What is Fonix?
Discovered by Michael Gillespie, Fonix (also known as FonixCrypter) ransomware encrypts victims' files, changes the filenames, and creates a ransom message, which is opened in a pop-up window. It renames encrypted files by adding the email@example.com email address, victim's ID, and appends the ".Fonix" extension to filenames.
For example, it would rename a file such as "1.jpg" to "1.jpg.EMAIL=[firstname.lastname@example.org]ID=[1E857D00].Fonix", "2.jpg" to "2.jpg.EMAIL=[email@example.com]ID=[1E857D00].Fonix", and so on. Instructions about how to contact the cyber criminals behind Fonix (and other details) are provided in the "# How To Decrypt Files #.hta" file.
The ransom message states that this ransomware encrypts files using the Salsa20 encryption algorithm and RSA 4098 key. To get a decryption key, victims are urged pay cyber criminals a certain sum via the Bitcoin cryptocurrency.
To get instructions about how to purchase the key, they must send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org within 48 hours of the Fonix attack, since after this period the cost will double. Before making payment, victims are invited to send one encrypted file free of charge for decryption, however, it is stated that the file must not contain valuable data.
Victims are warned not to delete or rename any encrypted files, or try to decrypt them with other software, since this will permanently damage the data. Unfortunately, there are no tools that can decrypt files compromised by Fonix. Only the cyber criminals behind specific ransomware hold decryption software/keys.
Despite this, cyber criminals should never be trusted or paid - victims who pay the ransoms do not receive any decryption tools/keys and they are scammed. Typically, victims of ransomware attacks have only one free data recovery option: to restore files from a backup.
It is possible to stop ransomware from encrypting unaffected files by uninstalling the rogue program from the computer, however, already compromised files will remain encrypted even when the ransomware is removed.
Screenshot of a message encouraging users to pay a ransom to decrypt their compromised data:
In summary, ransomware encrypts data and creates/displays ransom messages with instructions about how to contact cyber criminals, size of ransom, and other information. Typically, the cost of a decryption tool/key and encryption algorithm (symmetric or asymmetric) that ransomware uses to encrypt data are the two main differences.
Some examples of other ransomware programs include Wbqczq, FRM, and LickyAgent. Unfortunately, the only way to decrypt files is to use tools that can only be purchased from the developers of the ransomware, unless the ransomware contains bugs/flaws, is not fully developed, etc.
This is rare and, therefore, you are advised to maintain backups on unplugged storage devices or remote servers (e.g., Cloud).
How did ransomware infect my computer?
In most cases, cyber criminals attempt to trick users into installing malicious programs through spam campaigns (emails), Trojans, untrusted software or file download channels, fake software updaters and unofficial software activation ('cracking') tools. They send emails that contain malicious attachments, or website links that download malicious files.
They attach malicious Microsoft Office documents, Java Script files, PDF documents, executable files (.exe), archive files such as ZIP, RAR and other files, and hope that recipients open (execute) them. The files then install ransomware or other malicious software.
Third party downloaders, free file hosting websites, Peer-to-Peer networks (e.g., torrent clients, eMule), freeware download websites and other similar channels are also used to distribute malware. When users open a downloaded malicious file, they infect computers with malware.
Note that the files are often disguised as regular and harmless. Trojans are malicious programs that often cause chain infections - when Trojan-type software is installed on the operating system, it causes installation of additional malware.
Fake software updaters infect systems by installing malicious programs rather than updates, or by exploiting bugs/flaws of outdated software that is installed on the computer. Unofficial activation ('cracking') tools supposedly illegally bypass activation of licensed software, however, they often install malicious software instead.
|Name||Fonix (FonixCrypter) virus|
|Threat Type||Ransomware, Crypto Virus, Files locker.|
|Encrypted Files Extension||.Fonix|
|Ransom Demand Message||# How To Decrypt Files #.hta|
|Cyber Criminal Contactemail@example.com|
|Detection Names||Avast (Win32:Malware-gen), BitDefender (Trojan.GenericKD.43207004), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of Generik.IZSVMDG), Kaspersky (Trojan.Win32.Diss.suvbu), 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 Combo Cleaner.
How to protect yourself from ransomware infections
Emails that are received from unknown, suspicious addresses, are irrelevant, or contain website links or attachments are commonly sent by cyber criminals. Never trust these emails. Installed software must be updated and/or activated only through implemented functions/tools that are designed by official software developers.
Avoid third party, unofficial tools, since they are often used to spread malware. Furthermore, it is illegal to activate licensed programs with unofficial ('cracking') tools. Files and programs should be downloaded only from official websites and via direct links.
The other sources/channels (mentioned above) are often used to distribute malicious files and programs.
Additionally, operating systems should be regularly scanned with reputable antivirus or anti-spyware software. Keep this software up to date. If your computer is already infected with Fonix, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate this ransomware.
Text presented in the Fonix ransomware "# How To Decrypt Files #.hta" file:
ALL YOUR FILES HAS BEEN ENCRYPTED!!!
All your important files like photoes, documents, audios and etc
has been encrypted by FonixCrypter using strong cryptography algorithms Salsa20and RSA 4098
Decryption key is hold in our server
!!Recovery tools and other software will not help you !!
The only way to receive your key and decrypt your files is the payment with bitcoin
You have to 48 hours(2 Day) To contact or paying us
After that, you have to Pay Double!!
Our Email = firstname.lastname@example.org
in case of no answer in 24 hours write us to this Email = email@example.com
if you don't know how to buy bitcoin you can use this link
the easiest way to buy bitcoin is localBitcoins
Note: Before payment, you can contact with us and send 1 free small file (size less 2Mb) as decryption test
The test files shouldn't contain valuable data like large SQL or Backup files.
- Don't delete any files or rename encrypted files
- If you using other applications to decrypt, it may damage your files
- Don't find your backups? they have been Successfully encrypted too or securly wiped.
Screenshot of files encrypted by Fonix (".Fonix" extension):
Update February 3, 2021 - One of the developers of Fonix ransomware has recently made a public announcement that the entire operation is being shut down. The developer has also released a public decryption key which can be used to restore data for any victim.
Although the decryption key was provided alongside with a decryption tool, it is rather complicated and not user-friendly.
In other words, it is not designed to simply decrypt the entire data. Luckily, the Kaspersky team has updated their RakhniDecryptor and victims can easily restore their data using this tool (you can download the tool and find the entire user manual in Kaspersky's website).
Screenshot of the announcement made by the Fonix developer:
Text presented within:
I'm one fonix team admins.
you know about fonix team but we have come to the conclusion.
we should use our abilities in positive ways and help others.
Also ransomware source is completely deleted , but some of team members are disagree with closure of the project , like telegram channel admin who trying to scam people in telegram channel by selling fake source and data.
Anyway now main admin has decided to put all previous work aside and decrypt all infected systems at no cost.
And the decryption key will be available to the public.
The final statement of the team will be announced soon.
Screenshot of the Kaspersky's RakhniDecryptor (download link):
Fonix ransomware removal:
Instant automatic malware removal:
Manual threat removal might be a lengthy and complicated process that requires advanced IT skills. Combo Cleaner is a professional automatic malware removal tool that is recommended to get rid of malware. Download it by clicking the button below:
Video suggesting what steps should be taken in case of a ransomware infection:
- What is Fonix (FonixCrypter) virus?
- STEP 1. Reporting ransomware to authorities.
- STEP 2. Isolating the infected device.
- STEP 3. Identifying the ransomware infection.
- STEP 4. Searching for ransomware decryption tools.
- STEP 5. Restoring files with data recovery tools.
- STEP 6. Creating data backups.
If you are a victim of a ransomware attack we recommend reporting this incident to authorities. By providing information to law enforcement agencies you will help track cybercrime and potentially assist in the prosecution of the attackers. Here's a list of authorities where you should report a ransomware attack. For the complete list of local cybersecurity centers and information on why you should report ransomware attacks, read this article.
List of local authorities where ransomware attacks should be reported (choose one depending on your residence address):
- USA - Internet Crime Complaint Centre IC3
- United Kingdom - Action Fraud
- Spain - Policía Nacional
- France - Ministère de l'Intérieur
- Germany - Polizei
- Italy - Polizia di Stato
- The Netherlands - Politie
- Poland - Policja
- Portugal - Polícia Judiciária
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:
Click the "Change adapter settings" option in the upper-left corner of the window:
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".
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":
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).
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).
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).
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):
Example 2 (.iso [Phobos] ransomware):
If your data happens to be encrypted by ransomware that is not supported by ID Ransomware, you can always try searching the internet by using certain keywords (for example, a ransom message title, file extension, provided contact emails, crypto wallet 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, cybercriminals 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.
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 the Recuva tool developed by CCleaner. 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). In addition, the recovery feature is completely free.
Step 1: Perform a scan.
Run the Recuva application and follow the wizard. You will be prompted with several windows allowing you to choose what file types to look for, which locations should be scanned, etc. All you need to do is select the options you're looking for and start the scan. We advise you to enable the "Deep Scan" before starting, otherwise, the application's scanning capabilities will be restricted.
Wait for Recuva 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 hundred 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:
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:
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 the necessary information on Microsoft's documentation web page.
Data backups: One of the most reliable backup methods 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 the 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, although it's a really rare occasion.
We recommend using Microsoft OneDrive for backing up your files. OneDrive lets you store your personal files and data in the cloud, sync files across computers and mobile devices, allowing you to access and edit your files from all of your Windows devices. OneDrive lets you save, share and preview files, access download history, move, delete, and rename files, as well as create new folders, and much more.
You can back up your most important folders and files on your PC (your Desktop, Documents, and Pictures folders). Some of OneDrive’s more notable features include file versioning, which keeps older versions of files for up to 30 days. OneDrive features a recycling bin in which all of your deleted files are stored for a limited time. Deleted files are not counted as part of the user’s allocation.
The service is built using HTML5 technologies and allows you to upload files up to 300 MB via drag and drop into the web browser or up to 10 GB via the OneDrive desktop application. With OneDrive, you can download entire folders as a single ZIP file with up to 10,000 files, although it can’t exceed 15 GB per single download.
OneDrive comes with 5 GB of free storage out of the box, with an additional 100 GB, 1 TB, and 6 TB storage options available for a subscription-based fee. You can get one of these storage plans by either purchasing additional storage separately or with Office 365 subscription.
Creating a data backup:
The backup process is the same for all file types and folders. Here’s how you can back up your files using Microsoft OneDrive
Step 1: Choose the files/folders you want to backup.
Click the OneDrive cloud icon to open the OneDrive menu. While in this menu, you can customize your file backup settings.
Click Help & Settings and then select Settings from the drop-down menu.
Go to the Backup tab and click Manage backup.
In this menu, you can choose to backup the Desktop and all of the files on it, and Documents and Pictures folders, again, with all of the files in them. Click Start backup.
Now, when you add a file or folder in the Desktop and Documents and Pictures folders, they will be automatically backed up on OneDrive.
To add folders and files, not in the locations shown above, you have to add them manually.
Open File Explorer and navigate to the location of the folder/file you want to backup. Select the item, right-click it, and click Copy.
Then, navigate to OneDrive, right-click anywhere in the window and click Paste. Alternatively, you can just drag and drop a file into OneDrive. OneDrive will automatically create a backup of the folder/file.
All of the files added to the OneDrive folder are backed up in the cloud automatically. The green circle with the checkmark in it indicates that the file is available both locally and on OneDrive and that the file version is the same on both. The blue cloud icon indicates that the file has not been synced and is available only on OneDrive. The sync icon indicates that the file is currently syncing.
To access files only located on OneDrive online, go to the Help & Settings drop-down menu and select View online.
Step 2: Restore corrupted files.
OneDrive makes sure that the files stay in sync, so the version of the file on the computer is the same version on the cloud. However, if ransomware has encrypted your files, you can take advantage of OneDrive’s Version history feature that will allow you to restore the file versions prior to encryption.
Microsoft 365 has a ransomware detection feature that notifies you when your OneDrive files have been attacked and guide you through the process of restoring your files. It must be noted, however, that if you don’t have a paid Microsoft 365 subscription, you only get one detection and file recovery for free.
If your OneDrive files get deleted, corrupted, or infected by malware, you can restore your entire OneDrive to a previous state. Here’s how you can restore your entire OneDrive:
1. If you're signed in with a personal account, click the Settings cog at the top of the page. Then, click Options and select Restore your OneDrive.
If you're signed in with a work or school account, click the Settings cog at the top of the page. Then, click Restore your OneDrive.
2. On the Restore your OneDrive page, select a date from the drop-down list. Note that if you're restoring your files after automatic ransomware detection, a restore date will be selected for you.
3. After configuring all of the file restoration options, click Restore to undo all the activities you selected.
The best way to avoid damage from ransomware infections is to maintain regular up-to-date backups.