What is StuardRitchi?
StuardRitchi is a ransomware, belonging to the GlobeImposter ransomware family. It is designed to encrypt files and keep them on lock-down, until a ransom is paid (decryption software/tool is bought). StuardRitchi changes afflicted file extensions into ".crypt", which would make "1.jpg" appear as "1.jpg.crypt" and so on.
It drops an html file, titled "how_to_back_files.html" on victim's desktop, which contains the ransom demanding message. This malicious piece of software was discovered by dnwls0719.
The ransom note states, that to recover their encrypted files, users need to purchase a decryptor. To buy the decryption software/tool victims are told to contact the cyber criminal via email addresses provided. The message further tells the price of (ransom demanded for) the offered decryptor to be 2,500 US dollars in Bitcoin cryptocurrency.
Cryptocurrency, pre-paid vouchers and other digital currencies are demanded as ransom by cyber criminals, due to the fact that they are difficult and/or impossible to trace. To prove the ability of restoring the affected data, the StuardRitchi developers offer to decrypt one file.
They will recover the file, provided if it is of no value - most likely hinting that it must not contain important information (e.g. databases, backups, large excel sheets and etc.). The note also contains a warning, that any user attempts at "cheating" (i.e. restoring their files on their own and etc.) will double the ransom.
This threat is followed by listed details concerning the encryption and the impossibility of the data being manually deciphered, as well as actions victims are prohibited from taking. It must be stressed, that is is against recommendations to meet any demands issued. Such received threats should be ignored and no payments made.
These recommendations are given, due to the fact that despite receiving payments, cyber criminals almost never hold their end of the bargain (i.e. they do not decrypt the encrypted data, therefore damaging it irreparably and making it worthless). The only viable solution is restoring the files from stored backups, if such were made before the attack.
Screenshot of a message encouraging users to pay a ransom to decrypt their compromised data:
Most ransom demanding software share certain traits, some are practically analogous. Ransomwares similar to StuardRitchi are: Money, RSA, TFlower and WannaCry, and many others. All of these malicious programs demand ransoms (payments) and most encrypt files (some bluff about encrypting data).
Crucial differences include ransom size (usually ranging between tree-digit and four-digit sums) and encryption method. Ransomwares use symmetric or asymmetric cryptographic algorithms, that generate unique decryption keys (e.g. AES, RSA and other). Unfortunately, in most cases manual file recovery is impossible.
In the unlikely instances, where a piece of ransomware is still in development and/or has some bugs/flaws - restoring encrypted files may be possible. The only reliable way of protecting data from unauthorized encryption or other data damaging attacks - is by producing backups and keeping them on remote servers or unconnected storage devices.
Since both of these are liable to be affected by various forces (e.g. servers taken down, physical devices damaged and etc.) - it is best to keep multiple backups in several locations.
How did ransomware infect my computer?
The most common ransomware proliferators are spam emails, trojans, third party downloaders, as well as program updaters and various software "cracking" tools. Deceptive emails are spread through spam campaigns, in six-digit numbers and larger. These emails contain virulent attachments (or web-links leading to such), which are employed to download/install malicious software.
Trojans are malignant applications, which operate by infiltrating systems and downloading/installing other malware. Another source of ransomware-type infections are untrustworthy download sources like peer-to-peer sharing networks (BitTorrent, Gnutella, eMule, etc.) and other third party downloaders.
Fake updaters, "cracking" tools and software bundled with malicious content - install malware, instead of serving their advertised purposes.
|Threat Type||Ransomware, Crypto Virus, Files locker|
|Encrypted Files Extension||.crypt|
|Ransom Demanding Message||how_to_back_files.html file|
|Ransom Amount||$2500 in Bitcoins|
|Cyber Criminal Contact||StuardRitchi@tutanota.com, SwaqLtd@protonmail.com|
|Detection Names||Avast (Win32:Trojan-gen), BitDefender (Generic.Ransom.GlobeImposter.817E85C2), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of Win32/Filecoder.FV), Kaspersky (HEUR:Trojan.Win32.Generic), Full List Of Detections (VirusTotal)|
|Symptoms||Can't open files stored on your computer, previously functional files now have a different extension, for example my.docx.locked. A ransom demanding message is displayed on your desktop. Cyber criminals are asking to pay 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 Combo Cleaner.
How to protect yourself from ransomware infections?
It is advised to never open emails received from suspicious and unknown senders (addresses). Any attachments found therein must not be opened/run/executed under any circumstances, web-links - also disregarded. Users should be very cautious, as deceptive emails usually pretend to be important, official, urgent or otherwise highlighted as priority mail.
For all software downloads only official and verified sources should be used. Using peer-to-peer sharing networks and other third party downloaders is against advisement, as they are more likely to offer malignant content and/or content bundled with such.
Programs present on users' devices should be properly maintained and kept up-to-date with features/tools provided by said software developers. "Cracking" tools are considered to be high-risk, as they are often fake and contain malicious abilities, instead of ones designed to allow access to paid software features.
Owning a reputable and reliable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite is highly recommended. Additionally, such programs should be implemented to perform regular system scans and for elimination of possible threats. To ensure device and user safety, it is advised to exercise caution when browsing the Internet and when downloading, installing or updating software.
If your computer is already infected with StuardRitchi, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate this ransomware.
Text presented in StuardRitchi ransomware's html file ("how_to_back_files.html"):
YOUR PERSONAL ID
YOUR FILES ARE ENCRYPTED!
ALL YOUR IMPORTANT DATA HAS BEEN ENCRYPTED.
To recover data you need decryptor.
The cost of the decryptor is 2500 usd. Payment is accepted only in bitcoin (BTC). You can buy bitcoin at your bank or from private currency exchangers.
If you are interested in buying a decryptor, contact me: StuardRitchi@tutanota.com
As a proof of my capabilities, I will decrypt 1 file. The test file should not have value.
Do not try to cheat, otherwise the price will double.
Only StuardRitchi@tutanota.com can decrypt your files
No one in the world can decrypt your data except me. Please do not forget to make a copy before trying to decrypt yourself, otherwise I can not help you
Do not attempt to remove the program or run the anti-virus tools
Decoders other users are not compatible with your data, because each user's unique encryption key
If you have not received a response within 24 hours, please contact us: SwaqLtd@protonmail.com
Screenshot of files encrypted by StuardRitchi (".crypt" extension):
StuardRitchi ransomware removal:
Instant automatic malware removal:
Manual threat removal might be a lengthy and complicated process that requires advanced computer skills. Combo Cleaner is a professional automatic malware removal tool that is recommended to get rid of malware. Download it by clicking the button below:
Video suggesting what steps should be taken in case of a ransomware infection:
- What is StuardRitchi virus?
- STEP 1. Reporting ransomware to authorities.
- STEP 2. Isolating the infected device.
- STEP 3. Identifying the ransomware infection.
- STEP 4. Searching for ransomware decryption tools.
- STEP 5. Restoring files with data recovery tools.
- STEP 6. Creating data backups.
If you are a victim of a ransomware attack we recommend reporting this incident to authorities. By providing information to law enforcement agencies you will help track cybercrime and potentially assist in the prosecution of the attackers. Here's a list of authorities where you should report a ransomware attack. For the complete list of local cybersecurity centers and information on why you should report ransomware attacks, read this article.
List of local authorities where ransomware attacks should be reported (choose one depending on your residence address):
- USA - Internet Crime Complaint Centre IC3
- United Kingdom - Action Fraud
- Spain - Policía Nacional
- France - Ministère de l'Intérieur
- Germany - Polizei
- Italy - Polizia di Stato
- The Netherlands - Politie
- Poland - Policja
- Portugal - Polícia Judiciária
Isolating the infected device:
Some ransomware-type infections are designed to encrypt files within external storage devices, infect them, and even spread throughout the entire local network. For this reason, it is very important to isolate the infected device (computer) as soon as possible.
Step 1: Disconnect from the internet.
The easiest way to disconnect a computer from the internet is to unplug the Ethernet cable from the motherboard, however, some devices are connected via a wireless network and for some users (especially those who are not particularly tech-savvy), disconnecting cables may seem troublesome. Therefore, you can also disconnect the system manually via Control Panel:
Navigate to the "Control Panel", click the search bar in the upper-right corner of the screen, enter "Network and Sharing Center" and select search result:
Click the "Change adapter settings" option in the upper-left corner of the window:
Right-click on each connection point and select "Disable". Once disabled, the system will no longer be connected to the internet. To re-enable the connection points, simply right-click again and select "Enable".
Step 2: Unplug all storage devices.
As mentioned above, ransomware might encrypt data and infiltrate all storage devices that are connected to the computer. For this reason, all external storage devices (flash drives, portable hard drives, etc.) should be disconnected immediately, however, we strongly advise you to eject each device before disconnecting to prevent data corruption:
Navigate to "My Computer", right-click on each connected device, and select "Eject":
Step 3: Log-out of cloud storage accounts.
Some ransomware-type might be able to hijack software that handles data stored within "the Cloud". Therefore, the data could be corrupted/encrypted. For this reason, you should log-out of all cloud storage accounts within browsers and other related software. You should also consider temporarily uninstalling the cloud-management software until the infection is completely removed.
Identify the ransomware infection:
To properly handle an infection, one must first identify it. Some ransomware infections use ransom-demand messages as an introduction (see the WALDO ransomware text file below).
This, however, is rare. In most cases, ransomware infections deliver more direct messages simply stating that data is encrypted and that victims must pay some sort of ransom. Note that ransomware-type infections typically generate messages with different file names (for example, "_readme.txt", "READ-ME.txt", "DECRYPTION_INSTRUCTIONS.txt", "DECRYPT_FILES.html", etc.). Therefore, using the name of a ransom message may seem like a good way to identify the infection. The problem is that most of these names are generic and some infections use the same names, even though the delivered messages are different and the infections themselves are unrelated. Therefore, using the message filename alone can be ineffective and even lead to permanent data loss (for example, by attempting to decrypt data using tools designed for different ransomware infections, users are likely to end up permanently damaging files and decryption will no longer be possible even with the correct tool).
Another way to identify a ransomware infection is to check the file extension, which is appended to each encrypted file. Ransomware infections are often named by the extensions they append (see files encrypted by Qewe ransomware below).
This method is only effective, however, when the appended extension is unique - many ransomware infections append a generic extension (for example, ".encrypted", ".enc", ".crypted", ".locked", etc.). In these cases, identifying ransomware by its appended extension becomes impossible.
One of the easiest and quickest ways to identify a ransomware infection is to use the ID Ransomware website. This service supports most existing ransomware infections. Victims simply upload a ransom message and/or one encrypted file (we advise you to upload both if possible).
The ransomware will be identified within seconds and you will be provided with various details, such as the name of the malware family to which the infection belongs, whether it is decryptable, and so on.
Example 1 (Qewe [Stop/Djvu] ransomware):
Example 2 (.iso [Phobos] ransomware):
If your data happens to be encrypted by ransomware that is not supported by ID Ransomware, you can always try searching the internet by using certain keywords (for example, a ransom message title, file extension, provided contact emails, crypto wallet addresses, etc.).
Search for ransomware decryption tools:
Encryption algorithms used by most ransomware-type infections are extremely sophisticated and, if the encryption is performed properly, only the developer is capable of restoring data. This is because decryption requires a specific key, which is generated during the encryption. Restoring data without the key is impossible. In most cases, cybercriminals store keys on a remote server, rather than using the infected machine as a host. Dharma (CrySis), Phobos, and other families of high-end ransomware infections are virtually flawless, and thus restoring data encrypted without the developers' involvement is simply impossible. Despite this, there are dozens of ransomware-type infections that are poorly developed and contain a number of flaws (for example, the use of identical encryption/decryption keys for each victim, keys stored locally, etc.). Therefore, always check for available decryption tools for any ransomware that infiltrates your computer.
Finding the correct decryption tool on the internet can be very frustrating. For this reason, we recommend that you use the No More Ransom Project and this is where identifying the ransomware infection is useful. The No More Ransom Project website contains a "Decryption Tools" section with a search bar. Enter the name of the identified ransomware, and all available decryptors (if there are any) will be listed.
Restore files with data recovery tools:
Depending on the situation (quality of ransomware infection, type of encryption algorithm used, etc.), restoring data with certain third-party tools might be possible. Therefore, we advise you to use the Recuva tool developed by CCleaner. This tool supports over a thousand data types (graphics, video, audio, documents, etc.) and it is very intuitive (little knowledge is necessary to recover data). In addition, the recovery feature is completely free.
Step 1: Perform a scan.
Run the Recuva application and follow the wizard. You will be prompted with several windows allowing you to choose what file types to look for, which locations should be scanned, etc. All you need to do is select the options you're looking for and start the scan. We advise you to enable the "Deep Scan" before starting, otherwise, the application's scanning capabilities will be restricted.
Wait for Recuva to complete the scan. The scanning duration depends on the volume of files (both in quantity and size) that you are scanning (for example, several hundred gigabytes could take over an hour to scan). Therefore, be patient during the scanning process. We also advise against modifying or deleting existing files, since this might interfere with the scan. If you add additional data (for example, downloading files/content) while scanning, this will prolong the process:
Step 2: Recover data.
Once the process is complete, select the folders/files you wish to restore and simply click "Recover". Note that some free space on your storage drive is necessary to restore data:
Create data backups:
Proper file management and creating backups is essential for data security. Therefore, always be very careful and think ahead.
Partition management: We recommend that you store your data in multiple partitions and avoid storing important files within the partition that contains the entire operating system. If you fall into a situation whereby you cannot boot the system and are forced to format the disk on which the operating system is installed (in most cases, this is where malware infections hide), you will lose all data stored within that drive. This is the advantage of having multiple partitions: if you have the entire storage device assigned to a single partition, you will be forced to delete everything, however, creating multiple partitions and allocating the data properly allows you to prevent such problems. You can easily format a single partition without affecting the others - therefore, one will be cleaned and the others will remain untouched, and your data will be saved. Managing partitions is quite simple and you can find all the necessary information on Microsoft's documentation web page.
Data backups: One of the most reliable backup methods is to use an external storage device and keep it unplugged. Copy your data to an external hard drive, flash (thumb) drive, SSD, HDD, or any other storage device, unplug it and store it in a dry place away from the sun and extreme temperatures. This method is, however, quite inefficient, since data backups and updates need to be made regularly. You can also use a cloud service or remote server. Here, an internet connection is required and there is always the chance of a security breach, although it's a really rare occasion.
We recommend using Microsoft OneDrive for backing up your files. OneDrive lets you store your personal files and data in the cloud, sync files across computers and mobile devices, allowing you to access and edit your files from all of your Windows devices. OneDrive lets you save, share and preview files, access download history, move, delete, and rename files, as well as create new folders, and much more.
You can back up your most important folders and files on your PC (your Desktop, Documents, and Pictures folders). Some of OneDrive’s more notable features include file versioning, which keeps older versions of files for up to 30 days. OneDrive features a recycling bin in which all of your deleted files are stored for a limited time. Deleted files are not counted as part of the user’s allocation.
The service is built using HTML5 technologies and allows you to upload files up to 300 MB via drag and drop into the web browser or up to 10 GB via the OneDrive desktop application. With OneDrive, you can download entire folders as a single ZIP file with up to 10,000 files, although it can’t exceed 15 GB per single download.
OneDrive comes with 5 GB of free storage out of the box, with an additional 100 GB, 1 TB, and 6 TB storage options available for a subscription-based fee. You can get one of these storage plans by either purchasing additional storage separately or with Office 365 subscription.
Creating a data backup:
The backup process is the same for all file types and folders. Here’s how you can back up your files using Microsoft OneDrive
Step 1: Choose the files/folders you want to backup.
Click the OneDrive cloud icon to open the OneDrive menu. While in this menu, you can customize your file backup settings.
Click Help & Settings and then select Settings from the drop-down menu.
Go to the Backup tab and click Manage backup.
In this menu, you can choose to backup the Desktop and all of the files on it, and Documents and Pictures folders, again, with all of the files in them. Click Start backup.
Now, when you add a file or folder in the Desktop and Documents and Pictures folders, they will be automatically backed up on OneDrive.
To add folders and files, not in the locations shown above, you have to add them manually.
Open File Explorer and navigate to the location of the folder/file you want to backup. Select the item, right-click it, and click Copy.
Then, navigate to OneDrive, right-click anywhere in the window and click Paste. Alternatively, you can just drag and drop a file into OneDrive. OneDrive will automatically create a backup of the folder/file.
All of the files added to the OneDrive folder are backed up in the cloud automatically. The green circle with the checkmark in it indicates that the file is available both locally and on OneDrive and that the file version is the same on both. The blue cloud icon indicates that the file has not been synced and is available only on OneDrive. The sync icon indicates that the file is currently syncing.
To access files only located on OneDrive online, go to the Help & Settings drop-down menu and select View online.
Step 2: Restore corrupted files.
OneDrive makes sure that the files stay in sync, so the version of the file on the computer is the same version on the cloud. However, if ransomware has encrypted your files, you can take advantage of OneDrive’s Version history feature that will allow you to restore the file versions prior to encryption.
Microsoft 365 has a ransomware detection feature that notifies you when your OneDrive files have been attacked and guide you through the process of restoring your files. It must be noted, however, that if you don’t have a paid Microsoft 365 subscription, you only get one detection and file recovery for free.
If your OneDrive files get deleted, corrupted, or infected by malware, you can restore your entire OneDrive to a previous state. Here’s how you can restore your entire OneDrive:
1. If you're signed in with a personal account, click the Settings cog at the top of the page. Then, click Options and select Restore your OneDrive.
If you're signed in with a work or school account, click the Settings cog at the top of the page. Then, click Restore your OneDrive.
2. On the Restore your OneDrive page, select a date from the drop-down list. Note that if you're restoring your files after automatic ransomware detection, a restore date will be selected for you.
3. After configuring all of the file restoration options, click Restore to undo all the activities you selected.
The best way to avoid damage from ransomware infections is to maintain regular up-to-date backups.