What is RYUK?
RYUK is a high-risk ransomware-type virus that infiltrates the system and encrypts most stored data, thereby making it unusable. Due to its similarities with Hermes ransomware, there is a high probability that these two viruses have the same developer. Unlike most other viruses, this malware does not rename or append any extension to encrypted files.
It is, however, worth noting that updated variant of RYUK ransomware (titled RYK ransomware) appends .RYK extension (thus, its name). RYUK is also designed to create a text file ("RyukReadMe.txt"), placing a copy in every existing folder.
As usual, the new text file delivers a message that informs victims of the encryption and encourages them to pay a ransom to restore their data. Be aware that RYUK uses RSA-4096 and AES-256 encryption algorithms. Therefore, each victim receives several unique keys that are necessary to restore data. Cyber criminals hide all keys on a remote server.
Restoring data without these keys is impossible, and each victim is forced to pay a ransom in exchange for their release. The cost is not confirmed - all information is provided via email, however, the size of ransoms varies with each victim. It is also stated that, for each day of delay, the victim must pay an additional .5 Bitcoin (currently equivalent to ~$3200).
As compared to other ransomware-type viruses, this cost is high - it typically fluctuates between $500 and $1500 (and it usually does not increase). Note that RYUK is designed to target large companies and infect many computers at once.
Although paying thousands of dollars for everyday users might seem too much, large companies often agree, since their encrypted data is often much more valuable. Despite this, and no matter what the cost, it is advised not to pay. Ransomware developers often ignore victims once payments are submitted.
Paying often gives no positive result and users are scammed. Therefore, you are advised to ignore all requests to contact developers or pay any ransom. Unfortunately, there are no tools capable of cracking RSA/AES 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:
There are dozens of viruses that share similarities with RYUK. The list of examples includes (but is not limited to) FOX, ShutUpAndDance, PGPSnippet, and Princess. Although these viruses are developed by different cyber criminals, their behavior is identical - all encrypt data and make ransom demands.
In most cases, ransomware-type viruses have just two major differences: size of ransom and type of encryption algorithm used. Unfortunately, most employ algorithms that generate unique decryption keys.
Therefore, unless the virus is not fully developed or has certain bugs/flaws, restoring data manually without involvement of developers (contacting these people is not recommended) is impossible.
RYUK and other similar viruses present a strong case for maintaining regular data backups, but remember to store them on a remote server or unplugged storage device. If not, malware will encrypt backups together with regular files.
How did ransomware infect my computer?
To proliferate ransomware, developers often use trojans, spam emails, peer-to-peer (P2P) networks, unofficial software download sources, and fake software updaters. Trojans open "backdoors" for other viruses to infiltrate the system. Spam emails are delivered with malicious attachments that, once opened, download and install viruses.
P2P networks and other third party download/installation sources (freeware download websites, free file hosting sites, etc.) present malware as legitimate software, thereby tricking users into downloading and installing viruses. Fake updaters infect the system by exploiting outdated software bugs/flaws or simply downloading and installing malware rather than updates.
|Threat Type||Ransomware, Crypto Virus, Files locker|
|Encrypted Files Extension||Updated variant of RYUK ransomware appends .RYK extension.|
|Ransom Demanding Message||RyukReadMe.txt|
|Cyber Criminal Contactemail@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com|
|Cyber Criminal Crypto Wallet Address (Bitcoin)||1KURvApbe1yC7qYxkkkvtdZ7hrNjdp18sQ|
|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 Combo Cleaner.
How to protect yourself from ransomware infections?
The main reasons for computer infections are poor knowledge and careless behavior. Therefore, pay close attention when browsing the Internet and downloading/installing/updating software. Think twice before opening email attachments. Irrelevant files and those received from suspicious/unrecognizable email addresses should never be opened.
Furthermore, download software from official sources only, using direct download links. Third party downloaders/installers often include rogue apps, and thus should never be used.
The same rule applies to software updates. It is important to keep installed applications up-to-date, however, this should be achieved only through implemented functions or tools provided by the official developer. Having a reputable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed and running is also essential.
The key to computer safety is caution. If your computer is already infected with RYUK, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate this ransomware.
Text presented in RYUK ransomware text file ("RyukReadMe.txt"):
Your business is at serious risk.
There is a significant hole in the security system of your company.
We've easily penetrated your network.
You should thank the Lord for being hacked by serious people not some stupid schoolboys or dangerous punks.
They can damage all your important data just for fun.
Now your files are crypted with the strongest millitary algorithms RSA4096 and AES-256.
No one can help you to restore files without our special decoder.
Photorec, RannohDecryptor etc. repair tools
are useless and can destroy your files irreversibly.
If you want to restore your files write to emails (contacts are at the bottom of the sheet)
and attach 2-3 encrypted files
(Less than 5 Mb each, non-archived and your files should not contain valuable information
(Databases, backups, large excel sheets, etc.)).
You will receive decrypted samples and our conditions how to get the decoder.
Please don't forget to write the name of your company in the subject of your e-mail.
You have to pay for decryption in Bitcoins.
The final price depends on how fast you write to us.
Every day of delay will cost you additional +0.5 BTC
Nothing personal just business
As soon as we get bitcoins you'll get all your decrypted data back.
Moreover you will get instructions how to close the hole in security
and how to avoid such problems in the future
+ we will recommend you special software that makes the most problems to hackers.
Attention! One more time !
Do not rename encrypted files.
Do not try to decrypt your data using third party software.
P.S. Remember, we are not scammers.
We don`t need your files and your information.
But after 2 weeks all your files and keys will be deleted automatically.
Just send a request immediately after infection.
All data will be restored absolutely.
Your warranty - decrypted samples.
No system is safe
Screenshot of files encrypted by RYUK (no extension):
Update November 6, 2019 - RYUK ransomware has been recently updated and implemented with two new features, which allow it to encrypt drives connected to the same LAN network and even infect machines that are in sleep/standby mode. To achieve this, RYUK employs Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) and Wake-on-LAN utility.
Note that RYUK is developed to work only on Windows-based machines. However, its ability to access drives connected to the LAN network increases RYUK's damage level dramatically, due to the fact that it can encrypt files no matter what operating system another machine is running.
In other words, although RYUK ransomware is designed to run only in Windows operating systems, it also poses threat to Linux, MacOS, and other operating systems as well, if they're connected to the same LAN network as the infected Windows machine.
The ransomware will simply remotely access data and encrypt it without infiltrating into other machines. You can find more information about these new features in this Threatpost article.
Update December 27, 2019 - RYUK's developers released yet another variant of this ransomware which is designed to skip *NIX-type folders.
This file system is used in Unix-based operating systems, such as Linux. Now even though there is no existing RYUK ransomware for Unix-type operating systems, there are scenarios where this ransomware can gain access to these systems while encrypting data in Windows OS.
Update January 27, 2020 - In September, 2019 cyber criminals released a new version of RYUK ransomware which was designed to steal data before encrypting. On its initial release this version was stealing only Microsoft Word (".docx") and Excel (".xlsx") files.
However, last week an a new variant of this "updated" RYUK ransomware was discovered and it turns out that the list of targeted data types has increased - it now includes various image files, as well as cryptocurrency wallets. However, it is worth noting that the malware doesn't simply steal all the existing documents of the targeted type.
Instead, it scans documents' names and searches for specific strings and, if the name contains a certain string, it will be uploaded to a remote server controlled by cyber criminals.
It is also unconfirmed whether this updated RYUK ransomware was released by its official developers or if someone has simply "borrowed" the source code. Either way, the end result may is still the same. You can find more information regarding this stealer in Lawrence Abrams' article on Bleeping Computer.
Update 2 March, 2021 - There is a new variant of the RYUK ransomware that is capable of spreading itself from the infected machines to other machines on local networks that interconnects them. In other words, this new variant uses Windows domain to spread itself, like a worm (another type of malware) often does.
It is known that RYUK can infect computers when it can access the Windows Remote Procedure Call (RPC) service on them. It collects Internet Protocol addresses thast are stored on the Address Resolution Protocol and then sends certain packets to all the discovered computers.
After that it mounts all resources made available from one host to other hosts (shared resources) and encrypts their contents. Moreover, the new RYUK variant can execute/install itself through scheduled tasks on each computer connected to the compromised network.
List of file formats targeted by data-stealing RYUK malware:
RYUK ransomware removal:
Instant automatic malware removal:
Manual threat removal might be a lengthy and complicated process that requires advanced computer skills. Combo Cleaner is a professional automatic malware removal tool that is recommended to get rid of malware. Download it by clicking the button below:
Video suggesting what steps should be taken in case of a ransomware infection:
- What is RYUK virus?
- STEP 1. Reporting ransomware to authorities.
- STEP 2. Isolating the infected device.
- STEP 3. Identifying the ransomware infection.
- STEP 4. Searching for ransomware decryption tools.
- STEP 5. Restoring files with data recovery tools.
- STEP 6. Creating data backups.
If you are a victim of a ransomware attack we recommend reporting this incident to authorities. By providing information to law enforcement agencies you will help track cybercrime and potentially assist in the prosecution of the attackers. Here's a list of authorities where you should report a ransomware attack. For the complete list of local cybersecurity centers and information on why you should report ransomware attacks, read this article.
List of local authorities where ransomware attacks should be reported (choose one depending on your residence address):
- USA - Internet Crime Complaint Centre IC3
- United Kingdom - Action Fraud
- Spain - Policía Nacional
- France - Ministère de l'Intérieur
- Germany - Polizei
- Italy - Polizia di Stato
- The Netherlands - Politie
- Poland - Policja
- Portugal - Polícia Judiciária
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:
Click the "Change adapter settings" option in the upper-left corner of the window:
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".
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":
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).
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).
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).
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):
Example 2 (.iso [Phobos] ransomware):
If your data happens to be encrypted by ransomware that is not supported by ID Ransomware, you can always try searching the internet by using certain keywords (for example, a ransom message title, file extension, provided contact emails, crypto wallet 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, cybercriminals 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.
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 the Recuva tool developed by CCleaner. 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). In addition, the recovery feature is completely free.
Step 1: Perform a scan.
Run the Recuva application and follow the wizard. You will be prompted with several windows allowing you to choose what file types to look for, which locations should be scanned, etc. All you need to do is select the options you're looking for and start the scan. We advise you to enable the "Deep Scan" before starting, otherwise, the application's scanning capabilities will be restricted.
Wait for Recuva 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 hundred 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:
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:
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 the necessary information on Microsoft's documentation web page.
Data backups: One of the most reliable backup methods 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 the 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, although it's a really rare occasion.
We recommend using Microsoft OneDrive for backing up your files. OneDrive lets you store your personal files and data in the cloud, sync files across computers and mobile devices, allowing you to access and edit your files from all of your Windows devices. OneDrive lets you save, share and preview files, access download history, move, delete, and rename files, as well as create new folders, and much more.
You can back up your most important folders and files on your PC (your Desktop, Documents, and Pictures folders). Some of OneDrive’s more notable features include file versioning, which keeps older versions of files for up to 30 days. OneDrive features a recycling bin in which all of your deleted files are stored for a limited time. Deleted files are not counted as part of the user’s allocation.
The service is built using HTML5 technologies and allows you to upload files up to 300 MB via drag and drop into the web browser or up to 10 GB via the OneDrive desktop application. With OneDrive, you can download entire folders as a single ZIP file with up to 10,000 files, although it can’t exceed 15 GB per single download.
OneDrive comes with 5 GB of free storage out of the box, with an additional 100 GB, 1 TB, and 6 TB storage options available for a subscription-based fee. You can get one of these storage plans by either purchasing additional storage separately or with Office 365 subscription.
Creating a data backup:
The backup process is the same for all file types and folders. Here’s how you can back up your files using Microsoft OneDrive
Step 1: Choose the files/folders you want to backup.
Click the OneDrive cloud icon to open the OneDrive menu. While in this menu, you can customize your file backup settings.
Click Help & Settings and then select Settings from the drop-down menu.
Go to the Backup tab and click Manage backup.
In this menu, you can choose to backup the Desktop and all of the files on it, and Documents and Pictures folders, again, with all of the files in them. Click Start backup.
Now, when you add a file or folder in the Desktop and Documents and Pictures folders, they will be automatically backed up on OneDrive.
To add folders and files, not in the locations shown above, you have to add them manually.
Open File Explorer and navigate to the location of the folder/file you want to backup. Select the item, right-click it, and click Copy.
Then, navigate to OneDrive, right-click anywhere in the window and click Paste. Alternatively, you can just drag and drop a file into OneDrive. OneDrive will automatically create a backup of the folder/file.
All of the files added to the OneDrive folder are backed up in the cloud automatically. The green circle with the checkmark in it indicates that the file is available both locally and on OneDrive and that the file version is the same on both. The blue cloud icon indicates that the file has not been synced and is available only on OneDrive. The sync icon indicates that the file is currently syncing.
To access files only located on OneDrive online, go to the Help & Settings drop-down menu and select View online.
Step 2: Restore corrupted files.
OneDrive makes sure that the files stay in sync, so the version of the file on the computer is the same version on the cloud. However, if ransomware has encrypted your files, you can take advantage of OneDrive’s Version history feature that will allow you to restore the file versions prior to encryption.
Microsoft 365 has a ransomware detection feature that notifies you when your OneDrive files have been attacked and guide you through the process of restoring your files. It must be noted, however, that if you don’t have a paid Microsoft 365 subscription, you only get one detection and file recovery for free.
If your OneDrive files get deleted, corrupted, or infected by malware, you can restore your entire OneDrive to a previous state. Here’s how you can restore your entire OneDrive:
1. If you're signed in with a personal account, click the Settings cog at the top of the page. Then, click Options and select Restore your OneDrive.
If you're signed in with a work or school account, click the Settings cog at the top of the page. Then, click Restore your OneDrive.
2. On the Restore your OneDrive page, select a date from the drop-down list. Note that if you're restoring your files after automatic ransomware detection, a restore date will be selected for you.
3. After configuring all of the file restoration options, click Restore to undo all the activities you selected.
The best way to avoid damage from ransomware infections is to maintain regular up-to-date backups.