Dharma-Cry Ransomware

Also Known As: Dharma-Cry virus
Distribution: Low
Damage level: Severe

Dharma-Cry ransomware removal instructions

What is Dharma-Cry?

Discovered by Jakub Kroustek, Dharma-Cry is a variant of Dharma ransomware. Like most programs of this type, it is used to encrypt data and force victims to purchase a decryption tool - in effect, to pay a ransom to Dharma-Cry's developers. Dharma-Cry adds the ".cry" extension to the name of each encrypted file plus a unique victim ID and email address. For example, "1.jpg" might be renamed to a filename such as "1.jpg.id-1E857D00.[decryptoperator@qq.com].cry". Instructions about how to purchase a decryption tool are provided in the pop-up window. It also creates another ransom message within the "RETURN FILES.txt" file.

The pop-up states that this ransomware encrypts files using the RSA-1024 encryption algorithm. To decrypt them, users must contact Dharma-Cry's developers via the decryptoperator@qq.com email address. This email address can also be found in the "RETURN FILES.txt" ransom message. The email message must contain the appointed ID, which can be found in the pop-up window. Victims are encouraged to send this email immediately, since according to the cyber criminals behind this ransomware, decryption keys might be overwritten seven days after encryption. The email can contain one attached file that they will decrypt free of charge. They offer these free decryptions to 'prove' to victims that they can be trusted and have the tool required for successful decryption. Once contacted, they provide a Bitcoin wallet address so that victims can make the transaction. Dharma-Cry's developers state that they will send decryption tool/key and instructions on how to use it after payment is made. In fact, most cyber criminals ignore victims once they receive payment. They send no decryption tools/keys. Only they can send these tools/keys, and decryption without them is impossible. Ransomware developers design these programs to be 'uncrackable'. Typically, the only way to avoid data/financial loss in these cases is to use a data backup and restore all files from there.

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

Dharma-Cry decrypt instructions

There are hundreds of ransomware-type programs, however, most share the same purposes: to encrypt victims' data and keep it inaccessible unless a ransom is paid. Examples of other malicious programs similar to Dharma-Cry include DDOS, PLUT, and Jack. The main differences between malware infections of this type are cost of decryption tool/ransom size and cryptography algorithm used to lock/encrypt files. Typically, it is impossible to decrypt data without a tool/key held only by ransomware developers. Otherwise, this might only be possible if a program is not complete, contains bugs/flaws, etc. Therefore, have a backup and store it on a remote server or unplugged storage device.

How did ransomware infect my computer?

Ransomware and other malicious programs can be distributed in various ways. Frequently, cyber criminals use spam campaigns, trojans, unofficial software updating or activation tools and dubious software download sources. If they choose to proliferate malware through a spam campaign, they send emails to many people that contain attachments. Typically, they attach Microsoft Office or PDF documents, JavaScript files, executables such as .exe, ZIP, RAR or other archive files, and so on. These files download and install malicious software, however, they can do this only if people open them. Another way to distribute malware is through trojans, which are also malicious programs. To cause any damage, however, they must first be installed - they might then start downloading and installing other malware. Untrustworthy software download channels proliferate ransomware or other infections - they disguise malicious files as legitimate and harmless. When people download and open these files, they infect their computers. Some examples of dubious software download sources are Peer-to-Peer networks (like torrent clients, eMule), unofficial websites, free file hosting or freeware download websites, and so on. Furthermore, software 'cracking' tools can be the reason behind computer infections. These tools often download and install malware rather than activating software free of charge. Fake software update tools download and install malicious programs - rather than providing updates/fixes, they exploit bugs and flaws of outdated software.

Threat Summary:
Name Dharma-Cry virus
Threat Type Ransomware, Crypto Virus, Files locker
Encrypted Files Extension .cry (this ransomware also appends filenames with the victim's unique ID and developer's email address).
Ransom Demanding Message Pop-up window, RETURN FILES.txt text file.
Cyber Criminal Contact decryptoperator@qq.com
Size Of Ransom $6000 (developers may also ask for an additional payment afterwards).
Detection Names (payload2.exe) Avast (Win32:Malware-gen), BitDefender (Trojan.Ransom.Crysis.E), ESET-NOD32 (a variant of Win32/Filecoder.Crysis.P), Kaspersky (Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Crusis.to), 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.
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?

Do not open attachments (or web links) that are received from unknown or suspicious addresses or are presented in irrelevant emails. Update installed software using implemented functions or tools that are provided by official software developers. No other tools can be trusted. Download software from official and trustworthy websites. The sources mentioned above could be used to proliferate malware. Paid software should not be activated using 'cracking' tools - this illegal and might lead to computer infections. Have a trustworthy/reputable anti-virus or anti-spyware suite installed and enabled at all times. If your computer is already infected with Dharma-Cry, we recommend running a scan with Malwarebytes for Windows to automatically eliminate this ransomware.

Text presented in Dharma-Cry ransomware text file "RETURN FILES":

IF YOU ARE NOT ANSWERED, WRITE TO EMAIL:decryptoperator@qq.com
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.)
When you make sure of decryption possibility transfer the money to our bitcoin wallet. As soon as we receive the money we will send you:
1. Decryption program.
2. Detailed instruction for decryption.
3. And individual keys for decrypting your files.
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 Dharma-Cry text file:

Dharma-Cry text file

Text presented in this file:

All your data is encrypted!
for return write to mail:

Screenshot of files encrypted by Dharma-Cry (".cry" extension):

Files encrypted by Dharma-Cry

Update December 17, 2019 - Few known victims have contacted the developers and paid a ransom of $6000. One of the victims was asked to submit an additional payment of $3000 and the others were simply ignored once the ransoms were paid. None of them received help decrypting data.

Dharma-Cry 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:
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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 Dharma-Cry 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 Dharma-Cry 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 Dharma-Cry 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 Dharma-Cry 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 Dharma-Cry, 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 Dharma-Cry 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 Dharma-Cry 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 malware activity level today:

Medium threat activity

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

QR Code
Dharma-Cry 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 Dharma-Cry virus on your mobile device.
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