How to remove Kharma ransomware from the operating system

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

Kharma ransomware removal instructions

What is Kharma?

Kharma is designed to encrypt data and demand ransom payments for decryption. It was discovered by Raby and is a new variant of Dharma/Crysis ransomware. When Kharma encrypts data, all affected files are appended with a unique ID number, the developer's email address, and the ".kharma" extension. For example, "1.jpg" might appear as something similar to "1.jpg.id-C15006EA.[teammarcy10@cock.li].kharma" after encryption. When this process is complete, two files ("Info.hta" and "RETURN FILES.txt") are stored on the victim's desktop.

The text file informs users that their data has been encrypted, and to return it to its original state, they must contact the cyber criminals behind Kharma. Text presented in the pop-up window, displayed by the HTML application, claims that the data has been encrypted with the RSA-2048 cryptographic algorithm. Victims are to contact the developers of this malware via the email addresses listed. The emails users send must contain their unique IDs (provided in "Info.hta" and within the filename of each compromised file). If no response is forthcoming, an alternative email address can be used. The ransom message urges users not to delay in establishing contact, since the keys necessary for decryption might be overwritten by other keys (they are urged to hurry, otherwise decryption supposedly becomes impossible). As 'proof' that recovery is possible, free decryption of up to five files is offered. The total size of these files cannot exceed 10 MB (non-archived) and contain no valuable information, such as databases, backups, large excel sheets or similar. The size of ransom is not stated, but must be paid in the Bitcoin cryptocurrency and transferred to the criminals' cryptowallet address. After this transaction is made, decryption software, detailed instructions about how to use it, and unique decryption keys are apparently sent. The message ends with warnings, which instruct users that renaming the encrypted files or attempted decryption with third party software might cause permanent data loss. In most cases of ransomware infections, manual decryption (without the involvement of ransomware developers) is impossible, unless, in rare cases, the malicious program is still in development and/or has certain flaws. Regardless, you are strongly advised against meeting any ransom demands. Despite paying, victims do not receive the promised decryption tools/keys and their data remains encrypted (essentially, damaged beyond repair). To prevent Kharma from further encryption, remove it from the system. Note, however, that removal will not restore already affected files. Data can be restored from a backup, if one was made prior to the infection and stored in a different location.

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

Kharma decrypt instructions

SpartCrypt, SySS, DoppelPaymer, and Mbed are some examples of malicious programs similar to Kharma. All ransomware encrypts data and demands payment for decryption tools/software, however, infections differ by cryptographic algorithm (symmetric or asymmetric) used for encryption and ransom size. Digital currencies (mainly cryptocurrencies) are used for these payments, since transactions of this nature are difficult/impossible to trace. To ensure data safety, keep backups on unplugged storage devices and/or remote severs. Ideally, several backup copies should be stored in separate locations.

How did ransomware infect my computer?

Ransomware and other malware typically proliferates through trojans, spam campaigns, untrustworthy download sources, software "cracking" (activation) tools and fake updaters. Trojans are a type of malware, designed to download/install additional malicious content. The term "spam campaign" defines deceptive emails sent on a massive scale. These messages are usually disguised as "important", "official", "urgent" and under similar labels. They have infectious files attached (or links leading to them), which can be in various formats: executable and archive files, Microsoft Office and PDF documents, JavaScript and so on. When dangerous files are executed, run or otherwise opened, the infection process starts. Download channels such as unofficial and free file-hosting websites, P2P sharing networks (BitTorrent, Gnutella, eMule, etc.) and other third party downloaders can contain malicious content. Software "cracking" tools can infect systems, rather than activate licensed products. Fake updaters abuse weaknesses present in outdated programs and/or simply install malware rather than updates.

Threat Summary:
Name Kharma virus
Threat Type Ransomware, Crypto Virus, Files locker.
Encrypted Files Extension .kharma (files are also appended with a unique ID and the developer's email address).
Ransom Demanding Message Info.hta and RETURN FILES.txt
Cyber Criminal Contact teammarcy10@cock.li and justbtcwillhelpu@firemail.cc
Detection Names McAfee (Artemis!A7ED8D2F9825), Emsisoft (Gen:Heur.MSIL.Androm.1 (B)), Arcabit (Trojan.MSIL.Androm.1), CrowdStrike Falcon (Win/malicious_confidence_100% (W)), 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)

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How to protect yourself from ransomware infections

Suspicious and/or irrelevant emails should not be opened. This extends to attachments (or links) found in them - these files must never be opened, as they are the source of a potential infection. You are strongly advised to use only official and verified download channels. Programs should be activated and updated with tools/functions provided by legitimate developers. Due to high risk of malware installation, illegal activation tools ("cracks") and third party updaters should be avoided. Have a reputable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed and kept up-to-date. Use it to perform regular system scans and for the removal of detected threats/issues. If your computer is already infected with Kharma, we recommend running a scan with Malwarebytes for Windows to automatically eliminate this ransomware.

Text presented in Kharma ransomware HTML application ("Info.hta"):

ALL FILES ENCRYPTED "RSA2048"
All YOUR FILES HAVE BEEN ENCRYPTED!!! IF YOU WANT TO RESTORE THEM, WRITE US TO THE E-MAIL teammarcy10@cock.li
IN THE LETTER WRITE YOUR ID, YOUR ID C15006EA
IF YOU ARE NOT ANSWERED, WRITE TO EMAIL: justbtcwillhelpu@firemail.cc
YOUR SECRET KEY WILL BE STORED ON A SERVER 7 DAYS, AFTER 7 DAYS IT MAY BE OVERWRITTEN BY OTHER KEYS, DON'T PULL TIME, WAITING YOUR EMAIL
FREE DECRYPTION FOR PROOF
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.)
DECRYPTION PROCESS:
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 instuction for decryption.
3. And individual keys for decryption your files.
!WARNING!
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 Kharma text file ("RETURN FILES.txt"):

Kharma text file

Text presented in this file:

All your data is encrypted!
for return write to mail:
teammarcy10@cock.li or justbtcwillhelpu@firemail.cc 

Screenshot of files encrypted by Kharma (".kharma" extension):

Files encrypted by Kharma

Kharma 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:

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: Disconnecting computer from the Internet (step 1)

Click the "Change adapter settings" option in the upper-left corner of the window: Disconnecting computer from the Internet (step 2)

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". Disconnecting computer from the Internet (step 3)

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": Ejecting external storage devices

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).

Identify ransomware-type infection (step 1)

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).

Identify ransomware-type infection (step 2)

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).

Identify ransomware-type infection (step 3)

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):

Identify ransomware-type infection (step 4)

Example 2 (.iso [Phobos] ransomware):

Identify ransomware-type infection (step 5)

If your data happens to be encrypted by a ransomware that is not supported by ID Ransomware, you can always try searching the internet by using certain keywords (for example, ransom message title, file extension, provided contact emails, cryptowallet 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, cyber criminals 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.

Searching for ransomware decryption tools in nomoreransom.org website

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 EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Pro. 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).

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EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Pro

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Step 1: Perform a scan.

Hover your mouse over the partition you wish to scan and select "Scan". You can also select a specific folder, or click shortcut icons to scan the Desktop or Recycle Bin: Scanning the storage drive with EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard PRO (step 1)

Wait for EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Pro 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 hundreds 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: Scanning the storage drive with EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard PRO (step 2)

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. Note also that the trial version of EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Pro is only capable of scanning drives and listing recoverable files - to restore them, you must purchase a license: Recovering data with EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Pro

Step 3: Save the scan session (optional).

We recommend that you save the scanning session once you have completed recovery, in case you decide to recover additional files later. Simply click the "Save Scan Session" icon in the upper-right corner of the screen and choose the location for the file to be saved. This will save a lot of time, since you will not need to re-scan the storage drive the next time you wish to restore something. Bear in mind, however, that data removed after the scanning session has finished will not be listed: Saving scan session in EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Pro

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 necessary information on Microsoft's documentation web page.

Data backups: The most reliable backup method 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 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. Therefore, you should consider using an application to create data backups locally.

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EaseUS Todo Backup

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We recommend using the EaseUS Todo Backup application. The "Home" edition of EaseUS Todo Backup is usually more than adequate for regular users, however, the "Business" edition is more suitable for companies and large computer networks. The EaseUS Todo Backup application provides extensive data protection features. You can easily create backups, and encrypt and compress them for enhanced protection and storage saving purposes. It also allows you to set backup schedules, create bootable devices, and restore the system if a crash occurs. You can easily choose where to store the created backup: locally; uploaded to an external drive; FTP; cloud storage, or elsewhere. In summary, EaseUS Todo Backup is an all-in-one tool, which provides all features required to properly backup your data.

Creating a data backup:

The backup process is virtually identical regardless of the item (file, partition, entire system) you wish to backup. Taking the File Backup feature as an example:

Step 1: Choose which item to backup.

Click on the "Menu" icon in the upper-left corner of the screen to reveal the menu and select "File Backup": Creating data backups with EaseUS Todo Backup tool (step 1)

Select the files you want to backup. You can also enter a name and description of the backup that will be created: Creating data backups with EaseUS Todo Backup tool (step 2)

Step 2: Change the default settings.

The EaseUS Todo Backup application provides a variety of additional options that can be added/modified while creating the backup. For example, you can encrypt data (add a password), select the compression rate (how much the backup should be compressed), performance (how many system resources should be allocated), add an email notification (you receive an email once the process is complete) and so on.

To open the options window, click the "Backup options" button in the lower-left corner of the screen: Creating data backups with EaseUS Todo Backup tool (step 3)

Select the settings you want to change and click "Save". You can also reset your changes by clicking "Reset to initial settings": Creating data backups with EaseUS Todo Backup tool (step 4)

Step 3: Select the backup destination.

As mentioned above, EaseUS Todo Backup allows you to choose where backups are saved - locally or externally.

Click the "Browse..." button and select the location you want the backup to be saved: Creating data backups with EaseUS Todo Backup tool (step 5)

Step 4: Safety measures and process completion.

Depending on the location you have chosen, there are a number of measures you should or should not take. If you are uploading to an internet-connected location (for example, Cloud storage, FTP, etc.), be sure to maintain your internet connection, otherwise you will have to start again. The same applies to external storage devices - do not unplug them until the process is complete.

The progress bar displays estimated time remaining until completion. Large backups (hundreds of gigabytes) can take hours to create (depending on storage device speed, internet connection, etc.). Therefore, the application also allows you to optionally choose what the system should do (shut down, sleep or hibernate) once the process has finished: Creating data backups with EaseUS Todo Backup tool (step 6)

The best way to avoid damage from ransomware infections is to maintain regular up-to-date backups.

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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Global malware activity level today:

Medium threat activity

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

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