How to eliminate Protect ransomware from a computer?

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

Protect ransomware removal instructions

What is Protect ransomware?

Protect (Hydra) encrypts files, changes their filenames and creates a ransom note. It renames all encrypted files by appending the ".protect" extension to their filenames. For example, it renames a file named "1.jpg" to "1.jpg.protect", "2.jpg" to "2.jpg.protect", and so on. Instructions on how to contact cyber criminals who designed this ransomware (and some other information) are provided in a text file named "===__________HOW DECRYPT MY FILES__________===.txt".

As explained in a ransom note (the ===__________HOW DECRYPT MY FILES__________===.txt" file), Protect ransomware encrypts files using asymmetric cryptography, AES-256 cryptographic algorithm. The only way to decrypt files is by using a decryption tool and private key that can be purchased from Protect's developers. In order to get instructions on how to purchase them victims have to contact these cyber criminals by writing them an email to fixprotectvvv@protonmail.com and providing the "Network ID" which can be found in a ransom note. Victims are encouraged to contact Protect's developers in 48 hours because after that they will delete the provided email address and it will be impossible to contact them. Simply said, cyber criminals warn victims that after 48 hours they will not be able to purchase a decryption tool and recover their files. Typically, cyber criminals behind a particular ransomware are the only ones who have tools that can decrypt victim's files. However, they cannot be trusted. Quite often victims do not receive a decryption tool and/or key even if meet all their demands (contact them, pay a ransom). In most cases the only way to recover files for without having to pay a ransom and risking to get scammed is to restore them from a backup. Victims who uninstall ransomware from a computer do not make encrypted files accessible, they remain encrypted. However, by uninstalling it they prevent it from causing further encryptions.

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

Protect decrypt instructions (===__________HOW DECRYPT MY FILES__________===.txt)

Protect is quite similar to most other programs of this type. Here are some examples of other ransomware: Sekhmet, Taargo and .2020. In most cases they are designed to prevent victims from using their files by encrypting them and provide instructions on how to contact cyber criminals, pay a ransom and/or other details. Typically, two most common (and main) variables are price of a decryption and cryptographic algorithm (symmetric or asymmetric) that is used to lock (encrypt) data. Unfortunately, it is very common that victims cannot decrypt files without tools that only cyber who designed a particular ransomware have. It is possible only if their program is still a development state, is not finished, has some bugs, flaws, etc. Since it does not happen often, it is recommended to always have data backed up and store it on a remote server like Cloud and/or unplugged storage device.

How did ransomware infect my computer?

One of the most popular ways to proliferate ransomware and other malware by sending emails that contain malicious attachments or website links that are designed to download malicious files. In most cases cyber criminals send emails that contain some alicious Microsoft Office, PDF document, executable file like .exe, archive file like ZIP, RAR, or JavaScript file. Malware gets installed when recipients open (execute) a malicious file/attachment. Another way to spread malicious software is by deceiving users into installing some Trojan. It is a type of malicious software that can be designed to cause chain infections. In other words, to install more malicious programs. Fake software updaters can be used to distribute malware too. If used, they infect system by installing malicious software instead of updating installed software, or by exploiting bugs, flaws of outdated software. Untrustworthy software download channels like freeware download websites, free file hosting pages, Peer-to-Peer networks (e.g., torrents, eMule), various third party downloaders, installers are often used as tools to host, upload malicious files. Users who download software and files through the risk to download some malicious file that, if opened/executed would cause installation of high-risk malware. One more way to unintentionally install ransomware other type of malware is by using unofficial activation ('cracking') tools to activate licensed programs. Tools of this type supposed to bypass activations, nevertheless, quite often they are designed tp cause installation of some malicious software.

Threat Summary:
Name Protect virus
Threat Type Ransomware, Crypto Virus, Files locker
Encrypted Files Extension .protect
Ransom Demanding Message ===__________HOW DECRYPT MY FILES__________===.txt
Cyber Criminal Contact fixprotectvvv@protonmail.com
Detection Names Avast (Win32:Trojan-gen), BitDefender (Trojan.GenericKD.33579551), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of Win32/Filecoder.OBA), 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.
Malware Removal (Windows)

To eliminate possible malware infections, scan your computer with legitimate antivirus software. Our security researchers recommend using Malwarebytes.
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How to protect yourself from ransomware infections?

Attachments and/or website links in irrelevant emails should not be trusted (opened). Especially if such emails are received from unknown, suspicious addresses. it is worthwhile to mention that cyber criminals tend to disguise their emails as official, important, and so on. All software and files should be downloaded from official websites. It is not safe to use any other channels (like the ones that are mentioned in the previous paragraph) for that. Also, installed software must be updated and activated (if necessary) through tools or functions that are designed by official developers. Third party, unofficial tools can be designed to install malware. Besides, it is not legal to activate any licensed software with them. One more way to keep computers safe is to regularly scan them for threats with a reputable antivirus or anti-spyware suite and always remove detected threats as soon as possible. If your computer is already infected with Protect, we recommend running a scan with Malwarebytes for Windows to automatically eliminate this ransomware.

Text presented in Protect ransomware's text file ("===__________HOW DECRYPT MY FILES__________===.txt"):

Attention!


Your network has been compromised and all of your data has been encrytped by "Hydra Ransomware" team!
We used strong cryptography include 'Public Key Encryption' for your network and 'AES-256' for each file in order to encrypt your files.
The only way to restore your files is to buy decryptor!

* You must know the worst thing is happened now and you cannot hide our successful attack!
  Understand if payment is not made on time. All your company data will be permanently destroyed.
  Your backups has been fatal and it is just a waste of your precious time if going to try them!

* IF YOU UNDERSTAND THE SITUATION, FOLLOW THE RECOVERY INSTRUCTIONS BELOW

1. Copy your 'Network ID' and send to our email.

   Network ID : V49HC7CQ
   Email      : fixprotectvvv@protonmail.com

2. You will receive a amount and payment order.

3. We will send you decryptor with private key to recovery your files.


* You can ask for 3 free file decryption as proof of work in the first correspondence!
* Time for save your files has limited to 48 hour (from first impact) before we delete our temporary email address!
* Data manipulation cause permanent loss of files!
* Sharing this note with third party or any community cause loss the your only recovery chance

Screenshot of files encrypted by Protect (".protect" extension):

Files encrypted by Protect ransomware (.protect extension)

Protect 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:

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 Protect 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 Protect 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 Protect 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 Protect 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 Protect, 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 Protect 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 Protect 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 malware activity level today:

Medium threat activity

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

QR Code
Protect 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 Protect virus on your mobile device.
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