Azero Ransomware

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

Azero ransomware removal instructions

What is Azero?

First discovered by malware security researcher, Jakub Kroustek, Azero is yet another ransomware infection that belongs to the Dharma malware family. As with other variants of Dharma, Azero encrypts stored files and appends filenames with the ".azero" extension plus the cyber criminal's email address and victim's unique ID. For instance, "sample.jpg" might be renamed to a filename such as "sample.jpg.id-1E857D00.[cryptor55@cock.li].azero". This malware is also designed to open a pop-up window and store a text file ("FILES ENCRYPTED.txt") on the desktop.

The new text file contains a short message informing victims of the encryption and encouraging them to contact the developers. The pop-up, on the other hand, provides a little more information. It is stated that, to restore data, victims must purchase a decryption tool. The cost, however, is not specified and supposedly depends on how quickly victims contact the developers. Victims are also allowed to attach one selected file (up to 1 MB, non-archived). Criminals restore the file and return it as a 'guarantee' that decryption is possible and that the criminals can be trusted. In fact, this is merely an attempt to gain victims' trust. Each victim receives a unique decryption key. All keys are stored on a remote server, thus enabling criminals to blackmail victims. We strongly advise you to ignore all requests to contact these people or submit any payments. Research shows that cyber criminals often ignore victims, once payments are submitted - many users pay and receive nothing in return. Unfortunately, there are no tools capable of cracking Azero encryption and restoring data free of charge. The only solution is to restore everything from a backup.

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

Azero decrypt instructions

Azero is virtually identical to dozens of other ransomware-type infections such as Pulsar1, Jamper, and Charck. Although these viruses are developed by different cyber criminals, their behavior is virtually identical - all encrypt data and make ransom demands. Ransomware-type viruses usually employ algorithms such as RSA, AES and others that generate unique decryption keys. Therefore, unless the virus is not fully developed or has certain bugs/flaws, restoring data manually without involvement of developers (contacting these people is not recommended) is impossible. Ransomware is one of the main reasons why you should maintain regular data backups, however, store them on an unplugged storage device (e.g., Flash drive, external hard drive, etc.) or a remote server (such as Cloud). Locally stored backups are encrypted together with regular data.

How did ransomware infect my computer?

To proliferate ransomware, developers typically employ trojans, fake software updaters, 'cracks', unofficial software download sources, and spam email campaigns. Trojans stealthily infiltrate computers and inject additional malware into the system. Fake updaters infect computers in two ways: 1) by exploiting outdated software bugs/flaws, and; 2) downloading and installing malware rather than updates. Cracking tools enable the use of paid software free of charge, however, criminals often use them to proliferate malware. Therefore, users typically end up infecting their computers rather than gaining access to paid features. Unofficial download sources are used to present malicious executables as legitimate software. This simply tricks users into downloading and installing malware manually. Finally, spam campaigns are employed by cyber criminals to send thousands of deceptive emails encouraging users to open attached links/files that infect the system. Thus, opening results in malware infections. In most cases, the main reasons for computer infections are poor knowledge of these threats and careless behavior.

Threat Summary:
Name Azero virus
Threat Type Ransomware, Crypto Virus, Files locker.
Symptoms Cannot open files stored on your computer, previously functional files now have a different extension (for example, my.docx.locked). A ransom demand message is displayed on your desktop. Cyber criminals request a ransom payment (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.
Removal

To eliminate Azero 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?

The key to computer safety is caution. Therefore, be very cautious when browsing the internet and downloading, installing, and updating software. Think twice before opening email attachments. If you believe that the received file/link is irrelevant or the sender seems suspicious, do not open anything. Furthermore, avoid using third party downloaders/installers, since they often include rogue applications. Software should be downloaded from official sources only, using direct download links. Keep installed applications/operating system up-to-date, however, this should be achieved only through implemented functions or tools provided by the official developer. Never attempt to 'crack' installed applications, since software piracy is considered a cyber crime and the risk of infections is extremely high. Lastly, use a reputable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite, since they can detect and eliminate infections before the system is harmed. If your computer is already infected with Azero, we recommend running a scan with Spyhunter for Windows to automatically eliminate this ransomware.

Text presented in Azero 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 cryptor55@cock.li
Write this ID in the title of your message 1E857D00
In case of no answer in 24 hours write us to theese e-mails:andres11@cock.li
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 Azero text file ("FILES ENCRYPTED.txt"):

Azero text file

Text presented within this file:

all your data has been locked us
You want to return?
write email cryptor55@cock.li or andres11@cock.li

Screenshot of files encrypted by Azero (".azero" extension):

Files encrypted by Azero

Azero ransomware removal:

Instant automatic removal of Azero 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 Azero 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 Azero 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 Azero 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 Azero 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 Azero 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 Azero, 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 Azero 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 Azero ransomware: