essential.

Text presented in Horsuke ransomware text file ("HOW TO RECOVER ENCRYPTED FILES.TXT"):

==================================================
__ __ ______ ______ _____ __ __ __ ___ ______
/ __/ / / __ / / __ / / __/ / / / / / / __/ / ____/
/ __ / / /_/ / / _/ /__ / / /_/ / / \ / ___/
\/ __/ \____/ \/\__\ \___/ \____/ \/\__\ \____/

==================================================

Your files are now encrypted!

Your personal identifier: -

All your files have been encrypted due to a security problem with your PC.

Now you should send us email with your personal identifier.
This email will be as confirmation you are ready to pay for decryption key.
You have to pay for decryption in Bitcoins. The price depends on how fast you write to us.
After payment we will send you the decryption tool that will decrypt all your files.

Contact us using this email address: horsuke@nuke.africa
If you don't get a reply or if the email dies, then contact us to saviours@airmail.cc

Free decryption as guarantee!
Before paying you can send us up to 3 files for free decryption.
The total size of files must be less than 10Mb (non archived), and files should not contain
valuable information (databases, backups, large excel sheets, etc.).

How to obtain Bitcoins?
* The easiest way to buy bitcoins is LocalBitcoins site. You have to register, click
'Buy bitcoins', and select the seller by payment method and price:
https://localbitcoins.com/buy_bitcoins
* Also you can find other places to buy Bitcoins and beginners guide here:
http://www.coindesk.com/information/how-can-i-buy-bitcoins

Attention!
* 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.

===============================================================

Screenshot of Horsuke desktop wallpaper:

Horsuke wallpaper

Screenshot of files encrypted by Horsuke (".horsuke@nuke.africa" extension):

Files encrypted by Horsuke

Horsuke ransomware removal:

Instant automatic removal of Horsuke virus: Manual threat removal might be a lengthy and complicated process that requires advanced computer skills. Spyhunter is a professional automatic malware removal tool that is recommended to get rid of Horsuke virus. Download it by clicking the button below:
▼ DOWNLOAD Spyhunter By downloading any software listed on this website you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. Free scanner checks if your computer is infected. To remove malware, you have to purchase the full version of Spyhunter.

Quick menu:

Step 1

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.

Safe Mode with Networking

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.

Windows 8 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.

windows 10 safe mode with networking

Video showing how to start Windows 10 in "Safe Mode with Networking":

Step 2

Log in to the account infected with the Horsuke 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.

Boot your computer in Safe Mode with Command Prompt

2. When Command Prompt mode loads, enter the following line: cd restore and press ENTER.

system restore using command prompt type cd restore

3. Next, type this line: rstrui.exe and press ENTER.

system restore using command prompt rstrui.exe

4. In the opened window, click "Next".

restore system files and settings

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 Horsuke ransomware virus infiltrating your PC).

select a restore point

6. In the opened window, click "Yes".

run system restore

7. After restoring your computer to a previous date, download and scan your PC with recommended malware removal software to eliminate any remaining Horsuke 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 Horsuke 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.

Restoring files encrypted by CryptoDefense

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 regain control of the files encrypted by Horsuke, you can also try using a program called Shadow Explorer. More information on how to use this program is available here.

shadow explorer screenshot

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 Horsuke ransomware.

Note that Windows 10 Fall Creators Update includes a "Controlled Folder Access" feature that blocks ransomware attempts to encrypt your files. By default, this feature automatically protects files stored in the Documents, Pictures, Videos, Music, Favorites as well as Desktop folders.

Controll Folder Access

Windows 10 users should install this update to protect their data from ransomware attacks. Here is more information on how to get this update and add an additional protection layer from ransomware infections.

HitmanPro.Alert CryptoGuard - detects encryption of files and neutralises any attempts without need for user-intervention:

hitmanproalert ransomware prevention application

Malwarebytes Anti-Ransomware Beta uses advanced proactive technology that monitors ransomware activity and terminates it immediately - before reaching users' files:

malwarebytes anti-ransomware

  • 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 Horsuke ransomware:

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 virus and spyware activity level today:

Medium threat activity
Medium

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

QR Code
Horsuke virus QR code
A QR code (Quick Response Code) is a machine-readable code which stores URLs and other information. This code can be read using a camera on a smartphone or a tablet. Scan this QR code to have an easy access removal guide of Horsuke virus on your mobile device.
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Platform: Windows

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