Puma Ransomware

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

Puma ransomware removal instructions

What is Puma?

First discovered by malware security researcher, Marcelo Rivero, Puma is one of many ransomware-type viruses and an updated variant of STOP ransomware. Like most infections of this type, it is designed to encrypt (lock) victims' data and make ransom demands. Once a computer is infected by Puma, this ransomware blocks Windows Task Manager and prevents users from terminating its process. During the encryption process, Puma displays a fake Windows Update window. This ransomware virus renames each encrypted file by adding the ".puma" extension. For example, "1.jpg" becomes "1.jpg.puma", etc. Some variants of this malware use the ".pumax" and ".pumas" extensions for encrypted files. Puma also generates a ransom message in a "!readme.txt" text file. Puma can be identified in Task Manager under the process name "updatewin.exe (32-bit)".

Like most ransom demand messages, "!readme.txt" states that all files are encrypted, and to retrieve (decrypt) them, ransomware victims must pay a ransom or purchase a decryption tool. According to Puma's developers, once payment is made, victims will receive a decryption tool. They offer free decryption of up to three files as a 'guarantee' that they can be trusted. They even offer purchase of a decryption tool with a 50% discount if users contact them within 72 hours. Victims are instructed to contact them via the pumarestore@india.com or BM-2cXonzj9ovn5qdX2MrwMK4j3qCquXBKo4h@bitmessage.ch email addresses. According to cyber criminals behind Puma ransomware, only they can provide their victims with a decryption tool. Unfortunately, this is accurate. Typically, cyber criminals use algorithms that generate unique decryption keys that are stored on remote servers. This makes it impossible to decrypt the data without involvement of cyber criminals. Despite these demands and threats, these people cannot be trusted. They often ignore victims even if ransom demands are met. It is currently unknown which cryptography  algorithm (symmetric or asymmetric) is used for encryption. In any case, there are no tools capable of file decryption free of charge. Therefore, we recommend that you use a backup and restore files from there.

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

Puma decrypt instructions

Puma is not the only ransomware-type virus that behaves in this way. There are many other similar infections of this type including, for example, INFOWAIT, ARGUS, and Ghost. These infections serve the same goals: to encrypt files and demand ransom payments. The most common differences between these viruses are cost of decryption and cryptography algorithm used. Typically, it is impossible to decrypt files without the involvement of cyber criminals, unless the virus is still in development or contains bugs/flaws. For this reason, we recommend that you maintain regular backups and keep them stored on remote servers or unplugged storage devices.

How did ransomware infect my computer?

It is unclear exactly how Puma developers proliferate their ransomware-type virus, however, most cyber criminals spread these infections via spam email campaigns, untrustworthy third party software download sources, fake software updating tools, and trojans. They use spam campaigns to proliferate infections via email attachments or links. Generally, they send emails that contain malicious Microsoft Office documents, archive files (such as RAR), PDF files, executable (.exe) files, and so on, in the hope that users open them. Once opened, these attachments (or links) download and install computer infections. Untrustworthy third party software download sources such as peer-to-peer networks (torrent clients, eMule, etc.), free file hosting software, freeware download websites, etc. are also used by criminals. In this way, they often trick people into installing computer infections. They present malicious executables (.exe) or other files as legitimate. Various unofficial (fake) software updaters are also used to to proliferate viruses. These tools download and install infections rather than the promised updates, or exploit outdated software bugs/flaws.

How to protect yourself from ransomware infections?

To avoid ransomware-type viruses or other computer infections, browse the internet, install, download and update software with care. Do not open email attachments (or links) received from unknown, untrustworthy, suspicious email addresses. Do not open files (or links) attached to irrelevant emails. Update your software using implemented functions or tools provided by official developers only. We strongly recommend that you avoid using third party/unofficial tools. Download software from official and trustworthy sources. Third party download or installation set-ups often contain rogue applications that might cause high-risk computer infections. Have reputable anti-spyware or anti-virus software installed and enabled. These tools can prevent infections before they do any damage. If your computer is already infected with Puma, we recommend running a scan with Spyhunter for Windows to automatically eliminate this ransomware.

Text presented in Puma ransomware text file :

=================!ATTENTION PLEASE!=================

Your databases, files, photos, documents and other important files are encrypted and have the extension: .puma
The only method of recovering files is to purchase an decrypt software and unique private key.
After purchase you will start decrypt software, enter your unique private key and it will decrypt all your data.
Only we can give you this key and only we can recover your files.
You need to contact us by e-mail pumarestore@india.com send us your personal ID and wait for further instructions.
For you to be sure, that we can decrypt your files - you can send us a 1-3 any not very big encrypted files and we will send you back it in a original form FREE.
Discount 50% avaliable if you contact us first 72 hours.

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

E-mail address to contact us:
pumarestore@india.com

Reserve e-mail address to contact us:
BM-2cXonzj9ovn5qdX2MrwMK4j3qCquXBKo4h@bitmessage.ch

Your personal id:
0058qpq3ylnE16aHSgo4Sg0XH3ODhi9ddXBObJMGjZI

Screenshot of files encrypted by Puma (".puma" extension):

Files encrypted by Puma

Puma ransomware displaying fake Windows Update during encryption:

puma ransomware fake windows update

Puma ransomware process in Windows Task Manager ("updatewin.exe (32-bit)"):

puma ransomware process task manager updatewin.exe

Update 3 December, 2018 - Michael Gillespie has released a decryption tool that can help victims decrypt compromised data free of charge (download link). The decryptor can restore files that have the following extensions: ".puma"; ".pumas"; ".pumax".

Puma ransomware decrypter by Michael Gillespie

Puma ransomware removal:

Instant automatic removal of Puma 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 Puma 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 Puma 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 Puma 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 Puma 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 Puma 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 Puma, 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 Puma 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 Puma ransomware: