Phoenix-Phobos Ransomware

Also Known As: Phoenix-Phobos virus
Distribution: Moderate
Damage level: Severe

Phoenix-Phobos ransomware removal instructions

What is Phoenix-Phobos?

First discovered by GrujaRS and belonging to the Phobos ransomware family, Phoenix-Phobos is high-risk ransomware designed to encrypt data and make ransom demands. During encryption, Phoenix-Phobos renames each file by appending the filenames with the ".phoenix" extension plus the victim's unique ID and developer's email address. For example, "sample.jpg" might be renamed to a filename such as "sample.jpg.id[1E857D00-0001].[absonkaine@aol.com].phoenix". In addition, Phoenix-Phobos places the "info.hta" (which is also opened) and "info.txt" files on the desktop.

The text file contains a rather short message simply stating that data is encrypted and that victims must contact cyber criminals to restore it. The opened .hta file (in a pop-up window) delivers a little more information. It is stated that victims must pay a ransom (in Bitcoins) in exchange for recovery of their files. The cost is not specified but supposedly depends on how quickly victims contact cyber criminals, who typically demand $500-$1500 in Bitcoins, Monero, Ethereum, DASH or another cryptocurrency. The message also states that victims can attach five selected files (up to 10 MB). These are supposedly decrypted and returned as a 'guarantee' that criminals are able to recover files and can be trusted. Regardless of the cost, do not pay. Criminals are notorious for ignoring victims after payments are submitted. Thus, paying usually gives no positive result and victims are scammed. You are advised to ignore all requests to submit payments or even contact these people. Phoenix-Phobos is undecryptable ransomware - there are no tools capable of cracking the encryption and restoring data free of charge. Therefore, 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:

Phoenix-Phobos decrypt instructions

Ransomware infections are all very similar. Indeed, Phoenix-Phobos is virtually identical to dozens of other infections (such as Cube, Gotcha, LOVE, etc.). Most ransomware infections compromise data (typically, by encryption) allowing developers to extort victims. These infections commonly employ encryption algorithms such as RSA, AES, and similar that generate unique decryption keys. Therefore, manual decryption is virtually impossible, unless the virus is still in development or has certain bugs/flaws (e.g., the key is hard-coded, stored locally or similar). Ransomware is one of the main reasons why you should maintain regular backups, however, they should not be stored locally, since they will be compromised together with regular data. Backups should be stored on a remote server (e.g., Cloud) or unplugged storage device.

How did ransomware infect my computer?

The way in which developers proliferate Phoenix-Phobos is yet unknown, however, ransomware infections are usually proliferated using fake software update tools/cracks, trojans, spam email campaigns, and unofficial software download sources. Fake updaters infect computers by exploiting outdated software bugs/flaws or simply downloading and installing malware rather than updates. Software cracks activate paid software free of charge, however, these tools are often used to spread malware. Therefore, users end up infecting their computers rather than gaining access to paid features. Another popular distribution tool is via trojan applications. These apps stealthily infiltrate computers and install additional malware. Spam email campaigns are used to send hundreds of thousands of deceptive emails which contain malicious attachments (links/files) together with deceptive messages presenting them as 'important documents' (e.g., invoices, documents, bills, etc.) and encouraging users to open them. This results in a system infection. Criminals are also known to distribute malware using third party download sources, such as peer-to-peer (P2P) networks (e.g., torrents, eMule, etc.), free file hosting websites, freeware download websites, and similar. They do this by presenting malicious executables as legitimate software, thereby tricking users into manual download and installation of malware. In any case, the reason for these infections is lack of knowledge of these threats and careless behavior.

Threat Summary:
Name Phoenix-Phobos virus
Threat Type Ransomware, Crypto Virus, Files locker.
Encrypted Files Extension ".phoenix" (also adds victim's unique ID and contact email).
Ransom Demanding Message info.hta, info.txt
Cyber Criminal Contact absonkaine@aol.com, klemens.stobe@aol.com, phobos_helper@xmpp.jp
Detection Names (Absonkaine.exe) Avast (Win32:Trojan-gen), BitDefender (Trojan.Agent.DVAM), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of Win32/Filecoder.Phobos.A), Kaspersky (HEUR:Trojan.Win32.Generic), Full List Of Detections (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 payment of 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.
Removal

To eliminate Phoenix-Phobos 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?

To prevent this situation, pay close attention during the download, installation, and update processes, and when browsing the internet in general. Download programs from official sources only, using direct download links. Third party downloaders/installers often include rogue apps, and thus these tools should never be used. Keep installed software up-to-date, however, use only implemented functions or tools provided by the official developer. Remember that software piracy is a cyber crime and the risk of infections is extremely high. Therefore, you should never attempt to crack installed apps. Be very careful when opening email attachments. Files/links that are irrelevant and those received from suspicious/unrecognizable email addresses should never opened. Finally, have a reputable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed and running. These tools can detect and eliminate malware before it harms the system. If your computer is already infected with Phoenix-Phobos, we recommend running a scan with Spyhunter for Windows to automatically eliminate this ransomware.

Text presented in Phoenix-Phobos 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 absonkaine@aol.com
Write this ID in the title of your message 1E857D00-0001
In case of no answer in 24 hours write us to this e-mail:klemens.stobe@aol.com
If there is no response from our mail, you can install the Jabber client and write to us in support of phobos_helper@xmpp.jp
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 5 files for free decryption. The total size of files must be less than 10Mb (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/
Jabber client installation instructions:
Download the jabber (Pidgin) client from hxxps://pidgin.im/download/windows/
After installation, the Pidgin client will prompt you to create a new account.
Click "Add"
In the "Protocol" field, select XMPP
In "Username" - come up with any name
In the field "domain" - enter any jabber-server, there are a lot of them, for example - exploit.im
Create a password
At the bottom, put a tick "Create account"
Click add
If you selected "domain" - exploit.im, then a new window should appear in which you will need to re-enter your data:
User
password
You will need to follow the link to the captcha (there you will see the characters that you need to enter in the field below)
If you don't understand our Pidgin client installation instructions, you can find many installation tutorials on youtube - hxxps://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=pidgin+jabber+install
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 Phoenix-Phobos text file:

Phoenix-Phobos text file

Text presented in this text file:

!!! All of your files are encrypted !!!
To decrypt them send e-mail to this address: absonkaine@aol.com.
If we don't answer in 48h., send e-mail to this address: klemens.stobe@aol.com
If there is no response from our mail, you can install the Jabber client and write to us in support of phobos_helper@xmpp.jp

Screenshot of files encrypted by Phoenix-Phobos (".phoenix" extension):

Files encrypted by Phoenix-Phobos

Phoenix-Phobos ransomware removal:

Instant automatic removal of Phoenix-Phobos 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 Phoenix-Phobos 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 Phoenix-Phobos 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 Phoenix-Phobos 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 Phoenix-Phobos 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 Phoenix-Phobos 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 Phoenix-Phobos, 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 Phoenix-Phobos 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 Phoenix-Phobos 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
Medium

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

QR Code
Phoenix-Phobos virus QR code
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Platform: Windows

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