Aqva Ransomware

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

Aqva ransomware removal instructions

What is Aqva?

First discovered by malware security researcher, Jakub Kroustek, Aqva is a new variant of high-risk ransomware called Dharma. After successful system infiltration, Aqva encrypts most existing files and appends filenames with the ".aqva" extension together with the victim's unique ID and developer's email address. For instance, "sample.jpg" is renamed to "[].aqva". Once data is encrypted, Aqva opens a pop-up window and generates a text file ("FILES ENCRYPTED.txt"), placing it on the victim's desktop.

The new text file contains a short message stating that data is encrypted and that victims must contact Aqva's developers. The pop-up, on the other hand, provides a little more information. It states that to decrypt data victims must contact cyber criminals and pay a ransom. The cost is not specified and supposedly depends on how quickly victims make contact with these people. Furthermore, they are permitted to attach one selected file (up to 1 MB, non-archived), which is then supposedly decrypted and returned as a 'guarantee' that cyber criminals are capable of restoring data. It is currently unknown whether Aqva uses symmetric or asymmetric cryptography, however, each victim receives a unique decryption key. Restoring data without this key is impossible. Cyber criminals store all keys on a remote server so that they are able to blackmail victims. To receive a key (or, rather, a decryption tool with the key embedded within), each victim must pay a ransom. Despite these demands and threats, never pay any ransom - cyber criminals ignore victims once payments are submitted. Many victims send money and receive nothing in return. Therefore, ignore all requests to pay ransoms or contact these people. Unfortunately Aqva ransomware is currently not decryptable - there are no tools capable of cracking the encryption and restoring data free of charge. Therefore, you can only restore everything from a backup.

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

Aqva decrypt instructions

All ransomware-type viruses are very similar. Indeed, Aqva shares many similarities with dozens of other infections, such as SEED LOCKER, Cammora, Jupstb, DESYNC, etc. Although the developers are different, the behavior of these viruses is virtually identical - all encrypt data and make ransom demands. In most cases, ransomware-type infections have just two major differences: type of encryption algorithm used and cost of decryption. Unfortunately most of these viruses employ algorithms such as RSA, AES, or similar, that generate unique decryption keys. Therefore, it is impossible to restore data without the involvement of developers (contacting these people is not recommended). The only possible solution is if the ransomware is still in development or has certain bugs/flaws (e.g., the key is hard-coded, stored locally, or similar). To prevent data loss, maintain regular backups and to store them on remote servers or unplugged storage devices, since locally stored backups are often encrypted together with regular data.

How did ransomware infect my computer?

It is currently unknown exactly how developers proliferate Aqva. In most cases, however, ransomware is distributed using fake software updaters, software cracks, trojans, unofficial software download sources, and spam email campaigns. Fake updaters infect computers by exploiting outdated software bugs/flaws or simply downloading and installing malware rather than the promised updates. Cracks allow users to activate software without paying, however, since these tools are often used to proliferate viruses, users can often end up infecting their computers rather than gaining access to paid features. Trojans are malicious applications that, once installed, infiltrate other viruses into the system. Third party download sources present malware as legitimate programs. This tricks users into downloading and installing viruses manually. Spam emails arrive with malicious attachments. Recipients are encouraged to open attached links/files, often resulting in various system infections.

Threat Summary:
NameAqva 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.
Malware Removal (Windows)

To eliminate possible malware infections, scan your computer with legitimate antivirus software. Our security researchers recommend using Malwarebytes.
▼ Download Malwarebytes
To use full-featured product, you have to purchase a license for Malwarebytes. 14 days free trial available.

How to protect yourself from ransomware infections?

To prevent this situation, be very cautious when browsing the internet and downloading, installing, and updating software. Download apps from official sources only, using direct download links. Third party downloaders/installers should never be used, since many of these tools are used to promote rogue apps. Keeping installed applications and operating systems updated is also paramount, however, to achieve use only implemented functions or tools provided by the official developer. Never use software cracking tools, since software piracy is considered a cyber crime (you are stealing from cyber criminals) and the risk of computer infections is extremely high. Think twice before opening email attachments. Files/links that are irrelevant or those received from suspicious/unrecognizable email addresses should never be opened. Have a reputable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed and running, since they can detect and remove infections before the system is damaged. If your computer is already infected with Aqva, we recommend running a scan with Malwarebytes for Windows to automatically eliminate this ransomware.

Text presented in Aqva 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
Write this ID in the title of your message 1E857D00
In case of no answer in 24 hours write us to theese
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.
Also you can find other places to buy Bitcoins and beginners guide here:
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 Aqva text file ("FILES ENCRYPTED.txt"):

Aqva text file

Text presented within this file:

all your data has been locked us
You want to return?
write email

Screenshot of files encrypted by Aqva (".aqva" extension):

Files encrypted by Aqva

Aqva ransomware removal:

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:
▼ DOWNLOAD Malwarebytes By downloading any software listed on this website you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. To use full-featured product, you have to purchase a license for Malwarebytes. 14 days free trial available.

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 Aqva 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 Aqva 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 Aqva 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 Aqva 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 Aqva, 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 Aqva 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 Aqva 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 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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Malware activity

Global malware activity level today:

Medium threat activity

Increased attack rate of infections detected within the last 24 hours.

QR Code
Aqva virus QR code
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