Spyhunter Ransomware

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

Spyhunter ransomware removal instructions

What is Spyhunter?

Spyhunter is the name of a legitimate anti-malware program, however, cyber criminals have recently started to exploit this name in their ransomware campaign. Developers (cyber criminals) use it to encrypt victims' data (by blocking access) unless a ransom is paid. Spyhunter ransomware adds the ".spyhunter" extension to each encrypted file. For example, "1.jpg" becomes "1.jpg.spyhunter". It also creates the "$HOWDECRYPT$.txt" text file containing a ransom message. It is possible that Spyhunter is a version of GarrantyDecrypt (another ransomware infection). This version was discovered by Karsten Hahn.

Spyhunter's ransom message states that all files are encrypted and can only be decrypted with the help of cyber criminals who developed this ransomware. They go on to mention that they specialize in creating and removing viruses. They encourage victims to contact them within 72 hours via the spyhunter5s@aol.com email address. The email message should contain a unique ID (appointed to each victim). As mentioned, SpyHunter is the name of a legitimate anti-spyware computer program, however, the ransomware developers disguise their malicious program as legitimate software. Note that SpyHunter anti-virus suite and Enigma developers have no association with this ransomware. Cyber criminals use SpyHunter's name to adversely affect its reputation - this is a case of defamation. Most ransomware-type programs encrypt data using cryptography algorithms (symmetric or asymmetric) that make decryption, without using a specific decryption tool or key, impossible. Note, however, that Spyhunter encrypts only file headers. Therefore, it might be possible to recover files using file recovery software. Another way to recover files free of charge is to use a backup and restore everything from there. We recommend that you do not contact these cyber criminals, since, in return for a decryption tool, they will demand payment of a ransom. Furthermore, ransomware developers often provide no decryption tools even if their demands are met.

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

Spyhunter decrypt instructions

There are many ransomware-type programs on the internet and the number is growing daily. Some other examples are Raldug, Carcn, and George Carlin. These malicious programs commonly encrypt data and allow developers to demand ransom payments. The only differences are usually cryptography algorithm used for encryption and cost of  tool required for successful decryption. In most cases, victims cannot decrypt their files without the involvement of cyber criminals, unless the ransomware-type program is not fully developed, contains bugs/flaws, or (as is the case with Spyhunter) encrypts only file headers (in this case, try using file recovery applications such as EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard, Recuva, or similar). In any case, we recommend that you create regular backups and  store them on remote servers or unplugged storage devices.

How did ransomware infect my computer?

It is unknown exactly how Spyhunter's rogue developers proliferate this virus, however, most cyber criminals use spam campaigns, Trojans, untrustworthy software download sources, software 'cracking' tools or unofficial/fake software updaters. To proliferate malicious programs using spam campaigns, they send emails that contain malicious attachments. These are usually Microsoft Office documents, PDFs, archives (ZIP, RAR), executables (.exe files) JavaScript and other files. If opened, these infected files download and install viruses. Trojans are malicious programs that, once installed, cause chain infections by proliferating other viruses. Peer-to-peer (P2P) networks (torrent clients, eMule and so on), freeware or free file hosting websites, third party downloaders, unofficial websites and other dubious software download sources can be used to cause computer infections. Cyber criminals use them to trick people into downloading and opening infected files that they present as harmless. When people open them, they install viruses. Software 'cracking' tools allow users to bypass paid activation of  software or operating systems, however, they often install malicious programs. Fake software updaters cause computer infections by exploiting outdated software flaws, bugs or by downloading and installing malware rather than the updates, fixes and so on.

Threat Summary:
Name Spyhunter virus
Threat Type Ransomware, Crypto Virus, Files locker.
Encrypted Files Extension .spyhunter
Ransom Demanding Message  $HOWDECRYPT$.txt text file.
Cyber Criminal Contact spyhunter5s@aol.com
Rogue Process Name SpyHunter product.
Antivirus detections Avast (Win32:Malware-gen), BitDefender (Gen:Variant.Ulise.32528), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of Win32/Injector.DSVO), Kaspersky (Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Crypmod.acal), Full list of detections on VirusTotal
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 demand a ransom payment (usually in bitcoins) to unlock your files.
Additional Information This ransomware uses the name of a legitimate anti-spyware suite called SpyHunter - this is with the intention of adversely affecting its reputation.
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.

To eliminate Spyhunter 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?

Do not open attachments that are presented in emails received from unknown, suspicious email addresses, or if the emails seem irrelevant. Bear in mind that they are often presented as official and important, however, they cannot be trusted. Update software using implemented functions or tools provided by official developers only. Do not use other (third party) tools. Do not download software from untrustworthy, unofficial websites, using third party downloaders, or the other channels mentioned above. Activate software properly and do not use third party ('cracking') tools. This is illegal and often results in computer infection with high-risk viruses. Finally, have reputable anti-spyware or anti-virus software installed and keep it enabled at all times. If your computer is already infected with Spyhunter, we recommend running a scan with Spyhunter for Windows to automatically eliminate this ransomware.

Text presented in Spyhunter ransomware text file "$HOWDECRYPT$.txt":

All your files are encrypted by Enigma SpyHunter5s!
Our company SpyHunter is guaranteed to decrypt your files.
Creating and removing viruses is our vocation.
We will provide you with professional support.
You have 72 hours to contact us.
Email us at :
Your unique ID

Spyhunter running in Task Manager as the "SpyHunter product." process, thus disguising itself as legitimate anti-spyware software called "SpyHunter".

spyhunter ransomware running in task manager as spyhnter product process

Screenshot of files encrypted by Spyhunter (".spyhunter" extension):

Files encrypted by Spyhunter

Spyhunter ransomware removal:

Instant automatic removal of Spyhunter 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 Spyhunter 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 Spyhunter 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 Spyhunter 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 Spyhunter 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 Spyhunter 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 Spyhunter, 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 Spyhunter 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 Spyhunter 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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Malware activity

Global virus and spyware activity level today:

Medium threat activity

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

QR Code
Spyhunter 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 Spyhunter virus on your mobile device.
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Platform: Windows

Editors' Rating for Spyhunter:
Editors ratingOutstanding!

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Free scanner checks if your computer is infected. To remove malware, you have to purchase the full version of Spyhunter.