How to remove PAY (Dharma) ransomware from the operating system?

Also Known As: PAY (Dharma) virus
Distribution: Low
Damage level: Severe

PAY (Dharma) ransomware removal instructions

What is PAY (Dharma)?

PAY is the name of a malicious program, belonging to the Dharma ransomware family. Systems infected with it - have their data encrypted and receive ransom demands for the decryption tools/software. As PAY (Dharma) ransomware encrypts, all affected files are are appended with a unique ID, cyber criminals' email address and the ".PAY" extension. For example, a file originally titled "1.jpg" would appear as something similar to "[].PAY" - following encryption. After this process is complete, ransom notes - in the shape of a text file "FILES ENCRYPTED.txt" and a pop-up window - are created.

The text file "FILES ENCRYPTED.txt" states that the victims' data has been locked. If they wish to return it to its original state, users are told to write to the email addresses provided. The text presented in the pop-up is more informative. It clarifies that the files have been encrypted. Additionally, should the cyber criminals fail to respond within twelve hours - victims are instructed to use the alternative email address. This note ends with warnings, which alert users that renaming the encrypted files and/or attempting decryption with third party decryption tools/software - can result in permanent data loss. Unfortunately, in most cases of ransomware infections, without the interference of individuals responsible - decryption is impossible. It might be, if the malware in question is still in development and/or has bugs/flaws. Whatever the case, it strongly advised against meeting the demands of cyber criminals. Since, often despite paying - victims do not receive the necessary tools to recover their data. Therefore, their files remain encrypted and worthless, but they also experience financial losses. To prevent PAY (Dharma) from further encryptions, it is necessary to remove it from the operating system. However, removal will not restore already compromised data. The only viable solution is recovering it from a backup, if one was created before the infection and was stored in a separate location.

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

PAY (Dharma) decrypt instructions (pop-up)

SelfNcovCXK NMSLBadutClowns TeamBlend are a couple examples of other ransomware. Malicious software under this classification is designed to encrypt data and demand payment for the decryption. These programs/infections have two significant differences: the cryptographic algorithm they use (symmetric or asymmetric) and the size of the ransom. The latter usually range between three and four digit sums. Cyber criminals tend to prefer digital currencies (e.g. cryptocurrencies, pre-paid vouchers, etc.), due to transactions of them being difficult/impossible to trace. To ensure data safety, it is recommended to keep backups in remote severs and/or unplugged storage devices. It is best to store backup copies in several different locations.

How did ransomware infect my computer?

Ransomware and other malware infections primarily originate from spam campaigns, trojans, illegal activation ("cracking") tools, illegitimate updates and untrustworthy download channels. The term "spam campaign" is used to define deceptive/scam emails sent on a mass scale. These letters are typically disguised as "important", "official", "urgent" and similar. They have infectious files attached to them or contain download links of such. Virulent files come in a variety of formats (e.g. PDF and Microsoft Office, executable and archive files, JavaScript, etc.) and when they are executed, run or otherwise opened it initiates the infection (i.e. download/installation of malware). Trojans are malicious programs with various abilities, which can contain the ability to cause chain infections. Rather than activate licensed product, illegal activation tools can download/install malicious software. Fake updaters infect systems by abusing weaknesses of outdated programs and/or install malware instead of the promised updates. Untrustworthy download sources (e.g. unofficial and free file-hosting sites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks and other third party downloaders) - can offer malicious content, presented as or bundled with ordinary products.

Threat Summary:
Name PAY (Dharma) virus
Threat Type Ransomware, Crypto Virus, Files locker
Encrypted Files Extension .PAY (files are also appended with a unique ID and cyber criminals' email addresses)
Ransom Demanding Message FILES ENCRYPTED.txt and text presented in the pop-up window
Cyber Criminal Contact and
Detection Names Avast (Win32:RansomX-gen [Ransom]), BitDefender (Trojan.Ransom.Crysis.E), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of Win32/Filecoder.Crysis.P), Kaspersky (, 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.

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How to protect yourself from ransomware infections?

It is recommended to never read suspicious and/or irrelevant emails, especially ones received from unknown/suspect senders. Any attachments or links found in dubious mail - must never be opened, as doing so can result in an infection. All downloads should be done from official and verified sources. Programs should be activated and updated using functions/tools, provided by genuine developers. It is ill-advised to use illegal activation tools ("cracks") and third party downloaders - as they are often used to proliferate malware. It is paramount to have a dependable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed. Furthermore, this software should be kept updated, used to run system scans and to remove detected/potential threats. If your computer is already infected with PAY (Dharma), we recommend running a scan with Spyhunter for Windows to automatically eliminate this ransomware.

Text presented in PAY (Dharma) ransomware's pop-up window:

Don't worry,you can return all your files!
If you want to restore them, follow this link:email YOUR ID 1E857D00
If you have not been answered via the link within 12 hours, write to us by
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 PAY (Dharma)'s text file ("FILES ENCRYPTED.txt"):

PAY (Dharma) ransomware text file (FILES ENCRYPTED.txt)

Text presented in this file:

all your data has been locked us
You want to return?
write email or 

Screenshot of files encrypted by PAY (Dharma) (".PAY" extension):

Files encrypted by PAY (Dharma) ransomware (.PAY extension)

PAY (Dharma) ransomware removal:

Instant automatic malware removal: 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 malware. 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 PAY (Dharma) 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 PAY (Dharma) 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 PAY (Dharma) 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 PAY (Dharma) 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 PAY (Dharma), 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 PAY (Dharma) 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, and 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 PAY (Dharma) 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 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
PAY (Dharma) virus QR code
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