How to uninstall Mzlq ransomware from a computer?

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

Mzlq ransomware removal instructions

What is Mzlq?

Mzlq is one of the malicious programs that are part of the Djvu ransomware family. It renames all encrypted files by appending the ".mzlq" extension. For example, it changes a file named "1.jpg" to "1.jpg.mzlq", "2.jpg" to "2.jpg.mzlq", and so on. Instructions on how to contact Mzlq's developers, price of a decryption and some other details are provided in the "_readme.txt". Mzlq drops this text file (ransom) note in every folder that contains encrypted files.

As explained in the "_readme.txt" ransom notes, files can be decrypted with a decryption tool and unique key that cost $980. However, victims can purchase decryption tools with a 50% discount. To be able to buy them for $490 they supposed to contact Mzlq's developers in 72 hours after encryption. It can be done by writing an email to helpmanager@mail.ch or restoremanager@firemail.cc, victims have to include the assigned ID as well. Also, an email can contain one encrypted file, Mzlq's developers offer to decrypt it for free. Typically, cyber criminals behind a particular ransomware are the only ones who have the tools that can decrypt files encrypted by it. Although, it is strongly recommended not to pay a ransom even if it is impossible to access, use files. It is because cyber criminals often do not send a decryption tool and/or key even after transaction. Simply said, victims who trust cyber criminals (pay them a ransom) tend to get scammed. In most cases the only way to recover files for free is to restore them from an existing backup. It is worthwhile to mention that ransomware can be stopped from causing possible further encryptions by uninstalling it from a computer. Although, files remain encrypted even after that.

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

Mzlq decrypt instructions (_readme.txt)

More examples of ransomware are .NET (Dharma), M0rphine and Sqpc. Usually, programs of this type designed to block victims from accessing their files by encrypting them and create (and/or display) ransom note (or notes) that contains instructions on how to contact cyber criminals, pay a ransom and/or other details. Price of a decryption tool and/or key and cryptographic algorithm (symmetric or asymmetric) that ransomware uses to encrypt data are two main and most common variable. Unfortunately, in most cases ransomware encrypts data with a strong encryption algorithm and it is impossible to decrypt files without tools that only cyber criminals behind that malware have. It is possible only if ransomware is not finished, has some bugs, flaws. Since it does not happen, it is recommended to always have data backed up and keep it on a remote server and/or unplugged storage device.

How did ransomware infect my computer?

It is unknown how cyber criminals distribute this ransomware. However, in most cases programs of this type (and other types of malware) are distributed through spam campaigns, fake software updaters, untrustworthy download channels, tools, unofficial software activation tools and Trojans. Cyber criminals often attempt to trick users into installing malware by sending emails that contain malicious attachments (or website links designed to open malicious websites/download malicious files). Their main purpose is to deceive users into opening a malicious file that is designed to install malicious software. Some examples of files that they attach to their emails are Microsoft Office documents, archives (like ZIP, RAR), PDF documents, JavaScript files, and executable files like .exe. Unofficial updating tools often are designed to cause installation of malicious software instead of updating installed programs, or to exploit bugs, flaws of some outdated software. Examples of untrustworthy software download channels are Peer-to-Peer networks (e.g., torrent clients, eMule), various free file hosting, freeware download websites, third party downloaders, unofficial pages, etc. It is common that such channels are used to distribute malicious files. Users who download files and programs through channels of this kind risk to download malicious files that, when opened, would infect computer with some high-risk malware. Software 'cracking' tools are programs that supposed to activate licensed software for free. However, instead of bypassing activations they often install malicious software. Trojans are programs that can be designed to spread various malware too. When installed, they can cause installation of additional malware.

Threat Summary:
Name Mzlq virus
Threat Type Ransomware, Crypto Virus, Files locker
Encrypted Files Extension .mzlq
Ransom Demanding Message _readme.txt
Ransom Amount $980/$490
Cyber Criminal Contact helpmanager@mail.ch, restoremanager@firemail.cc
Detection Names Avast (Win32:DropperX-gen [Drp]), AVG (Win32:DropperX-gen [Drp]), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of Win32/GenKryptik.EKKD), Kaspersky (Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Stop.mq), 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.
Additional Information This malware is designed to show a fake Windows Update window and modify the Windows "hosts" file to prevent users from accessing cyber security websites (more information below).
Distribution methods Infected email attachments (macros), torrent websites, malicious ads, unofficial activation and updating tools.
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?

It is recommended not to open attachments (and/or website links) in irrelevant emails and/or emails received from unknown, suspicious addresses. It is common that cyber criminals disguise their emails as important, official. All files and programs should be downloaded from official, trustworthy websites. Unofficial websites, various third party downloaders, installers and other channels of this kind (more examples are mentioned above) should not be trusted. Software and operating system must be updated and activated (if necessary) through implemented functions and/or tools that are designed by official developers. Third party tools often are designed to spread malware. Also, it is not legal activate licensed software with various unofficial activation, 'cracking' tools. It is recommended to scan the operating system for threats regularly and do that by using a reputable antivirus or anti-spyware software. Security software should be always up to date. If your computer is already infected with Mzlq, we recommend running a scan with Malwarebytes for Windows to automatically eliminate this ransomware.

Text presented in Mzlq ransomware's text file ("_readme.txt"):

ATTENTION!

Don't worry, you can return all your files!
All your files like photos, databases, documents and other important are encrypted with strongest encryption and unique key.
The only method of recovering files is to purchase decrypt tool and unique key for you.
This software will decrypt all your encrypted files.
What guarantees you have?
You can send one of your encrypted file from your PC and we decrypt it for free.
But we can decrypt only 1 file for free. File must not contain valuable information.
You can get and look video overview decrypt tool:
https://we.tl/t-PHmSJZS9ey
Price of private key and decrypt software is $980.
Discount 50% available if you contact us first 72 hours, that's price for you is $490.
Please note that you'll never restore your data without payment.
Check your e-mail "Spam" or "Junk" folder if you don't get answer more than 6 hours.


To get this software you need write on our e-mail:
helpmanager@mail.ch

Reserve e-mail address to contact us:
restoremanager@firemail.cc

Your personal ID:
-

Screenshot of files encrypted by Mzlq (".mzlq" extension):

Files encrypted by Mzlq ransomware (.mzlq extension)

Screenshot of fake Windows update pop-up displayed during the encryption:

Fake Windows pop-up displayed by Mzlq during the encryption

IMPORTANT NOTE! - As well as encrypting data, ransomware-type infections from the Djvu malware family also add a number of entries to the Windows "hosts" file. The entries contain URLs of various websites, most of which are related to malware removal. This is done to prevent users from accessing malware security websites and seeking help. Our website (PCrisk.com) is also on the list. Removing these entries, however, is simple - you can find detailed instructions in this article (note that, although the steps are shown in the Windows 10 environment, the process is virtually identical on all versions of the Microsoft Windows operating system).

Screenshot of websites added to Windows hosts file:

Tro Ransomware adding websites to Windows Hosts file

There are currently two versions of Djvu ransomware infections: old and new. The old versions were designed to encrypt data by using a hard-coded "offline key" whenever the infected machine had no internet connection or the server was timing out/not responding. Therefore, some victims were able to decrypt data using a tool developed by cyber security researcher, Michael Gillespie, however, since the encryption mechanism has been slightly changed (hence the new version, released in August, 2019), the decrypter no longer works and it is not supported anymore. If your data has been encrypted by an older version, you might be able to restore it with the another tool developed by Emsisoft and Michael Gillespie. It supports a total of 148 Djvu's variants and you can find more information, as well as download link and decryption instructions in Emsisoft's official page.

Screenshot of Djvu decryption tool by Emsisoft and Michael Gillespie:

Djvu ransomware decrypter by Michael Gillespie and Emsisoft

Additionally, Emsisoft is now providing a service that allows to decrypt data (again, only if it was encrypted by Djvu variants released before August, 2019) for those victims who have a pair of the same file before and after the encryption. All victims have to do is upload a pair of original and encrypted file to Emsisoft's Djvu decryption page and download the aforementioned decryption tool (the download link will be provided after uploading files). Note that the file processing may take some time so be patient. It is also worth mentioning that the system must have an Internet connection during the entire decryption process, otherwise it will fail.

Screenshot of Emsisoft's Djvu decryption service page:

Djvu ransomware decryption service by Emsisoft

Mzlq 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 Mzlq 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 Mzlq 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 Mzlq 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 Mzlq 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 Mzlq, 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 Mzlq 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 Mzlq 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.

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