How to uninstall the Pay2Key ransomware

Also Known As: Pay2Key virus
Distribution: Low
Damage level: Severe

Pay2Key ransomware removal instructions

What is Pay2Key?

Pay2Key is the name of ransomware that encrypts files with AES and RSA cryptography algorithms. It is written in C++ programming language. Research shows that cyber criminals behind it target companies located in Israel, although, it may be used to attack other companies as well. So far cyber criminals performed attacks by infecting one of the computers on the network which followed execution of this ransomware on the rest of the computers on that network. It is likely that is uses a Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) to gain access other computers. It is known that Pay2Key can infect the entire network within one hour.

Once installed on a computer, Pay2Key encrypts files, renames them and provides instructions on how to contact cyber criminals behind it and pay them a ransom. It renames files by appending the ".pay2key" extension. For example, it renames a file named "1.jpg" to "1.jpg.pay2key", "2.jpg" to "2.jpg.pay2key", and so on. Pay2Key creates a ransom note (a tex file) in all folders that contain encrypted files. Every ransom note is named after the attacked company (e.g., "[Company_Name]-MESSAGE.TXT"). Research shows that cyber criminals behind Pay2Key create customized ransom notes, to be more precise, different companies are demanded to pay different amounts of cryptocurrency. Although, the rest of the details are the same: attacked companies are instructed to pay a certain amount of cryptocurrency to the provided Bitcoin wallet and then wait until cyber criminals will send the decryption software. As a proof that cyber criminals behind Pay2Key have the right decryption tool they offer to send up to 4 encrypted files to the provided email address that they will be decrypted for free. Also, it is stated that if a ransom will not be paid, then all files will be leaked (published on some website), or if the ransom will not be paid on time, then the price of a decryption tool will be doubled. It is important to mention that most cyber criminals (ransomware developers) do not send any decryption tools even after a payment. Therefore, they cannot be trusted. Another problem is that there are no third party tools that could decrypt files that are encrypted by Pay2Key, at least not at the current moment. Therefore, the only way to recover encrypted files is to restore them from a backup. Also, installed ransomware can be stopped from causing further encryptions (from encrypting files that are not encrypted by it yet) by uninstalling it from the operating system .Unfortunately, already encrypted files remain inaccessible even after its removal.

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

Pay2Key decrypt instructions (Company_Name-MESSAGE.TXT)

Pay2Key ransomware is different from other programs of this type. Although, most of the other ransomware-type programs function very similarly: they encrypt victim's files and provide instructions on how to contact their developers. In most cases the only main variables are size of a ransom cryptographic algorithm that they use for data encryption. Usually cyber criminals behind ransomware are the only ones who have the right decryption tools. It is possible to decrypt files without their tools only when ransomware has some bugs, flaws. Unluckily, it happens rarely and that is why it is recommended to always have data backup. Data backup should be stored on a remote server and/or unplugged storage device. A couple of examples of other ransomware are CCC, Recoverydatas and Agho.

How did ransomware infect my computer?

In most cases threat actors attempt to trick users into installing malicious software through emails (malspam), untrustworthy file and software download sources, fake software updating tools, Trojans and unofficial software activation tools. In the first case they seek to trick users into downloading and opening a file via website link or file (attachment) in their email. Once opened, that file installs malware (in this case ransomware). Usually they send emails that contain malicious Microsoft Office documents, archive files (like ZIP, RAR), PDF documents, executable files like .exe, JavaScript files. Another common way to proliferate malicious programs (files) is by using Peer-to-Peer networks (torrent clients, eMule, etc.), free file hosting, freeware download websites, unofficial pages, third party downloaders and other similar channels. Operating systems get infected when users open malicious files that that they have downloaded via the aforementioned sources. Typically, those malicious files are disguised as regular, harmless. Fake software updating tools, if used, cause damage by installing malware instead of updates, fixes for installed software, or by exploiting bugs, flaws of some outdated software. Trojan is a form of malware that can be designed to cause chain infections (install additional) malware. Software 'cracking' tools (third party activation tools) are illegal programs that supposed to activate licensed software for free (bypass its activation/registration). However, tools of this type  tend to bne designed to distribut install malware.

Threat Summary:
Name Pay2Key virus
Threat Type Ransomware, Crypto Virus, Files locker
Encrypted Files Extension .pay2key
Ransom Demanding Message [Company_Name]-MESSAGE.TXT
Ransom Amount Size or a ransom varies
Detection Names AVG (FileRepMetagen [Malware]), BitDefender (Trojan.GenericKD.35120626), eScan (Trojan.GenericKD.35120626), Kaspersky (HEUR:Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Agent.gen), 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 Threat actors target companies and seek to infect all computers that are on the same network
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?

Installation of malware can be avoided by following these recommendations: programs and files should be downloaded from official, trustworthy pages and via direct download links. Third party downloaders, unofficial sites, or other channels that are mentioned in the previous paragraph should not be used (as well as third party installers). Installed programs have to be updated and activated (if necessary) with tools and/or functions that are provided by their official developers. Unofficial, third party updating and activation tools should never be used - they tend to be designed to install malware. Also, it is not legal to activate licensed programs with various 'cracking' tools or use installers for pirated software. Attachments and website links in irrelevant emails that are sent from suspicious, unknown addresses should not be opened as well - it is common that recipients who open them cause installation of malware. It is worthwhile to mention that such emails are designed to look legitimate, important. Additionally, it is advised to scan the operating system for malware and other threats regularly and use an up-to-date, and reputable antivirus or anti-spyware software. If your computer is already infected with Pay2Key, we recommend running a scan with Malwarebytes for Windows to automatically eliminate this ransomware.

Text presented in Pay2Key ransomware's text file ("[Company_Name]-MESSAGE.TXT"):

PAY2KEY

HELLO ********** USERS!

Congratulations!
Your entire network and all your informations such as computers/ employess information/ users folders/ servers/ file-servers/ applications/ databases/etc... in your network has been successfully encrypted!
Some of your important information dumpted and ready to leak, in case we can't make a good deal!

Don't modify encrypted files or you can damage them and decryption will be impossible!
Don't try unofficial decryptors to recover your files or you can damage them and decryption will be impossile!

There is only ONE possible way to get back your files! Pay and contact to receive your special decryptor!
You should pay 7 BTC to receive official decryptor and easily recover your files. ********** special decryptor is now ready and waiting for your payment, let's do it!

You can send 4 random files from any computers and receive decrypted data, just as a proof that works!
Your UserID IS: -
Your Network IS IS = -

| NOTCE |
Offer available until [date]. If you do not pay on time, price will be doubled!

Wallet: -

Email:
-
-

Keybase:
Pay2Key

Screenshot of files encrypted by Pay2Key (".pay2key" extension):

Files encrypted by Pay2Key ransomware (.pay2key extension)

Screenshot of a Tor website used to leak Pay2Key victim data:

Pay2Key ransomware leaking Tor website

Pay2Key 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:

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

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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

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