FOX Ransomware

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

FOX ransomware removal instructions

What is FOX?

Discovered by MalwareHunterTeam, FOX is a new variant of high-risk ransomware called Matrix. Developers proliferate this malware using Remote Desktop Service - they hijack victims' computers and install FOX manually. Once infiltrated, FOX encrypts most stored data and renames files using the "[developer's_email].[random_characters].FOX" pattern (e.g., "sample.jpg" might be renamed to a filename such as "[PabFox@protonmail.com ].3qAbTbsd-RgfExin0.FOX"). Once encrypted, data becomes unusable and indistinguishable. In addition, FOX performs a number of other malicious actions, including deletion of File Shadow Volume Copies and removal of Windows Recovery Startup. After performing these functions, FOX generates a text file ("#FOX_README#.rtf") and places a copy in every existing folder. Additionally, FOX ransomware changes victim's desktop wallpaper.

FOX checks whether files are opened and, if so, closes them before encryption. Fortunately, this makes the entire process very slow. Therefore, victims can detect the infection early and terminate it before encryption is complete. As usual, the new text file contains a message stating that data is encrypted using AES-128 and RSA-2048 algorithms and, thus, can only be restored with unique keys. Unfortunately, this information is accurate. Each victim receives a pair of unique keys - these are stored on a remote server controlled by cyber criminals. To receive their keys and decrypt data, victims are encouraged to contact FOX's developers. After contacting these people, users are asked to pay a ransom in exchange for release of the keys. The cost is currently unknown - all details are provided via email. Generally, cyber criminals demand $500-1500 in Bitcoins, Monero, or another cryptocurrency. Regardless of the cost, do not pay. Research shows that criminals often ignore victims, once payments are submitted. Therefore, paying typically gives no positive result and users are scammed. You are strongly advised to ignore all requests to submit payments. Unfortunately, there are no tools capable of cracking FOX's encryption and restoring data free of charge. The only solution is to restore everything from a backup.

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

FOX decrypt instructions

FOX shares many similarities with dozens of other ransomware-type viruses, such as ShutUpAndDance, Embrace, and LanRan. These are developed by different cyber criminals, but all encrypt data and makes ransom demands. In most cases, ransomware-type viruses have just two major differences: 1) size of ransom, and; 2) type of encryption algorithm used. Unfortunately, these viruses often employ algorithms that generate unique decryption keys. Therefore, unless malware is still in development or has certain bugs/flaws, restoring data manually without involvement of developers (contacting these people is not recommended) is impossible. Viruses such as FOX present a strong case for maintaining regular data backups, however, it is important to store them on a remote server or unplugged storage device, otherwise malware encrypts backups together with regular data.

How did ransomware infect my computer?

As mentioned above, FOX is distributed manually - developers hijack victims' computers and infect the system. This is quite unusual - in most cases, ransomware is distributed using spam emails, trojans, fake software updaters, and third party software download sources. Spam emails are delivered together with malicious attachments (typically, Microsoft Office documents) that, once opened, stealthily download and install malware. Trojans open "backdoors" for other malware to infiltrate the system. Fake updaters infect computers by exploiting outdated software bugs/flaws or simply downloading and installing malware rather than updates. Unofficial software download sources (peer-to-peer [P2P] networks, freeware download websites, free file hosting sites, etc.) present malware as legitimate software. Therefore, users are tricked into downloading and installing viruses.

Threat Summary:
Name FOX virus
Threat Type Ransomware, Crypto Virus, Files locker
Encrypted Files Extension .FOX (files are also renamed using developers' email address and a random string)
Ransom Demanding Message #FOX_README#.rtf, desktop wallpaper
Cyber Criminal Contact PabFox@protonmail.com , FoxHelp@tutanota.com, FoxHelp@cock.li
Detection Names AVG (Win32:RansomX-gen [Ransom]), BitDefender (Generic.Ransom.Matrix.D1CDCF50), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of Win32/Filecoder.LockedFile.G), Kaspersky (HEUR:Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Agent.gen), Full List Of Detections (VirusTotal)
Symptoms Cannot open files stored on your computer, previously functional files now have a different extension (for example, my.docx.locked). A ransom demand message is displayed on your desktop. Cyber criminals demand payment of a ransom (usually in bitcoins) to unlock your files.
Distribution methods Infected email attachments (macros), torrent websites, malicious ads.
Damage All 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.
Malware Removal (Windows)

To eliminate possible malware infections, scan your computer with legitimate antivirus software. Our security researchers recommend using Malwarebytes.
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How to protect yourself from ransomware infections?

The main reasons for computer infections are lack of knowledge and careless behavior. The key to safety is caution. Therefore, pay close attention when browsing the Internet and downloading/installing/updating software. Carefully analyze each email attachment received. Files that seem irrelevant or have been received from suspicious/unrecognizable email addresses should never be opened. Furthermore, download software from official sources only, using direct download links. The same applies to software updates. It is important to keep installed applications up-to-date, however, software should be updated only using implemented functions or tools provided by the official developer. The presence of a legitimate anti-virus/anti-spyware suite is also paramount. If your computer is already infected with FOX, we recommend running a scan with Malwarebytes for Windows to automatically eliminate this ransomware.

Text presented in FOX ransomware text file ("#FOX_README#.rtf"):

HOW TO RECOVER YOUR FILES INSTRUCTION
ATENTION!!!
We are realy sorry to inform you that ALL YOUR FILES WERE ENCRYPTED
by our automatic software. It became possible because of bad server security.
ATENTION!!!
Please don't worry, we can help you to RESTORE your server to original
state and decrypt all your files quickly and safely!
INFORMATION!!!
Files are not broken!!!
Files were encrypted with AES-128+RSA-2048 crypto algorithms.
There is no way to decrypt your files without unique decryption key and special software. Your unique decryption key is securely stored on our server. For our safety, all information about your server and your decryption key will be automaticaly DELETED AFTER 7 DAYS! You will irrevocably lose all your data!
* Please note that all the attempts to recover your files by yourself or using third party tools will result only in irrevocable loss of your data!
* Please note that you can recover files only with your unique decryption key, which stored on our side. If you will use the help of third parties, you will only add a middleman.
HOW TO RECOVER FILES???
Please write us to the e-mail (write on English or use professional translator):
PabFox@protonmail.com
FoxHelp@cock.li
FoxHelp@tutanota.com
You have to send your message on each of our 3 emails due to the fact that the message may not reach their intended recipient for a variety of reasons!
In subject line write your personal ID: c0pyc@tfr0mpcr1sk
We recommed you to attach 3 encrypted files to your message. We will demonstrate that we can recover your files.
* Please note that files must not contain any valuable information and their total size must be less than 5Mb.
OUR ADVICE!!!
Please be sure that we will find common languge. We will restore all the data and give you recommedations how to configure the protection of your server.
We will definitely reach an agreement ;) !!!

ALTERNATIVE COMMUNICATION
If yоu did nоt rеcеivе thе аnswеr frоm thе аfоrеcitеd еmаils fоr mоrе then 24 hours please sеnd us Bitmеssаgеs frоm а wеb brоwsеr thrоugh thе wеbpаgе hxxps://bitmsg.me. Bеlоw is а tutоriаl оn hоw tо sеnd bitmеssаgе viа wеb brоwsеr:
1. Оpеn in yоur brоwsеr thе link hxxps://bitmsg.me/users/sign_up аnd mаkе thе rеgistrаtiоn bу еntеring nаmе еmаil аnd pаsswоrd.
2. Уоu must cоnfirm thе rеgistrаtiоn, rеturn tо уоur еmаil аnd fоllоw thе instructiоns thаt wеrе sеnt tо уоu.
3. Rеturn tо sitе аnd сlick "Lоgin" lаbеl оr usе link hxxps://bitmsg.me/users/sign_in, еntеr уоur еmаil аnd pаsswоrd аnd click thе "Sign in" buttоn.
4. Сlick thе "Сrеаtе Rаndоm аddrеss" buttоn.
5. Сlick thе "Nеw mаssаgе" buttоn.
6. Sеnding mеssаgе:
Tо: Еntеr аddrеss: BM-2cXRWRW5Jv5hxbhgu2HJSJrtPf92iKshhm
Subjесt: Еntеr уоur ID: 2D0D30719CD9D741
Mеssаgе: Dеscribе whаt уоu think nеcеssаrу.
Сlick thе "Sеnd mеssаgе" buttоn.
s0NDfj7c

Screenshot of FOX ransomware's desktop wallpaper:

FOX ransomware desktop wallpaper

Text presented within this image:

We are really sorry to inform you that:
ALL YOUR FILES WERE ENCRYPTED with AES-128+RSA-2048 algorithms!
Without your personal key and special software data recovery is impossible!
=
To recover your files please write us to the e-mails:
PabFox@protonmail.com
FoxHelp@cock.li
FoxHelp@tutanota.com
=
Please don't worry, we can help you to restore your server to original state and decrypt all your files quickly and safely!
Please write us and we will help you!!!
=
* We recommend you to send your message ON EACH of our 3 emails!
* Additinal info you can find in files: #FOX_README#.rtf
qDNh

Screenshot of files encrypted by FOX ("[developer's_email].[random_characters].FOX" filename pattern):

Files encrypted by FOX

FOX 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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Quick menu:

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

By downloading any software listed on this website you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. Trial version of EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Pro is capable of scanning drives and listing recoverable files - to restore them, you must purchase a license.

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

By downloading any software listed on this website you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. To use full-featured product, you have to purchase a license for EaseUS Todo Backup. 30 days free trial available.

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.

QR Code
FOX 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 FOX virus on your mobile device.
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