LockerGoga (.locked) ransomware virus - removal and decryption options
Written by Tomas Meskauskas on (updated)
What kind of malware is LockerGoga?
Discovered by Cyber Security, LockerGoga is a malicious program categorized as ransomware. Cyber criminals who designed this computer infection use it to encrypt data stored on computers and blackmail users by demanding ransom payments in return for decryption tools. LockerGoga adds the ".locked!?" or ".locked" extension to each encrypted file.
For example, "1.jpg" becomes "1.jpg.locked!?" or "1.jpg.locked". It also generates the "README-NOW.txt" file, which contains a ransom-demand message.
Screenshot of files encrypted by LockerGoga (".locked" extension, could be ".locked!?" as well):
Ransom note overview
In the "README-NOW.txt" file, LockerGoga developers state that they have exploited a significant flaw in the system's security and encrypted all data using RSA-4096 and AES-256 cryptography algorithms. They explain that decryption without a specific decryption tool is impossible.
Furthermore, they warn that any attempts to decrypt data using other tools (such as Photorec, RannohDecryptor, etc.) will cause permanent data loss. They urge victims not to restart/shut down their computers or to move/rename any encrypted files.
As 'proof' that they can be trusted and have a tool capable of decryption, they invite victims to send two or three files for free decryption. This should be done by sending the files to the cottleAkela@protonmail.com or qyavauZehyco1994@o2.pl email address. These addresses are also used to receive information regarding cost of the decryption tool and other payment details.
They state that the cost of the tool depends on how quickly they are contacted. Regardless of the cost, the ransom must be paid in a cryptocurrency (Bitcoins). LockerGoga developers promise to send a decryption tool to victims as soon as they receive the ransom payment (transfer).
Decryption without the use of a specific decryption key/tool (supposedly in LockerGoga developer's possession) is impossible. Most cyber criminals use cryptographies that generate unique decryption keys and store them on remote servers that can be accessed only by them.
Furthermore, there are no tools capable of decrypting LockerGoga encryption free of charge (at least, not at time of writing).
Therefore, people with computers infected by LockerGoga are encouraged to contact the developers. Despite this, do not pay any ransoms - ransomware developers often ignore victims once they receive payment. If you have a data backup created, use it to restore all files - this is the best option.
Similarities with other ransomware
LockerGoga is identical to another ransomware-type program called CottleAkela, however, there are many other similar examples such as Gorgon, GEFEST 3.0, and so on. Most computer infections of this type have two main factors in common: they are used to encrypt data and attempt to blackmail people (make ransom demands).
Common variables are cost of decryption tool and cryptography algorithm used for encryption. Unfortunately, cyber criminals typically use cryptographies that use unique keys to encrypt files, so it is impossible to decrypt them without using a specific decryption tool.
To avoid data/financial loss, we recommend that you create regular backups and store them on a remote server or unplugged storage device.
How did ransomware infect my computer?
It is not known how LockerGoga developers proliferate this computer infection, however, there are several common ways such as spam email campaigns, Trojans, untrustworthy software download channels, fake software updaters and software cracking tools. They use spam campaigns by sending out many emails that include a malicious attachment.
The attachment might be a Microsoft Office document, executable file (.exe), archive file (such as RAR, ZIP), PDF documents, and so on. The email might also contain a website link that leads to such a file. Computers become infected when these malicious attachments are opened. By opening them, people give permission to download/install certain malware.
Free file hosting, freeware download websites, peer-to-peer (P2P) networks and other untrustworthy software download sources are used to present malicious files as legitimate. Using these tools, people are tricked into downloading and installing computer infections. Trojans are malicious programs that distribute other computer infections.
Having a Trojan installed puts systems at risk of additional downloads/installations of other threats. Fake software updaters cause damage by downloading viruses rather than the updates or by exploiting bugs/flaws of installed and outdated software. Software cracking tools operate in a similar way.
These tools are usually designed to bypass activation of software or operating systems, however, cyber criminals also use them to infect computers. Using these tools risks installation of malicious programs rather than cracking any software.
|Threat Type||Ransomware, Crypto Virus, Files locker|
|Encrypted Files Extension||locked|
|Ransom Demanding Message||README-NOW.txt|
|Free Decryptor Available?||No|
|Cyber Criminal Contact||cottleAkela@protonmail.com, qyavauZehyco1994@o2.pl|
|Detection Names||Avast (Win32:DangerousSig [Trj]), Combo Cleaner (Trojan.GenericKD.50466675), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of Win32/Filecoder.LockerGoga.D), Kaspersky (Trojan-Ransom.Win32.LockerGoga.b), Microsoft (Ransom:MacOS/Filecoder), Full List Of Detections (VirusTotal)|
|Symptoms||Can'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 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?
To prevent computer infection by ransomware-type (or other) high-risk infections, browse the web, install, download and update software with care. Do not not open attachments that are included in emails received from unknown/untrustworthy or suspicious addresses. If you suspect that the received email is irrelevant, the best option is to ignore it.
Furthermore, update installed software (or the operating system itself), using implemented functions or tools provided by official developers. Avoid downloading software using untrustworthy, unofficial websites, third party downloaders or other tools of this kind.
Third party download or installation set-ups can include rogue applications that might cause computer infections (or other problems). Do not use software cracking tools, since using them is committing cyber crime. Furthermore, they put computers at risk of various infections.
Have a reputable anti-spyware/anti-virus suite installed. These tools often detect and eliminate various threats (infections) before they can harm computers in any way. If your computer is already infected with LockerGoga, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate this ransomware.
Screenshot of a message encouraging users to pay a ransom to decrypt their compromised data:
Text presented in LockerGoga ransomware text file ("README-NOW.txt"):
There was a significant flaw in the security system of your company.
You should be thankful that the flaw was exploited by serious people and not some rookies.
They would have damaged all of your data by mistake or for fun.
Your files are encrypted with the strongest military algorithms RSA4096 and AES-256.
Without our special decoder it is impossible to restore the data.
Attempts to restore your data with third party software as Photorec, RannohDecryptor etc.
will lead to irreversible destruction of your data.
To confirm our honest intentions.
Send us 2-3 different random files and you will get them decrypted.
It can be from different computers on your network to be sure that our decoder decrypts everything.
Sample files we unlock for free (files should not be related to any kind of backups).
We exclusively have decryption software for your situation
DO NOT RESET OR SHUTDOWN - files may be damaged.
DO NOT RENAME the encrypted files.
DO NOT MOVE the encrypted files.
This may lead to the impossibility of recovery of the certain files.
To get information on the price of the decoder contact us at:
The payment has to be made in Bitcoins.
The final price depends on how fast you contact us.
As soon as we receive the payment you will get the decryption tool and
instructions on how to improve your systems security
Update March 27, 2019 - During the last two months, LockerGoga's developers went after four major companies in France, Norway and United States. The list of targeted companies includes Altran (engineering consulting in France), Norsk Hydro (aluminum manufacturing in Norway), Hexion and Momentive (both providing chemical production in United States).
The attack caused a lot of damage for each company. For instance, Norsk Hydro company was forced to shut down its entire worldwide network. The company had to switch to using tablets and cellphones only, and employees had to perform most of operations manually.
Aside from encrypting data, LockerGoga has disabled network cards and changed passwords of all accounts, thereby preventing employees from accessing their workstations. The purpose was to slow down the recovery, since engineers have to take care of each computer separately, rather than uploading data backups from a cloud server.
It is worth noting that Norsk Hydro is the largest aluminum producer in the world. Therefore, attack touched not only the company itself, but the customers as well, because due to interruptions and issues caused LockerGoga the price of aluminum has increased. If that wasn't enough, Norsk Hydro's customers' orders weren't accessible due to data loss.
Company's stock price has slightly decreased as well. Now while a regular home user might not suffer badly from a ransomware attack (users typically lose only personal data, such as photos, audio/video files, and similar), large companies attacked by ransomware-type infections may eventually end up losing millions of dollars.
You can follow news regarding this cyber attack HERE.
Update September 19, 2022 - Bitdefender has recently released a decryption tool capable of restoring data encrypted by LockerGoga ransomware. You can download it from Bitdefender's website.
Screenshot of Bitdefender's decryptor for LockerGoga ransomware:
LockerGoga 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 LockerGoga 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.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How was my computer hacked and how did hackers encrypt my files?
Ransomware is distributed in different ways. In all cases, threat actors aim to trick unsuspecting users into downloading and executing ransomware by themselves. Usually, users infect computers via malicious links or files received via email, drive-by downloads, fake installers for pirated software, files downloaded from unreliable sources, etc.
How to open ".locked" files?
It is not possible to open these files. Encrypted files must be decrypted before they can be opened/used.
Where should I look for free decryption tools for LockerGoga ransomware?
In case of a ransomware attack you should check the No More Ransom project website (more information above).
I can pay you a lot of money, can you decrypt files for me?
We do not provide a decryption service. Only the attackers can decrypt files (unless ransomware has bugs/flaws). Third parties should never be paid for data decryption. Usually, they are scammers or act as a man-in-the-middle.
Will Combo Cleaner help me remove LockerGoga ransomware?
Combo Cleaner will scan your computer and remove ransomware. Once removed, ransomware will no longer be able to cause more damage (encrypt more files). However, files will remain encrypted (antivirus software cannot decrypt files).
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