Astaroth virus removal guide
What is Astaroth?
Astaroth is high-risk trojan-type virus. It is typically distributed using spam email campaigns. Criminals send hundreds of thousands of emails that contain deceptive messages encouraging users to open attached files (Microsoft Office documents). Once opened, these files run commands that inject Astaroth into the system. Following infiltration, Astaroth injects other malicious apps. At time of research, it was used to proliferate a keylogger designed to steal personal data, however, Astaroth is also used to proliferate other malware.
After successful system infiltration, Astaroth performs a chain of actions to inject malware, however, the ultimate result is identical: infiltration of other malware. At time of research, Astaroth targeted users mainly from South America. The keylogger proliferated via Astaroth records browsing activity on the Internet Explorer web browser. To ensure that people will use this browser, the malware terminates Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox (the most popular browsers) processes if they are executed. In this way, keylogger attempts to trick users into believing that these browsers are not working properly. With no other browsers available, users are thus encouraged to launch Internet Explorer. The keylogger targets Brazilian banks and businesses. The malware will only record keystrokes when a specific website is opened, however, if cyber criminals gain access to bank accounts, they will certainly attempt to steal funds. Cyber criminals aim to generate as much revenue as possible. In some cases, however, these people proliferate viruses with destructive purposes (they attempt to cause data and financial loss). Note that the keylogger developers also target business websites. If criminals gain access to the admin panel of a website, they can cause various issues. E.g., they can remove existing content, add malicious content, delete user accounts, etc. In addition, these people might inject hijacked websites with scripts used to mine cryptocurrency. In this case, each visitor's computer is used as a cryptomining tool when the website is opened. Many services provide these functionalities legitimately (e.g., GRIDCASH, CoinImp, Coinhive, etc.), however, criminals misuse cryptomining techniques to generate revenue. Furthermore, many regular users (who are not familiar with cyber security) use an identical password for many accounts. Thus, after gaining access to one account, criminals can often access others (e.g., emails, social networks, etc.). In any case, the keylogger distributed using Astaroth might cause serious financial/data loss and privacy issues. Although Astaroth currently distributes keylogging malware, in future, criminals might use this trojan to proliferate other viruses, such as ransomware, cryptominers, and so on. Therefore, Astaroth poses a significant threat to any user.
|Threat Type||Trojan, Password stealing virus, Banking malware, Spyware|
|Detection Names||Avast (Other:Malware-gen [Trj]), BitDefender (Trojan.LNK.Agent.AJC), ESET-NOD32 (LNK/TrojanDownloader.Agent.SM), Kaspersky (Trojan.WinLNK.Agent.uu), Full List (VirusTotal)|
|Symptoms||Trojans are designed to stealthily infiltrate victim's computer and remain silent thus no particular symptoms are clearly visible on an infected machine.|
|Distribution methods||Infected email attachments, malicious online advertisements, social engineering, software cracks.|
|Damage||Stolen banking information, passwords, identity theft, victim's computer added to a botnet.|
|Malware Removal (Windows)||
To eliminate possible malware infections, scan your computer with legitimate antivirus software. Our security researchers recommend using Malwarebytes.
There numerous trojan-type viruses distributed using spam email campaigns (e.g., Qakbot, ExileRat, Ave Maria, TrickBot, FormBook, etc.). The developers of these viruses are different and, thus, the functionality might also differ (some gather information, others inject other viruses, and so on), however, all pose a significant threat to your privacy and computer safety. Therefore, removal of this malware is paramount.
How did Astaroth infiltrate my computer?
How to avoid installation of malware?
To prevent these computer infections, be very cautious when browsing the internet. Think twice before opening email attachments. Files that seem irrelevant and those received from suspicious/unrecognizable email addresses should never be opened. These should be deleted without reading. Furthermore, bear in mind that criminals often send deceptive messages claiming that the recipient will gain something free of charge (e.g., the recipient has won a lottery, received a package, someone has transferred money to the recipient's account, etc.). They hope that the recipient will be tricked into opening the attachment. Do not be fooled by this scam. Having a reputable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed and running at all times is also paramount. These tools commonly detect and eliminate malware before it can harm the system. The main reasons for computer infections are poor knowledge and careless behavior. The key to safety is caution. If you believe that your computer is already infected, we recommend running a scan with Malwarebytes for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.
Another deceptive email promoting Astaroth trojan:
Update March 6, 2020 - Updated version of Astaroth is now capable of taking screenshots, blocking victims from using hotkeys (keyboard shortcuts), downloading and executing files, and restarting a computer. Cyber criminals can use this updated version to take screenshots of victim's computing activities. For example, make screenshots of opened personal, confidential documents, accounts that contain sensitive information, and capture important data in other ways. Also, they can use it to prevent victims from using keyboard shortcuts. For example, they can prevent them from closing enabled/opened windows by blocking the Alt + F4 keyboard shortcut. Furthermore, now Astaroth can be used to spread various malware (or other programs) by downloading and executing various files. It means that cyber criminals may infect systems with other malicious software like ransomware, cryptominers, etc. One more thing that now can be done with Astaroth is a system reboot. For example, it is possible that in order for some changes to take affect it would be necessary to restart a computer and now cyber criminals behind Astaroth could easily do that.
Update May 12, 2020 - The Astaroth trojan uses several methods to connect to its C&C (Control and Command) server. One of its recently observed techniques is by connecting to a YouTube channel and retrieving the text in its description. Within it lies an encrypted URL to the C&C server. However, as Astaroth employs several methods, even if the channel is taken down by YouTube - the malware can fall back to its other tactics in order to establish contact with the C&C server.
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:
- What is Astaroth?
- STEP 1. Manual removal of Astaroth malware.
- STEP 2. Check if your computer is clean.
How to remove malware manually?
Manual malware removal is a complicated task - usually it is best to allow antivirus or anti-malware programs to do this automatically. To remove this malware we recommend using Malwarebytes for Windows. If you wish to remove malware manually, the first step is to identify the name of the malware that you are trying to remove. Here is an example of a suspicious program running on a user's computer:
If you checked the list of programs running on your computer, for example, using task manager, and identified a program that looks suspicious, you should continue with these steps:
Download a program called Autoruns. This program shows auto-start applications, Registry, and file system locations:
Restart your computer into Safe Mode:
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.
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.
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.
Video showing how to start Windows 10 in "Safe Mode with Networking":
Extract the downloaded archive and run the Autoruns.exe file.
In the Autoruns application, click "Options" at the top and uncheck the "Hide Empty Locations" and "Hide Windows Entries" options. After this procedure, click the "Refresh" icon.
Check the list provided by the Autoruns application and locate the malware file that you want to eliminate.
You should write down its full path and name. Note that some malware hides process names under legitimate Windows process names. At this stage, it is very important to avoid removing system files. After you locate the suspicious program you wish to remove, right click your mouse over its name and choose "Delete".
After removing the malware through the Autoruns application (this ensures that the malware will not run automatically on the next system startup), you should search for the malware name on your computer. Be sure to enable hidden files and folders before proceeding. If you find the filename of the malware, be sure to remove it.
Reboot your computer in normal mode. Following these steps should remove any malware from your computer. Note that manual threat removal requires advanced computer skills. If you do not have these skills, leave malware removal to antivirus and anti-malware programs. These steps might not work with advanced malware infections. As always it is best to prevent infection than try to remove malware later. To keep your computer safe, install the latest operating system updates and use antivirus software.
To be sure your computer is free of malware infections we recommend scanning it with Malwarebytes for Windows.