How to remove NetWalker ransomware from the operating system

Also Known As: NetWalker virus
Distribution: Moderate
Damage level: Severe

NetWalker ransomware removal instructions

What is NetWalker?

NetWalker is an updated variant of Mailto ransomware. Systems infected with this malware suffer data encryption and users receive ransom demands for decryption tools/software. During the encryption process, all compromised files are appended with a random character string extension. For example, a file originally named "1.jpg" could appear as something similar to "1.jpg.3289cf" following encryption. After this process is complete, a ransom message ("[random-string]-Readme.txt") is dropped into every affected folder.

The ransom-demand message informs victims' that their data has been encrypted by Netwalker. The only way to recover the files is by purchasing decryption tools/software from the cyber criminals behind the infection. To achieve this, users are to establish contact with the criminals by opening the malware website (the link is listed in the message) via the Tor browser. This site decryption can be tested by uploading one encrypted file. Victims are also warned that shutting down or rebooting the infected device and/or attempts at manual decryption will result in permanent data loss. More information is provided on the web page concerning the infection, payment, and decryption. The ransom is stated to be 26.50830000 BTC (Bitcoin cryptocurrency), however, should victims fail to pay within the given time, this will double. At the exchange rate at the time of writing, this sum was equivalent to approximately US$230,000 USD (note that exchange rates continually fluctuate). Even when leveraged against large companies, this ransom is significantly larger than the norm, hence making this infection even more suspect, as few people/parties would be willing to pay such an amount. Contrary to the details given in the ransom message, the site actually offers free decryption of three files. These test files cannot be larger than 3 MB and also must be small documents or image files (e.g. .jpg, jpeg, .png, .bmp, .doc, .docx formats). Unfortunately, in many cases of ransomware infections, decryption is impossible without involvement of the cyber criminals, unless the malicious program is still in development and/or has bugs/flaws. Whatever the case, you are strongly advised against paying criminals. Despite meeting the demands, victims do not receive the promised decryption tools. Therefore, they experience financial loss and their data remains encrypted. To prevent NetWalker from further encryption, it must be eliminated from the operating system, however, removal will not restore already affected files. The only viable solution is to recover them from a backup, if one was made prior to the infection and was stored in a separate location.

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

NetWalker decrypt instructions ([random-string]-Readme.txt)

OFFWHITEZorgoCry and Paymen45 are some examples of other ransomware-type programs. They encrypt data and demand payment for decryption. Crucial differences between these programs/infections include the cryptographic algorithm they use (symmetric or asymmetric) and size of the ransom. The latter typically ranges from three to four digit sums. In rare cases, they can reach five digit sums (USD). Cyber criminals tend to demand payments to be made in digital currencies (mainly, cryptocurrencies), since these transactions are difficult/impossible to trace. To avoid data loss, you are advised to keep backups on remote servers and/or unplugged storage devices (preferably, in several different locations).

How did ransomware infect my computer?

Ransomware and other malware is primarily distributed using spam campaigns, Trojans, illegal activation ("cracking") tools, bogus updaters and untrusted download sources. Spam campaigns are used to send deceptive emails on a large scale. This mail has infectious files attached or contains download links of malicious content. Infectious files can be in various formats (e.g. Microsoft Office and PDF documents, archive and executable files, JavaScript, etc.). When they are opened, the infection process is initiated (i.e. download/installation of malware). Some Trojan-type malware can cause chain infections. Rather than activating licensed products, "cracking" tools can download/install malicious software. Fake updaters cause infections by exploiting flaws of outdated products and/or simply by installing malware rather than the promised updates. Malicious content is often downloaded unintentionally from untrusted channels such as unofficial and free file-hosting (freeware) websites, P2P sharing networks (BitTorrent, Gnutella, eMule, etc.) and other third party downloaders.

Threat Summary:
Name NetWalker virus
Threat Type Ransomware, Crypto Virus, Files locker.
Encrypted Files Extension Extension consisting of a random character string.
Ransom Demand Message [random-string]-Readme.txt
Ransom Amount 26.50830000 BTC (Bitcoin cryptocurrency)
Cyber Criminals' Cryptowallet Address 3GJsUPkJpjo3ULFvio9N7Q81yShqQAfxXN (Bitcoin)
Cyber Criminal Contact Chat in the website on Tor network
Detection Names AVG (Other:Malware-gen [Trj]), BitDefender (Trojan.PowerShell.Agent.GV), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of Generik.CMKGJSA), Kaspersky (HEUR:Trojan.PowerShell.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)

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How to protect yourself from ransomware infections

Suspicious and/or irrelevant emails should not be opened, especially those with any attached files or links found within them, due to risk of possible system infections. You are advised to download only from official and verified sources. Additionally, it is important to activate and update products with tools/functions provided by legitimate developers. Using illegal activation tools ("cracks") and third party updaters is not advised, as they often proliferate malware. To ensure device safety, it is paramount to have a reputable anti-virus/anti-spyware installed. Furthermore, this software must be kept updated, used to run regular system scans and to eliminate all detected/potential threats. If your computer is already infected with NetWalker, we recommend running a scan with Malwarebytes for Windows to automatically eliminate this ransomware.

Text presented in NetWalker ransomware text file ("[random-string]-Readme.txt"):

Hi!
Your files are encrypted by Netwalker.
All encrypted files for this computer has extension:

--
If for some reason you read this text before the encryption ended,
this can be understood by the fact that the computer slows down,
and your heart rate has increased due to the ability to turn it off,
then we recommend that you move away from the computer and accept that you have been compromised.
Rebooting/shutdown will cause you to lose files without the possibility of recovery.

--
Our  encryption algorithms are very strong and your files are very well protected,
the only way to get your files back is to cooperate with us and get the decrypter program.

Do not try to recover your files without a decrypter program, you may damage them and then they will be impossible to recover.

For us this is just business and to prove to you our seriousness, we will decrypt you one file for free.
Just open our website, upload the encrypted file and get the decrypted file for free.

--

Steps to get access on our website:

1.Download and install tor-browser: hxxps://torproject.org/

2.Open our website: pb36hu4spl6cyjdfhing7h3pw6dhpk32ifemawkujj4gp33ejzdq3did.onion
If the website is not available, open another one: rnfdsgm6wb6j6su5txkekw4u4y47kp2eatvu7d6xhyn5cs4lt4pdrqqd.onion

3.Put your personal code in the input form:

-

Appearance of NetWalker website (GIF):

NetWalker ransomware website (GIF)

Text presented in this web page:

"Payment" tab:


Your files are encrypted.
Only way to decrypt your files, is buy the decrypter program.
Your user key: 6DAC0A84, write it down and use it to log in again.
The system is fully automated. After payment you will automatically be able to download the decrypter.
Invoice for payment
You have left 3 days 9 hours 28 minutes 20 seconds
Status: Waiting for payment
You can buy the decrypter program for your network.
The amount before the increase is 250000$ (26.50830000 BTC).
If there is no payment before 07.05.20 [15:07], the price will increase by x2 times and will be 500000$ (53.01660000 BTC)
Decrypter for: ALL NETWORK / ALL COMPUTERS / ALL FILES
Bitcoin address: 3GJsUPkJpjo3ULFvio9N7Q81yShqQAfxXN
Amount for payment: 26.50830000 BTC
You payed: 0.00000000 BTC

 

"Free decrypt" tab:


For test we can upload and decrypt 3 images or document files free
File must be less than 3 megabyte.
Allow formats: .jpg, jpeg, .png, .bmp, .doc, .docx

Choose a file or drag it here


"FAQ" tab:


1. Where to buy bitcoin?
1) The fastest and most reliable way is to use the help of Cyber Security IT company, they will be able to solve all questions for you.
2) Buy bitcoins with cash, use google to search for sellers.
You will need a bitcoin wallet, we recommend using it: hxxps://login.blockchain.com/#/signup
3) The slowest way is to buy bitcoin on the exchange. The exchange requires verification, this process may take several days.
List of exchanges:
1) hxxps://localbitcoins.com
2) hxxps://blockchain.com
3) hxxps://www.coindesk.com
4) Other exchange.

 

2. How long after payment will I be able to get the decrypter program?
You will be able to download the decrypter program as soon as Your transaction has more 4 of confirmations.
This usually takes between 30 minutes and 3 hours.
(Depending on the size of the commission. Never specify a zero сommission, use an average/high сommission.)

 

3. I sent a message to the chat, how long to wait for a response?
The average response time to messages is 2 hours.
The maximum response time is 12 hours.

 

4. How can I make sure that you can decrypt my files?
When you log in, your user code or user key is checked and your keys are searched.
If you are logged in, your keys are found.
To make sure, you can decrypt 3 of photos (images) and document files for free in the "free decrypt" section

 

5. How can I make sure That you will give me the decrypter program after payment?
It's just business. We value our name, so after payment you are guaranteed to get the decrypter program.

 

6. How long does it take to decrypt files?
Decryption of files is a very fast process, it all depends on the number of encrypted files, as well as their location HDD/Network.

 

7. What if I can 't decrypt my files after receiving the decrypter program?
This is excluded, Your files will be 100% decrypted.
After payment, you will receive instructions for decryption along with the decrypter program.
We will answer any questions about decrypting files in the chat.
Along with the decrypt program, you get technical support.

 

"Chat" tab:

 

First, read the FAQ. If you still have questions, you can ask them to the operator.

Operator:
Hello! Can i help you?


You:
Hi
I am fail to do payment kindly help me do you have any other address where I can pay

Operator:
I update payment page. Now 1 invoice:
Bitcoin address: 3GJsUPkJpjo3ULFvio9N7Q81yShqQAfxXN
Amount for payment: 26.50830000 BTC

Screenshot of files encrypted by NetWalker (random string extension):

Files encrypted by NetWalker ransomware (random string extension)

Update 15 May 2020 - The developers of NetWalker ransomware have recently started leaking data stolen from their victims. The data is available in their website blog. Only those victims who have not agreed to pay the ransoms have their data leaked. Moreover, developers mostly leak information stolen from various companies, businesses, etc., since these have many more resources than regular home users and thus might eventually agree to pay in exchange for data deletion and removal from the website.

Screenshot of NetWalker ransomware data leaking blog:

NetWalker ransomware developers data leaking website

Update 20 May 2020 - Previously, the group behind NetWalker had mostly relied on phishing tactics to proliferate their ransomware, however, recently their operations have been solely focused on attacking compromised networks of huge enterprises. This group has begun looking for partners with significant experience and already-established access to networks of interest. More information on these developments can be found in an article by Ionut Ilascu on bleepingcomputer.com.

NetWalker ransomware removal:

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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

By downloading any software listed on this website you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. Trial version of EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Pro is capable of scanning drives and listing recoverable files - to restore them, you must purchase a license.

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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