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How to get rid of the Usagoo ransomware?

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

Usagoo ransomware removal instructions

What is Usagoo?

Ransomware is a form of malware that encrypts files (prevents victims from accessing, using files stored on a device) and displays or creates its ransom note. Usagoo encrypts files, modifies their filenames and creates "readme-warning.txt" files (ransom notes) in folders that have encrypted data in them. It renames encrypted files by appending a string of random characters (likely the victim's ID), vassago0225@airmail.cc email address and the ".usagoo" extension. For example, it changes the filename of a file named "1.jpg" "1.jpg.[9B83AE23].[vassago0225@airmail.cc].usagoo", "2.jpg" "2.jpg.[9B83AE23].[vassago0225@airmail.cc].usagoo", and so forth. Usagoo ransomware is part of the Makop family.

In most cases, ransom notes generated by ransomware contain some email address (or addresses) that victims can use to contact the attackers, price of a decryption tool, instructions on how to pay for that tool, etc. Usagoo's ransom notes are all identical. They inform victims that all their files are encrypted, have the ".usagoo" extension and cannot be decrypted a certain decryption software. Also, they instruct victims to contact the attackers for further instructions using vassago0225@airmail.cc, vassago0225@cock.li or vassago0225@tutanota.com email address. Victims are promised to receive the decryption software and instructions on how to use it after they have paid a ransom. Additionally, victims are offered to get two files (with the .jpg, .xls, or .doc extension) decrypted for free, those files can be sent to the attackers via email. It is also mentioned that attempts to modify files of decrypt them with third-party software may lead to permanent data loss.

Sometimes it is possible to decrypt files with a third-party tool downloaded from the Internet, however, there is no tool that could break Usagoo's encryption. The only free way to recover files encrypted by Usagoo is to restore them from a backup. Although, only if victims have created a data backup before the attack. It is strongly advisable not to pay a ransom to cybercriminals behind Usagoo or any other ransomware. There is no guarantee that they will send the decryption software. It is common that victims who pay a ransom get scammed. It is important to mention that installed ransomware should be uninstalled as soon as possible to prevent it from infecting other computers on the same network or encrypting new files on the already infected machine. Unfortunately, encrypted files remain unusable/inaccessible even when the ransomware that has encrypted them is no longer installed.

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

Usagoo decrypt instructions (readme-warning.txt)

To summarize, ransomware is a type of malware designed to prevent victims from using their files by encrypting them and provide contact and (or) payment information. The only main differences (in most cases) are the price of a decryption tool and cryptographic algorithm (symmetric or asymmetric) that ransomware uses to lock files. Encrypted files can be decrypted without the interference of cybercriminals only when ransomware has certain vulnerabilities, or there is a free decryption tool that can be downloaded from the Internet. In most cases, it is impossible to decrypt files and the only free option is to restore files from a backup. Therefore, it is recommended to have data backed up and keep it stored on a remote server or unplugged storage device. A couple of examples of other ransomware variants are Greed, Acrux, and Siliconegun.

How did ransomware infect my computer?

Most cybercriminals use untrustworthy sources for downloading software, phishing emails, fake software updaters, Trojans, and software "cracking" tools to distribute malware. Unofficial websites, freeware download pages, third-party downloaders, free file hosting websites, P2P (Peer-to-Peer) networks like torrents, eMule, etc., are examples of download sources that can be used to distribute malicious files. In such cases, cybercriminals disguise their files as legitimate, regular and wait until someone will download and execute them. Phishing emails are used to trick recipients into downloading malicious email attachments. For example Microsoft Office documents (Word, Excel), ZIP, RAR or other archive files, executable files (.run, .exe files), PDF documents, JavaScript files. Recipients install malicious software when they download and open those attachments. It is important to mention that such emails can contain download links for malicious files as well.

Fake software updaters usually cause damage in one of these two ways: they exploit bugs, flaws of installed software that is out of date, or install malicious software in a standard way. Either way, those tools never install any updates or fixes. Typically, fake updaters are offered on dubious pages. Trojans are malicious programs that can serve different purposes. One of them is to cause chain infections. Once such Trojans are installed on computers, they can install their payload (additional malware). Software 'cracking' tools are illegal programs users use when they try to avoid paying for a license key, serial number. Nevertheless, it is common that those tools are bundled with malware. In other words, their users often infect their computers.

Threat Summary:
Name Usagoo virus
Threat Type Ransomware, Crypto Virus, Files locker
Encrypted Files Extension .usagoo
Ransom Demanding Message readme-warning.txt
Cyber Criminal Contact vassago0225@airmail.cc, vassago0225@cock.li, vassago0225@tutanota.com
Detection Names Avast (Win32:Malware-gen), BitDefender (Trojan.GenericKD.36475653), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of Generik.KVFNWWS), Kaspersky (HEUR:Exploit.Win32.Shellcode.gen), Microsoft (Trojan:Win32/Ymacco.AADF), Full List Of Detections (VirusTotal)
Rogue Process Name ByteScout XLS Viewer Setup (its name may vary)
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?

It is strongly recommended not to click on links or open attachments in received emails that are not relevant and sent from unknown, or suspicious addresses. Quite often, emails of this kind contain malicious links, files - they are used to deliver malware. It is important to remember that most phishing emails are disguised as official, urgent letters from legitimate companies and (or) existing people. Also, it is advisable not to download files or programs from unofficial pages, via third-party downloaders and so on. It is advisable to trust only official pages and direct links. Furthermore, installed software should never be updated or activated with unofficial (third-party) tools. It is common that such tools are malicious/bundled with malware. Moreover, it is against the law to activate licensed software with 'cracking' tools or use pirated software. Additionally, it is recommended to scan the operating system for threats, use a reputable antivirus or anti-software for that, and do it on a regular basis. If your computer is already infected with Usagoo, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate this ransomware.

Appearance of the "readme-warning.txt" file (GIF):

usagoo ransomware ransom note appearance

Text presented in Usagoo ransomware's text file "readme-warning.txt":

::: Greetings :::


Little FAQ:
.1.
Q: Whats Happen?
A: Your files have been encrypted and now have the "usagoo" extension. The file structure was not damaged, we did everything possible so that this could not happen.

.2.
Q: How to recover files?
A: If you wish to decrypt your files you will need to pay in bitcoins.

.3.
Q: What about guarantees?
A: Its just a business. We absolutely do not care about you and your deals, except getting benefits. If we do not do our work and liabilities - nobody will cooperate with us. Its not in our interests.
To check the ability of returning files, you can send to us any 2 files with SIMPLE extensions(jpg,xls,doc, etc... not databases!) and low sizes(max 1 mb), we will decrypt them and send back to you. That is our guarantee.

.4.
Q: How to contact with you?
A: You can write us to our mailbox: vassago0225@airmail.cc or vassago0225@cock.li or vassago0225@tutanota.com

.5.
Q: How will the decryption process proceed after payment?
A: After payment we will send to you our scanner-decoder program and detailed instructions for use. With this program you will be able to decrypt all your encrypted files.

.6.
Q: If I don’t want to pay bad people like you?
A: If you will not cooperate with our service - for us, its does not matter. But you will lose your time and data, cause only we have the private key. In practice - time is much more valuable than money.

:::BEWARE:::
DON'T try to change encrypted files by yourself!
If you will try to use any third party software for restoring your data or antivirus solutions - please make a backup for all encrypted files!
Any changes in encrypted files may entail damage of the private key and, as result, the loss all data

Screenshot of files encrypted by Usagoo (".usagoo" extension):

Files encrypted by Usagoo ransomware (.usagoo extension)

Usagoo running in Task Manager as "ByteScout XLS Viewer Setup" (its name may vary):

usagoo ransomware running as bytescout xls viewer setup in task manager

Usagoo ransomware removal:

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Quick menu:

Reporting ransomware to authorities:

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):

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 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.

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 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.

Recuva data recovery tool wizard

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:

Recuva data recovery tool scan time

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:

Recuva data recovery tool recovering 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 icon in the taskbar

Click the OneDrive cloud icon to open the OneDrive menu. While in this menu, you can customize your file backup settings.

Select Help & Settings and click Settings

Click Help & Settings and then select Settings from the drop-down menu.

Select the Backup tab and click Manage backup

Go to the Backup tab and click Manage backup.

Select folders to backup and click Start 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.

Select a file manually and copy it

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.

Paste the copied file in the OneDrive folder to create a backup

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.

File statuses in OneDrive folder

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.

Click Help & Settings and click View Online

To access files only located on OneDrive online, go to the Help & Settings drop-down menu and select View online.

Click the Settings cog and click Options

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:

restore-your-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.

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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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