Santa ransomware

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

Santa ransomware removal instructions

What is Santa?

Santa is a high risk virus categorized as ransomware and belonging to the Dharma family. Santa's purpose is to encrypt files stored on victims' computers, thus allowing ransomware developers to demand payments in return for decryption tools or keys. Santa generates a ransom demand pop-up window and a "FILES ENCRYPTED.txt" text file. It also renames each encrypted file by adding the ".santa" extension, plus an email address and ID. For example, "1.jpg" might become "1.jpg.id-1E857D00.[newsantaclaus@aol.com].santa".

"FILES ENCRYPTED.txt" contains a short note stating the all data was encrypted, and to retrieve (decrypt) files, Santa's victims must contact the developers via the newsantaclaus@aol.com email address. According to the pop-up window, all files were encrypted due to 'security problems' with the computer. Cyber criminals provide an ID number to be used when contacting them via the email address. They provide no information regarding ransom size, however, this apparently depends on how quickly victims make contact. It is stipulated that the ransom must be paid in Bitcoins (most cyber criminals require payment in cryptocurrencies). Santa's developers promise to provide a decryption tool as soon as their ransom demands are met. They also offer free decryption of one file as 'proof' that they can be trusted and are capable of file decryption. In addition, they urge their victims not to use any other decryption tools (or obtain the help of other third parties). They state this might lead to permanent data loss or an increase in cost of decryption. Note that most cyber criminals cannot be trusted - they often ignore their victims even if their ransom demands are met. They provide no decryption tools or keys. Unfortunately, ransomware developers often use cryptography algorithms (symmetric or asymmetric) that generate unique decryption keys and store them on remote servers (controlled only by them). Therefore, only they are capable of providing victims with decryption keys or tools. At present, there are no tools capable of cracking Santa encryption free of charge. The only free solution in these situations, is to use a previously-created backup and restore files from there.

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

Santa decrypt instructions

Most ransomware-type viruses (such as .shadow, Bkpx, Dablio, and many others) are similar. Generally, they encrypt files and to keep them in that state until the ransom is paid. The most common differences are cost of decryption key/tool and a cryptography algorithm used. Unfortunately, most of these encryptions are impossible to crack. This is only possible if the ransomware virus is still in development or contains bugs/flaws. The best way to keep your files safe is to maintain regular backups and store them on unplugged storage devices or remote servers.

How did ransomware infect my computer?

To proliferate ransomware-type viruses, cyber criminals typically use trojans, spam email campaigns, fake software updaters, P2P (peer-to-peer) networks and various other third party software download sources/downloaders. Trojans are malicious programs that cause chain infections (they proliferate other viruses). If a trojan is present on a system, other malware will probably be injected. Spam campaigns contain email attachments that, if opened, download and install malicious software infections such as ransomware-type viruses. Fake software updaters infect computers by exploiting outdated software bugs/flaws or simply downloading and installing malware rather than the promised updates. P2P networks and other unofficial download sources such as free file hosting, freeware download, and other websites, are used to present malicious executables as legitimate software. This often tricks users into downloading and installing viruses. In summary, the main reasons for computer infections are poor knowledge of these threats and careless behavior.

Threat Summary:
NameSanta 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 Santa 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?

Pay attention while browsing the internet and installing/downloading or updating software. Do not open email attachments without making sure that they can be trusted. Files that seem irrelevant and those received from suspicious, unknown email addresses should never be opened. All software should be downloaded from official, trustworthy sources and using direct download links only. Various third party downloaders/installers often include rogue applications, and thus should be avoided. Keep installed applications up-to-date, however, use only implemented features or tools provided by the official developers. Having a reputable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed and running can also be very helpful - these can detect and terminate malware before it does any harm. If your computer is already infected with Santa, we recommend running a scan with Spyhunter for Windows to automatically eliminate this ransomware.

Text presented in Santa ransomware pop-up window: 

All your files have been encrypted!
All your files have been encrypted due to a security problem with your PC. If you want to restore them, write us to the e-mail newsantaclaus@aol.com
Write this ID in the title of your message 1E857D00
In case of no answer in 24 hours write us to theese e-mails:newsantaclaus@aol.com
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.
Free decryption as guarantee
Before paying you can send us up to 1 file for free decryption. The total size of files must be less than 1Mb (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.
hxxps://localbitcoins.com/buy_bitcoins
Also you can find other places to buy Bitcoins and beginners guide here:
hxxp://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 Santa text file:

Santa ransomware text file

Text presented in Santa ransomware "FILES ENCRYPTED.txt" text file:

all your data has been locked us
You want to return?
write email newsantaclaus@aol.com

Screenshot of files encrypted by Santa (".santa" extension):

Files encrypted by Santa

Santa ransomware removal:

Instant automatic removal of Santa 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 Santa 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 Santa 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 Santa 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 Santa 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 Santa 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 Santa, 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 Santa 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 Santa 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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Removal Instructions in other languages
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
Santa 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 Santa virus on your mobile device.
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Platform: Windows

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