How to remove the Acton ransomware infection

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

Acton ransomware removal instructions

What is Acton?

Discovered by GrujaRS, Acton is a new version of high-risk ransomware called Phobos. This malware is designed to stealthily infiltrate computers and encrypt most stored data. In doing so, Acton appends each filename with the victim's unique ID, developer's email address, and ".Acton" extension. For example, "sample.jpg" might be renamed to a filename such as "sample.jpg.id[1E857D00-1091].[b.morningtonjones@aol.com].Acton". Encrypted data immediately becomes unusable. Additionally, Acton generates a text ("info.txt") file and an HTML application ("info.hta"), placing both on the desktop.

The new text file contains a short message essentially stating that files are encrypted and that victims must contact cyber criminals (Acton's developers) to restore them. The HTML application (which displays a pop-up window) provides much more detail. It is stated that files are encrypted and that victims must purchase a decryption tool to restore them. Be aware that Acton encrypts data using the cryptography algorithm, which generates a unique decryption key for each victim. Restoring data without the key is impossible, and since all keys are stored on a remote server controlled by Acton's developers, these people are able to blackmail victims by offering paid recovery of files. The cost is not specified - these details are provided via email. It is also stated that payment must be submitted using the Bitcoin cryptocurrency. Additionally, victims are permitted to attach up to five selected files (up to 4 MB in total, non-archived). These are then restored and returned as a 'guarantee' that decryption is possible and that these people can be trusted. Be aware, however, that cyber criminals are very likely to ignore victims once payments are submitted. Therefore, no matter what the cost, do not pay. Unfortunately, there are no tools capable of cracking Acton 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:

Acton decrypt instructions

Acton is virtually identical to Herad, foSTE, JSWRM, Rodentia, and hundreds of ransomware-type infections. Most of these infections encrypt data and make ransom demands. Size of ransom and type of encryption algorithm used are typically the only major differences. Encryptions are typically performed using cryptographies that generate unique decryption keys. Therefore, it is virtually impossible to restore data manually, without developers' involvement. The only possible scenarios are ransomware not being fully developed or having certain bugs/flaws (e.g., the key is stored locally, is hard-coded, or similar). Ransomware presents a strong case for maintaining regular backups, however, store them on a remote server or unplugged storage device. Locally stored backups are encrypted together with regular files. Note that there is always a chance that servers/storage devices can be damaged. Therefore, have multiple backup copies stored in different locations.

How did ransomware infect my computer?

Ransomware is usually distributed using the following tools/methods: spam email campaigns, third party software download sources, trojans, and fake software updaters and 'cracks'. Cyber criminals employ spam campaigns to send hundreds of thousands of deceptive emails encouraging recipients to open attachments (links/files) that are malicious. Typically these attachments are presented as 'important documents' in attempts to give the impression of legitimacy and increase the chance of tricking recipients. Unofficial download sources (free file hosting sites, freeware download websites, Peer-to-Peer [P2P] networks, and similar) are used to proliferate malware by presenting it as legitimate software. In this way, users simply end up manually downloading and installing malware. Trojans are essentially malicious applications designed to cause so-called "chain infections". Therefore, they stealthily infiltrate computers and inject them with additional malware. Fake software updaters typically infect computers by exploiting outdated software bugs/flaws or simply downloading and installing malware rather than any updates. The same applies to fake 'cracking tools', which inject malware rather than activating paid applications free of charge. In summary, the main reasons for computer infections are poor knowledge of these threats and careless behavior.

Threat Summary:
Name Acton virus
Threat Type Ransomware, Crypto Virus, Files locker
Encrypted Files Extension .Acton (this ransomware also appends filenames with the victim's unique ID and developer's email address).
Ransom Demanding Message info.hta, info.txt files
Cyber Criminal Contact b.morningtonjones@aol.com, dennet.smellie@aol.com
Detection Names Avast (Win32:Evo-gen [Susp]), BitDefender (Gen:Variant.Ulise.39944), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of Win32/Filecoder.Phobos.C), 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 Acton 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 ransomware infections, be very cautious when browsing the Internet and downloading/updating/installing software. Handle all email attachments with care. Files/links received from suspicious email addresses should never be opened. Attachments that are irrelevant or do not concern you should be ignored. Proper software maintenance is extremely important. Keep installed applications/operating systems up-to-date, however, use only implemented functions or tools provided by the official developer. The same applies to software downloads - your programs should be downloaded only from the official sources, preferably using direct download links. Third party downloaders/updaters/installers often include rogue apps, and thus these tools should never be used. Bear in mind that software piracy is a cyber crime and the risk of infection is extremely high, since most cracking tools are fake. Therefore, never attempt to activate software using third party/illegal tools. Finally, have a reputable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed and running, since this will detect and eliminate infections before the system is harmed. The key to computer safety is caution. If your computer is already infected with Acton, we recommend running a scan with Spyhunter for Windows to automatically eliminate this ransomware.

Text presented in Acton ransomware pop-up window ("info.hta"):

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 b.morningtonjones@aol.com
Write this ID in the title of your message 1E857D00-1091
In case of no answer in 24 hours write us to this e-mail:dennet.smellie@aol.com
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 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 4Mb (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 Acton text file ("info.txt"):

Acton text file

Text presented within this text file:

!!!All of your files are encrypted!!!
To decrypt them send e-mail to this address: b.morningtonjones@aol.com.
If we don't answer in 24h., send e-mail to this address: dennet.smellie@aol.com

Screenshot of files encrypted by Acton (".Acton" extension):

Files encrypted by Acton

Acton ransomware removal:

Instant automatic removal of Acton 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 Acton 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 Acton 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 Acton 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 Acton 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 Acton 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 Acton, 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 Acton 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 Acton 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
Acton 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 Acton virus on your mobile device.
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