How to uninstall the PlugX remote access trojan?

Also Known As: PlugX remote access trojan
Type: Trojan
Distribution: Low
Damage level: Severe

PlugX virus removal guide

What is the PlugX RAT?

PlugX is a Remote Access Trojan (RAT). Malware classified as such is designed to grant cyber criminals using it remote access and control over the infected device. It has been observed targeting Afghan, American, Russian, Belorussian, Tajikistani, Kazakhstani, Kyrgyzstani users. The attacks have been primarily targeting individuals working in military and diplomatic branches. PlugX trojan has various abilities, which can cause particularly severe issues.

PlugX malware detection on VirusTotal

Some of the primary abilities/functions of PlugX include management of system and personal files, applications, connected hardware, data exfiltration/infiltration and keylogging. It can control the operating system itself, e.g. restart/reboot it and log-off the current user. This malicious program can interact with the Windows Registry. Said database contains parameters, options and other information concerning software and hardware installed on the system. Hence, PlugX can extract this data, also refresh, rename, delete and otherwise modify it. This allows it some level of control over connected hardware, e.g. it can use the webcam to make recordings. The stealthily obtained videos on their own and/or coupled with taken screenshots - can be used for blackmail. This RAT can similarly manage various system/personal files, i.e. copy, move, rename, execute and delete them. As it can both infiltrate files and execute them, it can potentially cause chain infections - download/install additional malware (e.g. ransomware, cryptominers, etc.). PlugX can gather information on running application processes and even terminate them. Keylogging is the ability to record keystrokes. Therefore, any typed information can be stolen by the cyber criminals. Usually, this is used to hijack email, social networking, social media, e-commerce, cryptocurrency, financial and banking accounts. For example, communication accounts can be misused to ask the owner's contacts/friends for loans and/or to infect their systems with malicious software. And e-commerce ones to make online purchases, while cryptocurrency/financial accounts - to make fraudulent transactions. In summary, PlugX RAT can result in serious financial losses, severe privacy issues and identity theft. If it is known/suspected that this (or similar) malware has already infected the system, it is strongly advised to immediately remove it, using an anti-virus program.

Threat Summary:
Name PlugX remote access trojan
Threat Type Trojan, password-stealing virus, banking malware, spyware.
Detection Names Avast (FileRepMalware), BitDefender (Trojan.GenericKD.3613716), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of Win32/Korplug.CV), Kaspersky (Backdoor.Win32.Gulpix.xst), Full List (VirusTotal)
Symptoms Trojans are designed to stealthily infiltrate the victim's computer and remain silent, and thus no particular symptoms are clearly visible on an infected machine.
Distribution methods Infected email attachments, malicious online advertisements, social engineering, software 'cracks'.
Damage Stolen passwords and banking information, identity theft, the victim's computer added to a botnet.
Removal

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FireBirdKoadicBlackNixAp0calypse are a few examples of other remote access trojans. RATs can have various malicious abilities. However, regardless of how they operate, they have but one purpose - to generate revenue for the cyber criminals using them. These programs are deemed to be highly dangerous, therefore such infections necessitate immediate removal.

How did PlugX infiltrate my computer?

PlugX has been proliferated using several different spam campaigns. The term "spam campaign" defines large scale operations, during which thousands of deceptive/scam emails are sent. These letters are typically disguised as "official", "urgent", "important", "priority" and so on. They have infectious files attached to them or contain download links of malicious content. Virulent files can be in various formats (e.g. Microsoft Office and PDF documents, archive and executable files, JavaScript, etc.) and when they are executed, run or otherwise opened - it initiates the infection process (i.e. download/installation of malware). PlugX specifically was spread using malicious Word and PDF documents; these infected systems by exploiting certain weaknesses of Microsoft Office Word and Adobe Acrobat Reader. Other common malware proliferation methods include illegal activation ("cracking") tools, fake updates and untrustworthy download channels. Rather than activate licensed product, "cracks" can download/install malicious software. Illegitimate updaters infect systems by abusing flaws of outdated products and/or by simply installing malware instead of the promised updates. Malicious content can be inadvertently downloaded from unreliable sources, e.g. unofficial and free file-hosting sites, P2P sharing networks (BitTorrent, Gnutella, eMule, etc.) and other third party downloaders.

How to avoid installation of malware?

Dubious and/or irrelevant emails should not be opened, especially ones received from unknown/suspect senders (addresses). Any attached or linked files - must not be opened, as that can trigger download/installation of malware. Additionally, it is recommended to use Microsoft Office versions released after 2010, since they have "Protected View" mode. This mode prevents malicious macro commands from being executed the moment an infectious document is opened. Furthermore, it is important to activate and update products with tools/functions, provided by genuine developers. It is ill-advised to use illegal activation ("cracking") tools and third party updaters, as they are commonly used to proliferate malicious programs. To ensure device integrity and by extension - user safety, it is crucial to have a dependable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed. This software must be kept up-to-date, used to run regular system scans and to remove detected/potential threats. If you believe that your computer is already infected, we recommend running a scan with Spyhunter for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

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.

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How to remove malware manually?

Manual malware removal is a complicated task - usually it is best to allow antivirus or anti-malware programs to do this automatically. To remove this malware we recommend using Spyhunter for Windows. If you wish to remove malware manually, the first step is to identify the name of the malware that you are trying to remove. Here is an example of a suspicious program running on a user's computer:

malicious process running on user's computer sample

If you checked the list of programs running on your computer, for example, using task manager, and identified a program that looks suspicious, you should continue with these steps:

manual malware removal step 1Download a program called Autoruns. This program shows auto-start applications, Registry, and file system locations:

screenshot of autoruns application

manual malware removal step 2Restart your computer into Safe Mode:

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":

 

manual malware removal step 3Extract the downloaded archive and run the Autoruns.exe file.

extract autoruns.zip and run autoruns.exe

manual malware removal step 4In the Autoruns application, click "Options" at the top and uncheck "Hide Empty Locations" and "Hide Windows Entries" options. After this procedure, click the "Refresh" icon.

Click 'Options' at the top and uncheck 'Hide Empty Locations' and 'Hide Windows Entries' options

manual malware removal step 5Check the list provided by the Autoruns application and locate the malware file that you want to eliminate.

You should write down its full path and name. Note that some malware hides process names under legitimate Windows process names. At this stage, it is very important to avoid removing system files. After you locate the suspicious program you wish to remove, right click your mouse over its name and choose "Delete".

locate the malware file you want to remove

After removing the malware through the Autoruns application (this ensures that the malware will not run automatically on the next system startup), you should search for the malware name on your computer. Be sure to enable hidden files and folders before proceeding. If you find the filename of the malware, be sure to remove it.

searching for malware file on your computer

Reboot your computer in normal mode. Following these steps should remove any malware from your computer. Note that manual threat removal requires advanced computer skills. If you do not have these skills, leave malware removal to antivirus and anti-malware programs. These steps might not work with advanced malware infections. As always it is best to prevent infection than try to remove malware later. To keep your computer safe, install the latest operating system updates and use antivirus software.

To be sure your computer is free of malware infections, we recommend scanning it with Spyhunter for Windows.

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.

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